Back in 2007, along with the headcovering thing, another snare that I fell into was that of abstaining from “unclean” meats. We’re so brainwashed in our uniquely american culture to be obsessed with food, with dieting and what constitutes “good food” VS. “bad food” and that brainwashing can sooooo easily carry over into how we view the Bible and the instructions therein.
Because, in general, people are stupid (after all the Bible compares us to sheep, which are not generally known to be the smartest of creatures…) but worse yet, we’re often stupid sheep who believe we’re smart and that we know exactly what we’re doing…and that’s a dangerous combination right there!
And so, because of all this, people seem to naturally assume that the instructions that God gave in the Bible concerning “unclean meats” was because those meats are unhealthy in some way…and that’s what I originally thought too…because that’s how we are trained to think of food in our american culture. If there is a prohibition against it then that must mean that the food is unhealthy right?? I mean, why else would anyone prohibit a food?! It never occurs to our uniquely “american” mind that God, through his commandment to abstain from unclean meats, might actually be trying to teach us a spiritual principle…I mean, what?. huh?….
The first reference that God makes concerning clean and unclean animals was not in the law that God gave Moses on the mount, but was when God instructed Noah on their separation in Genesis.
“And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.
Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.“
It had absolutely nothing to do with nutrition or what is a “healthy” animal VS. what is an “unhealthy” animal…NO…it had to do with the sacrifices and which animals were suitable for sacrifice and which ones weren’t.
“And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.”
I don’t know the mind of God, so I can’t say for certain why he deemed certain animals as suitable for sacrifice and others not, but my guess is that it has something to do with keeping his people as a separate and distinct group holy unto himself and unique amongst the Gentiles (unholy nations) living in that area at the time.
The animal sacrifices were instituted as a symbolic representation prefiguring “The Ultimate Sacrifice to End all Sacrifices” that we find in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those who believe on Him are made “clean” for all eternity and can NEVER be made “unclean” again…even if they do eat bacon 😛
The ceremonial law of meats that was given to Moses was meant as an example of the separation of Israel from the Gentile or unclean nations surrounding them. By God requiring that His people make a distinction between clean and unclean meats, he is illustrating how God’s people are to be holy and set apart from the unclean people of the world. This is also the very same separation principle that God illustrated to Noah in the figure of using the clean animals for the atonement sacrifice. And in Leviticus, following the list of meats that “His people” could and could not eat, verse 44 concludes that it was because He was LORD God, that they should therefore sanctify themselves.
“For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.
This is the law of the beasts, and of the fowl, and of every living creature that moveth in the waters, and of every creature that creepeth upon the earth:
To make a difference between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten.”
It was to consecrate His People. The clean and unclean animals were separated because God wants these people separated, sanctified or set apart from the unholy nations around them. Note that God never makes any claims regarding reasons of health. So we cannot arbitrarily make suppositions about the reasons for separation. The Bible is it’s own interpreter, and the text itself provides us the reason for these laws. They were instituted to signify that there was a difference between God’s Covenant people and the rest of the world.
“But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people.
Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean: and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean.
And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine.”
“Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto an alien: for thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.”
In other words, the meat is unclean to God’s people, but they could sell it to the Gentiles. Obviously, God being the perfectly righteous God that he is, is not telling them to sell something deadly or harmful to the Gentiles! 🙄
On the contrary, by God telling them to sell these meats to the Gentiles, he is illustrating that these meats are not necessarily physically harmful to people in general, just that he did not want his people eating them. He wanted his people distinct, separate and set apart.
This prohibition made certain that God’s People would never become friends enough with a Gentile that he would sit down to a meal with him…as the custom of the day dictated that those who were in agreement with each other would eat a meal together as a show of their friendship. But if the other people were eating a bunch of food that you weren’t allowed to eat then it’s highly unlikely that you would sit and sup with them.
And this brings us to the Apostle Peter’s dilemma as told in Acts chapter 10 where he was literally commanded to eat unclean meats by God Himself!
“On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.”
Now we know that God does not violate his own law or command men to violate it. The ceremonial laws pertaining to sacrifice had been abolished in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and with provision now having been made for the inclusion of the Gentiles these meats could now be eaten.
