Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

Clean and Unclean Meats: Holiness, Part 8

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Clean and Unclean Meats

Holiness, Part 8

MP3 Audio (8.09 MB)


Clean and Unclean Meats: Holiness, Part 8

MP3 Audio (8.09 MB)

Today clean and unclean meats is not as awkward a problem for us as it was years ago. Many books speak out against eating unclean meats. Many come out today and say they don’t eat unclean meats. It is just not as big a deal as it used to be. Question is should it be? This is the final sermon in the series on holiness.


[Gary Petty] When I was a little kid, there were certain things about going to school that were awkward because of our religion – not keeping Christmas, not keeping Easter. You know, everybody else was doing Easter stuff and I wouldn’t do those things when they were doing their Easter projects or their Christmas projects. There always seemed to be a teacher that was really into the holidays. I remember one English teacher I had in high school and I remember asking her, “What in the world? For a whole week, every class is preparing – Monday through Thursday was preparing – for a big Friday Christmas party, or whatever it was – I forget which day of the week – but the whole week, up until the day before Christmas. So there was this big preparation for this party and it was like, what does this have to do with English? Well, I got sent to the library for that. But that was okay.

One thing that was also a little awkward was, you know, not eating the pork. When you’re fourteen years old, you don’t bring shrimp to school, but…. “Okay, what are they having at the lunch today? Okay, they’re having pork chops. Okay, well, I’m not going to buy lunch today.” Or, “Here, do you want my ham sandwich?” “Nah.” “Aren’t you hungry?” “Well yeah, but I don’t eat ham.”

Now today, it’s not as awkward. At home I have a lot of biblical commentaries, and in certain segments of the New Testament, they go to great lengths to show that, for the Christian, clean and unclean meats has no importance. But it’s interesting today, you can go to any Bible book store – you can go to Barnes & Noble – and you will find books by, usually, Protestant ministers or non-denominational ministers, all claiming that eating unclean foods is not good for you. There are numerous books out there that say that it’s not good for you. There are books by doctors that say, “If you’re really going to be healthy, do what the Bible says and don’t eat these meats.” Even Joel Osteen, whose view of doctrine, basically, is just feel good, even he has said that he doesn’t eat pork.

So today, it’s not as big a thing, but should it be? How important is the concept of eating clean and unclean meats in what we believe and how we approach this subject?

I had a different sermon I was going to do today, and I worked on it and worked on it all week, and then I ended up doing this. This is actually the last in the series of sermons we’ve been giving on holiness. Let’s start…we’re just going to do a basic doctrinal viewpoint of clean and unclean meats. We’ll look at what it says in the Old Testament, and then we’re going to go through the four major passages in the New Testament, which people use to “prove” that clean and unclean meats are not an issue today. And we’re going to look at “Is it an issue today?” and why.

Let’s start with Genesis, chapter 7, because here is where we have, really, the first mention of clean and unclean meats. Genesis, chapter 7 – this is the story where God is telling Noah to build an ark. And He tells him how to build it – the dimensions of it and so forth. In chapter 7, verse 2, He says:

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×
You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal – a male and a female, two each of animals that are unclean – a male and his female. So here we have the mention of clean animals.

This idea of cleanliness has to do with holiness. It has to do with something selected by God for His purpose. When you look through the concepts of the Old Testament, if something is clean – in the terms that the word is used religiously – then it is chosen by God. If it is unclean, that means it is something that is rejected by God for a specific purpose. So these animals had specific purpose for God. Now it doesn’t tell us what the specific purpose is – I mean, in this verse – it just says, “These animals are set apart by God for a specific purpose and so you are to take those animals.”

Now there are a couple of things that are very important about this verse. One is, He doesn’t tell Noah what the clean animals are, which means that he already knew what they were. Okay? He already knew what the clean animals were and you say, “Well, why is that important?” Part of the argument that clean and unclean meats is not something we should do today is that it was a law given specifically to the Levites and to the Israelites, and when the Old Covenant was done away with, that was done away with. Well, we know that there are all kinds of aspects of the Old Covenant that still apply today, but that argument collapses under the weight that clean and unclean meats predated the Old Covenant. You know, the Sabbath argument collapses under the weight that the Sabbath predated the Sinai Covenant. If you do away with the Sabbath, you also have to do away with marriage, because those two things were created about the same time. So, those two things were created about the same time – one just the day before.

So this is our first mention. What you find, then, through the book of Genesis, is that those who approach God – the righteous people that approach God – realize that they must approach God with a substitute for themselves – that He is righteous and they’re not and their deaths are required, so they must approach God with a substitute. And so you see them approaching God with an animal sacrifice. In every case, in the book of Genesis, where you see a sacrifice that a righteous person brings to God, they are part of what is listed in Leviticus as clean animals. So we know from Genesis that clean animals had to do with what was acceptable to sacrifice to God – animals that were set apart specifically by God. And other animals were not accepted by God. Certain animals were holy in that they were set apart by God to be sacrificed to Him         . Other animals were not. And that’s why clean and unclean meats, yes, has to do with health, but it also has to do with something else. It has to do with the concept of holiness – that God sets things apart for His purpose.

You look at the series of sermons we’ve gone through, and God sets aside people, places, time, objects. And what we find here is God set aside animals for specific use that has to do with holiness.

