EATING CLEAN AND UNCLEAN CREATURES
The question of whether or not the dietary laws the Creator God gave ancient Israel apply to the Sovereign Father's earthly children today is one which is easily answered if one allows the biblical record to speak for itself and does not attempt to reason around the clear scriptures.
In order to show why the dietary laws given to ancient Israel are to be practiced by the Sovereign Father's earthly children, it is necessary to review the biblical record before the advent of Christ and analyze the New Testament scriptures which people use in an attempt to prove all animal flesh is fit for human consumption.
Before The Great Flood
"And the Lord said to Noah, You and all your household come into the ark; for I have seen you righteous before me in this generation. Of every clean beast you shall take to you by sevens, the male and its female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and its female. Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive on the face of all the earth. For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made I will destroy from off the face of the earth. And Noah did according to all that the Lord commanded him. And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth. And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood. Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creeps on the earth, There went in two and two to Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah" (Gen.7:19 KJV Para.).
Noah who was the only righteous person on earth during his day understood the difference between animals which were fit for human consumption and those that were not. The logical explanation for why more clean animals were to be taken into the ark is that only clean animals could be eaten as food and sacrificed to God.
"And Noah built an altar to the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a sweet smell; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of a man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again kill all living things, as I have done" (Gen.8:20-21 Para.).
After Noah's sacrifice of clean beasts and fowl, God smelled the sweet smell and made the covenant of the rainbow.
The Covenant People
The Creator God brought the Israelites out of Egypt because he had a job for them to do and a purpose for their existence as a nation. These people were called to be a nation of priests who would represent God and his plan for the salvation of humanity. Moreover, the Israelites were chosen to be an example of a godly lifestyle, which would result in a happy, prosperous, and productive physical life with the promise of salvation and eternal and immortal life in the Family and Kingdom of God.
The Clean and the Unclean
The dietary laws pertaining to eating animal flesh were among the many laws which were given to the Israelites to promote a healthy lifestyle for them.
The kinds of beasts, fish, birds, and insects which the Creator God determined to be either fit or unfit for human consumption are found in Leviticus, chapter 11 and Deuteronomy, chapter 14. At the end of the dietary instructions in Leviticus, chapter 11, the Creator summarizes his instruction and states the primary reasons for this law:
"You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creeps, neither shall you make yourselves unclean with them, that you should be defiled thereby" (Lev.11:43 KJV).
The English word abominable in verse 43 is translated from the Hebrew word shaqats, which means to be filthy, to loathe, or pollute. The English word defiled in verse 43 is translated from the Hebrew word tamah, which means to be impure in a religious sense.
Verse 43 reveals that eating creatures which are unfit for human consumption contaminates the human body, resulting in a change in its physical composition, which makes a person unacceptable to God:
"For I am the Lord your God: you shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall you defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. For I am the Lord that brought you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: you shall therefore be holy, for I am holy" (Lev.11:44-45 KJV).
In verses 44 and 45, the Creator states his authority to require the Israelites to practice the dietary law and instructs the Israelites to be holy as he is holy. Other laws given to the Israelites reveal that a physical state of holiness cannot be acquired or maintained if people or objects are contaminated with physical items which God has determined to be impure in a physical sense.
In verse 46 the Creator makes it clear that this is a law which the Israelites are expected to practice.
"This is the law of the beasts, and of the fowl, and of every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that creeps upon the earth: To make a difference between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten" (Lev.11:46 KJV).
Deuteronomy, chapter 14, gives additional information and instructions as to the kinds of beasts, fish, birds, and insects which are determined to be either fit or unfit for human consumption, along with other dietary considerations. Verse 21 of this instruction also shows the primary reason for this law is that the Israelites are considered a holy people to God:
"You shall not eat of any thing that dies of itself: you shall give it to the stranger that is in your gates, that he may eat it; or you may sell it to an alien: for you are an holy people to the Lord your God. You shall not boil a kid in his mother's milk" (Deut.14:21 KJV Para.).
You Shall Be Holy
The three basic requirements the Israelites had to fulfill in order to maintain their agreement with the Creator and receive the benefits promised under this agreement were as follows: 1) Obey whatever the Creator told them to do (Ex.19:3-6); 2) Practice the laws the Creator gave them; and 3) Be a holy people (Lev.11:44).
It is important to understand that it would be impossible for the Israelites to keep their part of their agreement with the Creator unless they became holy, because being holy was necessary before being able to interact with the Creator and perform their priestly duties or represent the Creator as a holy nation (Ex.19:5-6).
In order to understand what it meant to be holy under God's agreement with the Israelites, it is important to understand that the Hebrew words translated into the English words holy, holy one, and holiness are different ways of expressing a condition of existence which is separate from the natural world and is in harmony with the attitude, behavior, and character of God and the dimension of existence that God inhabits.
The Creator's many instructions to the Israelites for them to be holy shows that being holy and being unholy are not compatible states of existence, and that the physical must be maintained in a holy state of existence in order to safely interact with God's sacred realm of existence. See Lev.10:1-11.
The ancient Israelites were not a spiritual people; they were a physical people given physical laws to practice to make them physically holy. Remaining holy was a necessary prerequisite for interacting with the Creator and for him to bless the people and the nation physically.
No promises of physical blessings were given to ancient Israel in the sacrificial ceremonial law. The Creator promised to bless the Israelites physically for their obedient practice of the laws he gave them pertaining to their worship of him and those pertaining to the lifestyle he prescribed for them to practice. Because the promised blessings were physical, the breaking of these physical laws would result in physical punishments (Deut. chps.11; 28; 30).
It has been argued by some that the Hebrew word tameh (English, unclean) actually denotes the state of being ceremonially unclean; therefore, they believe the dietary laws were only for the ceremonial purposes of the ancient Israelites, not for Christians today.
But, does tameh mean ceremonially unclean? By using the Englishman's Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament, all the places in the Bible where this Hebrew word tameh is used can be found. Where this word is used, it is not always translated unclean; it is sometimes translated defiled. There are at least two scriptures (Leviticus 8:23 and Ezekiel 22:11) which prove that tameh does not always mean ceremonially unclean.
"Neither shall you lie with any beast to defile (tameh) yourself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion" (Lev.18:23 KJV).
"And one has committed an abomination with his neighbor's wife; and another has lewdly defiled (tameh) his daughter-in-law; and another of you has humbled his sister, his father's daughter" (Ezk. 22:11 Para.).
Do such abominations only make the sinner ceremonially or ritually unclean? Obviously the word tameh is not limited to this definition. It is also used to denote the physical state of being defiled or unclean.
The following are two biblical reference works which lend support to the understanding that holiness was the primary reason the Creator required the practice of the dietary laws by the Israelites:
The Theological Word Book of the Old Testament states:
"Whatever theories are adduced to explain the laws of uncleanness, the scriptures themselves emphatically associate them with the holiness of God. The so-called Law of Purity (Lev.11-16) was placed side by side with the Law of Holiness (Lev.17-26). In the passage which lists unclean foods, the holiness of Yahweh is emphasized as the reason for avoiding unclean foods. The regulations regarding uncleanness set Israel apart from other nations. These were object lessons of God's holiness which could not coexist with the uncleanness of Sin" (Vol.1, p.35, article 'tameh', number 809).
Friedlander states the following in The Jewish Religion:
"We must take care that we do not consider these precepts exclusively as sanitary regulations, however important such regulations may be. We must not lose sight of the fact that Holiness is the only object of the Dietary Laws mentioned in the Pentateuch" (p.456).
Many of the laws given to Israel which are considered ritual can be found in the same book and chapters of the Bible as laws which are not ritual. One way to distinguish the difference between ritual laws pertaining to uncleanliness and other laws is that ritual laws usually mention a time period of uncleanness.
The laws pertaining to ritual or ceremonial defilement always specify a time limit for the purification of the defilement. This is an important distinction between physical and spiritual defilement that must be recognized in order to keep from being led astray by those who misapply scripture or those who do not wish to obey God's law. An analysis of the law pertaining to clean and unclean meats will not show a time element associated with this law.
In ancient Israel, it was possible to become physically and ritually unclean. This uncleanness (e.g., touching something that was unclean or having a communicable disease Lev.15:1-5; Num.5:1-3) prevented the Israelites from involvement in various requirements, such as Passover observance (Num.9:6-11) and interaction with the Israelite community.
A careful study of the sacrificial law reveals that the Israelites were required to offer some sacrifices which were to be considered God's food. Some offerings were to be totally consumed by fire on the altar and some were only to have portions consumed by fire with portions left aside to be eaten by the priests and the offerer.
The biblical record shows that the altar of burnt offerings was considered the Lord's table and that the food placed on it must be the type of food that he was willing to consume.
The following kinds of animals were offered as burnt offerings (God's food) and were consumed by God at his table:
- Bullocks (Lev.1:5)
- Sheep and goats (Lev.1:10)
- Doves (Lev.1:14)
- Oxen (Num.7:87)
Only animals considered to be clean in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 were allowed to be used as a burnt offering. No unclean animals were to be offered by the priests as God's food. Moreover, God instructs those who want to obey him to eat only those foods that he himself would eat (Lev.11:1-40).
Food Unfit for God
The prophet Malachi records the following reprimand to the Israelites for their failure to offer proper sacrifices to God:
"You offer polluted bread on my altar; and you say, How have we polluted you? In that you say, The table of the Lord is contemptible" (Mal.1:7 Para.).
"But you have profaned it, in that you say, The table of the Lord is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his food, is contemptible" (Mal.1:12 KJV).
The Israelites were offering worthless contemptible food on God's altar (i.e., his table):
The biblical record shows that God would only accept a sacrifice which he sanctioned as food fit for his consumption. Moreover, God instructed the Israelites to eat only those animals he himself would partake of (Lev.1:1-40).
