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Sermon Series:

Sermon: “A Study On Biblical Food Laws”


Scripture:

Introduction: Just like a car needs fuel to provide the energy to the engine before it can
function so to does the human body need energy in order to function. While some may
have tried it in the past, I would not recommend gasoline as a part of any ones daily diet.
Human get there energy from the intake of calories which are provided in the foods we
eat. Some foods provide more calories than others and some food is better for our overall
system than others. The Bible has a lot to say about the food that we eat. This study will
take us through God’s Word in search of Gods dietary plan for His creation. We will see
that God over the course of history has on occasion changed the dietary plan for his
creation. We will look at each dietary plan and its respective generation. We will discuss
in brief the basic diet and the change that occurred. We will also discuss how these
changes related to God’s plan for His creation. Let’s dig in to God’s Word.

Dietary Regulations Prior to the Call of the Nation of Israel

Biblical food laws prior to the calling of the nation of Israel fall under two distinct eras.
First is the pre-flood era and second is the post-flood era. Let’s look at the pre-flood era.

In the outset of creation God established a garden paradise east of Eden. “Out of the
ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food
(Gen. 2.9).” From this passage we can begin to get an idea of the dietary habits God
intended for His created order. Later in this chapter “God commanded the man, saying,
‘of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good
and evil you shall not eat… (Gen. 2.16-17).” In this verse we see the dietary equipments
for the Adamic, or pre-flood generation, by what is not said as much as by what is said.

First God says that they could eat from the fruit of every tree but one. So, we learn from
this command that fruit was good with one exception, that from the tree of the knowledge
of good and evil. This exception had more to do with obedience than with food.
Secondly, what we see mission is the inclusion of meat. At this point God does not give
the go ahead on the consumption of meat but, neither does he say it could not be eaten.
With that said I believe that we can be pretty sure that the pre-flood diet prescribed by
God was of a vegetarian nature. This idea will be clarified by God’s dietary requirements
for the post-flood generation.

This vegetarian type diet went on until the day that Noah and his family left the ark. With
the flood God altered the balance in the world. This change in the geological and
atmospheric aspects of the earth led to the circumstances that perpetuated the degradation
of the human body. These changes caused the life span of all living creatures to begin to
shorten dramatically.
However, this was not the only changes that were made. God also altered the dietary
regulations for His creation. We discovered that the scripture listed fruit as the diet for the
pre-flood beings. Yet, in God’s address to Noah after departing the ark He clearly states
that the pre-flood diet included every green herb as well (see Gen. 9.3b). So, up to and
including the time of the flood the diet of prescription was fruit and vegetables. However,
this dietary plan is expanded by God after Noah and his family departed the ark. Two
things changed among man and beast that day. There diet and there distance from one
another. God told Noah that “fear … and the dread of you shall be on every beast … bird
… and on all fish (Gen 9.2).” God also told Noah that all of these animals had been
“given into [his] hand (Gen. 9.2).” In fact God said that, “every moving thing that lives
shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs (Gen. 9.3).”
So, God turned the world in to a buffet for the post-flood generation. The only
prohibition concerning food centered on eating flesh with its blood. This freedom in food
choice after the flood should help us realize that the food laws that we will find later in
Leviticus and Deuteronomy are unique.

We should take note at this point that God had already declared what He considered to be
clean and unclean animals before the flood. This designation was not something that
began with the Mosaic Law. When God told Noah to enter the Ark He told him to bring
clean and unclean animals aboard. Since God is the same yesterday, today, and forever
and He can not and does not contradict Himself, we must recognize that there is more
going on with the food regulation that meets the eye. Let’s keep digging.

Dietary Regulations under the Mosaic Law

Many hold to the view that the Mosaic Law, of which the dietary laws are a small part,
should be followed by all of humanity, especially believers. However, as we will prove in
this section the dietary laws of the Mosaic Law were specifically intended for the nation
of Israel. Later in this study we will address the whole mater of the Mosaic Law and how
it relates to believers today.

We find the dietary laws for the children of Israel in two Old Testament books; Leviticus
and Deuteronomy. As we study these chapters we see God limit or change the dietary
laws. Yet, this change is for a specific group of people rather that for all of humanity.

So, we must ask our selves the question, “Why the change?” If Noah’s family and the
post-flood generations were given freedom to eat both clean and unclean animals why
change the diet now and why not change it for all people rather than a select group of
people? What is His purpose and how does it relate to the rest of humanity?

