Most Christians today eat any type of creature they want, assuming that God does not care what they eat.
Honestly, after looking into this for some time, I can see reasonable statements on both sides of the discussion. However, the justification for the "We can eat anything we want." view is missing from the Bible. Sure, there was a time when God gave us every living thing to eat (Gen 9:3
Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.
). Then, later He changed His instructions (Leviticus 11).
Please note that many people claim that God has changed nearly everything that pertains to law, but can't point to one justification in the Bible. Here is an example of a change He really made, and notice that He told us about it. Since this happened before there even were Israelites, it pertained to everyone.
People even have their favorite verses to justify refusing to do what God wants "His people" to do. Unfortunately, it seems that most people are accepting this so-called "freedom" in order to do what they want and to ignore what God actually said that He wants of them.
Think this is too harsh? Restricting? Limiting? Narrow-minded? That depends on how you look at it. Let's take a look at the basic verses for what God says you can eat. I broke Leviticus 11 into two sections so it would fit on the popup page:
29Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground - everything that has the breath of life in it - I give every green plant for food." And it was so.
3Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.
1The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 2"Say to the Israelites: 'Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat: 3You may eat any animal that has a divided hoof and that chews the cud.
4" 'There are some that only chew the cud or only have a divided hoof, but you must not eat them. The camel, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is ceremonially unclean for you. 5The hyrax, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is unclean for you. 6The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is unclean for you. 7And the pig, though it has a divided hoof, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. 8You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.
9" 'Of all the creatures living in the water of the seas and the streams you may eat any that have fins and scales. 10But all creatures in the seas or streams that do not have fins and scales - whether among all the swarming things or among all the other living creatures in the water - you are to regard as unclean. 11And since you are to regard them as unclean, you must not eat their meat; you must regard their carcasses as unclean. 12Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be regarded as unclean by you.
13" 'These are the birds you are to regard as unclean and not eat because they are unclean: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, 14the red kite, any kind of black kite, 15any kind of raven, 16the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, 17the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, 18the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, 19the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat.
20" 'All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be regarded as unclean by you. 21There are, however, some flying insects that walk on all fours that you may eat: those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground. 22Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. 23But all other flying insects that have four legs you are to regard as unclean.
24" 'You will make yourselves unclean by these; whoever touches their carcasses will be unclean till evening. 25Whoever picks up one of their carcasses must wash their clothes, and they will be unclean till evening.' "
26" 'Every animal that does not have a divided hoof or that does not chew the cud is unclean for you; whoever touches the carcass of any of them will be unclean. 27Of all the animals that walk on all fours, those that walk on their paws are unclean for you; whoever touches their carcasses will be unclean till evening. 28Anyone who picks up their carcasses must wash their clothes, and they will be unclean till evening. These animals are unclean for you.
29" 'Of the animals that move along the ground, these are unclean for you: the weasel, the rat, any kind of great lizard, 30the gecko, the monitor lizard, the wall lizard, the skink and the chameleon. 31Of all those that move along the ground, these are unclean for you. Whoever touches them when they are dead will be unclean till evening. 32When one of them dies and falls on something, that article, whatever its use, will be unclean, whether it is made of wood, cloth, hide or sackcloth. Put it in water; it will be unclean till evening, and then it will be clean. 33If one of them falls into a clay pot, everything in it will be unclean, and you must break the pot. 34Any food you are allowed to eat that has come into contact with water from any such pot is unclean, and any liquid that is drunk from such a pot is unclean. 35Anything that one of their carcasses falls on becomes unclean; an oven or cooking pot must be broken up. They are unclean, and you are to regard them as unclean. 36A spring, however, or a cistern for collecting water remains clean, but anyone who touches one of these carcasses is unclean. 37If a carcass falls on any seeds that are to be planted, they remain clean. 38But if water has been put on the seed and a carcass falls on it, it is unclean for you.
39" 'If an animal that you are allowed to eat dies, anyone who touches its carcass will be unclean till evening. 40Anyone who eats some of its carcass must wash their clothes, and they will be unclean till evening. Anyone who picks up the carcass must wash their clothes, and they will be unclean till evening.
