Clean and Unclean Foods

((a little long, but worth it, I promise))

For about four years I’ve had an unlinked thang on my sidebar called “Why Christians can eat Pork”.  I never linked it to anything, because I could never write it, for some reason.  And I thought it kinda strange – I’m anal about things like that… now I know why.  And I told you that about a month ago they did a sermon on whether there are certain things a Christ-follower should do or not eat at the Messianic Synagogue we attend, and I was SO INTERESTED in it, because I wanted to know THE TRUTH… something the Christchun church has rarely given me.  Mostly because they’re so busy teaching about grace and rung #1 on the discipleship ladder that they just don’t know, to be frank.  Milk, milk, milk.  Learning about this was MEAT, and I was geeked.  And… stuck in the nursery.  So I got the tape.  ((wink!))

Should Christ-followers eat pork?  I always have.  Sausage was one of my FAVORITES.  ((Go figure.))  There’s still a WHOLE ham in my freezer (I’ve yet to give away).  I’ve eaten it all my life.  But then, I’ve gone to church on pagan god of the Sun-Day all my life, too, instead of ‘remembering the Sabbath and keeping it Holy’… not to mention the whole X-Mess and Ishtar/Easter thang, so what I grew up doing and what’s Biblical are two grossly different things.  I’ve had to change a LOT of my beliefs so that I could say that ‘I loved Him, I kept His commandments’.  There’s nothing more disgusting that someone who says they love Him, and are so stubbornly caught up in what they like and want that they won’t turn from their desires to prove their love by their actions.  Faith without works – Belief without transformation – is dead.

((I’ve got the sermon tape in front of me, and I’m going to try to type up from what I learned, directly.  Something VERY different in blogging for me.))  We’re going to look at three different passages in this, learning about if there are things we shouldn’t eat according to the Bible… by looking at the verses that Christians use to try to justify their actions.  We’ll see that the OT wasn’t done away with in regards to food laws, and that scriptures HAVE been twisted to make it ‘okay’.

But we should first remember that (Hebrews 13:8) God does not change.  Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.  And we also need to remember that the people this was written to didn’t consider shellfish, pork, and many of the things we eat to even BE food.  When they say food, they refer to lamb, cow, chicken, fish… but NEVER pig.  That’s like thinking of cocker spaniel when talking about supper.  It’s NOT food… and pork was NOT food to them.

Mark 7: 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.  When taken out of context, it certainly looks like Jesus (who said this) was saying that it’s okay to eat anything, doesn’t it?  And many christchuns use this verse to say, ‘oh, well, it’s okay to eat whatever you like, according to Mark 7:15’.  But if we back up to the beginning of the chapter and read from verse 1 thru verse 16, we see that just isn’t true.

Right away in verse 1 and 2 it tells us the problem – the Pharisees were upset because Jesus and His disciples broke bread (clean food, btw) without doing the ritual handwashing the ‘church’ required (it was not something required by the OT scriptures – stated clearly in vs5).  Then Jesus quoted Isaiah in verses 7 and 8, saying that the Pharisees are far from God, because they teach tradition as scripture, and put emphasis on their own manmade laws.  He’s saying you have God’s law (to eat clean foods only) and man’s rules (about washing hands to be ‘clean’ or the food is no longer clean) and throwing out God’s law for their own regulations.  Jesus was breaking NO commandment, and the food was NOT unclean that they were eating.  Then Jesus got to verse 15 – There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him.  Did He just change the laws of God there, when He said that?  Does taht fit with the context?  Hardly.

And there are problems with that.  First, Deuteronomy 17:20 says that a legitimate King of Israel cannot turn from the Law, to the right or to the left… so if Jesus was the legitimate King of the Jews, He could not have taught against the OT.  Also, Deuteronomy 13:4-5 says that any ‘prophet’ that turns you away from the commands of the OT should be put to death.  Remember who Jesus was talking to, here in Mark – the Pharisees, who saw Him only as a ‘prophet’ of some kind.  If He were teaching against Torah, they would’ve siezed Him right there and had every right to kill Him, and they knew it – but they couldn’t, and didn’t.  So He wasn’t changing the laws.  But what about further down, Mark 7:17, when Jesus clarifies what He was saying for His disciples?