Now we find, then, when God establishes the Sinai Covenant – establishes that covenant and expands it to Israel – He does give them specific instructions on what are clean and unclean animals. Let’s go to Leviticus 11:2 Leviticus 11:2Speak to the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which you shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth.
American King James Version×
. I’ll never forget…Chris and I were on a fishing trip – I don’t remember where we were – and someone caught a fish and reeled it in – there were a lot of church people – and said, “Oh, that’s an unclean fish.” And the deck hand said, “Oh no, it’s a very clean fish. There’s nothing wrong with it. The meat is very good and tender. It’s very clean. It’s not dirty at all.” And there was no way we could explain to him – as the person tried to explain - what he meant by unclean. He may as well been talking in Swahili. I mean, it made no sense at all. So here we have in Leviticus, chapter 11 – the famous chapter – that explains how to tell the difference between a clean animal and an unclean animal.

Leviticus 11:1 Leviticus 11:1And the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying to them,
American King James Version×
Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘These are the animals which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth.’” Now this is very important, because in Genesis what we have is an understanding of, “Okay, these have to be sacrificed to God,” but we realize when we get to Leviticus, "Wait a minute, these animals actually more than a single purpose.” It’s not just that these animals have been created to be sacrificed to God. In fact, you’ll find that many clean animals were never used to sacrifice to God. So, when He tells them to bring all these clean animals on – a whole lot more animals than they bring unclean – there’s another purpose for them. It makes sense. It wasn’t just because people were going to be sacrificing them. It’s because they were going to be eating them. And so here we see that God tells them certain animals are made to be eaten and certain animals are not made to be eaten. “And here are the ones I made for you to eat.” Look at verse 42 – all this goes through and says, “Okay, they have to divide the hoof – they have to have cloven hooves – they have to chew the cud.” Well, that includes elk, buffalo – you never see elk and buffalo used to sacrifice – of course, there weren’t any elk and buffalo in the Middle East at the time. But that makes a lot of animals – antelope, deer, moose – that are clean – giraffe – giraffe has a cloven hoof and it chews the cud, so giraffe is clean – I guess so…I’ve never eaten one. But I have been told by people from Africa that they have a cloven hoof and they chew the cud. I have watched them chew the cud. I’ve watched them do it, so…. If you have a big group, one neck roast will feed a lot of people. (chuckles). So it goes through and it explains what criteria you use. And it mentions a whole lot of animals by name, like ravens, and ostrich, and owls, and seagulls, and hawks. You’re not supposed to eat those kinds of birds. It talks about what kind of fish you should be able to eat. Then verse 42:

V-42 – Whatever crawls on its belly, whatever goes on all fours, whatever has many feet, all creeping things that creep on the earth, you shall not eat, for they are an abomination. Now that’s a very interesting word. You know, when God created all the animals, He said, “This is good.” The word abomination is a very strong word. I mean, it literally means disgusting – something that’s horrible, something that you’re appalled by.

Kim and I took a couple days off this week, because it was our 36th wedding anniversary, and we did something that I’ve always wanted to do. Don’t worry. We did some things she wanted to do, too. But I’ve always wanted to hike up Enchanted Rock. So we hiked up Enchanted Rock. And it was a nice cold day and there was hardly anybody there. But, as the day warmed up and we started to climb down, all the snakes started to come out, because it’s a nice warm rock. I found them fascinating, but she found them quite disgusting. As far as eating them, they’re disgusting.

So he says, “These are an abomination to God.” This is very important. It’s not that God doesn’t look at a hawk and say, “That’s a beautiful animal,” because He said, “It’s good!” But, in reference to human beings eating it, He says, “That’s disgusting!” Now, when He tells them this – let’s go through the rest of this – because I want you to notice something.

V-43 – You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creeps, neither shall you make yourselves unclean with them, lest you be defiled by them. For I am the LORD your God, and you shall, therefore, consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy, for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth.

Now, this is a very interesting concept. He didn’t say, “Don’t eat ham because it’s bad for you.” Now we understand that those meats aren’t good for you, right? We understand that skunk isn’t good for you. There isn’t a doctor around who would tell you, “Why don’t you go home and have an armadillo steak?” Right? Those things are bad for human beings to eat. And modern science knows that. I’m not sure Moses knew that. I’m not sure Moses understood bacteria. Right? So why were they told not to eat them? Because God said, “When it comes to food, I’m telling you, it’s disgusting. And, if you want to be holy, don’t eat that!” Now that’s really important. In other words, this has to do with pleasing God. And God says, “Have you really looked at a opossum?” As human beings, we’re really appalled at those things. We don’t want to eat those things – unless you’re a Cajun, and you’ll eat anything. Right? Mrs. Fone is shaking her head, yes. But most of us look at those things, and even if we didn’t know about clean and unclean foods, there are an awful lot of animals we would never eat. You would never eat your cat – unless you were starving. I mean, people starving might, but otherwise, no human being is going to go around eating cats, unless there is something wrong with them. Or your dog…well, there are certain societies where dog is considered a delicacy, but not most. Even the French don’t eat cats! Okay? (Laughter)

So God says, “I made this for food, and because this is was made for food, these animals can be sacrificed to Me. Because these things were not made for food, they cannot be sacrificed to Me.” It’s a holiness issue. Now He also knew, “These foods I didn’t make to be good for your body and these foods I did,” but I find it very interesting, there isn’t an entire chapter in Leviticus explaining why eating pork or shrimp can cause intestinal problems. There are two whole chapters about leprosy, but there’s nothing about the health benefits. It says, “It will make you abominable.” Okay? “You won’t do well with this.” And so, clean and unclean meats is an issue of holiness.