THE DIETARY LAWS AND ISRAEL
The dietary law given to ancient Israel reveals which animals are fit and which are unfit for human consumption:
"And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, Speak to the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts (animals) which you shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth" (Lev.11: 1-2).
Who are the Israelites? The identity of Israel is greatly misunderstood today. To most people, the words 'Israel' and 'Jew' are synonymous, but actually they are not.
Genesis, chapter 12, contains the ancestry of the tribes of Israel, which states that God chose Abraham who had a son Isaac and a grandson Jacob whose name was changed to Israel by God. Israel then had twelve sons whose descendants became the tribes of Israel.
King Solomon was the last king to reign over national Israel while it still consisted of all the tribes of Israel. After his death, there was a civil insurrection that resulted in national Israel being divided into two separate nations called the House of Judah and the House of Israel.
Because the temple of God was located in Jerusalem, which is within the boundaries of Judah, the tribe of Judah, the priesthood, most of the Levites, and many from the tribe of Benjamin remained loyal to Solomon's son, Rehoboam. These southern tribes were called the House of Judah and are the Jewish people of the end time prophecies.
The northern tribes who followed Jeroboam of the tribe of Ephraim became known as the House of Israel and formed their own government and religious system in Samaria.
Although there are people from the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi also scattered among the tribal nations of Israel, the House of Israel is not Jewish. The ten tribal nations of Israel are predominantly comprised of the eight single tribes of Asher, Dan, Gad, Issachar, Nephtali, Ruben, Simeon, Zebulun, and the two half tribes of Joseph—Ephraim and Manasseh. These ten tribal nations are the peoples who are commonly called "the lost ten tribes of Israel."
Secular history and the biblical record tell us that the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrian Empire in 721-718 B.C.. Subsequently, its people were scattered throughout the world and lost their national identity. Wherever the descendants of Israel are today, whether they are descendants of Judah or other tribes of Israel, their ancestors were the ones to whom the dietary laws were given.
Jews today are often called God's "Chosen" people. One reason for this is that a large number of these individuals have not forgotten God's weekly Sabbath or his annual festivals. Moreover, many of them continue to observe the dietary laws given to ancient Israel.
The Jews and the Law
During Christ's ministry, some Jews came to him and accused his disciples of violating an ordinance, because they had eaten bread without first washing their hands in accordance with the tradition of the spiritual leaders of the Jews (Mk.7:1-5).
Jesus answered them by calling them "hypocrites" and stating, "In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Mk.7:7 KJV).
Although the Jews of Jesus’ day observed God's law, which included the dietary law, they had managed to pervert them with their own teachings and traditions.
Modern practitioners of Judaism observe the dietary laws noted in the biblical record, plus their own historical dietary traditions, which are recorded in the Talmud and other Jewish publications. These traditions contain many do's and don'ts about meat and other foods and their preparation that are not a part of the original dietary law.
Blessing or a Curse
The agreement the Creator God made with the Israelites contained laws which the Israelites were to practice in order for them to receive the benefits promised through the agreement. Within this agreement were laws which would promote physical health and protect against illness and disease epidemics for those who practiced them.
Before the Israelites entered the promised land, Moses reminded them of their agreement with the Creator God and the blessings he had promised for their obedient practice of his law and the curses that would surely come if they failed to keep their part of the agreement:
"See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil. In that I command you this day to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that you may live and multiply: and the Lord your God shall bless you in the land where you go to possess it" (Deut.30:15-16 KJV).
" I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live" (Deut.30:19 KJV).
Moses reminded the Israelites that obedience to God's law would bring them tremendous blessings (good) and that disobedience would bring horrible curses and death (evil). One of the laws which would be a tremendous blessing to the Israelite's physical health was the dietary law which described the animals which were either fit or unfit for human consumption.
The Creator did not always have to directly punish the Israelites for violating his laws; some of these punishments came automatically and were self-induced, such as the eating of animals unfit for human consumption which harm the human body.
Science, Not Ceremony
Many unclean animals carry diseases that adversely affect the human body. Trichinosis is a commonly known parasitic disease of pigs which is passed on to humans who consume the infested animals. This is just one example of a negative physical result for disobeying God's dietary law.
The Israelites understood that the practice of the dietary law was required to maintain them in a holy state physically and that, if they diligently practiced this and the other laws given to them, none of the diseases which the Creator brought upon the Egyptians would affect them (Ex.15:26).
Today, it is possible to scientifically show why certain animals are not fit for human consumption. Research by Dr. Carey Reams shows that consumption of unclean meat is harmful to our health. Dr. Reams explains that eating unclean meat is like putting hi-test airplane fuel in your automobile engine; it may run for a while, but the fuel will ruin your engine (Health Guide for Survival, Salem Kirban, p.46-50).
THE DIETARY LAW AND CHRISTIANS
Many who profess to follow Christ believe they are not obligated to practice any of the laws contained in the biblical record, one of which prohibits eating certain kinds of animal flesh. In an attempt to justify their belief that the dietary laws the Creator gave to ancient Israel are no longer applicable, they might cite the following:
- Jesus' conversation with the Scribes and Pharisees in which he says food does not defile a person
- The apostle Peter's vision in which he is told to eat animals noted in the law given to ancient Israel as unfit for human consumption
- Portions of the apostle Paul's letters in which he mentions the freedom which followers of Christ have in eating and drinking
In order to show that the dietary laws recorded in the biblical record should be practiced by the followers of Christ today, the six scriptural references in the New Testament which many feel prove these dietary laws are no longer applicable will be analyzed in the remainder of this chapter.
JESUS, JEWISH TRADITIONS, AND DEFILEMENT
During the centuries following the separation of national Israel into the House of Israel and the House of Judah (i.e., the tribes of Judah, Levi, and Benjamin), much of the understanding of God's law given to ancient Israel was lost. It is during these centuries that many Jewish traditions were invented and assigned equal status with the written and oral law by the spiritual leaders of the House of Judah.
During Jesus' lifetime the sacrificial system of worship was being practiced and administered from Jerusalem through the Levitical priesthood. And God's law, precepts, and principles were being taught and interpreted by the scholarly orders of Scribes and Pharisees.
Washing of Hands, Food, and Defilement
When some Scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus and asked him why his disciples had eaten bread without first washing their hands in accordance with tradition, what Jesus said about this tradition and the things which actually defile a person are often used in an attempt to prove that a person can eat any kind of animal flesh they desire. Therefore, it is necessary to quote both accounts in order to fully understand what Jesus actually said about this tradition, food, and defilement.
"Then Scribes and Pharisees which were of Jerusalem, came to Jesus and asked, Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands before they eat bread" (Matt.15:1-2 KJV Para.).
"Then Pharisees, and certain of the Scribes came to him from Jerusalem. And they saw some of his disciples eat bread defiled, that is with unwashed hands, For the Pharisees and all the Jews, do not eat, except they wash their hands, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they do not eat. And many other things, which they have received to keep, such as the washing of cups, and pots, brass vessels, and of tables. Then the Pharisees and Scribes asked him, Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?" (Mk.7:1-5 KJV Para.).
The ritualistic practice of washing hands before eating and the ritualistic washing of cups, pots, vessels, and tables is not a requirement of God's law. These practices were added by the religious leaders of the Jews in violation to the Creator God's specific instruction not to add anything to the law he gave ancient Israel:
"And now, O Israel, listen carefully to these laws I teach you, and obey them if you want to live and enter into and possess the land given you by the Lord God of your ancestors. Do not add other laws or subtract from these; just obey them, for they are from the Lord your God" (Deut.4:1-2 TLB). See also Deut.12:32.
In reply to these men's subtle accusation that Jesus' disciples had broken God's law, Jesus said the following:
"You hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying, This people draws near to me with their mouth, and with their lips honor me; but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the ordinances of men" (Matt.15:7-9 Para.).
"Well has Isaiah prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. But, in vain they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you practice the tradition of men" (Mk.7:6-8 KJV Para.). See also Isa.29:13; Ezk. 33:31-32.
Jesus called these religious leaders of the Jews hypocrites because they were not teaching and practicing total truth. Instead, they were teaching half truths and their own perverted philosophies and practices which were in opposition to God's laws, precepts, and principles. See Matt.3:7; 12:33-34.
Failure to Honor Father and Mother
In order to show these men that their man-made traditions and practices were violations of God's law, Jesus refers them to their teaching and practice of "corban" through which a child could disregard their responsibility to help their needy parents:
"He said to them, Why do you also violate the commandment of God by your tradition? For God said, Honor your father and mother: and, One that curses father or mother, let them die the death. But you say, Whoever shall say to one's father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatever you might be profited by me; And you do not honor your father or mother, one shall be free. Thus have you made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition" (Matt.15:3-6 KJV Para.).
"And he said to them, Full well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honor your father and your mother; and, Whoever curses father or mother, let him die the death: But you say, If a someone shall say to their father or mother, It is corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever you might be profited by me; they shall be free. And you suffer him no more to do ought for their father or his mother; Making the word of God of no effect through your tradition, which you have delivered: and many such like things you do" (Mk.7:9-13 KJV Para.).
In verse 11, the Greek word corban is derived from the Hebrew word qorban, which means an offering or oblation of self-sacrifice coming from one's life substance.
These religious leaders twisted and manipulated God's law to fit their own selfish desires. The translation of Jesus' reprimand in the Living Bible Paraphrased puts what he said in proper perspective:
"You are simply rejecting God's laws and trampling them under your feet for the sake of tradition. For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: 'Honor your father and mother'. And he said that anyone who speaks against his father or mother must die. But you say it is perfectly all right for a man to disregard his needy parents, telling them, 'Sorry, I can't help you! For I have given to God what I could have given to you.' And so you break the law of God in order to protect your man-made tradition. . ." (Mk.7:9-13 LBP).
