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Clean and Unclean Meats: The Spiritual Principle Behind the Physical Discipline

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Clean And Unclean Meats

The Spiritual Principle Behind The Physical Discipline

MP3 Audio (35.96 MB)


Clean and Unclean Meats: The Spiritual Principle Behind the Physical Discipline

MP3 Audio (35.96 MB)

God provides us with a listing of creatures we may eat for food and those we may not. He asks us to make a distinction between what is clean and unclean. He sets before us a physical discipline meant to teach a spiritual principle(s). If we only go so as far as the physical discipline without learning and applying the spiritual principle then we are missing the mark.


Clean and Unclean

Our Creator has given very specific written regulations regarding clean and unclean meat. He gives us His commandments, laws, statutes, and judgments with purpose. With regard to avoiding unclean meat, God is seeking  much more than obedience. We start there but our Father Creator wants to change the way we think. He wants to be fundamentally change the way we assess, evaluate, and then act upon things.

To distinguish good from evil... helpful from harmful... holy from unholy... what is set apart from what is common.

The Sabbath --> the physical discipline is the first step in changing the way we think about time

Tithing --> the physical discipline is the first step in changing the way we think about money, wealth, personal resources

We could say similar things about regulations regarding sex, family relationships, worship which begin changing the way we think about our relationships with other beings and with our Creator.

In all these matters we begin with physical disciplines which are meant to teach us spiritual principles. Spiritual principles which are intended to transform the way we think.

Instruction About Food

God provides us with a listing of creatures we may eat for food and those we may not. He asks us to make a distinction between what is clean and unclean.  He sets before us a physical discipline meant to teach a spiritual principle(s). If we only go so as far as the physical discipline without learning and applying the spiritual principle then we are missing the mark.

Let’s look into the spiritual principle behind making a distinction between clean and unclean meat?

Is It A Matter of Health?

Over the years people have tried to validate the practice of avoiding unclean meat by citing possible health dangers related to pork, shellfish etc. Reports and statistics used to make such a case and these may, or may not, be true. But such an approach still does not present us with the spiritual principle God wants us to make part of our thinking.

It's like saying that laws concerning fornication and adultery were designed the avoid STDs. Having a no fornication or adultery policy has the extra benefit of keeping you safe from STDs ... but that's not the real reason for God's instruction on the matter.

If modern science can free us from the physical dangers of crispy bacon or free love would that make them acceptable to God?

What Is Acceptable To God

Its interesting to speculate on why God tells us certain animals are unclean based on criteria such as cloven hoofs, chewing of the cud, scales, fins and so forth... [I have heard and read some good ones, some plausible... some possible... some probable] but in the end God has not given us all the details and reasons why certain combinations are clean and some are not.

What we know for certain is that some things are acceptable to God and others are not.

Our Creator is operating on a different plane... He has a different approach... different strategies... different goals.

Isaiah 55:8-9 Isaiah 55:8-9 [8] For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, said the LORD. [9] For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
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; Jeremiah 10:23 Jeremiah 10:23O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps.
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Where Are These Instructions About Animals Found?

The first mention of the concept of there being animals God considers clean [as opposed to unclean] is found in Genesis 6:19 Genesis 6:19And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shall you bring into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.
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: 7:2.
 From this brief record of what God said to Noah we learn that the distinction between clean and unclean animals was in place long before God entered into  His covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai.

God does not provide Noah with a list of clean versus unclean animals. But Noah understood what God's instruction meant and was able to make it happen. The listing of clean versus unclean animals was not spelled out for us until Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, which were recorded many centuries later.

Some argue that the termination of the old covenant means the termination of the distinction between clean and unclean meat. The key takeaway I want you to remember here is that the concept of separating clean and unclean animals did not originate with the old covenant... or Mt. Sinai covenant.

Since its important to the discussion of clean and unclean meat, let’s take a moment to review what the termination of the old covenant meant for God’s law.

Temporary Administrations Of God's Eternal Principles

Malachi 3:6 Malachi 3:6For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed.
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; Hebrews 13:8 Hebrews 13:8Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
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God bases His instructions to humanity on spiritual principles that have always existed. Instructions and applications regarding priesthood, sacrifice, temple are all still present in the new covenant. However, the administration and application of them has changed.

Even the administration and application of the 10 commandments has changed under the new covenant.

A significant part of God's old covenant instructions for Israel were about how to administer the everlasting principles within the context of a nation/state with borders, courts of law, people tasked with maintaining law and order [judges, king, elders etc].

By contrast, the new covenant Church is not tasked with punishing people for violating God's commands. The church has no mandate from God to execute people for idolatry or adultery... we are not the ones to enforce restitution for personal injury or theft. We are tasked with the job of teaching people about these life giving truths... to convince and persuade people, then encouraging and exhorting them to stick with it. The Church of God has no police force to make people obey... nor should it.

2 Corinthians 3:7-8 2 Corinthians 3:7-8 [7] But if the ministration of death, written and engraved in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: [8] How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?
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 the administration of Israel had the power of life and death in their hands. To teach and to enforce with the full power of the state. This was only meant to be a passing phase until Christ came and initiated the administration of the spirit... writing those laws on the heart and mind of those who are willing.

The eternal spiritual principles and laws of God have not changed. But, the administration of them has. Romans 7:14 Romans 7:14For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
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The scriptures contain laws but it is not a book of law. It is a set of instructions for how to develop a positive relationship with your creator John 17:2-3 John 17:2-3 [2] As you have given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as you have given him. [3] And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
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Learn what is acceptable… in what we think… in how we do things Revelation 14:12 Revelation 14:12Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
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. God’s way of doing things transcends time and administration.