Now, if they ate a piece of pork and they didn’t know what it was, they weren’t immediately condemned. You know, it’s not like they went out and murdered somebody. But they still had to go and deal with the fact that they had done it. There was a ritual that they had to do.

So, you and I live in a society…Mr. Henderson and I went to a Thai restaurant. And we made really sure – because it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread – we asked, “Is there any kind of bread in this and this?” and we finally got something with no leavening in it. We ate it. We were leaving and we went to the owner there, and we thanked her so much. We said, “We appreciate you helping us through and getting us something with no leavening in it.” And she said, “Oh, we can do that.” And I forget what was mentioned, and she says, “Oh yeah, we can tell you which of the dishes have a sauce they put it in – it’s made out of… – oyster sauce.” “Oh, you can?” “Yes. Now, like your dishes, they had oyster sauce in them.” So, for the rest of the day, we had to go around telling everybody, “We’re unclean. We’re unclean.” God is not holding us personally responsible for the fact that we ate oyster sauce and didn’t know it. I haven’t been back to the restaurant since.

The point is, that’s different than going out and saying, “I don’t care. I like oyster sauce.” And you say, “Why is it different?” The one is an ignorance issue in which you may suffer…I don’t know. Maybe he and I suffered some kind of sickness from it. I don’t know. You may suffer the physical penalty. But to say, “I don’t care and do it,” means that you don’t care what’s abominable to God. It is a holiness issue. It shows an attitude. Clean and unclean meats is about attitude. It’s about attitude. And once again, I don’t know how to deal with the way they process things. You and I probably eat some product from an unclean animal all the time, because of the way they chemically take things and put it in food today. You do the best you can and you reach the point where you just pray about it. But that’s different than openly deciding to do it, because it’s an attitude. And since clean and unclean meats is about holiness, it’s about attitude. It’s about why you do what you do. And it’s about more than just “what’s not good for me.” Clean and unclean meats is more than just “it’s not good for me.” It’s a decision that decides God tells me this is what He made this for, and this is what He made not to be eaten. So, because I wish to please God, I wish to do this. And to not do so, when you know better, becomes sin. Deuteronomy 14, verse 2, says:

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×
For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for Himself – this is verse 2 of Deuteronomy 14 – a special treasure above all the peoples who on the face of the earth. So He tells Israel, “You are a holy people. You’re a special people.” He tells the church the same thing. Then, look what it says in verse 3.

V-3 – You shall not eat any detestable thing. And the rest of chapter 14 is about what you should eat and what you shouldn’t eat. But notice the context in which it is given – “because you are a holy people, I made these things to be eaten and these things not to, and because you are set apart by Me,” God says, “you are to eat the food that is set apart by Me.” “You are to eat food that is set apart by Me.” That’s what He says.

So, modern science has proven that unclean animals are not good to eat. I mean, there are certain plants that God made to eat and certain plants God made not to eat. I mean, who’s going to argue that we should all go eat poison ivy? But we’ll argue that it’s okay to go eat snails. We know that there are plants that God made that we should not eat.

It’s like this fish – I forget what the name of the fish is – that’s a delicacy in Japan. They pay the equivalent of hundreds of dollars an ounce for this meat. And the reason why is, the fish has to be cleaned a certain way. It has to be cut open a certain way and cooked a certain way or it will kill you. What I want to know is, how long did it take for them to figure that out? You know, was it like eight generations of Japanese people kept dying, and they said, “Hey, it’s from that fish!” But they wouldn’t stop eating the fish. “Well, let’s cook it a different way. Oh, that didn’t work. Let’s cook it a different way.” I mean, what caused them to keep doing that? I don’t get it. But you can go to Japan today, and you could spend hundreds of dollars an ounce for a piece of fish that would kill you unless it’s prepared exactly that way. God didn’t design that fish to be eaten. He didn’t design that fish to be eaten. Now, those things may have purposes, but to eat the flesh is not one of the purposes. So, remember, though, that the Israelites did not know all the science of the clean and unclean meats, which we have the benefit of. They did it because God said it.

So, let’s just review now what we’ve covered in the Old Testament. Then we’re going to go to the New Testament and we’re going to look at – well, there’s one other Old Testament scripture I want to look at – and then we’re going to look at the four places in the New Testament that are used to say, “It’s okay to eat unclean food.”

One, God is holy and He consecrates people to be holy, and then tells them not to eat animals that are repulsive to Him. Now they are repulsive to Him. He would only accept clean animals in sacrifices. You could be absolutely sincere and bring a warthog before God, and sacrifice it, and He would not accept it in the Old Testament. Those things were repulsive to Him as food or sacrifices.

Two, the people God chose to be holy are expected to respond in faith. They didn’t know all the physical reasons not to eat it. They didn’t eat it, because God said so. It was an attitude issue – a faith issue. If He says these foods are repulsive, we have to see them as repulsive for food – not to play with or look at because they’re beautiful, but for food.

Number three – clean and unclean meats laws were holiness laws. They have to do with God’s sovereignty. God said, “This is set apart for Me and you are set apart for Me, so this is what you do.” It has to do with all the laws – the Ten Commandments, the holy days, the Sabbaths. They’re holy because He makes them holy. Marriage is holy, because He made it holy. Remember, we went a whole sermon in this series on “Our Children Are Holy.” Our children are holy, because God made them holy.