Although much of the perversion of truth which the religious leaders of the Jews taught came from their own perverted thinking, Christ pointed out that much also came through the influence of evil spirits:
"You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it" (Jn.8:44 KJV). See also Matt.23.1-33.
Christ's condemnation of these men was extremely clear and severe. He basically told them that their thoughts and behavior were so closely aligned with the Devil and his ways that they were, for all intent and purpose, the Devil's children.
There were many laws that the Creator gave to ancient Israel which defined physical defilement, how to avoid being physically defiled, and how to remove physical defilement. Moreover, it was through the diligent practice of these and other laws that the Creator promised to bless the Israelites.
"And he called the multitude, and said to them, Hear, and understand: It is not that which goes into the mouth that defiles a person; but that which comes out of the mouth, this defiles a person" (Matt.15:10-11 KJV Para.).
"And when he had called all the people to him, he said to them, Listen to me everyone, and understand: There is nothing from outside a person, which enters into him that can defile them: but the things which come out of a person, those are they that defile a person" (Mk.7:14-15 KJV Para.).
Many believe what Jesus said about the things people put into their mouth not defiling them is proof that Jesus canceled the law given to ancient Israel prohibiting the eating of certain kinds of flesh. They believe this proves that a person can now eat any kind of flesh; but this is not what Jesus said or meant.
Jesus did not practice or teach anything contrary to God's law because he had to remain sinless in order to become the perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind. Therefore, what he said about being defiled had nothing to do with physical defilement under God's original agreement with national Israel, but had everything to do with the defilement of a person's character.
"Then his disciples came, to him and said, Don't you know that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch" (Matt.15:12-14 KJV Para.).
The religious leaders of the Jews taught that, in order to maintain a harmonious relationship with God and derive benefits from him, a person must be obedient to the written and oral law and practice the traditions of the elders which were being taught as an extension and clarification of certain aspects of God's law, such as the washing of hands before eating. Because of these teachings, those they taught could not understand the spiritual concepts of God's law. Therefore, the spiritually blind were leading the spiritually blind.
In his answer to questions asked by Peter and the other disciples, Jesus shows the error of ritualistic hand washing before eating and also explains what actually defiles a person's character.
"Then Peter said to him, Explain this parable to us. And Jesus said, Are you still without understanding? Don't you know that whatever goes into the mouth goes into the stomach and then exits the body? But those things which come out of the mouth come from the heart; and they defile a person. For out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a person: but eating with unwashed hands does not defile a person" (Matt.15:15-20 KJV Para.).
"And when he had entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, Are you also without understanding? Don't you comprehend, that whatever thing enters a person cannot defile them, because it does not enter into their heart, but into the stomach and then exits the body? And he said, It is that which comes out of a person, that defiles the person. Because from within, and out of the heart of person, go evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile a person" (Mk.7:17-23 Para.).
Although the Scribes and Pharisees were speaking about physical defilement being acquired through the violation of the Jewish ritual of washing hands, Jesus took this opportunity to show that Jewish traditions were perversions and violations of God's law and that the things which defile a person's spiritual character come from the mind of a person.
There is nothing in what Jesus said about defilement that remotely infers that he canceled God's dietary law which defines what flesh is fit for human consumption.
The conversation between Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees and his explanation to his disciples was in the context of a person's spiritual character, not physical defilement or the eating of meat.
PETER'S VISION AND CORNELIUS
The Book of Acts, chapters 10 and 11, contain the lengthy account of an angel being sent to Cornelius the centurion telling him to send for the apostle Peter and Peter receiving a vision, which he later understood to mean that Gentiles were also being given an opportunity for salvation through Christ's sacrifice:
"At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, "Cornelius!" Cornelius stared at him in fear. "What is it, Lord?" he asked. The angel answered, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea" (Acts 10:1-6 NIV).
In this account, an angel is sent to a non-Jew with a message telling him that God has been listening to his prayers and is acknowledging his generosity. The angel also instructs Cornelius to send for a man he does not know for a purpose which has not been fully explained to him.
"About noon the following day as they [servants of Cornelius] were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat" (Acts 10:9-13 NIV).
Being surprised that he would be asked to eat animals which were strictly prohibited to be eaten according to God's dietary law, Peter replies with the following rebuttal:
"Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven" (Acts 10:14-16 NIV).
This scripture shows Peter still observing the laws prohibiting the eating of unclean animals. Because the voice in the vision said not to call anything impure that God has made clean, many think this statement is proof that the law prohibiting the eating of certain kinds of flesh has been canceled. However, this is not what this vision was intended to reveal which is shown by subsequent events:
"While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon's house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the spirit said to him, "Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them" (Acts 10:17-20 NIV).
"The following day, Peter and the others arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence, but Peter made him get up. Stand up, he said, I am only a man myself' (Acts 10:24-26 Para.).
"Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?" (Acts 10:27-29 NIV).
Some time after Peter's vision of the unclean animals, the arrival of Cornelius' servants to fetch him, and his arrival at Cornelius' home, Peter came to an understanding that the tradition of the Jews about avoiding contact with gentiles was not correct.
The rest of the account in Acts 10 records Cornelius telling Peter about his experience with the angel, Peter explaining the sacrifice of Christ, and the subsequent baptism of these non-Israelites into the Sovereign Father's earthly family of king-priests. In Acts, chapter 11, Peter relates the vision and the events which followed to the elect in Jerusalem and explains to them that God is also offering salvation to non-Israelites.
The vision given to Peter of the unclean animals in no way proves the law prohibiting eating flesh which is unfit for human consumption has been abolished.
EATING AND DRINKING
In the apostle Paul's letter to the elect at Rome, he address a serious problem about eating and drinking which had the potential to cause some to lose their salvation if they did not resolve the problem in a righteous manner. In Romans, chapter 14, Paul clearly defines the problems along with the process and options for a resolution.
Because the eating of meat is a part of the problem being addressed, some people cite portions of chapter 14 as support for their belief that the dietary laws the Creator gave to ancient Israel are no longer valid.
The following analysis of chapter 14 will show that the subjects Paul discusses have nothing to do with the law prohibiting eating flesh unfit for human consumption; they have everything to do with spiritual maturity and personal dietary preferences and practices which do not violate God's law, but should be done in a righteous manner. Read also Romans, chapters 13 and 15 to gain a better understanding of the contextual setting of chapter 14.
"Him that is weak in the faith receive you, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believes that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eats herbs" (Rom.14:1-2 KJV).
The following is a more correct translation of verses 1 and 2:
"Accept the one whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One person's faith allows them to eat everything, but another person, whose faith is weak, only eats vegetables" (Rom.14:1-2 NIV).
Paul begins his resolution of this problem by appealing to the more spiritually mature individuals in the congregation to accept the less spiritually mature individuals. Then, he instructs the more spiritually mature individuals to avoid arguing about this subject or condemning the spiritually immature person because of their personal food preferences.
Verse 2 shows that the first problem Paul is attempting to resolve concerns a difference of opinion about what kind of food is lawful for the elect to consume.
In order to understand what kind of food is being spoken of in verse 2, it is important to understand that the phrase eat all things is the English interpretation of the Greek word pas, which is a root word that can mean all, any, every, or the whole. The addition of the English word things by the King James translators clouds the true meaning of what Paul wrote, because God's law strictly prohibits those who worship him in truth to eat the flesh of certain animals. Moreover, there are several scriptures in the biblical record which reveal the punishment reserved for those who refuse to obey God's dietary law. See Lev.11:1-47; Isa.65:1-5; 66:15-17.
Logic should tell us the belief that a person can eat all things is inconsistent with biblical law and natural law—eating a poisonous substance can be deadly. This alone tells us that the King James Translation of the Greek word pas is in error.
In Romans 14:2, the spiritually mature person correctly believes that he or she can eat everything that is lawful, but the spiritually immature person incorrectly believes it is only lawful to eat herbs (i.e., vegetables). The difference of opinion between the meat eater and the vegetarian concerns the legality of eating meat and whether or not eating or not eating meat will impact one's piety.
Because Paul does not resolve this problem by quoting a specific biblical law as he does many times in his other letters to the elect, it follows that no specific law is being directly violated by either eating or not eating meat. Therefore, we can conclude that the root cause of the problem within the congregation has to do with personal beliefs and preferences which do not violate God's law.
"Let not one who eats despise one who does not eat; and let not one which does not eat judge the one who eats: for God has received them" (Rom.14:3 KJV Para.).
The English words despise and judge in verse 3 are translated from the Greek words exoutheneo and krino respectively. Exoutheneo is a variation of exoudenoo, which means to make utterly nothing of (i.e., despise). Krino means to distinguish, (i.e., decide—mentally or judicially, which implies to try, condemn, or punish).
Paul's use of these two strong Greek words shows that the contention between the two differing opinions on the subject had reached a level where unrighteous attitudes were being manifested among congregational members. If this were not true, Paul would not have addressed the subject in this manner.
Paul cautions the meat eater not to despise the vegetarian and the vegetarian not to condemn the meat eater. Whether one is a meat eater or a vegetarian, one should not think oneself more pious because of one's dietary preference.
To despise or condemn a brother or sister in the faith is a very serious matter, because to do so is in opposition to God's royal law of love. Jesus said the following about the love that we should have for one another:
"A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another" (Jn.13:34-35 KJV). See also Rom.13:8-10; 1.Jn.2:9-11; 3:14-17; 4:11-12, 20-21.
Despising and having contempt for one's brother or sister in the faith and considering oneself to be more pious because of one's personal beliefs, practices, and preferences is being self-righteous.