Mark 7:17 – And when He was entered into the house from the people, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable.  And He saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also?  Do ye not percieve that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the drought, purging all meats?

Remember, however, this was written to Jewish people by a Jewish person, and they did NOT consider some things to be foods, like pork and shellfish.  And anyhow, in the very next verse (18), He sums up the lesson:  that it wasn’t about foods or washings that was important, it was what was in their hearts, and that was the crux of this whole lesson – verses 1-23.  So for people to use this scripture to try to nullify the OT food laws was to take it WAY out of context and twist up the meaning.

The next verse is Acts 10… Peter’s vision of the Sheet from Heaven.  This is probably THE most popular verse for trying to justify the eating of whatever we want.  Particularly verses 10-16:

Acts 10:10-16:  And he [Peter] became very hungry, and would have eaten, but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, and saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the Earth: wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the Earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.  And there came a voice to him, ‘Rise, Peter, kill, and eat.’  But Peter said, ‘Not so, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.’  And the voice spake unto him again, and the second time, ‘What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.’  This was done thrice: and the vessel was recieved up again into heaven.

Now a lot of people take this to mean that God has just ‘made clean’ what Peter was calling unclean.  In fact, I used to think along those lines (weirdly, I never made the statement… couldn’t… which was why that sidebar link never got written.)  So let’s look at this in context, starting in verse 1 and moving through 14, which is a lot of verses, so I’m not typing them all.  It’s about Cornelius, a Roman Christ-follower who recieved a message from an angel to send for Peter.  So he sent soldiers to fetch Peter, and while they were coming, Peter went up on the roof, got hungry, fell into a trance, and had a vision.  In the vision a ‘sheet’ from heaven came down, filled with all manner of critters.  In the vision, God told Peter to kill and eat, and what was Peter’s response?  He said, “No way, God!”  This wasn’t a test – God knew Peter wouldn’t do it, because even now – AFTER the Mark 7 incident and Jesus’ fulfilling the sacrificial law of the OT on the cross, he wasn’t eating unclean foods – He was keeping the OT commandments (‘If you love Me, keep My commandments’)  It wasn’t like Peter saw the critters and wanted them, he wasn’t about to eat the unclean critters.

If we stopped here, it would be easy to misinterpret the vision, because it DOES look like all creatures were ‘made clean’ by God in the vision, doesn’t it?  But look a little further, verses 17-28, which is also a lot of verses (which you can look up), so I’m gonna tell you the story and keep it as short a read as I can, here.  Peter was trying to figure out what the heck the vision meant, and an angel appeared to him and told him three men were there to see him, and he should go with them, doubting nothing, for they were sent by the Lord.  So Peter went with them and when he got there, Cornelius fell down at Peter’s feet.  Peter told him, “Get up, for I’m just a man”, and he went inside and saw a large group of people.  THEN listen to what Peter says to them:

Acts 10:28 – And he said unto them, ‘Ye know that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