There’s an interesting passage in Isaiah 66 – the last Old Testament scripture I want to look at here. Isaiah 66 is a prophecy about the coming Messiah. And verses 1 and 2, he talks about the person he will look at that he will honor – that will have a relationship with Him. In verse 2 it says:

Isaiah 66:2 Isaiah 66:2For all those things has my hand made, and all those things have been, said the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word.
American King James Version×
For all these things My hand has made. He declares Himself as the Creator. And all those things exist, says the LORD. But on this one will I look: on him who is of a poor and contrite spirit – who trembles at My word. He goes on and talks about a rebellious spirit that He rejects. And then in verse 14 – or verse 15:

V-15 – Behold, the LORD will come with fire. So He comes now to judge the earth. For behold, the LORD will come with fire with His chariots like a whirlwind to render His anger with fury and His rebuke with flames of fire. And by His sword, the LORD will judge all flesh. And the slain of the LORD shall be many. And verse 18 shows that this is to the whole world.
He’s not just talking to Israel or Judah here. He’s talking to the whole world. And He says, “I’m coming to do this.” Verse 17:

V-17 – Those who sanctify themselves – now remember, sanctify means to make holy. And remember the core premise of this series of sermon: only God can make something holy. So the problem here – with the people He’s talking about here – that He’s going to punish – is that they make holy. They think they make holy. They make themselves holy.           They sanctify themselves and they purify themselves to go to the garden, after an idol in the midst. In other words, they sanctify themselves through pagan practices.

One of the program that we’ve been working on…I always get picked to do the hard programs. Peter Eddington will say, “Gary, I want you to do a program on saints.” I said, “Do you really want to go there?” He said, “Yes, I want a program on What Are Saints? So, we’ve been working on the program this week. How many remember Fulton Sheen – Archbishop Fulton Sheen? Okay, some of you do – all you ex-Catholics. Fulton Sheen had a radio program, a television program from the 30s right up through the end of the 60s. And Fulton Sheen was famous. I mean, he actually won two Emmys as television’s most outstanding personality. In fact, his programs – even though he’s been dead since 1979 – his programs are still run today. You can still…every once in awhile, I’ll be flipping through and I’ll watch him and think, “How is this the most outstanding personality?” But he was an actor. He really acted out his sermons.

Well, they want to make Archbishop Sheen a saint. The Catholic Church wants to declare him a saint. It’s gone through all the processes at the Vatican and they’re ready to declare him a saint. There are just two things they have to do. They have to get his body, exhume it, and grab some relics. You have to take some pieces of bone and different things so that you can take these and put them in places of worship. Well, there’s a problem. There are two deices arguing over who gets to keep his body. And neither of them will let anybody dig him up and rip out pieces of bone until they decide who gets to keep him. So Fulton Sheen – the whole process of making him a saint has stopped. And now there are people just despondent all over the United States because Fulton Sheen is not going to be a saint until they stop fighting over who gets to keep his dead body.

What did that have to do with the sermon? It’s so bizarre. We had to do a whole program on how bizarre this concept is. It has to do with what I just read here – they purify themselves to go to the garden, after an idol in the midst. Okay? In other words, this is idolatry! The whole saint concept in Catholicism is pure pagan idolatry. It’s that simple. I know that sounds harsh, but that’s what it is! So, notice what the next statement here is:

V-17 – “…eating swine’s flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse shall be consumed together,” says the LORD.

You say, “Wait a minute. God’s going to consume people because they eat swine’s flesh?” Remember what I said about certain aspects of holiness have to do with attitude. And it’s easy to say, “Well, eating pork can’t be that important.” Look at the context: they sanctify themselves. The issue here really comes down to…God could have said, “I don’t want you to eat any animal.” It all belongs to Him. And the issue is, God can tell us what to eat and what not to eat. This has to do with God’s sovereignty. God could have said, “I only want you to eat meat on Monday afternoons.” Or, God could have said, “You can only have meat on the Sabbath. There you go.” He could have said whatever He wanted to. It’s God’s sovereignty that is the issue and faith in God. These people eat swine’s flesh because they make themselves holy, which shows an entire attitude towards God that has led them to idolatry and paganism.

So you see how the attitude is so important here. The reason I bring this out is, I remember sitting at a Spokesman Club banquet, and I’m eating these beans, and I’m talking to the guy next to me. And later, I told Kim, “Those were the best beans I ever had.” She said, “Did you notice nobody else was eating them?” I said, “No.” She said, “Gary, there were big pieces of ham in them!” “Oh….”

When I was seven years old, I was told, “Gary, we’re not going to keep Christmas anymore, because we found out Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th.” And I can remember – I was 7 years old – I remember thinking, “Well, that’s the stupidest thing I ever heard of. Why would you keep somebody’s birthday when it’s not they’re birthday?” So, giving up Christmas – with all the gifts? I loved Christmas – the fun of it – but giving it up was actually easy for me at seven. Do you know what was hard giving up? Deviled ham. Remember those little cans of deviled ham? That was tough.

It’s the attitude here. If you eat a piece of pork by accident, you’re not condemned by God. But if you and I decide to just go and have a ham sandwich, we have a problem. We’ve decided to sanctify ourselves. We’ve decided we decide what is holy and what is not holy.