41" 'Every creature that moves along the ground is to be regarded as unclean; it is not to be eaten. 42You 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. 43Do not defile yourselves by any of these creatures. Do not make yourselves unclean by means of them or be made unclean by them. 44I 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. 45I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.
46" 'These are the regulations concerning animals, birds, every living thing that moves about in the water and every creature that moves along the ground. 47You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between living creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten.' "
Why would He do that?
Now, there are more, but these three (Ok, two and two halves), give us the idea that God started the human race out with one set of rules, changed them for everyone, then changed them again, but supposedly only for certain people. Here is where many get the idea, "But, that last one was for only the Israelites. We Gentiles don't have to follow those rules." Why do you suppose that would be, if it were true?
If God says something is unclean for people He cares about, why would you even want to eat it? In fact, if you read through Leviticus, you will see that He only uses the word "food" when speaking of something "you are allowed to eat" (Lev 11:34
34Any food you are allowed to eat that has come into contact with water from any such pot is unclean, and any liquid that is drunk from such a pot is unclean.
). Is there some magic that makes it unclean for God's people, but clean for everyone else? But, many do just that - eat animals that God says is unclean. Why, then, do the same people strictly follow other rules given to "only the Israelites"?
Where did that idea come from?
Let's go to where this whole "only the Israelites" started. God chose the Israelites over all other nations (Genesis 12:2-3
I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.
). He did this with Abram (before he was Abraham), before there even were any Israelites. But, then He said they would be a blessing to the rest of the nations. Now, does that mean that us Gentiles will get blessed no matter what we do? Nope. There is a little caveat in these verses you don't hear in the sermons - "and whoever curses you, I will curse." Now, does that mean that you have to say "Israel, I curse thee!" in order to get cursed? How about not acting in the same manner that God told the Israelites to act? Far fetched? What about Isaiah 56:3
3Let no foreigner who is bound to the LORD say, "The LORD will surely exclude me from his people." And let no eunuch complain, "I am only a dry tree."
? Not become Jewish, just respect His words and become one of His people.
Let's look at it a different way. How is Israel to bless us? Many say that was done through Christ, born into this world as an Israelite. Now, how are we told we can be blessed by Jesus Christ? Act like Him, do as He does, be like Him. What happens if you suggest that we think in that way toward the Israelites? Yeeccchhhh! Every one thinks you're a fanatic and runs away from you. Yet, if you say to act like Jesus, they nod their heads solemnly and say, "Bless you my child..." But wait! Jesus was a Jew, acted as a Jew, and we are to act and be like Him. How can you do that if you refuse to act like a Jew? I didn't say become a Jew, just act like God told His "blessing to the nations" to act.
He only loves the Israelites?
Why would God give everyone the freedom to eat anything living (after killing it, of course), and then take that freedom away by limiting it to only certain types of animals called "clean"? Why did He use the term "clean" and "unclean"? Do we Gentiles have to worry about it at all, since He "only gave the instructions to the Israelites"? Why didn't He just leave things alone? This is what I hear when this topic comes up (Ok, when I bring it up).
Oh, that's right. God chose the Israelites above all other nations (Deut 7:6
For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
). We are not the ones that God cares about, so He only sets good rules for those He cares about, right? That, of course, means we don't have to obey some of God's rules, or maybe none of them, right? Are there any objections out there to that idea?
Which ones should we follow?
So, let's narrow down the difference between the ones we have to follow and those we don't. But, before we do that, let's see if there are any more changes that He made only for those He loves that we can ignore for this discussion about food. The first verse is in Genesis 1, so let's go back and see what was set up there. Let's see, plants to eat and, Oh, look at that, a day of rest for the entire human race - well, there were only two people, and some kids along the way - but it was for everyone on the earth. Also, sons could sleep with their sisters and have babies. "What?", you say... Hold on, now, how else would we be here?
