This post is in response to a question from An Abomination. I’m sure it is many more verses and covers much more than the question asked, but I have run across so many questions lately about unclean and clean foods and the believers duty in relation to them. So warning this is verbose, but notice it is mostly Scripture and very little of my own words. That is the way it should be.
I wasn’t sure if your question was due to the perceived need to follow the Jewish dietary laws or if it was just questioning what seemed to be a contradiction between the Lord calling foods unclean and then later calling them clean. Hopefully, I’ll answer both questions. I have been amazed lately at the number of people who feel we as believers are to follow the Jewish dietary laws.
The dietary laws were for the Jews. We believers have a new and better covenant (Hebrews 7:19, Hebrews 8:6-7). In the New Testament there was much disagreement about what should be required of the Gentiles. Many Jews wanted the Gentiles to become Jews before they could become Christians, while others such as Paul understood that was not what the Lord demanded. Thus in Acts we have the following passage:
1 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”
2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.
3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers.
4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them.
5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.“
6 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter.
7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.
8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us,
9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.
10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?
11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
12 And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.
13 After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me.
14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name.
15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,
16 “’After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it,
17 that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things
18 known from of old.’
19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God,
20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. ESV
So what was required of the Gentiles was not observing the Jewish dietary laws. Peter told how the Lord was blessing and giving the Gentiles the same Holy Spirit the Jews had received.
Notice what Peter says “… we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will…” Acts 15:11. We will not save ourselves by returning to the Law of Moses, the law that even the Jews could not keep. Jesus is the only Jew who was able to keep the whole Jewish Law of Moses.
Then we also have Peter’s vision:
9 The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.
10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance
11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth.
12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air.
13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”
14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”
15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”
16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven. ESV
Peter was commanded to eat the unclean animals, which he vehemently refused and said never Lord. Then Peter was rebuked and told that what the Lord had made clean was not to be called common or unclean.
koinoo (koy-no’-o); from NT:2839; to make (or consider) profane (ceremonially):
KJV – call common, defile, pollute, unclean.
(Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
The Lord can make clean anything that He so desires. He thankfully has chosen to make clean those of us whom He has called.
Then we have lots of verses from the NT.
2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.
3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. ESV
Romans 14:20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. ESV
Wow, how much plainer can it get?
“Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean….”
But for the sake of another do not be offensive in what we eat. That means no matter how clean the foods are now, if I am inviting an observing Jew to my home I will not be serving BBQ Ribs.
Romans 14:21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. ESV
1 Corinthians 8:13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. ESV
Just a few verses before the Romans verse we are told this:
Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. ESV
Still pretty plain to me.
1 Corinthians 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. ESV
1 Timothy 4:4-5
4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,
5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. ESV
Titus 1:15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. ESV
1 Corinthians 10:23-33
23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.
24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience.
26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.”
27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience.
28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience—
29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience?
30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God,
33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. ESV
For those that don’t know where the old rule for children and eating came from here it is:
“… eat whatever is set before you without raising any question …”
Now some would say but what about Jesus, as if the red words in the Bible are the only ones that matter.
Luke 11:41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you. ESV
Matthew 15:11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” ESV
16 And he said, “Are you also still without understanding?
17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled?
18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.
19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” ESV
Mark 7:15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” ESV
18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him,
19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” ( Thus he declared all foods clean.)
20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him.
21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,
22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.
23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” ESV
Who will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Does what we eat have any bearing?
1 Corinthians 6:9-10
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,
10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. ESV
But even those may be washed clean by the blood of Christ.
1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ESV
The OT separation of clean and unclean food represents the separation of Jews from Gentiles. There is now no separation.
The law is to reveal our sin to us, not to justify us.
Romans 3:20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. ESV
Plus the whole book of Hebrews. It would be worth a serious study.
Here are just a few examples:
If we could have been made perfect through the Law, we would need no change to the Law. We have a different High Priest and a changed Law. The old covenant is a covenant of dead works. (Hebrews 6:1, Hebrews 9:14)
11 Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron?
12 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. ESV
A former commandment is set aside and a new one is introduced, a better and more perfect hope, that will draw us to God.
18 On the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness
19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. ESV
6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. ESV
We are under a new covenant which was referred to both in the OT and the NT.
31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,
32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord.
33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. ESV
8 For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,
9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. ESV
Hebrews 9:1, 8-10
1 Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness.
8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing
9 (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper,
10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. ESV
Hebrews 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. ESV
15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,”
17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” ESV
This pretty much sums it up.
Hebrews 13:9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. ESV