Clean & Unclean Meat In the Old Covenant

God gave Israel [and us] a written list of clean animals versus unclean. It could be the information was lost or forgotten since the days of Noah [Noah must have had this same list either written down or committed to memory]. It could also be that due to the nature of the covenant with Israel God simply wanted everything in writing. Either way, we now have access to that information in written form... but we also have a beginning of the explanation of the spiritual principle behind this physical discipline of making these distinctions between clean and unclean meat.

The pursuit of holiness!

Leviticus 11:45 Leviticus 11:45For I am the LORD that brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: you shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.
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 to be holy one must avoid the unclean [at end of list]

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.
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 set apart for God's special purpose. [at the end of the list]

The old covenant instructions have a lot to say about cleanness versus uncleanness. Because God himself was present within the camp, the nation, the tabernacle, the temple... cleanness and holiness was demanded. The spiritual principles behind these regulations are alive and well within the new covenant! For example; the laws of temple cleanliness are now applicable to the individual who is called and chosen of God. Because He is present within them though the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 6:15-20 1 Corinthians 6:15-20 [15] Know you not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. [16] What? know you not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, said he, shall be one flesh. [17] But he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. [18] Flee fornication. Every sin that a man does is without the body; but he that commits fornication sins against his own body. [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.
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we have been purchased by Him through Jesus' blood. He wants to dwell within us and He does not want us to contaminate ourselves with any kind of spiritual defilement or uncleanness and bring that into His presence.

The physical discipline of avoiding unclean meat is relatively easy. Its sort of a beginners step, simple, straightforward, with a specific list of do's and don'ts. Some folks really get into it. But we don't want that to become our righteousness! God wants our obedience on unclean meat to lead to something more. God wants holiness within... in our thoughts... in our actions. So that we might dwell with Him, with others, and with ourselves... in peace.

Jesus Teaches on Spiritual Uncleanness

Mark 7:1-8 Mark 7:1-8 [1] Then came together to him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. [2] And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashed, hands, they found fault. [3] For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. [4] And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables. [5] Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not your disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands? [6] He answered and said to them, Well has Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. [7] However, in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. [8] For 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.
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Note: this is not a discussion about unclean meat. It is a discussion about Jewish traditions about performing a ceremonial washing of hands before eating so they could consider themselves first clean and then holy. The practice was a tradition of the elders, the pharisees tried to apply instructions for the levitical priests to themselves and everyone to build up the idea of a priesthood of all believers... also as a means of determining who was righteous and who was not [Exodus 30:19 Exodus 30:19For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat:
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; 40:13].

They would do it after being out in the marketplace where they might have contact with unclean people such as non-Jews, tradesmen, people who had themselves touched an unclean thing and transmitted the uncleanness to others... that sort of thing. They did not want this sort of contamination entering in to them through  food which they would pick up and eat with their hands.

As Jesus pointed out these were mere human rules.

After showing them what a bunch of hypocrites they were He offers up a very clear explanation of what uncleanness means spiritually.

Mark 7:14-23 Mark 7:14-23 [14] And when he had called all the people to him, he said to them, Listen to me every one of you, and understand: [15] There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. [16] If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. [17] And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. [18] And he said to them, Are you so without understanding also? Do you not perceive, that whatever thing from without enters into the man, it cannot defile him; [19] Because it enters not into his heart, but into the belly, and goes out into the draught, purging all meats? [20] And he said, That which comes out of the man, that defiles the man. [21] For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, [22] Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: [23] All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
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this is the spiritual principle behind discerning between the clean and the unclean.

Ironically, verse 19 is used by some to say Jesus is using this teachable moment to declare all formerly unclean meats now clean. Let me take a minute to explain...

1) this is based on a dispute about the verb tense in the original Greek manuscripts. The traditional translation has been “thus making all foods purified’ - that all food eaten is purified by the process of digestion and then excretion in the toilet [this is the way its found in the majority of Greek texts]. The modern translations say “thus He declared all foods clean” meaning it was Jesus who was proclaiming all foods clean [this is the way it is found in some of the oldest Greek texts].

2) We don't need to be a textual scholar to notice that the conversation was not about what meats were clean or unclean... it was about hand washing to avoid contaminating foods. To then say all unclean meats are now clean,  Jesus would have been making a conclusion or statement that does not logically follow from what was previously said about hand-washing and defilement. Notice that, the very next thing Jesus is recorded as doing [verses 24-30] is interacting with a gentile woman, whom the Jews would have considered unclean.

Jesus teaching is that evil thoughts and actions are what make a person unclean. He corrected them for making an external show of separating clean and unclean while letting evil and greed within themselves [for example, through their ridiculous corban laws which contradicted the 5th commandment].

The Physical Discipline Of Avoiding Unclean Meat

The Pharisees hand washing rules were something God had never required. But making a distinction between clean meats and unclean meats is a requirement God has set before people... it was there before the covenant with Israel, it was written into the covenant with Israel, and it will be in the future. Don't add to it... or take away from it.

Revelation 18:2 Revelation 18:2And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
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 in the future days when God sends Jesus to judge the nations He still considers certain animals unclean.

Isaiah 66:15-17 Isaiah 66:15-17 [15] 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. [16] For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many. [17] They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the middle, eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, said the LORD.
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God has always considered certain animal flesh to be unclean and not acceptable for food.

Our Creator tells us to not eat these things. Its a physical discipline to remind us always of the spiritual discipline we must also practice. Do not let unclean meat enter your body... do not let unclean thoughts, attitudes and actions enter your mind.

Be Holy for I am Holy.