6. Paul and the Troubled Gatherings
Six of Paul's seven recognizably authentic documents were addressed to gatherings with specific troubles.
[THE AUTHOR ONLY ACCEPTS 7 EPISTLES OF PAUL AS GENUINE, THE OTHERS FOR HIM ARE NOT GENUINE, SO THIS BOOK OF HIS IS BUILT ON ONLY THOSE 7 HE BELIEVES ARE AUTHENTIC EPISTLES OF PAUL - Keith Hunt]
As John Gager puts it: "The circumstances under which Paul wrote all of his surviving letters, in modern terms we would call them attempts at damage control." Some think that the last extant letter, to the Romans, is an exception to this statement, and others that the earliest letter, to the Thessalonians, is an at least partial exception. But there is good reason to think that they, too, fit under the same rule. I shall take them in the presumed chronological order.
This is addressed to Thessalonica, the capital of northern Greece (Macedonia). I have already noticed that Luke in the Acts implies that Paul was run out of this community in a matter of weeks, and that Paul admits he was forced to leave by Jewish enmity. He says in the letter that the gathering there suffers from "straits" (thlipsis, 1 Thess 1:6). There is disagreement whether this means severe persecution or merely the difficulties that people who have left their own family and friends to take up a new discipline are bound to undergo. If Paul was expelled, why should the community he left behind be in peace? Besides, they are upset over those who have died since Paul was there, who may miss out on the Lord's Arrival (Parousia). Can that many have died so soon without a persecution?
But if such a persecution had occurred, would Paul refer to it so vaguely as a generalized "pressure" (thlipsis)'? The community seems to have been flourishing, since it has extended its influence over both parts of Greece, Macedonia and Achaea (1 Thess 1:7-8). Also, he says he has expected to return, and been prevented by things other than fear of further disturbance; and he sends Timothy without any expression of concern for his safety. His reference to reports on the Thessalonians' influence shows that he has been in communication with the place, not cut off or worrying about its fate.
Still, he does feel a need to send Timothy back, depriving himself of Timothy's important help. The mission he sends him on must be more than a way of sending his greetings. This letter is written as a response to Timothy's return, bringing reports that cheer Paul. But certain emphases in the letter indicate that there are sensitive matters to be dealt with. Why does Paul so pointedly stress how he and his fellows did hard manual work when they were in Thessalonica (1 Thess 2:9)?
We know that he also got help from Philippi while he was there. In Corinth and Rome, economic divisions in the gatherings caused tensions. Paul here seems to hint at a fear that the leaders of the community are now setting themselves apart from the working class or the poorer Brothers. He is probably admonishing those leaders, tactfully, when he urges the community to respect them: "We beg you, Brothers, to recognize those who work so hard for you and represent you in the Lord and advise you—give them generous esteem in your love for their work" (1 Thess 5:12-13). If the influence of Thessalonica has extended itself, it must be through the efforts of these leaders, but he is reminding them that they must earn their respect as he did by "night and day" labor for others.
The other notable thing about this letter has been noticed earlier, its first treatment of the end time in New Testament literature. The surface concern is that people worry about the fate of those who have died. This does not mean, necessarily, that a great number have actually perished since Paul's departure. The issue has obviously been debated in prospect. What concerns Paul is that different opinions are being offered (again diminishing the credibility of the leaders). That is why he brings his biggest weapon to bear—the Lord's own word (1 Thess 4:15). He is addressing not only an existential fear but a matter of doctrinal clarity. This is enough to show that even this "pastoral" letter had real controversial prompting.
There is no doubt about the troubles prompting Paul to write his most polemical letter. It is the conflict between circumcised and uncircumcised Brothers, and it leads Paul to his most vitriolic comments, not only about the present antagonists, but about Peter and James in his earlier clash with them at Antioch. This is the letter that disconcerted Saint Jerome, and it became the model or excuse for reciprocal vilifications in the Reformation. The veracity of the early records of the faith is established by the fact that this letter was not suppressed. Paul later indicates that he came to regret the bitterness expressed here. He certainly did not follow his own counsel to others, that they correct each other with kindness. He takes an entirely different approach in his irenic Letter to the Romans.
