Thursday, February 17, 2011

Laying Down the Law - When God Changed the Menu

The question often arises as to whether Christians are to observe the shadows of the Old Covenant. Should Christians keep the feasts of Yahweh? Should they rest on the Sabbath day? Is it the Father’s will for those in Christ to eat only those foods the Law of Moses declared to be clean? In this post, I want to look specifically at the dietary regulations contained in the Law of Moses.

There are entire denominations, such as Seventh Day Adventists, and The Worldwide Church of God, who proclaim that the dietary laws of the Old Testament are still in effect. Those who are Torah Observant make the dietary laws a key part of their instructions to the saints. What did Christ’s apostles’ teach? Is the body of Christ still subject to the dietary regulations found in the Law?

For those who have understood and received the things written thus far in this series, the answer should be obvious. The Law of Moses has no jurisdiction over those who are in Christ. By virtue of union with Christ, believers have died to the Law that they might be joined to another. There is a new priesthood, a new law, a new manner of living in the Spirit. “Old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.” Shadows have given way to substance.

Colossians 2:16-17
Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day - things which are a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

As we look at the entire counsel of Christ’s apostles, we find that observing the shadows relating to food, feast days, new moons, and Sabbaths is not required. On the other hand, observance of the shadows is not forbidden, or condemned. The counsel of the apostles is that every man should strive to maintain a pure conscience before God. All Christians should seek to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Christians have varying degrees of knowledge of the mind and ways of God. One whose knowledge is mature may realize that nothing is unclean in itself, and all things can be eaten with thanksgiving. One who does not have this knowledge, believes he can only eat that which Moses permitted.

There are those who argue that since God is eternal, and He changes not, that His laws do not change. On the surface, this sounds reasonable. However, it does not stand up under scrutiny. The Bible is filled with examples of the unchanging God changing the manner in which He relates to men. Yahweh has frequently altered His instructions to mankind. We saw this in a previous chapter where we looked at Christ’s oft repeated phrase, “You have heard..., but I say...”

The arguments for the continuance of the dietary laws appeal to the natural man’s sense of justice, but they are not supported by Scriptures. If the argument were true that God’s instructions (Torah) to man do not change, for He Himself does not change, then we must find corroborating evidence of this declaration in the Bible. What then, are we to make of the fact that Yahweh has repeatedly changed His instructions to man regarding what He can eat, and He is prophesied to do it again during the Millennial reign of Christ?

Let us examine the Biblical evidence. When God first created Adam and Eve, He gave them only fruits and vegetables and the produce of the earth for their food.

Genesis 1:29
And God said, "See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.”

Even the animals ate a vegan diet. There were no carnivores when the earth was fashioned.

Genesis 1:30
Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food"; and it was so.

Are these instructions Yahweh delivered to the first man and woman identical to those given to Moses? Absolutely not! Moses permitted men to eat animal flesh. Animal flesh was prohibited to Adam and Eve. We see then that God’s Torah (instruction) does change.

The first menu God gave to man lasted for approximately 1,700 years. From Adam unto Noah man had only plants to eat. After the flood Yahweh declared that man could eat meat.

Genesis 9:1-5
 So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth... Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

We see that Noah and his descendants were permitted to eat “every moving thing that lives.” If a pig moved it could be eaten. Crabs and shrimp moved, so they could be eaten. “Every moving thing...” was the only criteria listed in Yahweh’s instruction to Noah. The ONLY prohibition was against eating blood, for the life (literally “soul”) of the animal is in the blood.

Noah understood that certain animals were considered clean, and some unclean, for he had made a distinction among them when bringing them on the ark. Of every clean animal, he took them by sevens onto the ark, a male with his female. Of every unclean animal he took by twos onto the ark.

After the flood subsided, we read that Noah offered to Yahweh a sacrifice of every clean animal that had been brought onto the ark. However, Yahweh made no distinction between clean and unclean when telling Noah what he could eat. Rather, the instruction is “If it moves, it can be eaten.”

This dietary instruction was in force from Noah to Moses, a span of approximately 800 years. For 430 years of this span, the descendants of Abraham were under the Noahide laws, for the Mosaic Law had not been given. Abraham’s descendants were permitted to eat pigs, and shellfish, and everything that moved on the earth. There was no prohibition given to them regarding these things UNTIL the Law was delivered to Moses. The Law came 430 years after Yahweh made a covenant of promise to Abraham, and 2,500 years after Adam.