Well, you can say that we all came from Noah and his immediate family that was with him after the flood, but it amounts to the same thing. Reproducing through close relatives was necessary to populate the earth (Genesis 1:28
28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
Ok, let's look and see what He changed after He gave us plants for food. He gave us all animals for food in Genesis 9:3
3 Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.
. Most people stop here and say, "See? We can eat anything!" Then in Leviticus 11 He changed the list again, but some say only for the Israelites. If you follow that logic, then if you want to have a baby, it is still all right to have sex with your brother or sister.
"What!?!", you say - again? Well, how else would you interpret "He only gave that to the Israelites.", if it doesn't apply to Gentiles in the same way?
Leviticus 18, no intimacy with close relatives
Remember when mankind was first created, it was permissible for men to reproduce with their sisters and relatives. Otherwise, we would not be here. This was acceptable right up until Leviticus 18. So, God saw that things were becoming bad because of all the incest, which the Egyptians were also doing, and made it a rule for His people.
According to the logic of those who feel that "He only told the Israelites that!", incest is still approved for Gentiles. However, if you practice incest, you might not want to let the neighbors or cops know what you are doing. The only way this makes sense is if God saw the same thing happening with food and made the same kind of changes. In both cases, He did not stop sex or eating meat altogether, but made changes that would allow His people to live healthier lives.
Yes, He told only the Israelites to follow these new rules - but who else was He even speaking to at the time? If He thinks these changes were good for His people, then shouldn't that be good enough for the rest of us if we think of ourselves as "His people"? If you don't think of yourself as one of His people, then be my guest. Please, just stand a little away from me on judgment day. I may get thrown into the Lake of Fire for something else I've done, but it won't be because I disobeyed this command after I learned the truth.
Exodus 16, taking us back to Genesis 1
Before the ten commandments were given, God spent some time getting the Israelites to learn to follow His instructions. What did He do? He said to keep one day apart from the others by not working on a particular day. He didn't say, "Pick a day." or "One day in seven.", as we are told by many of today's pastors. He set aside one day to be observed every week. Where did that day come from? Creation. It was the only day of the week that God decided deserves a name. The Sabbath. So that they would clearly learn which day that was, He set up a system with some very specific instructions. Now, these instructions weren't highly theological or complicated:
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days." (Exodus 16:4-5 NIV)
Was this Sabbath a new invention that He made up only for the Israelites? Nope, it was something given to the whole human race before there even were Israelites. Don't think it was for others? What about Isaiah 56:
56 1This is what the Lord says:
and do what is right,
for my salvation is close at hand
and my righteousness will soon be revealed.
2Blessed is the one who does this -
the person who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it,
and keeps their hands from doing any evil."
3Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say,
"The Lord will surely exclude me from his people."
And let no eunuch complain,
"I am only a dry tree."
4For this is what the Lord says:
"To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant -
5to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will endure forever.
6And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord
to minister to him,
to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
and who hold fast to my covenant -
7these I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations."
8The Sovereign Lord declares -
he who gathers the exiles of Israel:
"I will gather still others to them
besides those already gathered."
God's Accusation Against the Wicked
9Come, all you beasts of the field,
come and devour, all you beasts of the forest!
10Israel's watchmen are blind,
they all lack knowledge;
they are all mute dogs,
they cannot bark;
they lie around and dream,
they love to sleep.
11They are dogs with mighty appetites;
they never have enough.
They are shepherds who lack understanding;
they all turn to their own way,
they seek their own gain.
12"Come," each one cries, "let me get wine!
Let us drink our fill of beer!
And tomorrow will be like today,
or even far better."
If you read what it says and not what your pastor thinks it means, you can't help but get the idea that God cares for everyone who follows Him (verses 1 and 2). No, it alone won't save you, but it will keep you from being a goat instead of a sheep.
Up to the time at Mt. Sinai, before God's giving of the ten commandments and other rules, the Israelite's most recent exile into the hands of the Egyptians forced them into bad habits, so to speak. He just wanted them to go back to what everyone was supposed to be doing since Adam and Eve. No? What about Ecclesiastes 12:13
13Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
"But, what about Acts 10?"