[DIFFERENT CIRCUMSTANCES IN A CONTEXT OF LIFE AND THEOLOGY, DEMAND THE POSITION ONE MUST TAKE. THE GENERAL RULE FOR PAUL WAS PATIENCE AND HUMBLE LOVE, BUT THE SITUATION IN GALATIA HAD GOTTEN SO OUT-OF-HAND, HE WAS FORCED TO TAKE A MORE TOUGH AND PULL-NO-PUNCHES ATTITUDE, TOWARDS THE FALSE THEOLOGICAL DECEPTIVE THEOLOGY THAT WAS STRANGLING THE TRUE SAINTS IN GALATIA - Keith Hunt]
Of course, we do not have the other side, which may have been just as intemperate. He could be trading taunt for taunt, fighting fire with fire. This is the only letter that is sent to a region, not to a single city. The circumcisionists (literally, "they of the circumcision") must have waged an aggressive campaign against Paul in several towns at once, and Paul sends a copy of his letter to each one. He says the Galatians are being bewitched by the agitators (3.1); they are tearing themselves apart (5:15). After dictating this tirade, he takes the pen himself to write the last paragraph: "Look at this large scrawl put down with my own hand" (6:11). The whole letter is a cri de coeur: "I wish I were already by your side, to modulate my tone, so frustrated am I" (4:20). He writhes with anxiety, as if in renewed birth pangs for his children (4:19). He is wounded and he means to wound others—even telling them to castrate themselves (5:12)—Raymond Brown wonders if the scribe hesitated to put those words down as Paul dictated them.
[PAUL WAS A MANY SIDED MAN AND THEOLOGIAN. HE HAD ALL THE EMOTIONS THAT A HUMAN CAN HAVE, SHORT OF “HATE” AND “PHYSICAL VIOLENCE”—— HE WAS NOT SOMEONE YOU WANTED AS AN ENEMY. HE COULD USE SHARP WORDS AND SARCASM AS GOOD AS ANYONE, AND WE SEE IT DEMONSTRATED IN THIS EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS. SEE MY WRITTEN DOWN SERMONS I BROUGHT BACK IN THE 1980s AND MY EXPOUNDING OF THE BOOK OF GALATIANS. THE OLD THEOLOGIAN OF A FEW HUNDRED YEARS OR SO BACK, ALBERT BARNES, GIVES A VERY FINE COMMENTARY ON THIS EPISTLE - Keith Hunt]
Philippi, in Northern Greece, was the first European town Paul reached. He must have approached this new arena with some apprehension, and he recalls with pride and pleasure the warm response he was given there by people who are "my joy, my crown" (4:1). Now he writes from prison (probably in Ephesus), wishing he were back among his early supporters. They have sent a representative, Epaphroditus, to cheer him up; but they were upset when they heard that Epaphroditus fell ill, so he is sending him back to them in recovered strength (2:25-30). He is also about to send Timothy, to add to their comfort (2:19-24). Paul is happy that the revelation is still being spread despite his imprisonment, though he regrets that some use that fact to cause division—presumably with the Jews, who are blamed for turning him over to the Romans (1:15-18). But he is concerned that the circumcisionists are at work among them, too—the "dogs," as he calls them (3:2). There are divisions in the community, even dividing his old "fellow stragglers," Euodia and Syntyche (4:2). To heal these troubles he quotes the great hymn he had shared with them, on Jesus' "emptying himself" (2:6-11).
Paul had the services of a scribe, even in prison. He needed this because he no doubt wrote more letters to gatherings than the ones that have been preserved. He must also have written many letters to individuals, though this is the only one that has been preserved, perhaps because it helped a man who became well known to the Brothers for the help he gave to Paul. The occasion for this letter is not trouble in a whole gathering but the trouble of one man who held a gathering of Brothers at his home (Phlm 2).
One of Philemon's slaves has done something wrong, and he has gone to Paul to act as an intercessor with his owner (a common procedure in Roman law). While dealing with Paul, the slave, Onesimus, has performed some service for him, perhaps as a scribe writing this very letter, which he carries back to his owner. Roman slaves were often well-educated Greeks who acted as scribes, tutors, or bureaucrats, and Onesimus is a common Greek slave name, meaning "Useful." Paul puns on the meaning of the name when he tells Philemon that his slave was once unbeneficial (akhrestos) to him but has now become beneficial (khrestos) to both of them (Phlm 11).
Paul asks for special favors for this slave. He is not setting a general policy on slaves, or asking Philemon to free others of his household.
It has been estimated that slaves made up as much as a quarter to a third of urban populations in Paul's time—he was not ready to work for the great social disruption of manumissions on that scale. We know that there were slaves in the gatherings of the Brothers, from Paul's advice that they accept their condition (1 Cor 7: 20-21). He brought whole households (oikoi) into the faith together (1 Cor 1:16), and oikos usually meant the extended "family" of all dependents, including slaves. The term "Chloe's establishment" was probably meant to include slaves (1 Cor 1:11), as could the tent-making operations of Prisca and Aquila.