Biblical law does not prohibit a person from practicing meat eating or vegetarianism, but there are laws which prohibit eating blood and specific kinds of flesh. Clearly, if a person has health issues stemming from a malfunction of the body, such as an inability to metabolize animal protein or an allergic reaction to animal protein, eating only plant food would be prudent. Moreover, no law in the biblical record prohibits practicing vegetarianism because of personal preference. However, to practice either meat eating or vegetarianism because one believes its practice is mandated by biblical law and doing so makes one more pious or superior to those of a different belief, is clearly in error. See Rom.14: 17; Col.2:16.
Authority to Judge
In verse 4, Paul issues a stern reprimand to both the meat eater and the vegetarian about their lack of authority to judge a brother or sister in matters of personal preferences and practices which are lawful.
"Who are you to judge another man's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he shall stand: for God is able to make him stand" (Rom.14:4 KJV Para.).
The apostle James echoed a similar thought to the elect who were scattered among the twelve tribes of Israel throughout the world :
"Do not speak evil one of another, brethren. He that speaks evil of his brother, and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law, and judges the law: but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who are you that judge another?" (Jms.4:11-12 KJV Para.).
Only the Sovereign Father has the authority to judge his children in matters of the heart and personal preference. For anyone to assume that they have this authority is a serious error for which there is a severe penalty. Therefore, one must be extremely careful not to impute wrong motives or judge the thoughts of a brother or sister in matters of a personal preference which does not violate God's law.
A Special Day
In verse 5, Paul begins a new subject which also has to do with personal preference and is also causing problems among members of the congregation at Rome:
"One man esteems one day above another: another esteems every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind" (Rom.14:5 KJV).
The English word esteems in verse 5 is translated from the Greek word krino which, in the context of this verse, means to distinguish, (i.e., decide).
Why does one person consider one day superior to another and another person sees no difference between one day and another? What gives each person the authority to decide the value of a specific period of time? In order to answer these two questions, we must differentiate the days which are not in question from days people have no authority over.
Paul is speaking to people who are commanded by God to observe the Sabbath, the New Moons, the Passover, and the annual festivals. Moreover, the scriptures show these days to be special and of a higher value than all other days of the year. Therefore, it is logical to assume the problematic days noted in verse 5 are days that are special to an individual based on their own preferences, not days of a commanded observance.
By saying that a person be fully persuaded in his own mind, Paul indicates there must be a weighing of alternatives before a person decides which day to value above another day.
Although Paul's letter does not specifically indicate whether or not the day in question is to be observed by the entire congregation or an individual, from the personal pronouns used, it seems these are days which individuals value as superior.
"He that regards the day, regards it to the Lord; and he that regards not the day, to the Lord he does not regard it. He that eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he that eats not, to the Lord he eats not, and gives God thanks" (Rom.14:6 KJV).
The English phrase he that regards not the day, to the Lord he does not regard it is not found in the original text, but was added by the King James translators. Verse 6 should read as follows:
"He that regards the day, regards it to the Lord; and he that eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he that eats not, to the Lord he eats not, and gives God thanks" (Rom.14:6 KJV Para).
The English word regards in verse 6 is translated from the Greek word phroneo, which basically means to exercise the mind (i.e., have an opinion). One person thinks of a particular day as special and dedicates this special day to God and forgoes eating on this day, while another person feels no need to forgo eating on the day which the other individual holds as special.
Because the day in question concerns eating or not eating, it is logical to conclude that the day in question is a day set apart for fasting and prayer. One individual feels no need to fast on a particular day and eats and communes with God in giving thanks as he normally does, while another individual chooses to set aside a specific day for fasting and communing with God.
Paul explains that neither individual is wrong in their personal preference, because one can show gratitude whether eating or fasting.
"For none of us lives to himself, and no man dies to himself. For whether we live, we live to the Lord; and whether we die, we die to the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living" (Rom.14:7-9 KJV).
Paul reminds the congregation at Rome of what they already know and understand about how one member can have a positive or negative impact on the entire congregation, and that their heavenly Father has absolute sovereignty over his children in life and death.
The Father's children neither live nor die to themselves; when one member suffers, the entire family suffers; when one member is honored, the entire family is honored (1.Cor.12:26-27). We are not our own masters; we are slaves to each other (Gal.5:13), to our Sovereign Father, and our Savior (Rom.6:22; 1.Cor.6:19-20; Eph.6:6). Arguing about the importance of a specific day on which to fast is meaningless in the Father's overall plan for one's life.
"But why do you judge [ i.e., condemn] your brother? or why do you set at nought [ i.e., despise/ feel contempt for] your brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God." (Rom.14:10-12 KJV).
The Father's children do not have the right to judge their brothers and sisters in matters of personal preferences which are not violations of God's law. Harboring a feeling of contempt for a member of the Father's earthly family because of their lawful choices in matters of personal preference is wrong and a great error. Moreover, Paul reminds the elect at Rome that each individual is responsible for their own conduct before God, not another person's conduct. See also 2.Cor.5:10.
"Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way" (Rom.14:13 KJV).
Each of the elect is being judged for their attitude and behavior and do not have authority to judge a brother or a sister in matters of belief and personal preferences which do not violate God's law. Moreover, one should be careful not to do or say anything which could adversely impact another person in their pursuit of salvation.
Clean and Unclean
Many people falsely believe Romans 14:14 is proof that the laws God gave to ancient Israel requiring them to maintain a difference between the clean and unclean and the holy and unholy do not apply to the followers of Christ today. This false belief leads them to conclude that a person can eat any kind of flesh they desire without fear of punishment.
"I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteems anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean" (Rom.14:14 KJV).
The English word unclean in verse 14 is translated from the Greek word koinos, which means common i.e. (literally) shared by all or several or profane. Koinos is much different in meaning from the Greek words akathartos, which means impure (ceremonially, morally lewd or demonic) and the Greek word koinoo, which means to make (or consider) profane (ceremonially). The Greek word koinos as used in verse 14 speaks to something common, not something defined in God's law as being unclean or unholy, which must be avoided.
It is important to note that in verse 14 no reference is made to meat or food of any kind and that the two primary subjects Paul is dealing with in chapter 14 are, contentions between meat eaters and vegetarians and which day is more appropriate to set aside for fasting and prayer.
These two subjects have nothing to do with God's law about the kinds of flesh which is either fit or unfit for human consumption, but have everything to do with spiritual maturity and personal preferences which do not violate God's law. Paul clearly explains that his reference to common things in verse 14 is a reference to food in general:
"But if your brother be grieved with your meat, now walk you not charitably. Destroy not him with your meat, for whom Christ died" (Rom.14:15 KJV).
The English word meat in verse 15 is translated from the Greek word
broma, which means food in general.
A more accurate translation of verse 15 would be; "But if your brother is bothered by the food you eat, you are not acting in love if you go ahead and eat it. Do not let your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died."
Paul's advice in the situation where a spiritually immature member of the congregation is offended because of the food a person is eating is for the more spiritually mature person to forgo eating this food in their presence.
The basic premise of Paul's advice is also applicable to other situations involving differences in personal preferences were there is no violation of God's law is being practiced. Moreover, when this advice is followed, it will help maintain peace and harmony within a congregation.
But, why would what a person chooses to eat be offensive to another person? The answer is that it should not be offensive, if the food is lawful to eat according to God's law. It seems that, in verses 14 and 15, Paul is again speaking to the subject he began with in verses 1-4 and is giving further instructions about how to deal with a difference of opinion between the meat eater and the vegetarian.
"Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the realm of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy spirit" (Rom.14:16-17 Para).
Paul appeals to the elect at Rome to not let their good (i.e., their piety/their expression of righteousness) be ridiculed because of arguing over food, drink, and days on which to fast or not fast. Moreover, the distinctive characteristic of God the Father's realm is righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy spirit.
"For he that in these things [i.e., righteousness, peace, joy] serves Christ is acceptable to God [i.e.,the Father], and is approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For food does not destroy the work of God. All indeed is pure; but it is worthless for the person who offends in eating" (Rom.14:18-20 KJV Para.).
Paul says to follow after the things which make for peace, but what are the things that make for peace among members of the Father's earthly family and what are the things that bring peace of mind?
According to Paul, to be spiritually minded is life and peace (Rom. 8:6), and glory, honor, and peace are given to everyone who does good works (Rom.2:10).
Throughout chapter 14, Paul shows that the path to peace is being spiritually minded, refraining from saying and doing things which should not be said or done, and forgoing one's own personal preferences for the common good.
Exhibiting righteous behavior within a congregation is beneficial to all its members. Although being a meat eater or a vegetarian does not violate God's law, eating food that is offensive to a brother or sister in their presence is unrighteous behavior and shows a lack of love and respect for the offended person.
Being a meat eater or a vegetarian does not destroy God's work here on earth; it is one's attitude and behavior as a meat eater or a vegetarian that has the potential to destroy one's character and cause others to be offended and stumble in their pursuit of salvation.
It is true that all food originally created for human consumption will not defile your physical or spiritual purity (i.e., the Father's earthly temple). See 1.Cor.3:17; 6:19. But if you eat or drink anything in the presence of a brother or sister, knowing that it is offensive to them, the exercise of your freedom to eat and drink violates the principle of being harmless (Phil.2:14-15) and God's royal law of love (1.Jn.2:9-11; 3:14-17; 4:20-21). Moreover, your freedom in practicing your personal preferences for food and drink is worthless to you if you knowingly offend another person while exercising your freedom. This makes you a prisoner to sin because of your unrighteous attitude and behavior toward another person.
In Romans 14:21-23, Paul summarizes his thoughts on the value of eating and drinking in the light of how this affects fellow members of the Father's earthly family:
"It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby your brother stumbles or is offended, or is made weak" (Rom.14:21 KJV).
The English phrase or is offended, or is made weak in verse 21 is not in the original text, but was added by the King James translators. Therefore, this verse should read: "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby your brother stumbles" (Rom.14:21).
To cause a person to stumble spiritually is a very serious matter; therefore, we should carefully weigh what we say and do as a member of the Father's earthly family, in order to be harmless and a righteous example to others.
"Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. He is happy that does not condemn himself in what he does. And he that doubts is damned if he eats, for whatever is not of faith is sin" (Rom.14: 22-23 KJV Para.).
Note: The English phrase "because he eats not of faith" is not in the original text and is therefore omitted from verse 23.
If a person is not totally convinced that what they are doing is in harmony with God, it is not of faith and is sin. It is sin because it is being done without a clear conscience.
The Living Bible's paraphrase of verses 21-23 clearly reveals the conceptual meaning of Paul's instruction to the congregation at Rome:
"The right thing to do is to quit eating meat or drinking wine or doing anything else that offends your brother or makes him sin. You may know that there is nothing wrong with what you do, even from God's point of view, but keep it to yourself; don't flaunt your faith in front of others who might be hurt by it. In this situation, happy is the man who does not sin by doing what he knows is right. But anyone who believes that something he wants to do is wrong shouldn't do it. He sins if he does, for he thinks it is wrong, and so for him it is wrong. Anything that is done apart from what he feels is right is sin" (Rom.14:21-23 TLB).
An individual's personal choice about which day to observe as a day of fasting and prayer or an individual's personal preferences in food and drink within the congregation at Rome were not sin in and of themselves. However, what was sin was a lack of tolerance, a judgmental attitude, and inappropriate behavior toward other members because of their lawful personal beliefs and preferences.
The subjects Paul discussed in Romans, chapter 14, have nothing to do with God's dietary law which prohibits eating flesh unfit for human consumption. What Paul discussed has to do with spiritual maturity and personal preferences which do not violate God's law, but should be practiced in a righteous manner, so that other members of the congregation are not offend.
FOOD SACRIFICED TO IDOLS
In Paul's first letter to the congregation at Corinth, he addresses the eating of foods which have been sacrificed to idols and the attitude and behavior which spiritually mature individuals should have toward those less spiritually mature when dealing with the issue of eating or not eating foods sacrificed to idols. Although some believe what Paul says to the elect at Corinth indicates that all animal flesh is fit for human consumption, an analysis of 1.Corinthians, chapters 8 and 10, show this belief to be in error.
There is little historical documentation about the people of Corinth; however, what is known gives us an insight into the potential problems of being a Christian in that society.
Corinth was the capital of Achaia in 57 A.D. and was at the crossroads of a major trade route between Asia and Europe. The city was very wealthy and notorious for the licentious lifestyle of its inhabitants. The city's reputation was so bad that it became a proverb in some foreign languages and was immortalized by Latin poets. The term "to Corinthianize" became a part of the Greek vocabulary and it meant "to live in drunken, immoral debauchery."
The temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, towered above the city on a hill. One thousand priestesses who were temple prostitutes spent their evenings selling their bodies in the city of Corinth. The city was home to the religions of its many diverse inhabitants who came to ply their trades in this prosperous area. The bulk of the inhabitants were Italian freemen, Greeks, Jews, and people from the cities of Levant. Within this city of wealth, immorality, and Satanic religions, God called a cross section of its citizens to become his children. When one considers their environment and cultural background, it is no small wonder that these people had difficulty growing into mature Christians.
Things Offered to Idols
"Now about things offered to idols, we know we all have knowledge. Knowledge inflates the ego, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks they know everything, they know nothing as they should know. But if anyone love God, the same is known of him" (1.Cor.8:1-3 Para.).
Paul begins his discussion about foods offered to idols with a cautionary note which sets the tone for his analysis of the problem between those who understood that food sacrificed to idols did not become defiled and unfit for human consumption merely by being offered to idols and those who were not totally convinced of this.
"As concerning eating things offered in sacrifice to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in this world, and that there is no other Sovereign God but one. For even if some are called gods in heaven or on earth; (even as there are many gods and many lords) but to us one God, the Father, of whom are all things; and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. However, not everyone has this knowledge: but some being aware of the idol eat an idolatrous sacrifice at this present time; and their conscience being weak is defiled" (1.Cor.8:4-7 KJV Para.).
The English phrase being aware in verse 7 is translated from the Greek word suneidesis, which means perception. (i.e. moral consciousness).
Some of the elect at Corinth would eat foods they knew had been sacrificed to idols, but they did not have a clear conscience in doing it; therefore, it was sin for them to eat these foods because they were compromising their conscience in this matter. See Rom.14:21-23.
"But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak" (1.Cor.8:8-9 NIV Para.).
The English word food in verse 8 is translated from the Greek word broma, which means food (literally or figuratively), especially (ceremonially) allowed or forbidden by the Jewish law. The usage of the Greek word broma in verse 8 does not specify whether the food offered is meat, milk, bread, wine, vegetables, or some other food.
Paul explains that the mere act of eating or not eating food which may have been sacrificed to an idol does not affect one's relationship with God. But, he cautions those of the Corinthian congregation who understood this not to let their understanding become a barrier to a less spiritually mature person's spiritual growth and cause them to fail in their pursuit of salvation.
Eating at an Idol's Temple
Because of the following King James Version's translation of verse 10, many assume some members of the Corinthian congregation were eating food sacrificed to idols in an idol's temple:
"For if any man see you which have knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols" (1.Cor. 8:10 KJV).
The English phrase idol's temple is translated from the Greek word eidoleion, derived from the word eidolon, which means an image (i.e. for worship). Eidoleion seems to be a derogatory term for a place where idols are located, but does not necessarily mean an idol's temple.
It is clear from the biblical record that God finds all false religions repugnant and to be avoided by those who worship him. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that his earthly children would venture into an idol's temple to eat a meal. What seems more likely is that food being sold in the local restaurants or being offered to a guest of an idol worshiper may have had portions of this food offered to an idol before being served. A more logical translation of verses 10 through 12 might be as follows:
"You see, this is what may happen: Someone who thinks it is wrong to eat this food will see you eating where an idol is located, but you know there is no harm in it. Then he may become bold enough to do it too, although he still feels it is wrong. So because you know there is no harm to do it, you will be responsible for causing a brother for whom Christ died to violate his conscience and thereby sin. And it is a sin against Christ to sin against your brother by encouraging him to do something he thinks is wrong" (1.Cor.8:10-12 TLB Para.).
Paul says the spiritually mature members of the congregation must be aware that, although they understand food sacrificed to an idol is not defiled, they should be careful not to eat foods which may have been sacrificed to an idol in the presence of a less spiritually mature member, because it may cause them to violate their conscience by also eating this food.
Paul summarizes his thoughts about eating food that may have been sacrificed to idols when he says, "Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble" (1.Cor.8:12 NASU).
The English word food in verse 12 is translated from the Greek word broma, which means food (literally or figuratively), especially (ceremonially) allowed or forbidden by the Jewish law.
The English word meat in verse 12 is translated from the Greek word kreas, which seems to be a primary word meaning (butcher's) meat. Therefore, Paul is clearly referring to animal flesh.
Why would Paul write that he would never again eat meat if this would cause one of the elect to fail in their pursuit of salvation? In order to understand the reason Paul specifically singles out animal flesh in his closing statement about eating things sacrificed to idols, we must analyze what he writes in chapter 10, because it is a continuation of the subject of eating things sacrificed to idols.
An Idol Is Nothing
The primary subject of 1.Corinthians, chapter 10, is worshiping evil spirits by proxy through the participation in their worship system, which included knowingly eating foods sacrificed to idols:
"Moreover, brethren, I would not that you should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized to Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat [Greek, broma, i.e., food]; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ' (1.Cor.10:1-4 KJV).
"But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be you idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play" (1.Cor.10: 5-7 KJV).
Paul reminds the elect at Corinth about the death of the Israelites who participated in the worship of the golden calf and a wild party with excessive drinking and indiscriminate sexual activity while Moses was on the mountain receiving God's law:
"Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur you, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer" (1.Cor.10:8-10 KJV).
The English word fornication in verse 8 is translated from the Greek word porneuo, which can mean to act the harlot or an idolater. It cannot be determined from the Textus Receptus which meaning to apply in verse 8; however, both meanings seem to apply to the behavior of the Israelites referenced in verses 5 through 7.
Paul cautions the elect at Corinth to be careful not to follow the Israelite's example and to be careful not to continually complain about different things, because this will also lead to their death in the Lake of Fire.
"Now all these things happened to them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Therefore, let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1.Cor.10:11-12 KJV).
Paul specifically warns those who thought they could have a close association with unrighteous people, participate in unrighteous behavior, or mix false religion with God's worship system to pay attention lest they fail to obtain salvation.
"There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it" (1.Cor.10:13 KJV).
Although Paul addresses temptations in general where a righteous person must make a decision whether or not to compromise righteous behavior, the subject he is addressing in this chapter deals specifically with some of the elects' participation in idolatrous religious practices.
"Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf" (1.Cor.10:14-17 NIV). See also Col.3:5; 1.Sam.15:23.
Some of the elect at Corinth were justifying their participation in certain aspects of other religions practiced in Corinth. This is why Paul urges these individuals to flee Idolatry. Paul then explains that the elect are to only practice the Sovereign God's worship system, because they are of the body of Christ.
In 1.Corinthians 10:18-21, Paul speaks very bluntly about participating in idolatrous religious practices through knowingly eating food sacrificed to idols and he leaves no doubt as to the seriousness of such an act and its end result. For clarity of verses 18-21, both the NIV and TLB translations are quoted below:
"Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons" (1.Cor.10:18-20 NIV).
"And the Jewish people, all who eat the sacrifices, are united by that act. What am I trying to say? Am I saying that the idols to whom the heathen bring sacrifices are really alive and are real gods, and that these sacrifices are of some value? No, not at all. What I am saying is that those who offer food to these idols are united together in sacrificing to demons, certainly not to God. And I don't want any of you to be partners with demons when you eat the same food, along with the heathen, that has been offered to these idols" (1.Cor.10: 18-20 TLB).
