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In Romans 14 Paul says:

But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. (Romans 14:23, NIV)

What does this phrase mean?

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migrated from Jul 28 '14 at 16:48

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Throughout his work Paul is redefining some metaphysical terms. "Faith" is perhaps one of the best examples of this. It is a key element of his teaching in the book of Romans. He introduces faith in chapter 1:1-17. He picks it up again in 3:21-5:2 then refers back to his expositions on faith throughout the rest of the book.

So faith is a key term for Paul by which he is referring to (in very basic terms) the soul's right position before God. If one has faith then one's soul is correctly positioned with God. If one has "unbelief," one's soul is ill-positioned with God. To understand what this right position is, one needs to read the entire epistle paying close attention to Paul's use of "faith".

In this specific example Paul is applying this new (revised?) concept of faith to a practical question of community. The question comes up--where "obedience of faith"(1:5) is opposed to Law how can the community react without turning this new Faith into merely a new Law? He applies the question to the situation of meats. Freedom from the Law means that there are now no dietary restrictions to condemn the believer. However, that doesn't leave one free to eat without consideration. If the soul is positioned correctly before God (i.e. one has faith) then the decision of whether or not to eat is not based on a Law but rather one's "own conviction before God"(14:22). So for Paul the decision to eat or not to eat is not as important as the status of one's soul before God. The believer is seen as a moral agent that is no longer a slave to a static set of rules (see Galatians' "elemental things") and is now free to submit to God according to a new (or newly revealed) type of relationship defined by "faith." Under this relationship sin is not defined by the law. Sin is now defined by one's obedience to his faith. If the moral agent makes a decision that is contrary to his soul's right position before God, that is contrary to God's desire and is therefore sin.

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Contrary to the fairly normative *mis*interpretation in much of Protestantism, all Paul is saying is that if you don't have absolute faith that the act you are about to perform is right, then it is sin to do it. This has zero reference to the idea that everything a non-believer does is a sin even when its morally good. That's not what Paul is talking about in context. He's talking about the question of whether or not a Christian should eat something when they have doubts as to whether it is a sin to do so.

Like, if I wasn't sure if it was Ok to eat meat or not, and I eat it anyway, then it would be a sin because I had a doubt. Even though eating meat is not actually a sin under normal circumstances, if I thought there was a possibility that it might be and did it anyway, then to me it would be a sin due to violating my conscience.

See verse 5:

One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

If you are not persuaded in your own mind that every day is equal, but if you rather (for example) think that a particular day is special, then to you to not honor that day as special would become a sin (even though for everyone else it isn't). That's the principle Paul is trying to get across.

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"Faith" here is used in a broad way. The fuller context is:

[21] It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. [22] The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. [23] But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

So he is primarily addressing the mature Christian -- the one who knows that it is ok to eat the meat in principle, but it would cause his weaker brother to stumble. What's happening is that the weaker brother thinks it is sin to eat this meat. So if he ate it while believing that, it actually WOULD be sin for him because he did something he thought he shouldn't do (see also Rom 2). And if the mature Christian put that weaker Christian in the position to do that, it is condemnation for him because he was not loving (at worst) or unwise (at best).

So when Paul says, "Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin," what he has in mind is that it is sin if you do something that you believe is wrong. You believe that it would be a sin if you did it, yet you did it anyway. That is not an action proceeding from faith.

What it does NOT mean is, "If you believe something is ok, then it is ok." No! Just the opposite (again, Rom 2)! It means, "If you believe something is NOT ok, then it is NOT ok FOR YOU." We must strive to conform our consciences to the law of God.

The weaker brother hamstrung by legalism must mature in his understanding of liberty; and the mature brother must be willing to constrain his liberty for the sake of the weaker brother.


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The teaching of Faith is a response to Sin. So by understanding Sin we can learn how Faith is the answer and how it should be applied. Then by seeing how Faith is the answer to Sin we can see how everything that does not come from Faith is sin. To do this we start at the root of sin.

1. Understanding Sin

So in the beginning there was only One Law, and that law was.

