Yes, because there’s a vital spiritual connection to what you eat and holiness. Discover how.
[Steve Myers] How do you know what food is good to eat?
It’s a controversial topic.
Walk down the aisle in your supermarket you’ll see all kinds of foods that claim this one’s healthy, that one’s nutritious. Whole foods; natural foods; organic foods. Is this really beneficial or am I being misled? Even experts disagree about the proper amount of sugar, salt and fat in our diets. Growers and government debate labels and packaging. But beyond all this, could there be a spiritual connection to what food we eat?
Who decides the standard? Have you thought about what God has to say about food?
Prepare to be challenged on Beyond Today as we examine “The Biblical Food Laws: Does God Care What You Eat?”
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[Steve] Would you allow God to tell you what you should eat?
You might be surprised to learn that the Bible instructs Christians not to eat certain foods including pork—bacon, ham, in fact anything that comes from a pig (Leviticus 11:7 Leviticus 11:7And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be cloven footed, yet he chews not the cud; he is unclean to you.
American King James Version×).
But didn’t Jesus do away with that? Wasn’t it just a rule for the Jews? Well we’re going to talk about that in just a moment.
We know God did create all the animal life on our planet and He tells us that some were created for the specific purpose of providing us food.
The New Testament verifies we should be “eating foods that God created—and he intended them to be accepted with thanksgiving…” (1 Timothy 4:3 1 Timothy 4:3Forbidding 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.
American King James Version×; CEB).
So Scripture tells us—today, in the Christian era—there are some foods that God specifically made to be eaten and others that should not be eaten at all.
But does it really matter? Does it matter that much what I eat? Does the Bible’s instruction apply to me or only to Jews? And what about the apostle Peter’s vision? Didn’t God deem all food clean in the New Testament? Well stay tuned and we’ll cover that vision and you’ll see it does matter and it does apply to you.
So when did God say what to eat and what not to eat?
Don’t assume that since the first few chapters of Genesis really don’t have a clear command of what to eat—don’t think that proves that God gave no food instructions right at the beginning.
Because it’s not true. Think of it this way: You won’t find a command against murder before Cain killed his brother Abel. Yet, no one would conclude that murder was acceptable before that time. Obviously the command was known and already applied.
So we shouldn’t just assume that because it’s not mentioned right at the very beginning of Genesis that God didn’t give guidance on food right from the start. He did.
Genesis remember, is a book of beginnings. It gives historical record of what took place right from the start. It’s not a complete listing of specific laws. So, just like the rule against murder was already in place, God’s instructions on food were already in effect as well.
The first statement in the Bible that makes a distinction between animals is found in the story of Noah. Genesis 7:2 Genesis 7:2Of every clean beast you shall take to you by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.
American King James Version×—Noah’s commanded to take seven pairs of each kind of clean animal and only one pair of each kind of unclean animal.
Now here’s something to think about: When God told Noah to build that giant ark, He gave precise, detailed instructions on the design, the size, the structure of that ship. But, God didn’t say a word to Noah about the difference between which creatures were clean and which creatures were unclean. Why not? Because Noah already knew!
God’s directions and Noah’s response clearly show that He already understood which animals were “clean”—that’s those animals that God says we should eat; and those that are “unclean”—those not to be eaten. So even though there isn’t a specific command recorded before this, God’s guidelines on food were already in effect.
Now at the end of that great Flood, God made it clear to Noah that animals were given into man’s control in the same way the green plants were given.
Now that didn’t mean that Noah could eat any animal or any plant. There’s an important parallel: Some plants, they’re suitable for food. Some are used for building materials. Some are for beauty—but we know some are poisonous and will make you sick and bring death if you eat them. Now in the same way, some animals are suitable for food while others provide fibers for clothing, strength for working the land or even protection from danger. But the lesson is this: like poisonous plants—some animals are not intended to be eaten.
God does care what you eat. Long before Moses’ covenant—and before the Israelites left Egypt; the Bible designates animals for food or in connection with a sacrifice. They’re designated as clean animals. This verifies the biblical food laws were in effect before the Old Covenant.
Now later, God organized and classified animals in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. He shows which creatures are suitable for food and which are not. The term used to designate animals acceptable for food is “clean,” while the term used for those that are not proper for food is “unclean.”
God revealed powerful principles that would provide safe, healthy food, protect the environment, prevent the spread of disease for anyone willing to follow His instructions. His biblical food laws are simple, rational, practical and profound.
