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God’s Dietary Laws: Are They For Today?

Editor’s note: This story is part 3 in a 3-part series. Read the first two parts here and here. The views are those of the author. 

God's dietary law pigs restrictionsGod clearly wants what is best for all the inhabitants of the earth — both man and creature as well as for the earth itself. These are all part of His creation. The laws are simple, rational and affirmed by modern science. God truly knows what is best and indicated this long before mankind was able to investigate disease-causing microorganisms, the life cycles of parasites or issues of environmental concern. God revealed principles to our ancient forefathers that would protect all that He made if we would be willing to follow the rules.

So, the question remains … if these laws, which were clearly in the best interest of the Israelites thousands of years ago, are clearly still in our best interest today, why do so many people challenge that they have been abolished? Why are so many professing Christians leading this notion? The answer appears to rest in the interpretations of Scripture found in Mark 7 and Acts 10.

In Mark 7, Jesus was asked by the Pharisees why His disciples ate without washing their hands (which was a ceremonial tradition). Some translations (as seen below) add words to the answer that Jesus gave:

 …since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled? Mark 7:19 ( ESV) (Thus he declared all foods clean.)

However, it is important to note that the addition in brackets is not found in preserved Greek texts. What Christ was saying was that to eat dirt does not spiritually defile a person since it does not get to the heart and influence attitudes. This is the whole context of verses 18-23 but when it is taken out of context it seems to be talking about something else — especially when additional text is added.

If Peter had understood that the dietary laws regarding meat were abolished (in Mark 7), why was he still under the impression in Acts 10 that eating unclean animals was wrong? In Peter’s vision God was attempting to show the plans for the future Church and gave him a vision including a group of unclean animals which he was instructed to eat. God presented this group three times – and each time Peter said he would not eat them because it was wrong.

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Remember, Peter had been with Christ for over three years at this point, learning all of His ways, but he was still unclear of what the vision meant until three Gentle men came to his door to ask him to explain the Gospel. The vision began to make sense as these men would have normally been considered outside of the covenant community and Gentiles were seen as unclean. Clearly what God was showing Peter was that he could not call any man unclean and all were welcome in the Church of God.

And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. Acts 10:28 (ESV)

Weak evidence?

The biblical evidence that Christ or any of his disciples abolished the dietary laws is really non-existent. Apart from Scripture that has clearly been taken out of content or added to, it is clear that God did not withdraw these rules for eating. But if this is so why is there so much controversy around them? Some say that the reasons why talks of abolishment even began are rooted in social, political and religious factors that influenced second century church doctrine.

Early Christians appeared to continue to observe the laws of Moses but as more Gentiles came into the Church they were met with very strong anti-Jewish feelings that permeated the Roman Empire. Jewish customs were attacked by both Latin and Greek authors and many Christians broke their ties with Judaism.

Gentile Christians wanted to be different from the Jewish people and went way out of their way to make sure that they were distinct and separate from the Jews. New customs, borrowed from the surrounding pagan culture were introduced.

Unnecessary suffering

Humans have been eating animals that God declared unfit for quite some time and the result has been that many have suffered and died. Satan. The father of deception, would have us believe that it is OK to continue to consume food that God so lovingly and clearly directed us not to eat.

The good news is that when Christ returns, there will be a restitution of all things and everyone will see why God established laws and how well they work for our good when they are followed. However, you do not have to wait until the second coming to begin to reap all of the marvelous benefits of eating a clean diet and carrying out God’s request that we be the best stewards of all that He has given us to manage.

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