Excerpt from Is All Animal Flesh Good Food? by Herbert W. Armstrong:
Paul Instructs Vegetarians
Paul's letter to the saints at Rome is often quoted as supposed proof that any kind of flesh food is good to eat. But is this what Paul really taught?
Turn to the beginning of the 14th chapter of Romans. Notice what the apostle is writing: "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye"--don't dispute with him and sit in judgment on him because of his weak understanding of the faith, Paul continues. "For one believeth that he may eat all things, another who is weak, eateth herbs [vegetables only]" (Romans 14:1-2).
Of whom is Paul writing? Of those who were vegetarians, as well as those who believed in eating both flesh foods and vegetables.
Paul was confronted with the same problem that we encounter today in carrying the Gospel to the world. You would be surprised at the number of people who do not eat meat or even any animal products--milk, butter, cheese, eggs. Some have meatless days or days on which they will eat fish only. These are all people who, because they are weak in the faith, abstain from those clean meats which God originally sanctified or set apart in His Word for man's physical nourishment.
The question confronting Paul was not that Christians at Rome contended that all unclean animals had now been cleansed by God--the common false assumption of today--but the real issue, according to verse two, was over the vegetarian belief held by some that no meats whatsoever should be eaten.
Paul was straightening out the brethren on this matter, telling them that none of those clean meats which had been created by God to be received with thanksgiving should be refused. He pointed out to them, however, that it would be wrong for the vegetarians to eat meat if they had doubts about it, thereby defiling their weak consciences. For he wrote, "...Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Rom. 14:22-23).
We must follow what God has revealed to us to be right according to the Word of God. This does not mean that our consciences always tell us what is right--not at all. We have to continually study to learn what is right and wrong. But God thinks more highly of a vegetarian who might sincerely and conscientiously deny himself the clean meats, because he does not know the full truth, than He does a person who would do the right thing according to the letter, but who really believes in his heart that he is doing wrong.
So "to him"--the vegetarian--"that esteemeth anything to be common, to "him"--the vegetarian--"it is common." That is, it seems so to him. But it is not common in fact, nor to us, for we know that all clean meats are good for food. That is why Paul wrote: "I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing common of itself" (Rom. 14:14).
Notice that in this verse Paul used, according to the margin of the King James Version, the Greek word for "common," not the Greek word for "unclean." Why?
"Common" Does Not Mean "Unclean"
Many have carelessly assumed that Paul is writing about unclean meats in this 14th chapter of Romans. He is not! He is writing about the difference between vegetarians who regard that clean meats are common, and those who know that clean meats are of themselves not common.
In the Greek there are two different words used which are often carelessly translated "unclean" or "common." Notice that in Acts 10:14 both of these words are used. The Bible does not repeat itself foolishly. Therefore these two words mean entirely different things.
The Greek word for "unclean" is akarthatos. It means "unclean and impure by nature." The Greek word for "common" is koinos, which means "polluted through external misuse." (See any of the Lexicons.)
Paul used the Greek word for "common" throughout Romans 14:14. He did not use the Greek word for "unclean." In other words, Paul knew that no clean foods which God has sanctified are by nature polluted, but vegetarians who were weak in the faith--weak in understanding God's Word--thought meats should not be eaten. To such a vegetarian--"to him," not to others--that meat seemed to be polluted. His conscience defiled the meat for him; he would become upset if he were to eat meat. But that does not make the meat polluted in fact or for everybody else.
Notice Paul's conclusion: "For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure"--that is, all things that God sanctified and gave us to eat are clean --but it is evil for that man who eateth with offense. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth..." (verses 20 and 21).
Paul is not recommending eating unclean meats! Quite the opposite. He is recommending not eating any meat at all in the presence of a vegetarian brother if he is offended!
When Is "Clean" Meat "Common"?
The only circumstance in which clean meats are ever common or polluted is when the clean animals have died of themselves or when the blood has not been properly drained. That is why the apostles and elders who gathered at Jerusalem forbade the use of meat from strangled animals and meat with the blood in it (Acts 15:20). This is New Testament teaching for today!
Such animal flesh was called "common" because it could be given to strangers or aliens in Old Testament times if those people wanted to eat it. They were the common and polluted people--the Gentiles--not the chosen and clean people, Israel (Deut. 14:21).
In New Testament times, clean meat offered to idols was prohibited if it had been polluted by strangulation or if the blood were remaining in it. Otherwise the meat was permitted to be eaten if it did not offend anyone.
Paul devoted the entire 8th and 10th chapters of I Corinthians to instructions on not raising the question of meats offered to idols. "But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake" (I Cor. 10:28). In other words, if clean meats offered to idols were not polluted, you could eat of them unless it offended someone. Under those circumstances the meat became common, not to you, but to the other person who raised the question about idols. Notice:
"Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other" (verse 29).
That is why Paul said in Romans, "But to him that esteemeth any thing to be common [margin], to him it is common" (Rom. 14:14). ..
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