Ok, you've all been chomping at the bit to nail me with some passages: Acts 10, Mark 7:19, Luke 10:8, and all of Romans 14. Fair enough, let's take a look. First, let me assure you, I am not just making up something in order to take the unpopular side. Do like the Bereans, check it out in the Bible, then ask your pastor. They checked what Paul said with the Scriptures, and agreed that Paul was in line with the Bible. Your pastor will likely give you his human boss's position, because he must keep his job. If he disagrees with this, please have him send his comments to us so we can put them on this page. Please have him include Biblical justifications, of course.
Peter and the vision of the sheet from Heaven
Starting in Acts 10:9-23
9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat."
14 "Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean."
15 The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."
16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
17 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. 18 They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.
19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Simon, three men are looking for you. 20 So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them."
21 Peter went down and said to the men, "I'm the one you're looking for. Why have you come?"
22 The men replied, "We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say." 23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.
, one day at lunchtime, Peter got hungry. Imagine that. While the meal was being prepared, he went up on the roof to pray. After falling into some sort of trance, he saw a sheet lowered with all kinds of animals, including unclean animals. He was told to get up and eat. He refused to eat because he had never eaten anything "unkosher" before. He was instructed again with the same result, and was then told not to "call anything unclean that God has made clean."
Now, the actual words in Greek have a message in themselves that contradicts the commonly understood idea of what is "clean" and "unclean" for people to eat, but more on that later on this page. After the third time, the sheet was taken back to Heaven.
Did Peter start eating?
Note here that Peter did not immediately jump to the conclusion, as do most pastors today, that he should have eaten unclean foods as "instructed". He wondered just exactly what had happened and what it meant. You can read various versions of the Bible, but this is the gist of what happened. Let me know if you object.
Now, go to verse 23 in the same chapter. You will find an exchange of descriptions of disturbing events in both Cornelius' and Peter's lives. Now comes the part we are looking for. Beginning in verse 34, Peter tells Cornelius what he has learned:
34 Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached - 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him." (Acts 10:34-38 NIV)
He followed God's commands
Now, the story goes on, but you do not see one word about clean or unclean food. You see Peter saying that he learned something about how God sees all men. "Yeah, but...", you say. Well, go back to the episode beginning in verse 11 with the sheet. Here is the tricky part - tell me where God (or the angel, or the Holy Spirit) says that God has called any animal in the sheet "clean", much less all of them. If He did not call everything there clean, what was He talking about?
Here is the way it looks to me. God presented a sheet filled with clean and unclean animals, some of which Peter knew that he was forbidden to eat. Peter knew this because of his knowledge of the word of God. God had previously clearly defined what was clean and unclean with regard to animals. Then God summarized something that you never hear the pastors today speak about.
What God said to Peter
God has defined what is food and what is not food, but he has never defined any difference between His people and not His people other than those who obey and those who do not. He has never called Gentiles unclean, though that is the way the Jews saw them. God essentially said to Peter, "You know how to follow My rules for food. Now, follow My rules for people. Don't be calling people unclean when I have made them clean."
Note the difference between the root of the words in Greek for the words translated "cleansed" and "unclean" - ekatharisen and koinou. We will refer to something similar later.
Peter got the actual message and, as a result, told the gospel to Cornelius, a Gentile. That was the message. This passage does not approve the eating of "unclean" animals, no matter what your pastor says.
One more thing about this misused passage and the verses that follow. The very next chapter (11) describes how the non-Messianic Jews criticized Peter for associating with Gentiles. He explained to them precisely what happened, and then they agreed with him with no further objections. They understood him to say that God accepts the Gentiles as well as the Jews. Please note that the non-Messianic Jews have not changed their diet, but recognized the real meaning of the episode with the sheet. God was saying, "Do what I have told you, but don't exclude the Gentiles."
But what about Mark 7:19?
Here again, people don't read the passage, they just lock onto the parenthetical statement inserted by the author. This was not only not stated by Jesus, but it was speaking about washing of hands and what not washing, according to the traditions of the Jews, does to the food. The food of which they speak is "kosher", but the Pharisees were asking about something else in 7:1-5, the passages that started this whole conversation:
1 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)
5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, "Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?"