“And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”
By this vision, Peter was shown that now the separation from the Gentiles is over and that through the blood of Christ all has been reconciled and “made whole”…brought together…both Jew and Gentile. And with the abolishment of these “ceremonial laws” Jews could now lawfully keep company with Gentiles, they could sup together as friends and members of the same great big family (Israel) of God.
“Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.
Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”
Again, God would not command Peter to eat unclean meats in direct violation of His own law, if it indeed were a violation of His law. It obviously was not.
The ceremonial laws pertaining to the sacrifice contained in the ordinances such as those forbidding to eat unclean meats, were abolished in the body of Christ, The ULTIMATE SACRIFICE To End ALL Sacrifices, making the clean and the unclean one body in Him. And that is why Peter could now say what He did about the Gentiles. The Lord had cleansed the Gentiles and made clean that which was common or unclean.
“And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
By the Gospel now being proclaimed to the Gentiles nations, the wall between Jew and Gentile has been broken down, thus all unclean meats are made clean as long as they are received with thanksgiving.
And think about it. Would the Apostle Peter understand that the Gentiles were now clean if Christ did not declare unclean animals clean in this vision? This is the whole point God is illustrating by these meats. He is explaining the significance of the Old Testament ordinances. If certain animals remained unclean, the Gentiles, which “they signified,” would also remain unclean.
That’s how Peter understood the revelation in his understanding that these meats signified the separation principles. He discerned that God would no longer separate Jews from Gentiles, but that they would now be one people.
The ceremonial laws of separation were abolished in the shed blood of Christ.
God is no respecter of who a person is, for he has made clean what which was called common (unclean), revealing that those laws of unclean beasts were indeed a figure of separation.
All through scripture there is the emphasis upon the division between the holy and the unholy people as the reason God instituted these laws. God in making these Gentiles clean who were unclean, is making known the mystery kept secret (Romans 16:25) since the world began. That the Gentiles would be included, grafted into the New Covenant with Israel. And to place emphasis upon this, God has Peter witness to these people. And as he spoke, the Spirit came upon them and they spoke in other languages. Again, a “sign” signifying that all tongues (languages) have been brought into God’s covenant, and made clean. Call it not common that which the Lord has cleansed. We are not to make commandments that anyone abstain from unclean meats.
1st Timothy 4:1-5
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.“
So the purpose of these Old Testament ordinances and regulations regarding meats need to be understood in the “light” of the whole bible. As is often said, “the Old Testament concealed, is the New Testament revealed.” In the revelation of the New, the Old can be better understood and appreciated. God did not really destroy the law, He completed it in His death and in that sense, it is abolished.
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.“
In the New Testament dispensation the outward form or figure of the law has been fulfilled in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. By His death, the system of ordinances, which were a figure of the separation of the Jewish nation from the heathen nations, was brought to completion. Just as the animal sacrifices, temple furniture, and other sundry ordinances were completed and are no longer physically observed.
“Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;
Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;”
The coming of Christ fulfilled these ordinances which were imposed on the Old Testament saints until the time of reformation. The Greek word translated reformation is diorthosis, meaning to set straight, or, in other words…to set things right. Much like John the Baptist came to make the crooked paths straight. These animal separation ordinances were imposed on Israel until the time that Christ came to replace the figure with the true.
These were ordinances that were but a “shadow” of their true significance. In Christ the basic requirement of holy separation from the unclean world is still validated, but in the true spiritual realities, not in these natural observances. The spiritual reality of God’s people being separated from the unclean world remains, but the ceremonial ordinances prefiguring the separation of Israel from the Gentiles do not. In the New Testament reformation, believers are now coming in from the Gentiles. Thus the children of God are to be separated and not bound together with unbelievers, rather than Gentiles.
2nd Corinthians 6:14-18
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
God’s people are still not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, but the Gentile nations are no longer the representation of the unholy….and thank goodness for that! Because I’m a Gentile, and odds are you are one too! And in the reformation, the separation principle is revealed in it’s true form to be Covenanted (ie. based on relationship with God), rather than ethnic or a physical genealogy. In the revelation of the Covenant promise to Gentiles the children of God are cleansed, and the unclean made holy 😀