So now, let’s go through the four passages in the New Testament that are used to “prove” that the issue of clean and unclean meats doesn’t matter anymore. Mark, chapter 7, verse 14:

Mark 7:14 Mark 7:14And when he had called all the people to him, he said to them, Listen to me every one of you, and understand:
American King James Version×
When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand. There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him. The things which come out of him – those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” Then He entered a house away from the crowd, and His disciples asked Him concerning the parable – they didn’t understand what He was saying – and He said, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart, but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” Now, some translations say meats. The word that you find for meat in the New Testament most often is a very general word. It can refer to meat. Most of the time, it doesn’t. A proper translation would just be food. Meat was a general word, when they did the old King James, that just meant food. You sat down to meat. You sat down to food. So the more proper translation would be purifying all foods. Verse 20 says:

V-20 – And He said, “That which comes out of a man, that defiles a man. From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornication, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eyes, blasphemy, pride, foolishness – all these things come from within and defile a man. So, He’s making a very, very important point here.

Now, people will read that and say, “See, He purified all food.” And my answer is, “Okay, I’m going to go get some arsenic and give it to you.” Is it purified? “Okay, He purified all meat.” “Okay, I’m going to go get one of those fish – if you don’t cook it exactly right, it kills you. You can cook it and see what happens.” “Well, He’s talking about pig, okay? He’s talking about pig, and crawfish, and lobsters, and stuff we like to eat.” Well, you know, is that what He’s saying?

There are two things here that are very important. One is, if that is what He was saying, why, in the rest of the book of Mark, plus Matthew, Luke and John, is He not attacked for saying, “Clean and unclean meats don’t matter?” He’s attacked for Sabbath-keeping. I mean, Jesus was accused of being a Sabbath-breaker constantly, because of His teachings about the Sabbath. Why was He not accused of…why didn’t He tell the Pharisees, “Come on over. We’re having a big pork roast?” You don’t see that! So what exactly is He talking about? All we have to do is look at the context. The first part of chapter 7:

Mark 7:1 Mark 7:1Then came together to him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.
American King James Version×
Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came to Him, having come from Jerusalem. And when they saw some of the disciples eat bread defiled hands – that is, unwashed hands – they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews would not eat until they washed their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come to market place, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches.” And 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?”

Now, you have a whole progression of things that happened here between verse 1 and verse 23. The Pharisees did not wash their hands because of germs. They had no concept of germs. Okay? They would wash their hands if they were dirty. This was a very special ceremony that they had. And the reason why is, whenever the priest offered – whether it was an animal, which had to be cleaned, or grain offering, or bread offering, or wine offering to God – they had to wash to do it.

Now, remember, the Pharisees were not priests. The Pharisees were something really unique in the history of the development of Judaism, because they were special people who just went through some special training. They weren’t ordained. They just went through some special training and they considered themselves, as lay people, to be at the same level as the priests in many ways.

So, to the Pharisees, they were the priests of their own homes. They were told they were a nation of priests, right? In fact, they were told they were a nation of priests before God ever chose the Levites to be His special priests. So they were all priests, in a certain level, to God. So, if a Levite had to wash his hands before offering this food to God, they had to wash their hands, as the priests of their own homes, before they could eat their food. So, even in public, they had public washings. “Now we can eat.”

You know, Jesus comes in – His disciples – and they’ve been walking through the fields and talking to people. They’d been busy all day, and they sit down, and Jesus gives a little blessing on the food, and they’re just chowing down. These guys were fishermen and hard workers. They probably didn’t drink their tea with their pinkie sticking up, okay? And there are the Pharisees, and it’s like, “We’ve gone through the ceremonial washings. We’re like priests before God. And this bunch of common workers come in and they’re just chowing down! Why don’t your disciples honor themselves? They’re priests of God. Why don’t honor God this way?” See, this is a really important issue in their society. And Jesus then takes verse 6 through verse 13 and tells them, “All your traditions aren’t that important. In fact, you use traditions, sometimes, to break the law of God. So you have a real problem with your traditions here.”

Then He says – now He says that directly to the Pharisees – then, in verse 14, He calls the whole multitude. Now this has happened in front of a large group of people. They’re watching this confrontation between a group of Pharisees and Jesus and His group of disciples. Jesus slams the Pharisees. Then He turns to everybody and says, “Gather up, folks. Let’s talk about this.” See, this is all in one context. And that’s when He says, “Look, don’t you know that when you eat food, you can’t be ceremonially defiled if you don’t wash your hands.”

The context is washing hands. If it was eating pork, they would have stoned Him! The context is washing hands. It’s a ceremony! And it’s a very important ceremony. And He just told them – all the multitudes – “You don’t have to do what the Pharisees say in this, because it’s a whole lot more important that you don’t commit adultery – you know, He lists all these things – that you don’t commit murder, that you don’t commit covetousnesss. It’s what goes on inside your heart and mind. That’s what’s more important than doing this ceremony to show that you’re a people of priests. What is here is a whole lot more important than what people think it’s about. So, that, in context, does not hold water. They cannot use this…I mean, people do, but you cannot use this, in context, to come to that conclusion.

So we have Acts, chapter 10. And, by the way, there are plenty of commentaries that agree with this – that look at this and say, “Well, that’s not really what He’s talking about.” We’re not the only ones that see this. It’s just that it won’t be accepted in mainstream Christianity because there are three things that they hate, because they consider it Jewish – circumcision, the Sabbath, and clean and unclean meats. They hate those things, because they see them as “Jewish.” It’s a deep-seated anti-Jewishness. Now, once again, we don’t keep the Sabbath the way the Jews do. We don’t keep it the way they did in the Old Testament. But we keep the Sabbath. Acts 10 – we know the story here.