In the outset I would admit that the selection of the dietary menu outlined by God in
Leviticus and Deuteronomy probably has some nutritional element to it. However, the
nutritional value is really a benefit of the more important purpose that will be revealed as
we study these passages.
Two passages in Deuteronomy give us a clue to the true purpose of this change in dietary
law for the Nation of Israel. Part of the restriction given by God to the Israelites was the
prohibition from eating an animal that had died of natural causes. Yet, in Deuteronomy
14.21 God instructs the Israelites that they could give such an animal “to the alien who is
with in [their] gates, that he may eat it, or [they] may sell it to a foreigner.” This begs the
question, “If God intended these laws to be followed by Jews and Gentile alike, why did
He tell the Israelites that they could give it or sell it to non-Israelites? Would this not
make God become one who tempts humans to sin? This is contrary to the nature of God
and the content of His Word. The Bible says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am
tempted by God;’ for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone
(James 1.13).”

So, why did God set the limits on the Israelites but allow the non-Israelites to consume
this forbidden food? Why, because the Israelites were God’s people of purpose. They
were to be set apart for God’s purpose and plan. They were to be different from the world
around them. They were “a holy people to the Lord [their] God (Deuteronomy 14.21).”
This same truth is expressed in Deuteronomy 14.2 as well. Now we can understand that
the dietary laws were less about health and more about holiness. These laws were for a
specific people for a specific purpose. They were not intended to be relegated to all of
humanity or else God would have not given non-Israelites a pass on the consumption of
such food. Truly, these laws were for a specific people for a specific purpose and time.
We will now turn to the New Testament and explore yet another change in the dietary
laws of God.

Dietary Laws and the New Testament

Now we come to the New Testament. Here again we will discover a new direction in the
dietary laws for God’s creation. In this section we will discover our liberty in food
through Jesus Christ. We will learn that this shift towards liberty in food consumption is
for the people of faith, because the rest of humanity, save the Nation of Israel, has always
been able to enjoy any manner of food they so desired. This liberty gains authority by
virtue of the fact that it was revealed to those early disciples which were primarily Jews.

Let us turn first to Jesus and the sending out of the seventy. Jesus sends these
missionaries out with the instruction to, in essence, make no provision for the trip (see
Luke 10.4). He implied that their provision would come from those to whom they were
able to minister. These ministers were given instruction to go from house to house and
abide at what ever home received them in peace. They were to “remain in the same
house, eating and drinking such things as they [were given] (Luke 10.7).” Jesus told
them, “Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before
you (Luke 10.8).” Clearly this was a repeal of the Mosaic dietary laws for the seventy
missionaries.

Don’t forget these missionaries were primarily, if not completely, Jewish. Nevertheless,
even if they were all gentiles and the Mosaic dietary laws were meant for all people
would Jesus have instructed them to “eat such things as are set before you?” Let’s also be
careful not to confuse or blend Matthew chapter ten with Luke chapter ten. In Matthew
Jesus sends out the twelve to the nation of Israel, where as in Luke Jesus sends out the
seventy and there is no restriction given as to who it is they are to minister the gospel.
Clearly these Jewish missionaries were given permission to eat what ever came before
them from either Jew or Gentile.

Secondly, we see our liberty in our diet confirmed by the apostles. First, we find Peter
being challenged in Acts chapter eleven by the “apostles and the brethren who were in
Judea (Acts 11.1).” This challenge was made especially by all of “those of the
circumcision (Acts 11.2).” Why were they challenging Peter? They challenged him
because he had been found guilty of eating with the gentiles. There contention with Peter
was two-fold. The first elements of contention centered on who he ate with – the gentiles
– and the second element was focused on what he ate with the Gentiles. In his defense
Peter retold the circumstances that lead him to the home and table of a Gentile. He did
this by explaining the events of his vision on the roof top in Joppa (Acts 11.5).

In this vision God presented a buffet of every kind of animal and creeping thing one
could imagine. The same God that restricted the dietary habits of the children of Israel
tells this Israelite to “kill and eat (Acts 11.7).” Peter clearly understood that God was
asking him to partake of unclean food because he said, “not so, Lord? For nothing
common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth (Acts 11.8).” God was instructing
this Jewish man to for go the Mosaic dietary laws and eat what was considered unclean.
Peter goes on explaining that God reprimanded him by saying, “what God has cleansed
you must not call common (Acts 11.9).” Surely, we can see from this passage God’s
revelation of our dietary liberty found through Jesus Christ.

