On Eating Certain Foods

Since Noah knew about clean and unclean animals (Gen. 7:1-10), this distinction was part of an ancient tradition that antedated the Mosaic Law. Whether a creature was “clean” or “unclean had nothing to do with the animal being “good” or “bad”, “strong” or “weak”; it all depended on what God said about the animal that mattered. When He gave us these laws, He probably had the health of His people in mind (Ex. 15:26; Deut. 7:15), yet the main purpose of Kashrut (or the dietary laws) was to instruct the Israelites that they belonged to God and were obligated to keep themselves separated from everything that would defile them. “Be holy, for I am holy” He tells them 8 times in Leviticus.

Nevertheless, the spiritual principle of separation from defilement is applicable for God’s people today. We know God must make a difference in every area of our lives.

For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Cor. 6:20)

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31)

Today, God hasn’t given His church a list of things that are clean and unclean, but His revelation to us through the Word teaches what pleases Him and what grieves Him. We should know that the dietary laws were given only to the Jewish nation and that by obeying them it only guaranteed ceremonial purity. These laws didn’t automatically make the person holy in character and, finally, these laws were temporary and ended on the cross of Christ (Col 2:14).

Jesus’ teachings showed His disciples (and by inclusion us) that all foods were clean (Mark 7). Jesus repeated this lesson again to Peter before He sent him to minister unto Cornelius and the “unclean” Gentiles (Acts 10:9-16).

Paul confirms that special days and diets must not be considered either the means or the measure of a person’s spirituality (Rom. 14:1-15:13). Yet Paul also talks about how we stand with the Lord when it comes to what we eat.

But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. (1 Cor. 8:8)

It’s wrong to judge other Christians on the basis of what they eat (Col. 2:16-23). As long as they believe God’s Word that all foods are clean, and ask God to bless their food, they have the right to eat it (1 Tim. 4:1-6). But if someone teaches that in the matter of clean and unclean foods, whether you are a Jew or not, if someone follows Mashiyach they have no right to eat unclean things (pork is an example) they have gone past the point of what is clearly taught in Scripture and are teaching a doctrine of demons.

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer. In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. (1 Tim. 4:1-6)

It is interesting that those who teach abstaining from certain foods never follow up and tell people that it also important to abstain from touching certain dead animals regardless of whether God had pronounced them clean or unclean. The probation on the eating of certain animals in Leviticus was followed by warnings against touching the carcass of even clean animals because the blood might not have been properly drained out of it. So does that mean unless an animal is butchered in a Kosher manner it is unclean and defiles the one who touches it? Well, for those who are trying to live as Torah-observant under the Law, then yes. In fact the Torah teaches if a dead creature fell into an earthen vessel, the vessel was to be smashed. Also, anything touched by the carcass was unclean and had to be either washed or destroyed. I wonder how many of these Torah-observant advocates follow this probation when they buy non-Kosher meat or eat at a non-Kosher restaurant, or even eat at a friend’s house whose preparations themselves are non-Kosher? Or would it be better to understand the Law by the teachings of a rabbi of rabbis like Paul?

Paul teaches the main reason for these laws was to teach the people to appreciate cleanliness and shun whatever was unclean, to distinguish between good and evil. Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians is a contemporary application of this principle and must be pondered and obeyed by any believer who is serious about holy living. (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1)

If the Jewish people were to keep themselves clean and pleasing to the Lord, they had to exercise discernment; this meant knowing God’s Word, respecting it, and obeying it.

“˜For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. (Lev. 11:44)

This instructs us concerning food and animals. In New Testament language the equivalent teaching is…

… walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, (Eph. 4:1)

Yes, the Old Testament Jew, like the New Testament Christian, was not to walk “as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind” (Eph. 4:17) as it was a temptation to “go along with” and imitate the Pagan practices of the heathen nations which led to Israel’s defilement and discipline. Like Israel in the Old Testament, believers today must not only walk worthy of their calling and in love, but also must…

…be careful how you walk…but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Eph 5:15, 17)

We must keep our eyes open and look around carefully lest we defile ourselves. Jews who knew what God stipulated as clean and unclean, and who exercised constant caution, weren’t likely to touch something unclean and defile themselves. Today when we “walk as children of Light” (Eph. 5:8) we won’t stumble over some carcass in the darkness because God’s Word is the light that directs us.

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path. (Ps. 119:105)

The Lord reminded His people that it was He who had redeemed them from Egyptian bondage (Lev. 11:45). Therefore they belonged to Him and were obligated to obey His will. Christ has redeemed us not that we might be free to please ourselves, but that we might be free to serve Him, which is the greatest freedom of all.

One of the marks of maturity is the ability “to make a distinction” (Lev. 11:47) and distinguish between right and wrong. As a pathologist looks through his or her microscope, he or she can see a difference between a healthy cell and a cancerous cell. The expert musician can hear the difference between the right note and an almost-right note. Likewise, mature believers can exercise discernment, identify that which is unclean, and avoid it.

Remember, children are prone to walk into the mud and get dirty. Just as Israel was young, (Hosea 11) God needed to teach them to be mature and follow His Word, to be led into a maturity that teaches how to discern between good and evil, clean and unclean, right and wrong. So He gave them something that would be easy to understand, something that they would have to deal with every day: food. This is what He used to get them to understand that His Word will lead them to a life of holy conduct, faith and a heart that follows after Him. Today, mature believers can exercise discernment, identify that which is unclean, and avoid it. Remember, children are prone to walk into the mud and get dirty.

In fact, God even used clean food to teach the greater lesson of the importance of His Word. God explained that when He provided the manna in the wilderness that it was intended as a much greater spiritual lesson about His Word than merely satiating a physical need.

“You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. (Deut. 8:2-3)

These who teach that we must be Torah-observant and that the eating of certain foods will please God are practicing their own form of sanctification and righteousness; they are like the prophets whom Hosea warned about…

So you will stumble by day, And the prophet also will stumble with you by night…My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. (Hos. 4:5-6)

But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Heb. 5:14)

To put people under the teaching forbidding certain foods is certainly a doctrine of demons that takes away the freedom found in Christ to enjoy what God has pronounced good. (1 Tim. 4:6) To teach that it is a “pagan ideology that licenses sin” is to forget the admonition…

But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. (1 Cor. 8:8)

We must remember it is Yeshua’s own words that tell us…

“It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” (Mt. 15:11)

In Peace,
David Lister

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