But if these laws are so logical and beneficial for all people, why did God say not to eat pork and ham, or that we should avoid clams, and lobsters and other shellfish?
Hasn’t that all been abolished? Is it still important today?
Well God says, yes it is still important for Christians today. It continues to be important to discern the difference. Here’s what He says: “You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between living creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten’” (Leviticus 11:47 Leviticus 11:47To 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.
American King James Version×, NIV). But this is not only an Old Testament command. As we’re going to see, it has a modern, spiritual application for you and me right now.
The point is that we should make a difference, a distinction. It’s choosing to make a separation between the clean and the unclean. You know why? He says, “for you are a holy people to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 14:2 Deuteronomy 14:2For you are an holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a peculiar people to himself, above all the nations that are on the earth.
American King James Version×, 21).
So why change your diet and avoid unclean foods?
God says it’s all about holiness. It’s a reminder to choose holiness in thought and in action.
The New Testament confirms this: “…Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18 2 Corinthians 6:17-18 17 Why come out from among them, and be you separate, said the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
18 And will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, said the Lord Almighty.
American King James Version×).
Do you see the connection to food? God’s people are to separate themselves from this spiritually unhealthy world. The influences of wrong ways of thinking are bombarding our minds. God’s people must distinguish what should be on their personal menu. Making a distinction between the good and the bad, the right from the wrong, the holy and the unclean—and then choosing right actions.
Well how important is this? Well if you claim to be a godly person you must think differently—think like God thinks. God must be the authority in your daily diet physically and spiritually. You don’t even want to touch, let alone consume anything that’s impure. He instructs us to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5 2 Corinthians 10:5Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
American King James Version×).
So His people reflect godly values and His thinking—recognizing the difference between biblically right and wrong behavior. Now this means the only recipe for success is basing your life on the Word of God, the Bible.
God says in Ezekiel 44:23 Ezekiel 44:23And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.
American King James Version×that “They shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.”
Can you discern the difference? God wants you to be different, to be holy. Since we belong to Him, He doesn’t want us to contaminate ourselves through any kind of impurity, any defilement, any uncleanness. So honoring God means choosing the right diet of holiness in our thoughts and actions. It’s true with food, and it’s true with God’s way of life.
Are you choosing to be different in what you watch, in what you say, in what you think—even in what you eat?
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It’s designed to help you understand what the Bible says about being separate from a sinful society, what holiness is all about, and how you can have it.
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God’s Word provides a pattern for physical and spiritual healthy living. His principles of health and holiness are for our good. He doesn’t want us to contaminate ourselves physically or spiritually.
He tells us: “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 19 What? know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own?
20 For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
American King James Version×).
In God’s sight, refraining from eating unclean animals is a special spiritual sign. The specific purpose God gave for avoiding unclean meat, it’s a sign of holiness. It should remind us that we are different from the world around us.
Now you might be thinking—“Didn’t Jesus do away with that?” Well we’re going to talk about that in just a moment.
We know that obeying the law doesn’t save us; our faith in the sacrifice of Christ does. Yet, when we understand the spiritual principles that are the basis for God’s law, Christians keep His commandments. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2-3 1 John 5:2-3 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
American King James Version×).
These commandments—including the food laws in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14—they exist for our benefit. They remind us that God’s ongoing desire for His people is to be holy. It’s a constant thing.
The apostle Peter encouraged all Christians to “…be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16 1 Peter 1:15-16 15 But as he which has called you is holy, so be you holy in all manner of conversation;
16 Because it is written, Be you holy; for I am holy.
American King James Version×, NLT).
Of course, Peter had in mind a much wider range of godly behavior than merely refraining from unclean meats. He tells us to draw a line between what’s right and what’s wrong, between what’s holy and what’s sinful, and partake of what is clean and right—that principle runs throughout the entire Bible.
“Holy” signifies being ‘separated’ or set apart. We each have the choice of what to consume. God’s set the table you might say and says it’s up to you to choose right. He doesn’t impose His will on us or force us to do what He wants. God gives us the choice on this buffet of life.
Now this is important: Choosing rightly identifies who we are and to whom we belong. Our perfect, pure and holy God wants us to choose to be His holy people in every aspect of life.
This theme of holiness—what is clean, what is unclean—is often emphasized by Jesus in the New Testament under the New Covenant. We’re told that “everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3 1 John 3:3And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.
American King James Version×).
Well no wonder the biblical food laws are still important and continue for all Christians today. It’s a daily physical reminder that our body is a spiritual temple that houses the Spirit of God.