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17 NKJV)

And breaking this One Law started sin

Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18-19 NKJV)

We were not to "know" good or "know" evil

but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17 NKJV)

Adam before eating the fruit
If Adam did not have the knowledge of good and evil does that mean that Adam never did evil? Does it mean that Adam never did Good? These I have not figured out, but I can tell you that he did not know if he either did or didn't if he did or didn't.

How is this the Root to sin?
Well it took me some time to see how this was the root to sin. While studying Hebrew I found the Ancient Hebrew Research Center who had designed a version of the Old Testament called the Mechanical Translation of the Torah. Now even if you do not approve of his method he used to understand the Hebrew Language, or feel that the Mechanical Translation of the Torah is an accurate translation. I saw something after reading it, that really applied to everyday life.

What does Good and Evil mean?
Well it means Good and Evil ^^. Yet the translation used the synonyms Function and Dysfunction. And a study from gives the word for good to be pleasing to the eye. So from what has been developed in me we can see that there are other synonyms we can us as well, and that synonym is Right and Wrong, Correct and Error, Pleasing to the Eye and Not Pleasing to the Eye.

Once you know what is Good, Right, Correct, Pleasing to the Eye, and of Functionality, then you also can see what is Evil, Wrong, Error, Not Pleasing to the Eye, and Dysfunctional.

What is the Result of Knowing This
Pride, Self Righteousness, Lust, a Desire to Fix Things, Blame, Shame, Desire to Hide Error, Self Loathing, Depression, etc.

2. How Faith is the Answer to Sin Now that we know these things, how does Faith destroy the power of knowing these things?

For when you were aslaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. (Romans 6:20–22 NKJV)

Did you see how we can be free in regard to righteousness? And how as a second perspective he shows how we can be set free from sin? For the Laws of Right and Wrong are only applicable to those that know Right and Wrong.

But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. (Romans 7:8 NKJV)

Faith however is not on the metaphorically horizontal Right and Wrong, but is metaphorically vertical leading down to Right and Wrong. At the top metaphorically is Freedom from Sin and Life and at the metaphorical bottom is the Law and Death.

Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.(Romans 5:14 NKJV)

So although freedom was awarded to those that could continue in righteousness, the result of the righteousness of the Law was still death, and by Law I Specify to the Laws of Right and Wrong and of Punishment.

The Defining of Faith

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. (Hebrews 11:1-3 NKJV)

Applying Faith to the Knowledge of Error There are many ways that Faith can be applied to the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Yet for simplicity we can focus on the Knowledge of Error, and we can choose one error "The Bad Report Card" for example without faith. A Child gets a report card from school, and upon receiving the knowledge of Evil (the Bad Grade) begins to fear punishment.

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14-15 NKJV) The Anxiety continues until the acceptance of the punishment. When handing over the Report Card to the Father. When the Father receives the Knowledge of Evil his pride is affected becomes angry and takes it out on the child. Depending on the severity of the punishment the Anxiety to the child continues till acceptance, if it is at the completion of the punishment, or whenever the change in the attitude still does occur.

Here is an example to the application of faith. When the Child receives the Knowledge of evil (the Bad Report Card). The Child does not worry because he hopes that his dad will give him forgiveness. When he hands it to the Father and the Father becomes angry. When the child receives the Knowledge of Evil (the upset parent) he does not worry because he hopes that the punishment will pass. When the child receives the Knowledge of Evil (the punishment has been given) he does not worry because he hopes that it will be over soon, and better times are ahead, even in death.

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:5 NKJV)

So it is by faith that hope preserves our attitude.

3. How everything that does not come from Faith is sin Without Faith is Denial. And from Denial: Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Anxiety. Attitudes that is displeasing to the Father for the Father wishes to collect only those that can continue to display Love, Peace, and Joy.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV)

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7 NKJV)

Without the Holy Spirit that Brings Forth the Attitudes

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 NKJV)

Conclusion Since Faith overcomes the power of the knowledge of good and evil, without faith there is no power to overcome sin.

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