As far as modern religion in America is concerned, God's laws have been done away. Indeed, most who call themselves Christians seem to realize that sinning, however they define sin
, is wrong, but somehow Jesus Christ
kept the law for us, so everything will be all right. Why become worked up over something that no longer matters?
One area that the world
has surely done away with God's law is that of clean and unclean meats. Those who believe this quote passages from the Bible that seem to say that all food, even the unclean ones, have somehow been made fit for us to eat today. A common argument is that the clean and unclean laws were part of the Old Covenant, and that is "obsolete and . . . ready to vanish away" (Hebrews 8:13
When one states that he does not eat pork, shellfish, or any of the other foods listed as unclean in Leviticus 11:1-23
and Deuteronomy 14:3-21
, he is immediately labeled as "Jewish." However, God's law is applicable to all of mankind (notice the principle of universal applicability in Psalm 94:12
; Ezekiel 18:5-9
; Mark 2:27
; Romans 2:12-16
), and it is absolutely vital for Christians to keep it to grow in righteousness (Deuteronomy 6:25
; Psalm 119:172
Before we proceed, it helps to remember who the God
of the Old Testament is—the God who commanded the laws, not just for Judah, not just for all Israel, but for the benefit of all mankind. That same God, Jesus Christ, says unmistakably:
Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. (Matthew 5:17-18)
Since God gives only good things (James 1:17
), and the apostle Paul certifies that "the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good" (Romans 7:12
), we know that His law is for our benefit.
If the Bible is not the basis for one's discussion of religious matters, then one may as well not argue. This study will not convince anyone whose mind is set through the unbelieving arguments of this world, but it will build a foundation of biblical logic for us to stand on regarding this subject.A Pre-Sinai Law
The clean and unclean laws are specifically mentioned early in God's Word, in the account of the Noachian Flood
, when Noah was commanded to take "seven each of every clean animal" (Genesis 7:2
). When he and his family were back on dry land, Noah "took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar" (Genesis 8:20
). This suggests that these laws were known and practiced before the Flood—even from the earliest days of mankind (compare Genesis 4:4
, Abel's acceptable offering). Since there were no Jews or Israelites then—not even any Hebrews—these laws are obviously for all humankind.Genesis 9:3
contains a command that has proven difficult for some to understand: God says to Noah, "Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs." Some take this to mean that God gives man carte blanche
authority to eat any kind of animal. But is this what God said?
The key to this verse is "even as the green herbs." In other words, God gives mankind the authority to eat flesh within the same parameters as He allows us to eat vegetation. Does God allow us to eat poisonous plants like poison ivy, hemlock, deadly nightshade, etc.? Of course not! Just as certain plants are harmful to us, so are certain meats. As Herbert Armstrong explained in "Is All Animal Flesh Good Food?":
God did not give poisonous herbs as food. He gave man the healthful herbs. Man can determine which herbs are healthful, but man cannot by himself determine which flesh foods are harmful. That is why God had to determine for us in His Word which meats are clean. Since the Flood every moving clean, healthful, nonpoisonous type of animal life is good for food—just as God gave us the healthful, nonpoisonous herbs.
This does not give us permission to do as we please!
Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 contain God's commandment to Israel concerning clean and unclean meats. In these passages, either He lists specific animals that are clean or unclean or He provides us with instructions about how to determine if an animal is clean or unclean. For instance, He tells us specifically that the camel, the hyrax (rock badger), the hare, and the swine are unclean (Leviticus 11:4-8
), but regarding fish He instructs us to determine if a species possesses both fins and scales (verse 9).
People have varying reactions to these scriptures. Some will take the position that unclean animals are harmful to the body. Many of us have had experience, either personally or by an acquaintance, with poisoning by trichinosis (a disease caused by parasitic worm larvae) in pork or becoming deadly sick from shellfish. Then others will bring up "Aunt Sarah," who ate pork and crawdads, drank a bottle of whiskey, smoked cigars every day, and lived to be 102 years old. Indeed, God makes some with amazingly strong constitutions.
God designed many of the unclean animals for the specific purpose of disposing of the earth's garbage. For instance, without feeling any ill effect, vultures can consume 59 times the amount of botulin, the neurotoxin that causes botulism, that it would take to kill a man. Pigs are scavengers that will eat anything, and if pork is not fully cooked to kill the Trichinella spiralis
in it, it can destroy a person's health or even kill him.
Even though people throughout the world eat unclean food and live, and even though we could probably do the same—and many of us once did—for Christians, it is more than a health matter. In the Bible, God never directly connects keeping the laws of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 with health. In reality, it is a test commandment to see if we will obey God.Peter's Vision
What scriptures does this world marshal to prove that eating unclean meat is approved by the Bible? There are several such "proof texts" in the New Testament, but we will see that they are all misunderstood passages. In fact, in the final analysis, none of them is even about clean and unclean meats!
Perhaps the best known passage is Acts 10:9-16
, in which a huge sheet full of unclean animals is lowered from heaven, and a voice says, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat." However, without hesitation Peter replies, "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean" (verse 14). The Voice then responds, "What God has cleansed you must not call common" (verse 15).
First, what is the subject of Acts 10? It is evident from a thorough reading of the chapter that it is entirely devoted to the conversion of Cornelius, a Roman centurion (verse 1), the first Gentile baptized into God's church. Peter's vision must be understood against this background to be understood correctly.
Second, it is apparent that Peter himself does not at first understand what his vision meant (verse 17); he certainly does not jump to the conclusion that all meats are now clean. While he is pondering it, a delegation from Cornelius arrives and requests that he travel with them to Caesarea to speak to the centurion. God tells the apostle directly to go with the men, "for I have sent them" (verse 20). Obviously, God was orchestrating the whole affair.
Third, if unclean meats had been approved, would Peter have not understood this from what he had learned from Jesus? He lived with his Savior for over three years. If anyone knew that the law of clean and unclean meats had been abolished by Christ's sacrificial death, it would have been Peter, but at this point, a decade later, he is operating under no such notion.
Fourth, his reply to the Voice, which Peter identifies as the Lord's, is quite confident, even vehement: "Not so, Lord!" In our colloquial English, this is equivalent to "No way!" This was a command that the apostle knew went against everything he knew about God's law. Even though the Voice repeats the command twice more (verse 16), Peter never changes his mind!
Fifth, within the context, Peter himself reveals what the vision meant. To those assembled in Cornelius' house, he says, "You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me
that I should not call any man
common or unclean" (verse 28). The vision of unclean animals was merely an illustration God used to help Peter understand that salvation was open to those previously held at arm's length (see Acts 11:18
). This is further evidenced by the Holy Spirit being poured out visibly on these Gentiles (Acts 10:44-47
). Neither Peter nor Luke, the author of Acts, makes any further commentary regarding clean or unclean foods, as the vision had served a greater purpose.
Lastly, nowhere in the context is it ever said that God had cleansed unclean meats—this is something assumed by readers with a predisposition against this statute regulating what we should eat. As Paul says, "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God
, nor indeed can be" (Romans 8:7
). Acts 10:1
—11:18 confirms that "what God has cleansed" is the Gentiles, not unclean foods.