Our eating can reflect our identity and our values. Most importantly, it can even reveal our spiritual health.
We’re commanded: “In your lives you must think and act like Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5 Philippians 2:5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
American King James Version×, NCV). This means we separate ourselves from what is unacceptable and then we truly become God’s people. That even connects with the animals that we are told to eat.
Those animals—they’re described as sanctified, which means “set apart.” And it has a dual meaning—being set apart from something as well as set apart for something.
So the only animals set apart by the Word of God, His Bible, are those listed in it as clean. They’ve been set apart from all other animal s and set apart for our nourishment . Animals designated as unclean, well they’re unfit for human consumption and shouldn’t be eaten.
So every day, when you choose what to eat; it’s your daily reminder to make a conscious choice to select good, clean food according to God’s biblical food laws.
Now in the same manner, it reminds you that you must make a conscious effort to choose holy conduct in every aspect of your life—in your attitude and in your actions. It’s your day-to-day notice to constantly choose and be set apart from sin and set apart for God’s way of righteousness.
God has given us a wonderful object lesson in food. He reminds us that we shouldn’t just let anything come into our mouth. In the same way, we shouldn’t let just any thought come into our mind that would result in wrong behavior. So just like choosing good food to eat, we must choose a diet of godly actions in our life.
Up next, we’ll discuss the “what abouts” with the BT panel. The “what about” idea that Jesus made all foods clean or what about that voice that told Peter to rise, and kill, and eat? Well that’s up next.
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We’re continuing our discussion on biblical food laws with fellow hosts of the program, Darris McNeely and Gary Petty.
Now there are many “what abouts” that some people argue saying the biblical food laws are done away with and of course that they don’t apply to Christians today.
So let’s talk about a couple of those “what abouts.” There’s one especially that is sited in the book of Mark. Mark 7:19 Mark 7:19Because it enters not into his heart, but into the belly, and goes out into the draught, purging all meats?
American King James Version×. It says this, in the NIV: “‘For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.’ (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”)”
Now what about that idea? Is that really what was meant by that passage? That you can eat anything you want?
[Darris] No, not at all. That passage is talking about something completely different, not the topic of clean and unclean foods. In fact, in that NIV translation it is one example of where the editors of that Bible inserted an opinion and if you want a denominational or doctrinal idea that, that’s what that passage means. It is not, that phrase is not found in the Greek, and it does not fit the context certainly of what Jesus was addressing there. It’s one of those examples of where through the years people have actually added into the Word of God. There’s another one dealing with the subject of the Trinity and this is one dealing with these meats. And that one’s easily explained. But getting to the real core of that scripture is really what’s important.
[Gary] You talk about context. Context is so important. When you look at any passage of Scripture, what is it all about? So you just don’t pull out phrases and make it say what you want it to say. You know we go back to that Mark. Let’s just look at something here. In this passage. Let’s look at why Jesus said this. Why would Jesus even bring this up? What’s the purpose of which this discussion is taking place? And here’s how it started:
“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?’” (Mark 7:5 Mark 7:5Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not your disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?
American King James Version×).
This is a really, really important point. The Jews had a ceremony of washing their hands before they ate. It had to do with the concept that a man was the priest of his own home. So he had to do this ceremony. And even later in this passage He says, “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do” (Mark 7:8 Mark 7:8For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things you do.
American King James Version×).
Now the commandment that was given in the Old Testament not to eat pork, shellfish, those kinds of things was a commandment from God. So the whole point here that Jesus Himself is making—and all you have to do is read the passage—is about the commandments of men. These traditions that they were doing. It has to do with unwashed hands. It doesn’t have to do with actually clean and unclean means.
[Darris] And He’s really talking, ultimately, about what comes out from the heart, that’s what defiles a person and that’s the real main spiritual teaching from that passage. And when you focus on that, you’ve got it right on.
[Steve] So if you got a little dirt on your hands for not washing, it’s not going to matter. That’s going to come out. And it wasn’t referring to ceremonial things either like some might relegate Leviticus and Deuteronomy to just ceremonial rules, but it really was about the foods we should eat.
[Gary] Right, right. In fact, in the ceremonies even He is talking about, they weren’t even in the Bible! They were rituals that they had made up.
[Darris] And all the rituals, even the washings and everything, as they were originally intended in Scripture were also part of a holiness code that meant our relationship with God—you touched upon that.