Acts 10:1 Acts 10:1There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,
American King James Version×
A certain man in Caesarea, called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment – a devout man, one who feared God with all his household, and one who gave alms generously to the people and who prayed to God always.

Now this is very important. Here’s a man who is a God-fearer. He’s also not only a Roman soldier, he is a Roman officer. And he’s the worst kind of Roman officer as far as Jews are concerned – he’s Italian. I mean, he’s Roman. Right? Now maybe if he had come from Gaul, or from Syria, or from Spain, he might not be as bad. But he’s Italian – he’s a Roman – part of the beast power! They had looked at Daniel 2 and they had decided that Rome was the beast power. So this is guy nobody really wanted to hang out with, but he’s now converted to Judaism. Now, they won’t let him go into synagogue and sit with the Jews because he refuses to be circumcised. So he’s a God-fearer. So he has to sit in a different place. So, he attends synagogue, he keeps the Sabbath, he goes to the holy days. You just didn’t quit the Roman army. You got killed. The Roman army was a 20-year commitment. And, if you tried to get out of it before the 20 years, they killed you. It was pretty strict. So here he was, converted to Judaism, and he prays to God, and God says, “I’m going to send you somebody.” And, of course, Peter now, in verse…let’s go to verse 9:

V-9 – The next day, as they went on their journey, they drew near to the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray in the sixth hour. And he became very hungry and wanted to eat, and while they made ready, he fell into a trance. Their houses had flat roofs and they would go…it like a patio on top of the house. And he saw heaven open and an object like a great sheet, bound at the four corners, descending on him and let down to the earth. There were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, saying, “Rise, Peter! Kill and eat!” And Peter said, “Not so, Lord, for I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” The voice spoke to him again a second time, “What God has cleansed, you must not call common or unclean.” This was done three times and the object was taken up into the heaven again.” Now the while, Peter wondered within himself what the vision, which he had seen, meant.

Now, Peter wakes up and he’s had this vision, and he knows it’s from God. What in the world does this mean? “No, Lord, I have not eaten anything that is common or unclean.” “Kill, eat.” “No, Lord, I have not eaten anything that is common or unclean.” “What God has cleansed, you cannot call common.” It’s very important to understand…he says, “Common and unclean.” And the response is, “Don’t call anything common.” You notice he didn’t say, “Don’t call anything common and unclean.” They are two very important words and they’re quite different in Greek. Koinos, which is common, means something is ceremonially unclean. Now you’ll see all kinds of laws in the Old Testament that, if you touched a dead body, you were unclean until evening. You had to wash yourself and you were unclean until evening. You couldn’t go into the temple that day until sundown. Okay? That was a ceremonial uncleanness. You weren’t kicked out of the camp. You weren’t brought on trial before the elders of the village. You were just ceremonially unclean. So, if people took a body, and they wrapped it up for burial, they were unclean for a period of time. So that was a ceremonial issue.

Cornelius, because he was ceremonially unclean, couldn’t go into the temple – or the synagogue – and sit with the Jews who were ceremonially clean. He couldn’t do that. So that’s what it mean to be common.

The other word here, which I have a hard time pronouncing in Greek, because the last t in the Greek is silent – and I just want to say the t, so I just mess it up every time I say it…. The second word – akathartos (that’s about a close as you’re going to get from me) – means to be unclean in a moral sense. In fact, that word is used most often, in the New Testament in Greek, to denote a person with a demonic spirit.

Now, there’s a huge difference between something that is common – ceremonially unclean – and a demonic spirit. So those two words are used by Peter very specifically. “I eat kosher and I don’t eat frogs.” Okay? “No, Lord. I eat kosher. I do what is ceremonially correct. And I don’t eat unclean foods.” And He said, “Kill and eat, because you can’t call anything ceremonially unclean anymore.” And afterwards, he sitting there thinking, “What in the world does that mean?” He didn’t jump up and say, “Martha, let’s go kill us a hog!” Okay? “What in the world does that mean?” And, at that moment, if you read through the story, the men from Cornelius show up. And they say, “Our master has sent us to get you to come teach him about God.” And Peter goes. Verse 25 – now, by the way, God has to tell him, “Go see these people.” He still doesn’t know exactly what it means. So God says, “Look, go see this man.” Now Peter’s response would have been, “But he’s an Italian officer in the Roman army.” “Go see him. I want you to go see him.”

V-25 – As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshipped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up, for I myself am also a man.” And as he talked with him, he went in and He found many that had come together. Then He said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company or go with one of another nation.

“For me, coming into your house….” Peter was ceremonially unclean because he was with people who were ceremonially unclean. You aren’t going to find any scripture to say that they were forbidden to talk to or go into the house of someone who is not an Israelite. I want you to understand: this man was a God fearer. He is considered by the Romans to have converted to the Jewish faith, which made him really unpopular, probably, among his Roman friends. So understand: this isn’t just some pagan. This is a Roman officer who has converted to Judaism. And still Peter won’t go into his house, because “you’ll make me common. You’re common.” He didn’t say, “You’ll make me unclean – like you have a demonic spirit.” “You’re going to make me common – unholy before God – and I’ll have to go through a ceremony. I’ll have to wait until sundown before I can go into the temple.”