How can we be sure that it was kosher? The Jews said that His disciples were "eating food with hands that were defiled", and food for the Jews was only meat prepared according to the kosher process. If those Jews were watching close enough to see that the disciples had not washed their hands, they would have noticed if they were eating something not kosher. Can you imagine them complaining that the disciples did not wash their hands before they ate some shrimp or a big slab of roast pig?
Now, for the parenthetical statement at the end of 7:19
(In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
, did you know that this is in every Bible translation that I could find, but is not in the original Greek? This statement has been added by the translators. No, really, look it up. Here is what I found in the Interlinear at Bible Hub:
There is no confusing English-worded parenthetical phrase to mislead people into disobeying God. It was added later. The only thing that the Jews call "food" is anything they can legally eat. The author would never refer to pork, snake or vulture meat as "food". Jesus declared all "foods" (i.e., clean, proper, acceptable meats) to be clean, whether or not you washed your hands as their tradition required. If you lived in their times, with their culture, you would naturally understand this. This was not a secret signal to the Gentiles that they can eat things that God still considers unclean. Think about that. If God thinks it is unclean, do you still want to eat it?
8 When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you.
This passage, much like the one in Mark 7:19 above, is taken out of context by those who listen only to what the pastors say, or want to "prove" a point, and do not read the whole passage. If you start at verse 5 and read through verse 8, you get a more complete picture of what is happening:
5 "When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
8 "When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 'Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.' 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town." (Luke 10:5-12 NIV)
Right off, the first thing these emmisaries were to do is to qualify the house by determining if the hosts were Godly people. If not, the emmisaries were to leave. Now, if the hosts were people of God, they would offer only "food", as described in the Mark 7:19 passage above (remember, these emmisaries are mostly Jewish, not just Gentiles). If you look at verse 7 here in Luke, the reason they were to accept the food and not reimburse them for it was that they were doing God's work and were entitled to the "payment" of a meal as wages (verse 7). That is why they should accept what they were offered. They were not being told they could eat any shrimp, snake, pig hearts, or vulture meat they were offered.
OK. I can see you out there getting ready to jump up and shout "Yes!" while pumping your fists up and down. Well, let's see. Here are the verses from Romans 14 (using NIV here) so you don't have to get your Bible out, though that would probably be easier:
1 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2 One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
10 You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat.
11 It is written:
" 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord,
'every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will confess to God.' "
12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. 14 As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. 15 If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.
16 Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.
19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.
22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. (Romans 14 NIV)
This letter was written to the church in Rome - predominately Gentile, though there were probably some Messianic Jews in the congregation. The subject of this chapter is identified in the first several verses. People of weak faith, persons of stronger faith not arguing with them over disputable matters such as dietary and special day discussions. It's very important to identify what Paul is speaking about and remember that all this chapter is about opinions - disputable matters about which God has made no stipulations one way or the other. This is made clear in the very first verse.
First, regarding diet, the question here is regarding vegetarianism or eating meat (Romans 14:21
21It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.
above). This is not a discussion about "kosher laws" (whether pork or shrimp is acceptable) - only whether one who feels that he should eat meat or not. Paul would never have approved, especially to a congregation that included Jews, the eating of "unclean" animals. However, if one desires to eat only vegetables, one who eats meat should not judge him. If you doubt this, remember what Paul said in Acts 25:8
8 Then Paul made his defense: "I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar."
while on trial before Festus. Paul is still a good Jew and a believer in the Messiah. He keeps all the dietary laws and holy days considered important by God.
There is a verse in there that many use to try to prove that even Paul believes that "nothing is unclean" for food, as in it's OK to eat pork and lobster. Rom 14:14
14 As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.
says no food is unclean in itself, but the Greek word he used for "unclean" is not the word akathartos, used to identify unclean meats, but is koinos, the Greek word for "common", referring to the method of its death or manner of preparation. This "common" definition is what Paul spoke about. See this at Bible Hub:
is the Greek word koinon or koinos for "common". If you find a dead clean animal that died of natural causes it is called common or koinos, you are not to eat it. Common is also meat that has been "sacrificed to idols". The only meat for Paul that you can properly eat is that which has been killed and bled properly. If anything, he is relaxing the definition of "common", not "unclean" meats.