When the Levitical priesthood and those who sacrificed ate portions of certain sacrifices offered to the Creator, they were considered to be eating with him at his table as an act of worship and fellowship. This is why Paul wrote that it is not possible to mix the worship of evil spirits with the worship of God:
"You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons" (1.Cor.10:21 NIV).
"You cannot drink from the cup at the Lord's Table and at Satan's table, too. You cannot eat bread both at the Lord's Table and at Satan's table" (1.Cor.10:21 TLB).
The elect at Corinth knew exactly what Paul was saying, because he had taught them the Passover rituals and they understood that, when participating in this ritual, they were considered to be eating at the Lord's table.
A major part of what is being discussed in chapter 10 pertains to how close an association a righteous person can have with false religions and still maintain a harmonious relationship with their heavenly Father and their Savior. This is why Paul asked, "Are you trying to provoke the Lord to anger? Are you more powerful than he?" (1.Cor.10:22 Para.).
Although idols and the foods sacrificed to them are meaningless in and of themselves, these are in fact objects used to worship evil spirits. When a person knowingly eats sacrifices offered to an idol or a false god, they are in fact participating in the worship of demons. Also, when a person observes a false religions' holiday or participates in any false religions' practices, they are worshiping demons either directly or by proxy.
God the Father will not tolerate his earthly children's participation in the worship of evil spirits or the commingling of his worship system with that of evil spirits. A person with the indwelling of the holy spirit must totally distance themselves from all aspects of false religion in order to remain righteous. A person cannot mix truth and error and still maintain a harmonious relationship with their heavenly Father and their Savior.
"All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful, but all things do not edify. Let no man seek his own, but everyone another's benefit" (1.Cor.10:23-24 KJV Para.).
It is oblivious in there verses that Paul is not saying a righteous person can do as they please. The things which are lawful for a righteous person are clearly defined in the biblical record. Paul himself lists many attitudes and behaviors in his letters which will result in the second death in the Lake of Fire (See Rom.6:23). What he is saying is that sometimes it is not prudent to do things which are lawful.
Many individuals believe what Paul writes in 1.Cor.10:25-27 gives followers of Christ permission to purchase and eat any kind of meat and anything that is served to them:
"Whatever is sold in the meat market, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: For the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof. If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you accept the invitation; whatever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake" (1.Cor.10:25-27 KJV Para.).
Why would Paul say not to ask questions about the meat one purchases from a meat market and not to ask questions about the food a host who is not a believer sets before them to eat? Paul answers these questions in verse 28:
"But if anyone tells you, This is has been offered in sacrifice to an idol, do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience sake: (1.Cor.10:28 KJV Para.).
Note: The phrase "for the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof" which is in some translations of verse 28 is not in the Textus Receptus and therefore is omitted.
Remember Paul is writing about meat and other food sacrificed to idols and whether or not it is acceptable for a righteous person to knowingly eat them. The subject is not whether or not these sacrifices made to idols comply with the dietary laws set forth in God's law.
Although some believe that 1.Cor.10:25-30 give the elect of God the freedom to eat any kind of meat desired, this belief is absolutely false. The following translation of verses 25-30 clearly reveals the essence of what Paul is saying about not violating one's conscience and being a good witness of God's way of life:
"Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, "
The earth is the Lord's and everything in it [not in the Textus Receptus text]." If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if anyone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience sake—the other man's conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another's conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?" (1.Cor.10 25-30 NIV).
If a person knowingly eats any food which has been sacrificed to an idol, that person is participating in the worship of evil spirits, which is a violation of God's law. See Ex.20:3-5; Matt.4:10.
"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (1.Cor.10:31-32 NIV). See also 1.Cor.11:1.
Paul was not only concerned about what was lawful but also what brings a person to spiritual maturity. Paul says mature Christians should carefully consider their actions when they are in the presence of other people to ensure that what is done or said will not give a wrong impression.
A legal act according to God's law would be unprofitable to a spiritually immature person if they are led astray by a misconception of what a person does who is acting legally. Therefore, it is prudent to forgo doing anything which might cause a brother or sister in the faith to stumble in their spiritual growth and pursuit of salvation.
Wise Use of Liberty
Just because a person has a good understanding of a subject, does not mean they have the liberty to exercise this understanding in front of others, because each person is in a different stage of spiritual growth. Some will have reached a high degree of spiritual maturity, but others will still be babes in the truth. The scriptures show that we should be careful how we treat the spiritual babe and how we should set an example for those who are still young in the faith.
The overriding theme of Paul's first letter to the elect at Corinth in 1.Corinthians, chapters 8 and 10, is that of setting a righteous example for the young in the faith and taking care not to cause them to fail because one has a superior knowledge or understanding which someone new in the faith may not be mature enough to accept.
What Paul wrote in reference to eating food offered to idols and his approach to eating this food has nothing to do with God's dietary law which describes which animals are either fit or unfit for human consumption.
When the commanded observances and the dietary laws which were given to Israel are discussed, many people quote Colossians 2:16 in an attempt to prove that all the laws given to ancient Israel have been canceled. But, did Paul tell the Colossians this or did he say something very different?
In order to begin to understand what Paul said in Colossians 2:16, one must first understand that Paul's letter to the Colossians is not one of correction; it is one of praise and encouragement. The elect at Colossi were faithful in what they had been taught and were living their lives in compliance with their heavenly Father's law.
"I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world, rather than on Christ" (Col.2: 4-8 NIV).
Paul warned the Colossians to be aware of those who may attempt to destroy their faith with clever lies and arguments. Paul also praises the Colossians for their obedience to the teachings of Christ and their stability in the faith.
"And you are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also you are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also you are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised him from the dead" (Col.2:10-12 KJV).
Paul says the Colossians have been set free from their sinful past and evil desires through a spiritual operation which causes a change of heart. He reminds them that it is through baptism, that the old, evil nature of a person dies and is buried with Christ. And because they placed their trust in the Father who raised Christ from the dead, they are also raised from the dead to a new life.
The key to understanding Colossians, chapter 2, is knowing that Paul begins with reminding the Colossians of their past and present spiritual condition and that the primary topic of verses 13 through 15 is personal sin and how it is forgiven. Once this is understood, what Paul wrote in verse 16 in relationship to the Sabbath, New Moons, annual observances, and eating and drinking becomes clear:
"And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, has he made alive together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; by blotting out the charges proved against you, the list of his commandments which you had not obeyed. He took this list of sins and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ's cross. And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Therefore, let no one judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the New Moon, or of the Sabbath days" (Col.2:13-16 KJV Para.).
Verse 14 shows God the Father has blotted out the violations of his law which were proved against them and has canceled the penalty for these violations. Because of Christ's sacrificial blood which he shed on the cross, the Sovereign Father took this list of violations and destroyed it by symbolically nailing it to the cross of Christ where these personal sins and their penalties were erased through the sacrifice of Christ.
A review of the Greek language used in verse 14 will reveal more insight into what Paul actually wrote.
The English phrase blotting out in verse 14 is translated from the Greek verb exaleipho, which means wipe out or obliterate. The ink of the ancients contained no acid, so it lay on the surface of the material and could easily be removed as if it had never been there. This is what happens when our sins are forgiven through the sacrificial blood of Christ. God the Father forgives and forgets our sins as if they had never existed.
The English word handwriting in verse 14 is translated from a Greek word which means an autograph, but its technical meaning refers to a note that was signed by a debtor to acknowledge his debt. This handwriting was symbolic of a confession of guilt. So, when the list of our sins are blotted out, no trace of them remains; they are gone and there is no penalty to be paid, because we are no longer guilty of a violation of the law.
It is important to clearly understand that, in this analogy, Paul said it was the list of a person's violations of God's law which were nailed to Christ's cross, and it was the list of these violations which were erased.
Just because people want believe verse 14 says that God's law was nailed to Christ's Cross and is no longer in effect, does not make it so. The Greek language does not support this belief. This belief is only wishful thinking and a lack of understanding of the Greek language. The only thing that the Greek language indicates as having been "erased" is the list of a person's violations of God's law, which the Father forgives through the sacrificial blood of Christ.
The reality is that Christ came to sacrifice his life in order to erase our sins and their penalty. Clearly, Paul's analogy shows that the list of our sins is the only thing that was nailed to the cross with Jesus Christ.
Let No Man Judge You
Colossians 2:16 discusses eating and drinking, the annual observances, the Sabbath, and the New Moons:
"Therefore, let no one judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the New Moon, or of the Sabbath days" (Col.2: 16 KJV Para.).
Here, the English word judge is translated from the Greek word krino, which means condemn, punish, damn, or call into question. None of these meanings infer doing away with anything.
The English word meat in verse 16 is translated from the Greek word brosis, which basically means eating (literally or figuratively) or by extension food (literally or figuratively), whereas the Greek word for meat is kreas, which seems to be a primary word meaning (butcher's) meat. Therefore, Paul is clearly not referring to animal flesh in verse 16, but is referring to eating food in general.
Because verse 16 is difficult to understand when taken out of context, some people try to use it to prove that, during this age, no one needs to observe the annual observances, the Sabbath, the New Moons, or the dietary laws. However, even when this verse is taken out of context, the Greek language does not say that the Colossians were not to practice these observances or the dietary laws.
The Williams and Beck translations of verse 16 make Paul's meaning more clear than the King James Version:
"Stop letting anyone pass judgment on you in matters of eating and drinking or in the matter of annual or monthly feasts or Sabbaths" (Williams).
"Nobody should say you are wrong in what you eat or drink or do on a festival or the first of the month or on a Sabbath" (Beck).