[Steve] Now the other “what about” that often comes up is Peter. Peter had this vision, this dream and in that dream something pretty amazing happened and people often site that very thing. And in that passage, in Acts 10:13 Acts 10:13And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
American King James Version×is where it specifically it says, a voice came to Peter, it said “Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.” And of course many people assume then, all of those things that were in that blanket, or that sheet, all the creepy crawlies, all the pigs and all the other stuff, that was okay to eat now. And so they assume that. But is that really what that passage is saying?
[Darris] Not at all. That is the monumental episodes of the Bible that shows the door of faith being opened up to the Gentiles and Peter in a vision was being taught that through the distinction again, of the animals. He said in that passage that he had not been doing that. It’s not his practice and that was years after the death of Christ. So if you’re going to use that, Christ’s death as a time when everything was changed, that alone works against that idea. And, Peter said I don’t eat those things. And then He comes right down to him and says, I’m showing you that there is no distinction in terms of a spiritual condition between any group of people and the others. This was a big issue at that period of time for the church and a big hurdle to get over and it was a very dramatic and a very momentous vision that Peter was having.
[Gary] You know, it’s really sad that we look in Acts 10 and 11, and it has to do with eating spam. You know, I challenge anybody: go take your Bible, open it up and read all of Acts 10, all of Acts 11. And what you see is that this is one of the most—as you said, monumental passages in the New Testament. That the Gospel and that salvation was open to all peoples. This had to do with accepting people—that people could not be declared unclean or common, and Peter actually explains the vision to the elders in Jerusalem in the very next chapter. The meaning that Peter got from this that God gave to him, it’s expressed by Him Himself. So there is no real debate. This whole debate’s made up! Because in the Scripture itself, it explains it. There is no debate. And it’s amazing truth that’s being taught.
[Steve] It’s interesting in both of those first examples that we talked about, it’s not even addressing the kinds of foods that you should eat. It has nothing to do with those especially when you read exactly what it says.
[Steve] Alright, let’s do one more. One more “what about.” What about that section in 1 Corinthians 10:27 1 Corinthians 10:27If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and you be disposed to go; whatever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.
American King James Version×where it says, “If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience’ sake”?
So, should we eat whatever is plopped down in front of us?
[Darris] No, for a lot of reasons. But definitely, again, this is an example that is not talking about food laws. The whole context of that passage from Paul is meat offered to idols and whether or not people’s conscious was defiled if they happened to go to the supermarket and buy a pound of beef that had that morning been offered to an idol. Paul said that it didn’t matter, the idol is nothing. Be concerned about each other’s conscious but he was addressing the subject of meat offered to idols and in that context idolatry—much, much bigger than the matter of clean and unclean meats.
[Gary] You know when you look at Jesus’ account there, if He would have, to a group of Jews, in that environment, made that statement, they would have stoned Him. I mean this was one of their identifying signs—is that they didn’t eat these unclean meats. So that can’t be what He is talking about. But what Paul is writing about here, it’s hard to understand the superstitions that came along with idolatry. So if something was offered to an idol it took on certain, in the minds of people who ate that, certain qualities, and what Paul is saying is, that’s not true! It’s not true.
Now it’d be like today if you went to a Hindu community and went to a store and bought vegetables since they are vegetarians and it had been blessed by a Hindu. Would that somehow take away from our Christianity? That’s the issue, not whether they are eating oysters or pork.
[Steve] So really when you really get right down to it, we see those things are very specific for the times that they were talking about. Issues that really had nothing do with the kinds of foods you should eat as far as pork of beef or those kinds of things.
[Darris] No, they did not set aside those laws. That part of the law from the Old Testament. And it shows actually, a clear honest reading of it shows that that part of the law was still being practiced and taught and observed even by the apostles.
[Steve] And there’s an important spiritual connection we don’t want to forget about, so I’d like to remind you about our free offers today: What Does the Bible Teach About Clean and Unclean Meats and of course our Beyond Today magazine.
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Now we all want to draw even closer to God. Here’s an easy way to do just that. Each day, when you choose what to eat: remember, you’re not only choosing to follow what God says about good food but it will also reflect in your holy lifestyle. Read and follow His instructions in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.
It’s your daily reminder to make a deliberate effort in the food you choose, but most importantly, in choosing godly conduct as your way of life—in attitude and in actions every day.
It’s not only a matter of diet, it’s a matter of holiness.
Thanks for joining me today. Don’t forget our free offers and be sure to tell your family and friends about us. Tune in again next week, at this same time, for another edition of Beyond Today . I’m Steve Myers—Thanks for watching.
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