Now notice what he says here at the end of verse 28:

V-28 - …but God has shown me – he tells us exactly what the vision is about. Acts 10 is the main scripture that says Peter is being taught, it’s okay to eat anything you want. That is the purpose of this entire chapter. No it’s not! And how we know is, Peter himself tells us the purpose of the chapter. God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. He said, “Wow! I’m here in your house. You know that, until a few hours ago, I would have never come into your house. I’m here now because you’re not common and you’re not unclean. Before God, you’re the same as me.” This is one of the most profound scriptures in the entire New Testament, because it shows that the New Covenant, which was said would go to the world – to the Gentiles – is being opened to the Gentiles! It’s being opened to everybody! And this is a profound teaching, as Peter finally understands, “Wow, it goes to everybody! I’m not supposed to call any man common or unclean. We’re all part of God’s family.” I mean, this is a remarkable statement! And yet, it’s lost in this, “Well, see, God’s saying that it’s okay…that we can go ahead and have some catfish.”

The woman cutting my hair yesterday…her favorite restaurant is a Catfish Heaven or something like that. It’s all-you-can-eat catfish. And she just went on and on about how great that was. It didn’t bother me. I’ve eaten catfish – when I was kid – but I don’t remember what it tastes like. But, you know, she was going on and on…no, Catfish Haven – not Catfish Heaven.

So, Peter understands. If you read through chapter 11 – if you read through chapter 11 – Peter, now, goes back to Jerusalem, gathers all the leaders of the church together, and says, “Hey guys, we can have ham hocks!” (Laughter) He gathers them together and says, “We’re not allowed to call any human being common or unclean anymore. God’s calling all people to Him.” It is a remarkable turn in the history of the whole Bible! And it’s lost in whether you can eat clean or unclean meats. So this doesn’t hold water either.

Okay, 1 Timothy 4. We’ll just get to Paul. Surely Paul says it’s okay to eat pork. 1 Timothy 4 – now this one takes a little thought. This one takes a little thought and, once again, part of the problem is, Paul’s writing a letter to Timothy, and he doesn’t tell us exactly what the problems are. He just gives us a surface statement of what the problems are.

1 Timothy 4:1 1 Timothy 4:1Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
American King James Version×
Now the Spirit expressly – this is verse 1 of chapter 4 – the Spirit expressly says, “In the latter times, some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.” So, what he’s going to say here is very important, because it’s doctrines of demons. “…speaking lies and hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry” – there are entire churches that forbid holy people to marry – that’s not a doctrine of God – “and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving, for it sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

There you go. That proves it. If you know the truth, you can eat anything. Well, there are a certain couple of problems here. These are doctrines of demons. And we know one of them is forbidding to marry – people have to be celibate and they have to remain unmarried. “…abstaining from foods which God created to be received.” What were the scriptures Timothy had? Timothy did not have the New Testament. It hadn’t been canonized yet. He might have had bits and pieces of it. He probably had bits and pieces of it, but he did not have the entire New Testament yet. So, if you’re going to go to the scripture to look at what God has created, what would you find? I mean, there is no doubt – nobody doubts – well, I can’t say that. There are Gnostics and some of those ideas have filtered into Christianity – the bizarre ideas – like, “God never intended that you should not eat pork. He just intended that you shouldn’t hang around with piggy people. And so, it was all an allegory.” I’m serious. That was taught in the 2nd century AD and there are people that still believe that today. “He didn’t mean not to eat ostriches. He meant to eat with people who are ‘nebby’” – ‘nebby,’ that’s term my mother used to use – you know, always in other people’s business, like an ostrich – always in other people’s business. They actually allegorized the whole thing. I mean, it’s bizarre. Except for those few wackos, everybody agrees that, in the Old Testament, God told His people, “Don’t eat these foods.” Everybody agrees with that. We’re all on the same page – Protestants, Catholics, Mormons – everybody agrees. And then they’ll, but He changed it. He changed it in the New Testament.

He says, “…foods which God created to be received.” If the only scripture you have is the Old Testament, you have a list of foods that were created to be received. In fact, here’s the criteria…he says, “Here’s where you go to find your criteria” – verse 5:

V-5 - …for it is sanctified – right? – it is made holy by what? – the word of God. Well, where’s the word of God? Where would Timothy have gone to find the word of God? It’s what we call the Old Testament. So you can’t say, “Well, he would have just turned to Acts 10.” He didn’t have Acts 10! Acts wasn’t written yet. You see what I mean? You can’t historically twist this stuff around.

So, this doesn’t prove…well, in my mind, this doesn’t prove anything either way. But, if you had to say, “What does it mean?” well, if I’ve got to go to the word of God and I have to find what has been created, I only know where those lists are.

The last place is in Romans – Romans 14, which is a fascinating chapter. I keep saying – I’ve been saying this for months – I want to do a whole sermon on Romans 14 at some point – Romans 14 and 15. Romans 14, verse 14.

Romans 14:14 Romans 14:14I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteems any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
American King James Version×
I know, and I am convinced by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself, but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet, if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy, with your food, the one for whom Christ died.

See? Now which of the Greek words is used here that is translated unclean? It’s koinos. It is common. It’s not the one that means morally unclean. By the way, in the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation the Old and New Testament, the word for unclean, in Leviticus 11 and in Deuteronomy 14, is not common. It’s not the word common. It’s the word morally unclean. See, he could have used the word for ceremonially unclean and that’s not the word that’s used by the translators – the Jewish translators. This is a moral issue.

And so, he says here, “I know, and I am convinced by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing common of itself….” So, once again, we’re talking about the concept of kosher. We talking about concepts of meat offered to idols. We’re talking about ceremonies. And we’re also talking about something very specific. There’s a general sense to Romans 14 and there’s something very specific. To understand what the specific issue is, let’s go to verse 1.