Please understand that the revelation of our dietary liberty in this passage is a secondary
truth which is encapsulated with in the greater truth of God’s revelation that the gospel of
Jesus Christ was and has always included the inclusion of the Gentiles. So far we have
both God the Father and God the Son expressing our dietary liberty through the gospel of
Jesus Christ.

Second, we find this contention discuss in brief at the Jerusalem Council. This brief
section of scripture, in Acts chapter fifteen, is really the heart and soul of the issue at
hand. Like some today there were Jewish believers in the early Church who held to the
belief that all believers, whether Jew or Gentile, had to comply with the Mosaic law in
order to be Christians. This is the reason for the Jerusalem Council. While many issues
were debated in the Council we will focus on the issue of diet since it is the subject of our
study. On this issue the ultimate conclusion of the Council was that these Gentile
believers were at liberty to eat what ever foods they desired with three exceptions; 1)
They could not eat things that were “polluted” by idols; 2) They could not eat things that
had been strangled; and 3) They could not eat the blood of a creature. Clearly these
Jewish leaders of the early Church granted some dietary liberty through Jesus Christ.

Finally, we can infer this same dietary liberty from the teachings of the apostle Paul.
Paul’s teaching on this subject is couched with in the context of meat offered to idols.
Paul admonishes those at Corinth to “eat whatever is sold in the meat market asking no
questions … (1 Corinthians 10.25).” He also states that “if any of those who do not
believe invites you to dinner and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you asking
no questions … (1 Corinthians 10.27).” In these two verses Paul sees and expresses a
sense of dietary liberty. Yet, there are greater lessons to be learned from this passage.
First, just because we can do something does not mean that we should do it (see 1
Corinthians 10.23). Secondly, we should seek the well being of others just as we seek our
own well being (see 1 Corinthians 10.24). Finally, we should temper our liberty in love,
so that we “give no offense (1 Corinthians 10.32)” to a weaker believer.

Let us recap what we have learned:

1. We have liberty to eat any food that is set before us because, “the earth is the
Lord’s and all its fullness (1 Corinthians 10.26).”

2. No man has the right to condemn us for eating that for which we have given
thanks to God (1 Corinthians 10.26).

3. “What ever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10.11)” whether it be
food or service.

Let us turn now to the issue of our liberty from the Law.

We are not under the Law, but we have liberty through grace.

Sure, God had His purpose for the Mosaic dietary Laws under the Old Covenant. So,
what was this purpose? How did this purpose fit in with the rest of scripture? To this
point we have focused primarily on the Laws concerning food, but the totality of he
Mosaic Law encompassed a lot more. However, there is no need for us to delve into
every aspect of the Law to illustrate its purpose.

So, what was the purpose of the Law and how does it jell with the New Testament? Paul
gives us some insight about this question in his letter to the Colossians. Paul says, “Let no
one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival, or a new moon, or Sabbaths
(Colossians 2.16).” In other words let no one judge you concerning matters of the Law, or
rather, the Old Covenant. Why, because the Law, or Old Covenant, was merely a
“shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ (Colossians 2.17).” What is
Paul really saying? He is saying that we don’t need the shadow anymore because we now
have the substance of the shadow. We now have that which cast the shadow – Jesus
Christ. We are no longer under the shadow of the Law, but under the substance of grace
of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The author of Hebrews reminds us of this truth as well within the context of his teaching
about the temple and the sacrificial system of the Old Testament era. He states, “It was
symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which can not
make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience, concerned only
with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of
reformation (Hebrews 9.9-10).” We no longer need the symbol when we have that which
it symbolizes – the Lord Jesus Christ. We are no longer under the symbol of the Law, but
under the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to which the symbol pointed.

Clearly God has ushered in a New Covenant through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus
Christ (see Jer. 31.31; Mal. 3.1; Lk. 22.20; Heb. 12.24). We “are not under law, but under
grace (Romans 6.14).” In fact, we can take this concept one step further. Not only are we
no longer under the Law, “but now we have been delivered from the law … so that we
should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter (Romans
7.6).”

Conclusion: The Mosaic dietary laws were more about setting the Nation of Israel apart
from the rest of the nations of the world than it was about dietary health. While these
laws may have some health values, they were more about holiness than health. These
laws were specific to a special nation. We are free to eat what ever is set before us. We
have liberty in Jesus Christ. He freed us and delivered us from the shadow and symbol of
the law. However, in exercising our freedom we must remember to temper our liberty
with love (see Romans 14.14-23).”