Onesimus, however, was not brought to the faith as part of Philemon's household—Paul tells us that he became a Brother only in his own company (Phlm 16). The fact that he was not baptized with Philemon's oikos might seem surprising, since that was a family center active for the revelation. Paul greets Philemon himself as a "coworker" in the faith; his wife, Apphia, as a Sister; and another member of the household, Archippus, as having "soldiered with me" (Phlm 2).
The explanation that suggests itself is that Onesimus, as an educated slave, operated away from his master's oikos, perhaps taking care of his financial interests in another city, which took him close to Paul. Paul hints that the slave's crime was financial when he writes to Philemon:
If you and I are one, then think of him as me. If he has wronged you, or owes you, put that on my account. See, here I sign myself Paul, that I will repay you—I will not mention that you owe your very self to me. Or, rather, Brother, put me in your debt and ease my anguish in Messiah. (Phlm 17-20)
Another puzzling thing about the letter is that Onesimus has had time to perform many and valuable services for Paul, which brought him so close to the prisoner that Paul now calls him "part of my very being" (literally, his "innards," splagkhna, Phlm 12), so that he is in "anguish" over the slave's fate (again, in his "innards," Phlm 20). If Onesimus went to Paul only to intercede with his master, why did Paul not send him back at once? I imagine that Onesimus, working for Philemon in Ephesus (if that is where Paul's prison was), had been told to perform services for Paul while continuing to do his master's business in that town. But in the course of dealing with Paul he came in time to accept the revelation, and only then confessed that he had been defrauding Philemon. Paul now sends him back to be reconciled with Philemon, hoping that he will be released into continued service with himself. If that was the outcome, as seems most likely, then the continued joint action of Paul and Onesimus would have made this event, and the letter accomplishing it, famous throughout the gatherings, insuring the preservation of the letter. It would hardly have been kept if all that eloquence had failed.
Of all the gatherings Paul addressed, those in Corinth were the most refractory. His dealings with them were sticky, thorny, and cantankerous. He stayed with them on three or more occasions (2 Cor 12:14,13:1), sent personal assistants to them in his absence, received their delegations, and wrote them at least five letters, probably more, three or four or five of which are layered together in what have come down to us as two agglutinated letters.
Factions spawned in Corinth. There were problems of doctrine, discipline, and vision, problems of class, of gender, of personalities. Paul was ridiculed there and he responded wrathfully, once in a wounding letter, once in a tearful one (these probably lost but leaving traces in what remains).
The community was divided over a marriage that was considered incestuous under Jewish Law—one of the Brothers had wed his father's widowed second wife (a woman who was no blood relative and may have been the new husband's own age or younger). Paul claims that this would not be allowed "even among the nations"—the Gentiles (1 Cor 5:1). He demands that the whole gathering, by its joint authority, with him present in spirit, drive the man out of the gathering. He is as solemn as can be about this: "All of you coming together in the name of the Lord Jesus, myself present in spirit, with the power of our Lord, turn such a man over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be rescued on the day of the Lord" (1 Cor 5: 4-5). The baptized Brothers are one "in Messiah." To be outside Messiah is to be back in the realm of Satan, exposed to his ravages. Subject again to the law of the dying flesh (Paul seems to be saying), the man will strive back toward being in Messiah by the time Messiah comes. Some might well have thought Paul rather arbitrary in this proceeding, and we have difficulty understanding it until we look at the other clusters of misunderstanding in the place.
The main trouble in Corinth seems to have been a form of superspirituality.
Like New Age types seeking fashionable preachers, some people became puffed up and "airy," saying their newest gurus (claiming to represent Apollos, for instance, or Peter) are higher minded than Paul (1 Cor 1:12, 3:22), that their own gifts of prophecy and speaking in tongues bring them closer to the Spirit than more ordinary folk, that they know of a better form of baptism (1 Cor 1:13-17). Paul calls the preachers of such attitudes high-flying emissaries—literally, the "super-too-much (hyperlian) emissaries" (2 Cor 11: 5,12.11), and repeatedly says that their followers are "inflated" (physioi) or self-inflated (1 Cor 4:18, 5:2, 8:1, 13:4). Krister Stendahl describes the high-flying emissaries as "slick operators." Their women's newfangled way of prophesying is modishly "daring." Without disparaging spiritual gifts, and while saying he has experienced them himself, Paul reminds them that these are given for the good of the whole gathering, and that without love the spiritualists become as a resonating gong (prophecy?) or a jangling cymbal (speaking in tongues?).