However, even that does not fit with the concept of Paul as a Jew who has never broken any laws of the Jews, the temple, or Caesar (Acts 25:8
8 Then Paul made his defense: "I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar."
). Paul is speaking about the way people view meats that are not kosher, prepared by a process established by the Israelites from the word of God. This fits right in with the statement of Jesus above when the topic of discussion was washing of hands. The Jews felt that you defiled yourself if you ate anything, even "kosher" foods, without washing your hands.
The word koinon can also mean "ordinary", "defiled", or "profane (as opposed to holy or consecrated)". To confirm that there is a difference between the two terms "common" and "unclean", look at Peter's comments in Acts 10:14
14 "Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." (NIV)
or, if you prefer the KJV
14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. (KJV)
And here is the Interlinear:
from the Interlinear text and you can see that Paul is talking about two different things. The KJV and other Bible interpreters have done us no favors by modifying the words to allow "disputable" discussions about concepts that are not disputable. If you keep things in context, they will make better sense and will be in keeping with the truth and the rest of the Bible.
Personal holidays, not God's special days
In that same vein, verse 5
5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.
addresses disputable decisions about days considered more important by some than others. These are not the standard feast days specified both in time and manner of observation by God, but those not clearly outlined in His word. Since Paul is speaking to a mixed congregation, what he says applies to both Jew and Gentile. He, being a completely lawful Jew, would never tell another Jew that he could do as he wished for the Feast of Unleavened Bread or the Feast of Tabernacles.
If you check Zechariah 14:16-19
16 Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. 17 If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain. 18 If the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain. The Lord will bring on them the plague he inflicts on the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. 19 This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles.
, you will see an Old Testament passage referring to a New Testament event that demonstrates the importance of God's festivals. Anyone who does not recognize the requirement to observe the important ones, which include the Sabbath, will have to suffer the consequence of disobedience. So, there are some that are not disputable, and we should probably know which is which.
What we do, we do in relation to the Lord
In Romans 14:14
14 As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.
, we see in my NIV that the passage from Paul specifies "food" as the subject matter. This means that something considered by God to be "food" is all clean, but if someone wants to stay with vegetables, then it is not right for him to eat meat. However, when I went to the internet to grab a quick quote, I found that the NIV quote was not the same as the written one in my book.
Online, the quote was Online Romans 14:14
14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.
, completely changing the wording from "food" to "nothing", more accurate to the Greek, and supposedly making the commands of God regarding "unclean" items of no consequence to Christians. So, this is supposed to convince us that God's commands have no bearing on our future. However, look at verse 20
20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.
- food, not unclean animal flesh - is the subject matter. Food is what God said it is - clean animal flesh, fruits and vegetables.
God no longer matters if we are sincere?
But, if we go along with the liberal interpretation, then what of the passages in Romans 14:6-8
6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
? According to verse 1, here Paul is speaking of disputable matters (verse 14:1
1Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.
). Does this mean that if we do what God clearly says not to do, but claim to do it for the Lord that He will overlook our pagan habits? We must remember that the entire discussion here is regarding matters not clearly defined in the word. It does not pertain to those clear instructions we have directly from God that have never been retracted.
Anything else? How about Holidays?
You never hear people talk about it, but God also set up times that were important to Him and told His people to follow them. However, since we Gentiles are so much smarter than God, and hate the Jews and their practices so much (see Early Christians and Sunday on this site), we decided we didn't want to look into that, so we made up our own. No, He didn't tell us to follow the Jewish ways, but He did tell us not to worship the way of the pagans. But, wait a minute... If we do those things, we are the pagans that He told His people not to copy... I'm getting confused. Does that mean that we can go ahead and be pagans, but get the rewards He promised only the Jews?
