Unclean food!?

After today’s topic, we will see a few things we thought to be obvious and acceptable from a different perspective. It is about food, ordered by God for our consumption. Before we begin, we have to clarify something, which will help us get to a conclusion. The question is the following: what is food?

Is anything that we insert into our mouth a food? If that would be the case, then a table’s leg would be food too, as it can be consumed. But if we don’t take such an extreme example as a basis, so let’s use human meat, and then we can see that it was also not made for consumption. It can be eaten, and people who were in great need took the opportunity as well as tribes who accepted it as food. But we know from this, as well as from what nature dictates that it was not made for consumption, therefore it is not food. So let me ask the question once more: what is food? Are we the ones to decide? Of course not! God gives the answer to this!

Leviticus 11,41-47
“‘Every creature that moves along the ground is to be regarded as unclean; it is not to be eaten. You are not to eat any creature that moves along the ground, whether it moves on its belly or walks on all fours or on many feet; it is unclean. Do not defile yourselves by any of these creatures. Do not make yourselves unclean by means of them or be made unclean by them. I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves along the ground. I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy. “‘These are the regulations concerning animals, birds, every living thing that moves about in the water and every creature that moves along the ground. You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between living creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten.’”

It has ingrained into the current Christian era that Jesus has changed this too. But let’s not forget the matter brought up at the beginning, which will be a key for us all along; namely the food, which God told us that we can eat.

Matthew 15,1-20
“Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’” Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.” “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

We can see the cause of this entire debate at the start of this chapter. It was about eating with unclean hands, and not about consuming unclean animals. The Jews appealed to the traditions of the elders, which was based on human laws, not God’s will. It is a good thing to eat with clean hands, but the ones who eat with unclean hands will not be made unclean if they forget. We can see in one of Jesus’ stories, that He did not wash his hands before dinner:

Luke 11,37-41
“When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal. Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.”

If eating with unclean hands would have made Jesus unclean, then He would not have been the perfect sacrifice for our sins, as sin would have burdened Him. We need to notice, that these verses are not about consuming unclean animals, but about eating with unclean hands, which does not make us unclean. Let’s look back at Jesus’ words:

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.

Where can we read about Jesus or even the apostles eating from an unclean animal’s meat? Nowhere, right? Let’s follow up with a famous story from Peter’s life, which is quoted as an example for “all animals have been cleansed”:

Acts 10,9-20
“About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”

Did we pay attention to Peter’s words?

 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

Peter, who was with Jesus for years, who is considered to be the pillar of God’s church said that these animals are unclean (three times!). Why would he say this? Because they were unclean! We need to understand, that the three repetitions does not show Peter’s “stiff-neckedness”, but the fulfillment of God’s Word! What do we read afterwards?

“While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision…”

So it was clear to Peter that the cleansing was not about the animals, which is why he “was wondering about the meaning of the vision”. But what do we read straight after?

 “…the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”

How many times did God tell Peter not to call unclean what God has made clean? Three times, right? How many people visited Peter? It was three, was it not!? Finally, let’s look at what was this story’s meaning right from Peter’s mouth:

Acts 10,25-28
“As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.” While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.

And not animals! It is not written in the Bible anywhere, that Jews were not allowed to associate with Gentiles; this was only a human law. Jesus also destroyed this barrier. Let’s carry on with the analysis of misinterpreted verses:

1Corinthians 8,1-13
“Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God. So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.”

We can see in God’s Word that in chapter 8 and 10 of 1Cor. Paul mentions multiple times that the thing he talks about is sacrificial meat! Let’s find out what does this mean. Firstly, we need to notice who the letter was written for – for the Corinthians’ assembly, namely for Gentile converts. People were sacrificing for idols not only there, but all over the land of Achaia. Corinth was approximately 80 kms/50 miles away from Athens, which is where Paul’s soul was troubled by the masses of false gods. There were many Greek gods, and therefore there were a lot of animal offerings happening too. The leftover meat of sacrificed animals was taken to the marketplace for sale, which was available for anyone.

1Corinthians 10,25-26
“Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.””

What is the case with these meats, can we eat them? What were the regulations of the apostles?

Acts 21,25
“As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”

So it is clear that we are prohibited from these, but we will return to this later. We are still focusing on sacrificial meat for idols. Paul explains to the Corinthians, that he does not want them to eat from the table of demons.

1Corinthians 10,19-24
Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he? “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”

Because the things we don’t sacrifice for God will be sacrificed on the altar of Satan. However, Paul also wrote at the beginning of chapter 8 that the ones who have knowledge of consuming sacrificial meat will not lead away from God:

1Corinthians 8,8
Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.”

Perhaps Paul transgressed the regulations of the apostles regarding the Gentiles that they can in fact eat sacrificial meat? Brothers and sisters in Christ, they were in complete unity, this is not what happened. Notice what Paul told to these brethren with such a strong knowledge:

1Corinthians 8,9-13
“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.”

So they did not eat it either! Not for themselves, but for their weaker brethren. To answer the question, the following regulation clearly seals the deal:

1Corinthians 10,27-33
“If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.”

So it does not change our relationship with God (as He is bigger within us), but we are responsible for our fellow brethren, who could be offended by this. He prohibits us from eating because of their conscience. Paul says the following about this:

1Corinthians 10,23
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.”

Let me bring up this verse once more:

1Corinthians 8,8
Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.”

It is food! This does not include those “foods”, which God told us not to eat. Jesus came to reinforce the law, not to abolish it. While others are trying to turn Jesus against the Father, the ones who desire a stronger, tighter connection with the Creator will get to know him better. God did not abolish the law given through Moses; we can see this in the regulations of the apostles:

Acts 15,19-21
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”

Whose law’s preachers? Did they write Moses? Do we understand that the laws given through Moses are not outdated? Only the priesthood of Aaron (is over), as we became the priests, including the tenth as we don’t have the priesthood of Levi anymore, instead we have the spiritual priesthood, and we are the temples of God. With this statement, the apostles did not say that the Gentile converts only have to fulfil these laws, but they said that they will be taught Moses’ laws, and God will do the rest within them.

Allow me one more thought: if Jesus would have cleansed all unclean animals, then why would he send thousands of pigs into their death (Mark 5,1-13)? A tribe who turned away from God lived on the other side of Jordan, and it can be clearly seen, that they were herding pigs, therefore they consumed pork, and Jesus did not like that. But how could He like that? As Jesus only did and spoke what the Father let him. What we need to realise, is that God didn’t tell us why unclean animals are unclean, but this has significance too. The reason why God didn’t tell us, is because He asks us for obedience in faith. We don’t only follow God in what we understand, as that is not considered walking in faith. The question is: are we obedient to the Lord? Do we believe in Him?

Isaiah 65,1-5
“I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’ All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations— a people who continually provoke me to my very face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on altars of brick; who sit among the graves and spend their nights keeping secret vigil; who eat the flesh of pigs, and whose pots hold broth of impure meat; who say, ‘Keep away; don’t come near me, for I am too sacred for you!’ Such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day.”

Here, we can see the holiness of the present Christian era, which says the following to the Lord: “‘Keep away; don’t come near me, for I am too sacred for you!’”

But how does God reply to this?

“Such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day.”

We are not to be smoke in the Lord’s nostrils, but to do His will. A key thing to keep in mind for us, my brothers and sisters in Christ, is that if the Pastor speaks, we need to do according to His words. If we don’t, then we will not hear his voice anymore, and the ones who cannot hear it will be unable to follow Him. Lastly:

Matthew 13,47-50
“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Date: 12.09.2014
Author: Antal Farkas