When verse 16 is translated correctly, there is no reprimand from Paul in what he said to the Colossians about their observance of the sabbath, the new moons, the commanded observances and holy convocations, or their eating and drinking. Paul simply advises them not to give any credibility to what people say about their observance of the commanded observances and holy convocations or their dietary habits. The only reason that Paul would have said this is if there was a problem with people condemning the Colossians for their diligent practice of God's law.
It is easily shown beyond a doubt that Paul and the non-Jewish Christians at Colossi were observing the sacred observances and the dietary laws which the Creator God gave to national Israel. The writings of the New Testament clearly show Christ and all his disciples practicing all of God's law while he was alive. And it is equally easy to show that, after his death, his followers continued to practice all of the laws given to national Israel which applied to them as the Sovereign Father's earthly children and priesthood.
A Brief Review
The things nailed to the cross with Christ were not God's law; they were a list of our personal violations of God's law and nothing else (Col.2:14).
The facts show Paul encouraging the Colossians to stand firm in their obedience to God and not pay attention to people who condemned them for their observance of the annual festivals, the first day of the month, the Sabbath, or their practice of God's dietary law.
Colossians 2:16 does not prove that any of God's laws have been canceled; instead, what Paul said supports the practice of God's law by those who diligently follow a righteous way of life.
If you are interested in grammatical, linguistic, and theological proof that what I have said about Colossians 2:16 is true, get a copy of Dr. Bacchiocchi's book, "From Sabbath to Sunday", which was originally published at the Pontifical Gregorian University Press in Rome. This book contains much more proof that God's law was practiced by the early church than presented in this brief analysis of Colossians 2:16.
CELIBACY AND FOOD
In an attempt to prove that all flesh is fit for human consumption, many people quote Paul's warning to Timothy in which he wrote that there would come a time when the teachings of evil spirits would cause many to depart from the faith.
Because almost all translations of 1.Timothy 4:1-5 rely on the King James Version of the Bible as the conceptual foundation for their translation of these verses, it is necessary to quote these verses using this translation in order to show how easy it is to miss the point of what Paul wrote without referring to the Greek language of the text.
"Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God has created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer" (1.Tim.4:1-5 KJV).
In verses 1 and 2, Paul tells Timothy the reason some will fail in their calling to salvation is that they will pay attention to teachings promoted by evil spirits. In verse 3, Paul mentions two of these demonic teachings:
"Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God has created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth" (1.Tim.4:3 KJV).
In order to understand what Paul is explaining to Timothy about food, it is important to note that the English word meats in verse 3 is translated from the Greek word broma, which basically means food of any kind (literally or figuratively). However, the Greek words which describe animal flesh are sarx, which means in the strictest sense the meat of an animal (as food); and kreas, which seems to be a primary word meaning (butcher's) meat. The absence of the Greek words sarx and kreas, which describe animal flesh, indicates that Paul is not referring specifically to meat in verse 3, but is referring to food in general.
Many falsely believe what Paul writes in verse 4 proves that all animal flesh can be consumed if one shows God gratitude for providing it and allowing one to eat it:
"For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving" (1.Tim.4:4 KJV).
The first key to understanding what Paul writes in verse 4 is to know that the use of the English word for before the English word every supports the premise that everything God created is good. However, the English word for in verse 4 is translated from the Greek word hoti, which basically means because. Translating the Greek word hoti correctly into the English word because, which means the reason that or since provides the correct meaning of Paul's statement.
The second key to understanding verse 4 is to know the English word if is not in the Textus Receptus from which the King James Version of the Bible is translated. The introduction of the English word if before it be received introduces a conditional clause, which allows for the concept of doing something to change preset conditions. A more accurate conceptual translation of verse 4 from the Textus Receptus would be: "Because every created thing of God has its value it should not be rejected, but accepted with gratitude."
In verse 4, Paul is saying that everything God has created has value (including marriage between a man and a woman as referenced in verse
3) and should not be dismissed as inadequate or faulty, but should be gratefully accepted.
Indeed everything God created is good in that everything was created to fulfill God's purpose. It is evident that everything was not created to be eaten by humans, because some animal flesh and plants are poisonous and if eaten can cause death if ingested. It is also true that foods which were created for human consumption should not be thought of as unfit for human consumption. Moreover, one should be grateful for the life sustaining energy these foods provide to one's body.
"For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer" (1.Tim.4:5 KJV).
In order to understand the conceptual meaning of what Paul writes in verse 5, we must again return to the Greek language.
The English word for in verse 5 is translated from the Greek word gar, which is a primary particle; properly, assigning a reason (used in argument, explanation or intensification; often with other particles). In verse 5, the Greek word gar would be more accurately translated into the English word because.
The English word sanctified in verse 5 is translated from the Greek word hagiazo, which is derived from the word hagios, which basically means to make holy. Hagiazo, basically means (ceremonially) to purify or to consecrate.
The only animals which could be purified or consecrated and set aside for a holy use by the word of God are described in the sacrificial and the dietary laws given to the Israelites (Lev.11:1-47; Deut.14:3-21). Additionally, the word of God in verse 5 refers to the Creator God (Greek: Logos, i.e., the Word) who made everything for the Sovereign God (Greek: Theos, i.e., the Supreme Divinity). Moreover, it was the Creator God who delineated which animals were fit for human consumption. These are the only animals for which a person is to give thanks to God for providing as food.
A more accurate conceptual translation of verses 4 and 5 from the Textus Receptus would be as follows:
"Because every created thing of God has its value it should not be rejected, but accepted with gratitude, because it is consecrated by the Sovereign God's Word, the Creator God, and supplication."
During Paul's lifetime, many individuals, as a personal preference or a religious belief, did not eat meat or other food items. These same practices exist today among vegetarians and certain religions.
The two problems (imposed celibacy and avoidance of certain food items) which Paul describes as teachings of evil spirits were negatively impacting some of the elect and were the cause of their departure from the faith. A careful linguistic analysis of 1.Timothy 4:1-5 reveals that the kinds of animal flesh which are fit for human consumption is not the subject of Paul's warning to Timothy and therefore cannot be used as proof that the dietary laws recorded in the biblical record have been canceled.
THE EDICT OF ACTS 15
During the first few years of the early church, many problems arose about how to apply God's law to the elect who were under a different agreement from the one the Creator made with ancient Israel. These problems were especially difficult to resolve when dealing with non-Israelites who were being called to salvation out of idolatrous religions and lifestyle practices which were in opposition to God's law.
In order to resolve the question of whether or not non-Israelites must be circumcised in order to be saved, the elders held a conference in Jerusalem. During this meeting, the apostle James who was the president of the Jerusalem council also addressed two of the dietary laws given to Israel which apply to Gentile converts.
After all the apostles and elders had given their opinions about the issues of circumcision and the law of Moses, the apostle James gave his assessment and judgement concerning the questions before the council:
"When they finished, James spoke up: "Brothers, listen to me. Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: After this I will return and rebuild David's fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things that have been known for ages" (Acts 15:13-18 NIV).
The following is a summary of the prophecy James quoted from Amos 9:9-15:
- The scattering of Israel throughout the nations (vs.9-10)
- The restoration of the Davidic dynasty (v11)
- The conversion of all of the Gentile nations (v12)
- The fruitfulness of the land of Israel after Christ's return (v13)
- Israel's return from captivity (v14)
- The rebuilding of Israel's destroyed cities (v14)
- Israel's permanent settlement of the Holy Land (v15)
Through their writings, the prophets agreed with what had been said so far, because they had foretold that God would call individuals from among other nations to receive his spirit.
The prophecies of Amos, Isaiah, and Micah all lend support to what James had to say about the salvation of Gentiles. See Isa.11:1-16 and Mic.4:1-3.
By quoting the prophets, James lays the foundation for his decision about circumcision and the law of Moses, as well as the edict which the council wrote and sent to the churches.
"It is my judgment, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from being defiled by idols, from sexual immorality, from animals choked to death, and from eating blood. For Moses has been taught in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues every Sabbath" (Acts 15:19-21 Para.).
The things taught in the synagogues were God's law, which included laws about idolatry, sexual immorality, improper slaughter of animals, eating blood, and diet. The analysis and conclusion of James was correct and supported by all those at the Council. Therefore, the Council wrote a letter to be distributed to the Gentile converts. The edict James issued shows the dietary laws given to ancient Israel were still being taught and practiced by the early church many years after the death and resurrection of Christ.
Although these Gentile converts lived during a time when idolatrous religions impacted almost every aspect of daily life, these non-Israelites were neither given special dispensation nor exempted from practicing the laws of God, because to do otherwise would have been inconsistent with the teachings of Christ and the scriptures.
The instruction against eating strangled animals and their blood was a reminder that this law was still in force and was a part of the terms and conditions of God's agreement with his elect children (See Lev.7:26-27).
Today, the Sovereign Father's children, whether Israelite or Gentile, are living under the same conditions as the early Gentile converts and the edict of Acts 15 applies to all of the elect everywhere on earth.
Historians who research the early church find that the apostles and the early church practiced the observance of the Passover, the annual festival, the Sabbaths, the New Moons, and the dietary laws given to ancient Israel, until this church disappeared from the historical record. But why did the early church continue these practices, especially when they were persecuted for doing so? Their practice of these laws makes no logical sense unless these practices were required under their agreement with God.
Is there something that the apostles and the early church were not aware of that would eliminate the need for God the Father's earthly children to practice these laws today? What new truth have theologians of today found that would allow one to cast aside the teachings of Christ and the apostles in regard to these laws? There are no satisfactory answers to these questions. An honest search of the Bible reveals that God's law has not been canceled or suspended.
Because the practice of God's laws was required prior to and during the life of Christ, were observed by the early church, and will be required when the God Family rules the earth, they could not have been canceled or suspended. It should be obvious that in this age anyone who professes to follow Christ should also be practicing the Sovereign God's laws which apply to them.