Well, he told the Jews that, so I guess it doesn't apply to Gentiles, right? There are plenty of people who abuse Romans 14 to twist God's instructions into suggestions, allowing them to wander down a wide path instead of the narrow one described by the very Jesus whose instructions they are avoiding.
Eat what you want, but...
Taking that to heart, we can make a few idols and set them up on the mantle next to our framed paintings of Christ on the "cross", and worship God with several images. We can even worship our Lord with eggs and bunnies on Easter, celebrate birthdays in the middle of winter, cook a big pork roast for dinner, and do it all on Sunday so we can build that shed on Sabbath - er, Saturday. No problem with that, right?
The "hidden" verses
While doing our Bible study the other day, my wife and I were reading 2 Corinthians 6 and came across a verse you don't hear very often in "Christian" discussions. Paul is writing to the ecclesia in Corinth, a group of mostly Gentile believers. The subject matter was "being yoked with unbelievers". The context is that if some people do not believe in the truth of the gospel of Christ, and persist in fellowship with darkness and idols, that the believers are not to associate with them. In order to show the Scriptural support for this, he quotes Isaiah 52:11:
17Depart, depart, go out from there!
Touch no unclean thing!
Come out from it and be pure,
you who carry the articles of the LORD's house.
18"I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty." (2 Corinthians 6:17-18)
Not exactly "hidden", but never discussed
I have included verse 18 from Corinthians, which appears as though it is also from Isaiah, but is actually from 2 Samuel 7:14 and other OT passages. For those of you who point out that this passage is only for those who handle the articles of the Temple, why would Paul quote to the Gentiles some instruction given to "only the Israelites" about associating with unclean people and things that would defile them? And, notice the wording associated with what is identified as unclean - "things", not just people. Of course, you might say that this is in reference to the pagans and idolaters and doesn't apply to foods, but then look at the very next verse in the beginning of chapter 7:
1Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
Remember, he is speaking to the Gentiles!
Only one reason for not wanting to discuss this...
What would contaminate our bodies? Ideas can contaminate our minds and hearts, people can contaminate our thoughts and persuade our actions, but only things can contaminate our bodies. Especially things declared by God to be "unclean". Touching a dead body or eating anything called "junk" by God will contaminate our bodies.
Not only do you not hear this discussed in "Christian" conversations, the NIV study Bible we use doesn't even comment on this passage in the notes for verses 17 or 18. Why would you not want to discuss a reference to unclean things the the Scriptures say will affect even Gentiles? Well, if your church teaches that you can eat anything you want, "because those rules are only for the Israelites", they wouldn't want to bring it up and be exposed for telling you something that is not true.
The stand you take means something
You don't think we should go that far? Why not? You say that God doesn't care about us doing it because that was only for the Israelites. You say by your actions, "We know a better way than what God said to do..." Since God didn't label the rules to tell us which ones are for them and which are for us, how in the world do we tell the difference? You say we should not follow Leviticus 11, but we do follow Leviticus 18. How do we choose? What if someone says they are going to follow Leviticus 11, and not follow Leviticus 18? Are they right because the Holy Spirit didn't "prompt" them otherwise? Who gets to choose which is which? Oh, that's right, our pastors would never mislead us into anything that God would not approve, right?.
So, if you think it's all right to eat what God said for the Jews not to eat, then you can have relations with close relatives in actions that He only prohibited for the Jews, ignore Sabbath, and the other commandments, that He gave to the whole human race at Creation (Ecclesiastes 12:13
13Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
), and steal a sandwich if you are really hungry which He told only the Jews not to do. Most believe that those rules are just for the Jews, anyway - except for the ones that we, not God, declare are for us as well...
According to the lax translation of Romans 14, we can live however we want for the Lord, eat whatever we want for the Lord, steal anything we want if we do it for the Lord, and even murder as long as we do it for the Lord. But, wait a minute... Why would one or two rules God only gave them apply to us, and the rest not? How do you tell? Are you sure?
Disagree? Find an error? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and give us your view.