Paul declared, “where there is no law there is no transgression.” Seeing that there was no law against eating certain types of meat UNTIL the Mosaic Law was given, those who ate unclean animals did not transgress.

Those who argue that “God changeth not,” therefore the laws He gives to men do not change, are failing to rightly divide the word of God. Do you perceive that prior to the flood it was a transgression of the will of God for a man to eat animal flesh? After the flood he could do so and not transgress. From Noah until Moses, man could eat anything that moved. A man could eat a hog from hoof to snout, including the fat. The only thing forbidden was the blood. There was no transgression.

Why is it so incredible then to conceive that the instructions (Torah) Yahweh gave to Moses were also for a limited duration? Yahweh intended for the Law of Moses to be in force UNTIL the promised Seed should come.

Galatians 3:19
Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.

There was a period of 1,500 years from Moses to Christ (the Seed of God). During this time the people of God had many prohibitions relating to food. No longer could God’s people eat anything that moved. Now, they were limited to those land creatures that had a split hoof and chewed the cud. Pertaining to that which dwelt in the sea, the rivers and lakes, it was no longer everything that moved, but that which had fins and scales. Even the birds and the insects were divided into what could be eaten, and what could not.

Beyond these restrictions, there were further limits placed on man’s consumption. Under the Mosaic Law man could not eat fat, not even fat found on animals declared to be clean. The fat and the blood were to be offered to Yahweh. It was forbidden to boil a kid in its mother’s milk. During the week of Passover, no leaven could be used in cooking.

The regulations found in the Law all serve as parables. In each one some spiritual truth is being foreshadowed. Time does not permit me to write of what these dietary regulations signified. I have posted writings on some of them.

When Christ came, the time of mankind’s probation, being guarded and ruled by the Law of Moses, ended. Consequently, the instruction God gave to mankind regarding what was to be eaten changed.

Acts 15:28-29
For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.

Once more man could eat all that moved, but the ancient prohibition against eating blood remained. When an animal is strangled, the blood remains in the meat. The instruction to abstain “from blood” and “from things strangled,” are the only recorded instructions relating to food for those who are in Christ.

It did not seem “good to the Holy Spirit” “to lay upon” those turning to Christ from among the Gentiles all the “burden” of the Law. Of the myriad of dietary regulations in the Law, “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit” to burden these new creatures in Christ only with the dietary prohibition to abstain from eating blood. The apostles and leaders of the Jewish believers in Messiah, met in Jerusalem to consider the specific question of whether new Gentile converts should be instructed to keep the Law of Moses. Peter summed up the conclusion of the elders with these words:

Acts 15:10
Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

The yoke Peter spoke of was a yoke of slavery. The Law treated men as slaves. God seeing that man was a slave to sin, treated him like a slave by placing him under the Law. Those who are in Christ are free from bondage to sin. Therefore, Yahweh treats them as free men. The new creation man is given liberty.

Galatians 5:1-2
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.

The elders and apostles carefully considered this matter and concluded that, of the 613 laws delivered to Moses, only three needed to be passed on to the Gentile Christians (I am combining the two dealing with blood.) No instructions regarding fins and scales, cloven hoofs and chewing cuds were placed upon the Gentile’s necks. They were taught to walk by the Spirit. An excessive list of carnal ordinances would take their eyes away from the Spirit of Christ as their guide.

We see then that from Adam to Noah man ate only a diet of plant matter. From Noah to Moses, man ate plant matter and anything that moved. From Moses to Christ, the people of God ate that which the Law declared to be clean. From Christ until today, the people of God are instructed to not eat blood, but have no other law of prohibition.

The words of the elders and apostles are not Yahweh’s final instruction regarding diet. It will change again. The Scriptures declare that during the Millennial reign of Christ those animals that are carnivores will become herbivores.

Isaiah 11:6-7
"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb; the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; Their young ones shall lie down together; And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

These words of the prophet Isaiah describe a return to the conditions of Eden. In Eden the animals were given every green herb for food. Man also was given every green herb, and every fruit tree, from which to eat. This will be the condition of the earth once more.

Can you imagine the arguments of the Torah devotee who makes it into the Millennial period? “What do you mean I can’t kill that cow and cook its flesh? Moses said I could do so. Why can’t I wring that chicken’s neck? Don’t you know the Law doesn’t change.” Although such a hypothetical argument appears silly, it demonstrates the error of those who suppose that the Law is an eternal ordinance. Every work of God has a time and season allotted to it.

Ecclesiastes 3:1
To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven...