While ironically calling high-minded people the "stronger" element in the gathering, Paul boasts of his own weakness (1 Cor 2:1-5, 2 Cor 12:7-10). He will admit that the stronger may have superior insight—for instance, since they realize that idols are a mere nothing, they can eat meat sacrificed to idols (1 Cor 8:4-6, 10:25-27). But Paul tells these high flyers to defer to "the weak," who still see some taint in that kind of food (1 Cor 8:7-13, 10:19-21, 28-33). Above all, he tells the strong not to draw themselves together to eat better things at the Lord's Meal, since that destroys the whole point of the union of Messiah being realized in their eating together (1 Cor 11:20—22).
The lofty-souled seem to have done what later superspiritualists would, putting themselves above the observance of laws binding ordinary mortals. That is why Paul criticizes what seems to have been one of their mantras:
"Everything is permitted" (to the higher spirits; 1 Cor 6:12, 10:23). This may have been the point of the "strong" in saying that the marriage of a man to his stepmother, who lacked any blood tie, was permissible, though vulgar opinion held it to be incest. It is clearly why the high-flying emissaries said they were following the Lord's command in taking pay for their spiritual activities (1 Cor 9:14-18). The high flyers also seem to have thought they had already entered into the spiritual state of the glorified body. That is why Paul makes the odd point that they have to die first before they can live so exempt from earthly morals, and then their bodies will be so entirely different as to be unimaginable now (1 Cor 15:35-43).
By the time of the collection of texts cobbled together in what we call Second Corinthians, Paul must have realized that simple denunciation was not working. He was now looking for ways to compromise. When his very integrity was questioned, with regard to the Jerusalem fund's collection and security, he brought in neutral supervisors appointed by "the gatherings" (2 Cor 8:18-22). His account of his own spiritual gifts was a way of granting the validity of those in other people. He became autobiographical in order to forge ties with those making new claims for the Spirit. Grappling with the Corinthians was for him a harrowing struggle, one that makes for heady reading, even in the jumbled record it left behind.
The letter to the Romans is the only one, extant and authentic, in which Paul does not mention cosenders (though he delivers it by way of Phoebe). It is the only one addressed to a place he had never seen, to gatherings that were formed before he even became a Brother. But it is also his longest and most theologically ambitious letter. Some think that the lack of a troubled community within his own experience freed him to a more leisurely exposition of basic themes. But that plays down the fact that he had received reports of a way in which the Roman gatherings were troubled. He may have exaggerated the trouble for his own purposes, since it gave him a chance to rework an earlier stand he had come to regret. But more important, it gave him the opportunity to address the Jerusalem Brothers without direct confrontation or solicitation of a good opinion.
He clearly wanted copies of this letter to be seen in Jerusalem—and probably elsewhere. Some copies he would take with him, others he hoped his team in Rome would circulate there before his arrival and encourage Roman Brothers to send on to their friends and allies in Jerusalem. One of the reasons Paul needed scribes was to produce multiple copies of his letters, for his own records and to verify the copies others would make of them. Before the age of printing, an author "published" only by having the same text laboriously copied out over and over.
The letter to Rome was a production Paul took great pains over. Its rhetoric is highly wrought, its argument dense and ingenious. It is not a calm summary of his thinking, but an intense engagement with his Jewish past and his offended brethren. It is peppered with those heckling rhetorical questions characteristic of diatribe. It is a careful beginning to his last and largest campaign.
The trouble in Rome, however unfortunate for those experiencing it, was perfect for Paul's needs. It was the same conflict that had made him erupt in Antioch, a division in the gathering over Jewish food laws. [NOPE, JEWISH FOOD LAWS, OR GOD’S FOOD LAWS, WERE NEVER AN ISSUE IN THE TRUE CHURCHES OF GOD IN THE FIRST CENTURY A.D. - Keith Hunt]
But the dynamics had shifted. In Antioch, the "Judaizers" had the upper hand, while the Gentile Brothers were the innovators, suspect and easily intimidated by pressures emanating from Jerusalem. Paul became absolutist in that situation, telling Peter that he was nullifying the freedom of Christ as he insisted on kosher discipline. [NOPE, KOSHER DISCIPLINE NEVER ENTERED ANY DEBATE IN THE CHURCHES OF GOD; GOD’S FOOD LAWS WERE NEVER AN ISSUE, ONLY MODERN GUYS LIKE THIS AUTHOR THINK IT WAS - Keith Hunt]
Paul called any compromise at that point a form of "hypocrisy," and his stand made him temporarily lose his partner Barnabas and break off his efforts to raise the Jerusalem fund in Antioch. Now, however, writing to the Romans, Paul argues for tolerance and reconciliation. Partly this reflects the shift in dynamics just mentioned. In Rome, it is the Gentile Brothers who have the upper hand and are intimidating the Jewish Brothers. What makes this possible is a break in the social continuity of Jewish life not experienced elsewhere, one caused by the emperor Claudius.