Did you catch that?  Back when this was written, the Jews had taken a verse – Ex 34:15, which says not to take a covenant with the peoples of a pagan land, or they would invite the Jews to eat of food sacrificed to idols (unclean food).  The Jews built a ‘fence’ around that law, meaning they added to it, to protect themselves, so even though the OT never calls people ‘unclean’, the Jews declared Gentiles unclean, and wouldn’t have anything to do with them unless absolutely necessary.  So without this vision, Peter probably wouldn’t have gone with Cornelius’ men… he would’ve considered them (as Gentiles) unclean.  That was the culture at that time.  And Peter is TELLING the meaning of the vision in verse 28.  It doesn’t mean he can eat anything, it means that no PERSON is unclean.  And the Bible states that clearly… not once but twice, because if you read on (starting in vs 30), Cornelius tells about his vision, and at the end of it (vs. 34-36) Peter says AGAIN the meaning of HIS vision – that God is ‘respecter of no persons’ and that ‘He is Lord of all’ and that it is the heart that signifies who is of the Lord, not the race.  The Spirit was simply correcting a manmade law that was hindering the going forth of the Gospel.  Peter NEVER added that it was also about clean/unclean foods – which would’ve been the perfect time to include that, had it been the message (and even for those reading Acts, later)… but he *didn’t*.

The last passage is Romans 14, and we’ll start with the controversial verse (14):  I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

Now… would the Lord Jesus have pursuaded Paul to teach something contrary to the Law?  If so, that would be a big problem, wouldn’t it?  And secondly, is Paul teaching subjective morality, or that if you think something, it’s so for you?  It can’t be… because then it’s only a sin if you think its a sin.  If you don’t think dishonoring your parents is a sin, it’s not.  If you don’t think adultery is a sin but rather just the needed release of a frustrated married person, then it’s not a sin.  It doesn’t work that way – subjective morality nullifies more scripture (and the WHOLE of the Gospel!) and can’t be a reality.  So what was Paul really talking about?

Let’s back up for context again… to verse one.  And from the first four verses, we can see that Paul is talking about believers in this chapter… those ‘in the faith’ – that’s the clue.  And remember, food in those days for those in the Lord did NOT include unclean foods.  In Romans 14:2, Paul says some eat only herbs (the root is foods from the ground, such as vegetables), and others eat any thing… when he says anything, he’s talking about FOODS here – and things that were unclean were NOT foods.  He never says which one is right (vegetarian or meat-eaters)… what’s important is not to judge each other over it.  He goes on to say that we do what we do to honor the Lord, as Believers… regardless of what it is.  And everyone will have to give an account for Himself before God.  And then we hit verse 14.

There is a clue about what he is trying to say in the wording. There are two words in the Greek for ‘unclean’.  “Koinos” is the first word, and it refers to a food that is normally clean, but because it was either sacrificed to idols or something was done to it, it is no longer clean, but common.  Koinos.  The second word is “Akathartros”, which is food that was NEVER clean, always unclean.  Like pork, shellfish, and the like.  Nothing can be done to make it clean.  There was a problem in those days because of “Koinos”, because in the Roman markets they sold clean food AND Koinos food/wine – stuff that was offered before the gods and therefore made unclean, and the Jews were having a problem telling the difference… which was why some of the ‘weaker in faith’ (newbies) abstained from the meats sold in the market and ate only things that came out of the ground.  That’s why this was addressed.  Paul wasn’t saying that unclean foods (Akathartros) were now clean, he was telling them that if they ate of foods and didn’t know if they were Koinos or not – sacrificed to idols – it was okay, because they were innocent of that.  But they were still CLEAN foods according to the Biblical standard in Leviticus 11.  Of course if you know the vendor is a sacrificer, then you avoid it.  That’s the obvious.  Which leads to the obvious conclusion… that there ARE still unclean (Akathartros) animals that are NOT to be eaten… and Leviticus is still in effect for us.  Not ONCE in the New Testament is it overturned.

Whew!  And at that point, the tape cut off, and I call my really-extra-super-long blog done, because he said he was covering the three passages that christchuns use to justify their eating of unclean (akathrartros) foods, and I managed to get all of them before the tape ended.  ((I was stuck in nursery with Ethan back then, remember.))  But it was enough right there to convince me that I should NOT be eating pork or the other things in Leviticus 11… and I’ll leave you to read what those things are, as this is already MONDO blog of all blogs.  Still… I think it was very important to cover.

And speaking of covers… I’m gearing up to write about head coverings, too… very shortly.  Stay tuned!

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