V-1 – Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes that he may eat all things – but notice the rest of what’s stated here – but he who is weak eats only vegetables. This has to do with eating meat and not eating meat. That’s why the word common is used, not akathartos       , which means morally unclean, which is the word used to denote clean and unclean animals. That’s not the word that’s used! It’s a different word. It’s what is common – what is ceremonially unclean.

So, it has nothing to do with clean and unclean meats. It has to do with what is ceremonially unclean and we know, specifically, that it has to do with vegetarianism. We’re not the only ones who say that. I have, at home, a couple-volume set of the book of Romans that is considered to this day – it was written about twenty years ago – to be the absolute best commentary on the book of Romans ever written – two volumes long. It is fantastic! My problem with it…half of it is in Greek. So it’s really hard for me to get through. I have to keep looking up the words. In fact, there are entire paragraphs in Greek. But, there’s a lot in English. There’s enough to figure out what’s being said. It’s interesting. They take Romans 14, and they say, “Well, this means that Paul’s saying that clean and unclean meats is done away with.” And then they say, “But there is another possibility that honesty makes us look at. It is possible, here, that he’s only talking about vegetarianism, because of the words that he uses.” See, an honest scholar looks at it and says, “Wow! There are two possibilities to this.” Well, if you put together what we’ve already put together, there is only one possibility for this.

You don’t come into Romans 14 without a structure. That’s what I was telling the young adults and the Young Adults Bible Study last night. The problem is, many times we know the answers to the problem, but we really don’t, because we don’t know how we came to the answer. So we can say, “Yes, the trinity is not in the Bible.” And then someone comes up and hands you a scripture, and you say, “Well, I don’t know what that means. I just know it’s not in the Bible.” We have to know how we got to our conclusion, and sometimes, it’s a bit complicated. I mean, what I went through here today was a little complicated. But not too much – put together a handful of scriptures and you’ve got to know two Greek words. That’s really all there is to it. And you’ve got to be able to look at the context in which things are said.

I fear, sometimes, because so many of us have been in the church for such a long time, we’ve forgotten how we get to certain places.

Verse 3 says:

V-3 – Let him who eats…well, verse 2:

V-2 – For one believes he may eat all things and one who is weak eats only vegetables. But let not him who eats despise him who does not eat. And do not let him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has received him.

And so, the issue is, eat and not eating. Eat and not eating what? Meat. And here, later, it talks about common. And common, like I said, would have had a lot of issues in that day – not only from the Jewish side, but the belief among many that you should not eat meat offered to idols. I’ve seen that argument today. You know, someone really loves chocolate, and so, the day after Valentine’s Day, they go buy 30 pounds of Valentine’s candy. Right? “I’ve got a year’s worth of chocolate here.” And other people say, “Oh, I wouldn’t buy that! It was set aside for Valentine’s Day.” That’s the issue over whether something’s common, not whether something is unclean. And so, what he says to those issues: “He who eats chocolate – Valentine’s chocolate – eat it to yourself, and you who don’t, don’t eat it to yourself and just leave each other alone.” That’s what it says! “Don’t condemn each other. Don’t attack each other. Don’t judge each other. Just leave each other alone on that issue.” That’s the difference between common and unclean.    

So what have we been able to see? Just recap. The clean and unclean meats law existed before the Old Covenant. It is not just an issue of the Sinai Covenant. God gave special laws to ancient Israel and explained to them specifically that He created certain animals for food and some not for food. Eating animals not designed for human consumption is repulsive to God. And so He says, “Be holy as I am holy. I will only accept certain things. You should only accept certain things.” We looked at Isaiah, where it says, “When the Messiah comes to establish God’s kingdom, He will punish those who try to make themselves holy – who try to sanctify themselves, instead of accepting His holiness.” And He specifically ties it into a number of things – idolatry mainly, but also the eating of unclean foods. And then, four, the passages of the New Testament used to claim that the laws of clean and unclean animals are no longer important to God just don’t hold water under just some close examination. The context doesn’t allow you to go there. It leads you to a different conclusion.

In our scientific times, you and I have an added benefit. We know not to eat the garbage collectors – which the animals we don’t eat are mainly garbage collectors. But, you know, if you didn’t have that – if you didn’t have what the Bible says about clean and unclean meats – you wouldn’t eat carp – it carp that has scales and fins? I’ll have to look at my son. He knows more about fish. Carp has scales and fins. You and I can eat carp – and that’s a bottom feeder. So, if it was just a matter that we shouldn’t eat bottom feeders, like catfish…. But, you know, carp is clean. How do you know that? Because that’s what it says. And it says catfish aren’t clean. Why? They don’t have scales. So there is something about a carp that is okay to eat. And there is something about catfish that isn’t okay to eat. You say, “Aw, that’s disgusting. Don’t eat that.” But you can eat that. I don’t know. I haven’t had carp for years. If I remember, it doesn’t taste that good, but….

We know that we should avoid ham and crawfish and rabbit. I don’t remember what rabbit tastes like. I do remember the smell of it – as a kid. I didn’t like it much. We’re not to eat skunk or opossum – all for health reasons, yes – God didn’t make those things for us to eat – but also because they are unclean and unholy to God.    

So, we have an added benefit. We should consciously avoid what the Bible says are unclean meats and eat clean meats for two reasons. One, yes, that’s what’s good for us. It’s healthy for us. But even more importantly, we should do it because God says those things are an abomination to Him. And in the same context He says, “Be you holy as I am holy.”