[PAUL’S LETTER ADDRESSES BOTH JEWISH AND GENTILE PROBLEMS AND FALSE IDEAS AND PRACTICES AND MIND-SET - Keith Hunt]
In his Life of Claudius (25.4), the Roman historian Suetonius records that the emperor "expelled from Rome the Jews because of continual disturbances provoked by Chrestus." It is universally held that Suetonius misunderstood the title Christus, an odd term for a Roman, as a proper name, and assimilated it to a name that was common at the time, Chrestus (from Greek Khrestos. "Worthy" or "Beneficial"). By 49 C.E., in other words, there was a sizable enough community of the Brothers in Rome to create dissension in the Jewish community over something connected with "Chrestus," and the emperor, without getting into the causes or sorting out who was really involved, solved the problem by throwing out the whole lot. Jews, whether Brothers or not, were expelled from the city.
It is easy to reconstruct what happened, since it had parallels throughout the Empire, ones that brought Paul and others before Roman tribunals. Jews had good reason to fear and resent the Brothers. They had worked out a cautious and precarious modus vivendi with the Roman authorities, one in which they were tolerated and even protected, despite resentment of their separatist ways, their different holidays, their abstention from pagan feasts, their private food supplies and preparations. The Brothers disturbed this delicate situation, dividing Jewish family members by their departures from the Law, [THE PARTS NO LONGER NEEDED UNDER THE NEW COVENANT OF CHRISTIANITY - Keith Hunt], and luring the Reverent (the Theosebeis) away from them.
These important Gentile friends and patrons were a source of protection, of political and financial support, for the endangered Jewish minorities. It was necessary for Jews to represent the Brothers as not authentic participants in the allowed space earned and confirmed by Jews over the years. The Brothers, they would say, were more like the odd and menacing "new" religions from the East that Romans considered disruptive and a menace to Rome's cults. Jews therefore appealed to the Roman authorities they had cultivated, asking them to prevent disruption in the Jewish community caused by the Brothers. The "disturbances" that Claudius punished need have been no more than the nuisance of repeated attempts to involve Roman courts in religious squabbles.
When the Jews were cast out of Rome, Jewish Brothers would not have been distinguished from those not involved in "Chrestus." According to Luke, Prisca and Aquila were among the Jewish Brothers who had to leave Rome, and who ended up in Corinth, where they met Paul (Ac 18:2). But most of the Jews from Rome were likely to stay near the networks they had formed in Italy, holding together their communities in exile, maintaining synagogue organizations and economic relations with the surrounding country. When, in 55 C.E., Claudius died, they were able to return with social structures intact, to reclaim properties they had leased or committed to friendly Romans, resuming the pattern of their lives within the old guarantees.
The Jewish Brothers would have returned as well, but to a new situation. The Gentile Brothers, who were not covered by the decree, had for six years been able to expand their own community without any harassment from the synagogues—a unique occurrence in the early history of the Brotherhood. Returning Jewish Brothers would now be the outsiders in their own surroundings. Those who had maintained their ties to the Jewish Law would find little sympathy for their ways in gatherings that had lived with only minimal connections to the Jewish origins of Jesus.
Paul's letter is an impassioned assertion that those connections can never be severed. It used to be thought that the recipients of the letter were made up mainly of Jewish Brothers, since Paul argues at length and learnedly from intimate acquaintance with Jewish scripture. But the reason for this is just the opposite of what was then supposed. He stresses the Jewish foundations because they are so little familiar to the one community of Brothers who had been isolated for a time from that past. It will be seen how useful this argument was for approaching the Brothers he was about to see again in Jerusalem. He was making it clear that his mission to the nations was not a separate endeavor, unrelated to the lives and history of Jewish Brothers, or unrelated to the calling of the whole Jewish people in their uncanceled covenant with God.