As we look back at the history of Yahweh’s dealings with man, we see that great changes occurred during the life of Noah. Further great alterations occurred during the life of Moses. Yet, the greatest change of all in the way Yahweh relates to man occurred during the earthly life of His Son. Seeing that Yahweh’s instructions to mankind were altered with Noah and Moses, it is no stretch to conceive of them changing once more with Christ.

While I have your attention turned to the Millennial period, let me share the following. The saints should not suppose that they can hasten on toward a more perfect and Edenic state by adopting a vegetarian diet now. Christ walked perfectly before the Father while on the earth, and He ate meat. Numerous times it is recorded that He ate fish, as well as feeding it to His disciples. He is even recorded as having eaten fish twice after His resurrection.

Those who choose to eat vegetables only are not prohibited from doing so, but their food choices are no more righteous than those of the man who chooses to eat meat. Christ declared that it is not what enters man’s mouth that defiles him. It is what comes out of man’s mouth that defiles.

Mark 7:18-23
And He said to them, "Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?" Thus He declared all foods clean. And He was saying, "That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man."

Yahweh’s focus has always been upon creating a clean heart (soul) in man. Foods do not defile the soul of man. They affect only the body. The Law’s regulations pertaining to food were not given with the thought of making the man righteous. They were given as types and shadows of spiritual truth. Through His Son, God made clean that which was formerly unclean.

Acts 10:9-16
 The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat." But Peter said, "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything unholy or unclean." And a voice spoke to him again the second time, "What God has cleansed you must not call unholy." This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.

I realize this experience of Peter’s served as a message to declare that the Gentiles had been declared clean by God. Yet, other Scriptures reveal that foods that were unclean under the Law were made clean as well. The apostle Paul declares this to be so in several letters to different groups of people.

I Timothy 4:3-5
Men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

Speaking specifically of foods, (see verse 13) Paul declares the following:

Romans 14:14-15
I know and am convinced by the Lord Yahshua that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

I Corinthians 8:8
But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat.

In these last words of Paul, we find an echo of the verse we looked at in the previous post. “Neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision availeth anything, but a new creation.” We are neither the worse if we do not eat (circumcision, keeping the Law), nor the better if we do eat (uncircumcision, free from the Law). As Yahshua declared, what enters the mouth does not defile the man. On the other hand, eating “holy” foods does not make the man righteous.

This chapter would not be complete unless I spoke of the role of the Spirit as it pertains to diet. If man is freed from the Law, but fails to come under the rule of the Spirit of Christ, he is lawless. The fact that God has given only the prohibition against eating blood to those who are in Christ, does not imply that man is to be self-directed in what he eats.

The very beginning of Christ’s ministry began with His Father, through the indwelling Spirit, giving His Son instructions relating to food consumption. The Father told His Son that He was to fast from all food for forty days. If Christ were led of the Law of Moses, He could have argued that Moses permitted a man to eat food daily. As long as clean foods were chosen, there was no necessity for Him to fast. Christ was not led by the Law, but by the Spirit. His Father revealed His will to be that Christ fast for forty days, so obedience required submission to this revelation.

As sons of God, we too will find the Father giving us specific instructions regarding our diet. Sometimes He will lead us to fast. Other times He will direct us to avoid certain foods, or add certain foods to our diet. Some years ago when I was very much overweight, the Father instructed me to cut out the fats and sugars from my diet. The Law of Moses says nothing regarding sugar, but the Spirit is able to speak to us specifically, guiding each individual perfectly.

The Father has disciplined me much in the area of eating, for I had appetites that were unrestrained most of my life. I know that my Father has an interest in what I eat. He has an opinion in the matter, and I do well to seek to know His thoughts and to abide by them.

Just because the saint has no written code today to instruct him in what to eat, does not imply that Yahweh has no instruction to give in the matter. Our instruction comes from a different channel. We are instructed by the Spirit who was given to indwell us. The following principle is given to the body of Christ.

I Corinthians 10:31
Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 
That is the conclusion of the matter.

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Anonymous said...

I am curious about how you would consider meats that are butchered by "halel" regulations, the guidelines of muslim/sharia law, similar to kosher, but dedicated to Allah...would that be considered as food offered to idols?

Joseph Herrin said...

Dear (?),

I have not personally encountered any "halel" foods, and have not considered the subject. However, I would recommend reading the apostle Paul's complete thoughts on the matter of food sacrificed to idols before forming a conviction about what is right and wrong in regard to such foods. I would particularly recommend reading Romans chapter 14 and I Corinthians chapters 8 and 10.