A short review of the historical record of the early church before its demise and disappearance will show that, wherever one found the followers of Christ, they were found to be following a way of life that was not markedly different from that of the Jews.
The historical record clearly shows that the church observed the Passover, the festival of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost and the festivals of the seventh month, as well as the weekly Sabbath and the dietary laws given to Israel through Moses.
The Elect are Holy
The following are a few of the many references in the New Testament which confirm that the Sovereign Father's earthly children are holy and are to remain in this sacred state of existence while living in the flesh:
"According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love" (Eph.1:4 KJV). See also Rom.12:1.
"Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus" (Heb.3:1 KJV).
"As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which has called you is holy, so be you holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be you holy; for I am holy" (1.Pet.1:14-16 KJV).
"But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a purchased people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1.Pet.2:9 KJV Para.).
The Sovereign Father's Temple
"Don't you know that your body is the temple of the holy spirit that is in you, which God has given you, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which belong to God's" (1.Cor.6:19-20 Para.).
Today, the Sovereign Father's earthly children are his temples on earth. His most holy place is now within his elect children. Therefore, we should keep our bodies from being defiled, just as the Creator instructed the Israelites to keep his temple and his holy place undefiled while he was dwelling in the Holy of Holies.
"Don't you know that you are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwells in you? If any man defiles the temple of God, God shall destroy him; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are" (1.Cor.3:16-17 Para.).
During the gospel age of salvation, defiling God's temple is much more serious than it was for the Israelites who were under a physical agreement with physical penalties for the violations of God's law. The elect who have an agreement with the Sovereign Father have a spiritual agreement with him, which has physical and eternal consequences for the violation of his law.
Make no mistake, those who have the holy spirit dwelling within them who consciously and intentionally defile their body, which is the temple of the living God, will be destroyed in the Lake of Fire and cease to exist forever.
When Christ Returns
Near the end of the Book of Revelation, the apostle John was told the following which should convince anyone who is serious about their eternal salvation that being found holy when Christ returns is of paramount concern:
"And he said to me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand. He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city" (Rev.22:10-14 KJV).
The prophet Isaiah recorded many earth shaking world events which will occur before and during Christ's return. Within one of these prophecies is recorded the punishment which will be exacted on individuals who practice an idolatrous worship system and eat pig and rodent flesh, all of which are violations of God's law of worship and God's dietary law which prohibits eating animal flesh deemed unfit for human consumption.
"I have spread out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, that walk in a way that is not good, after their own thoughts; A people that to my face continually provoke me to anger, sacrificing in gardens, and burning incense on alters of brick; which remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments, which eat swine's flesh, and broth of abominable things in their vessels. Which say, stand by yourself, come not near me; for I am holier than you. These are smoke in my nose, and a fire that burns all day" (Isa.65: 2-5 Para.).
It is important to note that, although many of the prophecies of Isaiah were a condemnation of ancient Israel at that time, they also have contemporary implications. Moreover, many will be fulfilled before, during, and after Christ returns to rule the earth. Isaiah clearly records the end result of violating the system of worship and the laws of physical and spiritual purity recorded in the biblical record:
"For, behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For with fire and by his sword will the Lord plead with all flesh: and the slain of the Lord shall be many. They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, says the Lord" (Isa.66: 15-17 KJV).
Many people ignore what the biblical record says about eating flesh which is unfit for human consumption and the consequence of violating God's dietary law.
The laws the Creator gave to ancient Israel were for their benefit and would result in a happy, prosperous, and productive physical life with the promise of salvation and eternal and immortal life in the Family and Kingdom of God. The same principle exists during this age of salvation. Those who practice the laws of God which apply to them will receive a blessing.
God is not waiting around to strike you down or deny you salvation if you eat a ham sandwich. God has given you the right to make your own decisions. However, he does look at the attitude of each of his children in everything that they do. There is a difference between a person who eats unclean meat in ignorance and a person who does it in willful disobedience. A person can repent and ask forgiveness for acts of ignorance and lack of character. However, if a person persists in willful disobedience of God's law, that person is in jeopardy of losing their salvation (Heb.10:26).
Many people ignore what the biblical record says about eating flesh which is unfit for human consumption and the consequence of violating God's dietary law; however, many scriptures show that God will destroy those who will not come into conformity with his righteous law, which includes his dietary law.
Does God Care about Food?
Why should a follower of Christ be concerned about the dietary law given to the ancient Israelites in which the Creator God described the kinds of beasts, fish, birds, and insects that were and were not fit for human consumption? The answer is that, because these creatures have not changed their physical makeup since their creation, they are as unfit for human consumption today as they were before the great flood and during the existence of the ancient nation of Israel. The only thing that has changed is human perception of what is good for food. Unclean animals described in God's law are simply not fit for human consumption.
The dietary law in the biblical record only permits eating meats that God has designated as fit for human consumption, which have also been slaughtered in compliance with God's instructions. A good guideline to remember is that something can only be lawful if it is in harmony with God's law and the teachings of Christ and the apostles.
CLEAN AND UNCLEAN CREATURES
The predominant characteristics of clean mammals are the following: They give birth to live offspring, suckle their young, breathe through lungs, have hair on the skin, have constant body temperature, and have a four-chambered heart. Mammals that chew the cud and have a split in their hooves are fit for human consumption. These animals are herbivores and have hollow or solid horns.
A few examples of clean mammals are cattle, sheep, goats, buffalo, deer, gazelle, antelope, and oxen.
The predominant characteristics of unclean mammals are as follows:
- There is a split in their hooves, but they do not chew the cud and they possess canine and incisor teeth.
- They chew the cud but do not have a split in their hooves, they have small hooves like nails, walk on cushion-like pads, have tusk-like canine teeth on both jaws, and incisor teeth on the upper jaws, and their stomach has only three compartments.
- They are solid-hoofed, herbivorous, have a single-stomach, and have incisor teeth on both upper and lower jaws.
- They are carnivores, have six incisors and two sharp canine teeth on both jaws, 4 or 5 toes with claws on each foot, and walk either on their toes or their paws.
- They neither chew cud nor have a part in their hooves.
A few examples of unclean mammals are the ape, bat, bear, camel, dog, donkey, elephant, fox, hyena, hippo, horse, jackal, leopard, lion, llama, rabbit, pig, mule, mouse, whale, and zebra.
Although many kinds of animals live in water; the law of clean and unclean meats dictates that the only animals fit for human consumption which live exclusively in water are fish.
The predominant characteristics of clean fish are as follows: vertebrates that live in water and breathe through gills, have both fins and scales, and reproduce either by laying eggs or giving birth to live offspring.
The only fish fit for human consumption must have both fins and scales (Lev.11:9; Deut.14:9). In this category, only fish with bony skeletons are included because they alone possess fins and scales. The scales must overlap one another and be of bony origin and not a growth of the skin and they must be visible to the eye.
A few examples of clean fish are carp, bass, sardine, herring, perch, salmon, and trout.
- Fish that do not have scales or have teeth like projections on their skin, which are not true scales, because as they do not overlap.
- Fish with no visible scales or fins
A few examples of unclean fish are catfish, eels, sharks, sturgeon, and some species of tuna.
The predominant characteristics of clean birds are as follows: bodies covered with feathers, upper limbs are wing-shaped, no teeth, breathe through lungs, constant body temperature, four-chambered heart, lay eggs.
There are five predominant characteristics of clean birds:
- Not a bird of prey
- Elongated middle front toe plus a hind toe
- Three toes on one side of perch with hind toe on the other side
- Has a crop
- Has a gizzard with double lining that can be easily separated
A few examples of clean birds are chickens, ducks, geese, house sparrows, most song birds, partridges, pheasants, pigeons, and quail.
There are four predominant characteristics of unclean birds:
- Birds of prey that are carnivores and have hooked beaks and sharp talons that are bent like hooks
- Scavenger birds that feed on carrion and are usually bare necked, with thick solid bills and blunt talons that are slightly inclined
- Night birds of prey. Large head and eyes and 4 opposing toes
- Water and marsh fowls, except ducks and geese
A few examples of unclean birds are buzzards, crows, eagles, hawks, kites, swifts, ostriches, owls, and vultures.
The predominant characteristics of amphibians are as follows: vertebrates born in water, living in water, on land, or both. During early stages (larva-tadpole), they breathe with gills, and in the adult stage they breath with lungs or gills. Body temperature changes in accordance with medium in which they live.
No amphibian is fit for human consumption.
The predominant characteristics of reptiles are as follows: creeping and crawling things that have short legs or none at all, live mostly on dry land, have lungs, the majority of them lay eggs with a soft shell in which the white and the yolk are mixed. They are cold blooded (temperature adjusts to the environment), and their skin is covered with scales.
No reptile is fit for human consumption.
Only a few of the millions of species of insects are fit for human consumption:
"These may you eat of every flying creeping thing that goes upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth; Even those may you eat, the locust after its kind. . ." (Lev.11: 21-22).
A few examples of clean insects are locusts, grasshoppers, and crickets.
Clearly much thought went into the laws that the Creator God gave to national Israel and none were frivolous or unnecessary at the time that these laws were codified. Biblical prophecy clearly shows that many of these laws including the laws concerning what is clean and unclean are to be observed when Christ returns to establish his Sovereign Father's government and worship system on earth as noted in the prophetic Book of Ezekiel:
"And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean" (Ezek.44:23KJV).
The dietary laws given to national Israel at Mount Sinai were not meant for them alone, these laws were meant to be a blessing to all mankind. Notice what the prophet Micah recorded concerning God's law being taught after Christ returns:
"But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain [government] of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills [lesser governments]; and people shall flow to it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Mic.4:1-2KJV).
It seems logical that the benefits derived from the dietary laws given to national Israel and which will also be observed after Christ returns have not been suspended during this gospel age and will still benefit individuals who diligently practice them.
By B.L. Cocherell b4w12