Paul's main task is to tell the Gentile Brothers that God's promise to the Jewish people is not broken—it cannot be broken. He devotes most of the first thirteen chapters (as we now know them) to this thesis. Only in chapters fourteen and fifteen does he get around to the observation of food codes in Rome. [NO, THE SO-CALLED FOOD CODES IN ROME ARE NOT ANY ISSUE, IT IS THE FREEDOM TO EAT OR NOT EAT MEAT THAT IS THE ISSUE - Keith Hunt]. It is not surprising, then, that commentators have seen these late chapters as a mere addendum to the large-scale argument preceding them. But that long discussion was a careful way of sorting out the problem of the community he was addressing. Admittedly, he went beyond the immediate issue, which was the relation of Gentile to Jewish Brothers, and addressed the relation of all Brothers to all the Jews. But this added an a fortiori power to his argument in the immediate situation. If the Brothers must recognize God's unbreakable commitment to the whole Jewish people, how much more must they see the reason for Brothers to honor their ties to the people God first chose.
When it comes to the actual situation in Rome, Paul does not go back to the clash in Antioch, where he was for an absolute break with certain provisions of the Mosaic Law, but to Corinth, where he talked of a strong party and a weak one. Here, too, he says that the strong party may have the more defensible reason for its "freedom," but a regard for the united body of the Lord must make it defer to the fears of the "weak" members. In Corinth, the strong party saw no problem in eating meat killed for idols. In Rome, the strong party sees no problem in eating meat not killed to the kosher her requirements. [NO, THE STRONG PARTY IN ROME SAW NO PROBLEM IN EATING FLESH MEAT, WHILE OTHERS DID WHO WERE FOR BEING A VEGETARIAN - Keith Hunt]. The case might seem less urgent in Rome, but Paul makes it more symbolically important. Admittedly, a higher principle is involved—that nothing is unclean in itself, not merely things directly connected with idolatry—but a more urgent priority is at stake on the actual scene: regard for the Jewish roots of the Brotherhood. Where once he had excoriated Peter for insisting on the food code, now he tells Romans to accept it out of regard for tender consciences:
[THIS IS ALL WRONG— IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH FOOD LAWS OF THE JEWS OR ANYTHING TO DO WITH CLEAN AND UN-CLEAN FOOD LAWS OF GOD. CORINTH HAD TO DO WITH MEAT OFFERED TO IDOLS; ROME HAD TO DO WITH THE ISSUE OF BEING A VEGETARIAN OR MEAT EATER - Keith Hunt]
If your Brother takes offense with you over the food being eaten, it is because you are not observing the love you should walk in with him. Do not put his soul at stake over your food observance—Christ died for him. What you see as good should not be another's reproach. God's reign is not a matter of food or drink, but of God's vindication, of peace, of joy in the Holy Spirit. Messiah's slave in these matters is the one loved of God and favored of men. Let us then seek peace and the mutual upbuilding of each other. Why use food to block God's own project? Nothing is unclean of itself. But the individual may wince at one form of eating. Some find it best not to eat meat, or drink wine, or to do anything that a Brother finds offensive. If you, however, are assured in doing these things, keep it a matter of confidence with God. Happy the person who can act out of assurance, and one who acts against his own principles in eating is self-convicting, not keeping his integrity, for anyone who is not in accord with himself is in the wrong. Still, we who are confident should favor the weakness of those who are not confident, not trying to coerce them. Each should defer to the other, to strengthen the structure of the whole gathering, since Messiah himself gave way to others. (Rom 14:15- 15:3)
[IT IS EASY TO SEE THE CONTEXT IN CORINTH AND ROME ABOUT FLESH MEAT. SOME GOT OFFENDED IF THEY SAW A BROTHER BUYING AND EATING FLESH MEAT SACRIFICED TO PAGAN IDOLS; SOME GOT OFFENDED IF THEY SAW A BROTHER EATING FLESH MEAT PERIOD (for they were vegetarian)
- AND THIS ISSUE OF BEING A VEGETARIAN, AS CLOSER TO GOD’S ORIGINAL PLAN FOR HUMAN-KIND, IS STILL AN ISSUE WITH SOME. I HAVE AN ARTICLE ADDRESSING THIS TOPIC “IS BEING A VEGETARIAN GOD’S ORIGINAL PLAN FOR MAN” ON THIS WEBSITE UNDER THE “HEALTH AND DIET” SECTION - Keith Hunt]