One of these days some simple soul will pick up the Book of God, read it, and believe it. Then the rest of us will be embarrassed. We have adopted the convenient theory that the Bible is a Book to be explained, whereas first and foremost it is a Book to be believed (and after that to be obeyed).
—Leonard Ravenhill, from his book Revival God’s Way: A Message For The Church
While I have taught extensively in the past on the biblical food laws (Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14), I want to take some time to discuss a few areas that aren’t quite as directly a part of the whole “don’t eat unclean meats” discussion. When you read the Leviticus text, two things are made very clear. First there are certain animals—pigs, camels, shellfish, birds of prey, rodents, and numerous other things—that are very clearly prohibited from the human diet. Second, in verse 44 of Leviticus 11, adherence to these food laws is directly connected with being holy as Yahweh our God is holy.
But there are several issues related to food and what The Bible has to say that aren’t covered in the chapters that deal specifically with what is clean and unclean. One of these is the general matter of how obeying the food laws, as with obeying anything in Torah, is really a matter of faith and believing God is God. I will be covering this point extensively in this message.
Another issue, of which I will discuss, is a matter of whether or not people today should be practicing in a vegetarian, vegan, or some other form of strictly plant-based diet. There are those who contend that Scripture promotes a strictly plant-based diet and eating meat was never part of God’s original plan. As such, they argue that eating meat is not truly pleasing to God and that it is merely something God permitted at some point for one reason or another. Some extremist groups will even go so far as to say it is a sin to eat meat, a point of doctrine that may even be heretical (as an example, this was the teaching of Ellen G. White, the founder of the Seventh Day Adventist Church).
These are important points that tie into the overall discussion of following biblical instructions about human diet. One could even argue that these, despite their being the less “out in the open” points of the discussion, are among the most important. After all, The Bible more than anything else is about believing that God is God and accepting His Son, Yeshua, as our Master and Messiah. So with that, I will present to you how following the food laws is a primary act of having faith in God.
It’s A Matter Of Faith
A little later in this message I will be getting into a more challenging and perhaps difficult side of the issue of following the biblical food laws. But first I want to build a foundation that will help bring some clarity when I get to those points.
Romans chapter 14 ends with the statement: “And whatever is not of faith is sin.” Some would claim that this is one of several definitions of sin in The Bible, and I used to think that as well. However, after evaluating it more closely, I have realized that this statement cannot be a definition for a sin because in a sentence where a thing is defined it is what follows the word “is” that defines what precedes the word “is”. There’s only one sentence in the whole of The Bible that actually defines sin in this way, and it is in 1 John 3:4 where sin is defined as the violating, transgressing, or breaking of Torah. As such, breaking Torah becomes a definition of the phrase “whatever is not of faith”.
The simple fact of the matter is that Torah is the only part of The Bible that can be absolutely attributed to the mouth of God Himself, spoken to a man. Any other statement in The Bible that claims to be God speaking is given in the form of prophecy and is spoke through the mouth of a man, often preceded with a qualifying statement like: “Thus says the Lord.”
Now let me ask you a simple question: Do you believe that God is God? I would warn you not to be too quick to answer that, but think about it as I continue on with what I am sharing here.
If Torah is the only thing in the entirety of The Bible that we can absolutely say is attributed to the actual mouth of God Himself, as opposed to statements attributed to Him but spoken through the mouth of a Prophet, then a rejection of anything instructed in His Torah should be seen as questioning the authority of God and ultimately questioning if God is God. If a person truly believes that God is God, then part of that belief would be the acknowledgement that God knows something you don’t know and His commandment is an expression of that knowledge. He has a reason behind every commandment in Torah, and who do we think we are if we try to formulate a reason to get around His commandments?
One of the big reasons people believe the food laws were given is because they benefit the health and wellness of the person keeping them. While I have become cautious about emphasizing this aspect of keeping the food laws because I believe it easily leads to obedience for selfish reasons—following the food laws merely for the personal benefit of good health and long life—there is also something to be said about this part of keeping them simply because you believe that God is God.
Do you believe that God created all life on the Earth? Beyond that, do you believe that God designed every life form to function a certain way within His design? Do you then believe that God is perfect and does not make mistakes?
If there is any validity at all to the plethora of claims, including those of trained medical professionals, that the food laws are directly connected with health and long life than this only serves to prove that God is God and He knew about these things when He created humans. This would mean that rejecting them is an act of saying that you don’t believe that God knew what He was doing and you know something that He apparently doesn’t know. Eating unclean things, therefore, becomes a defiant act of telling God that you are smarter than Him. Following the food laws, on the other hand, becomes a declaration that you believe God is God and you are putting your faith in His promise of divine health and long life—even to the age of 120 years (Genesis 6:3).
As a side note, I will also point out that keeping The Sabbath has also been shown to promote good health, and getting tattoos has been shown to contribute to health problems, including thyroid issues. Even honoring your parents is linked to long life. So if we are going to draw attention to health and wellness connections to matters of Torah, we have to look at all commandments that would apply and not just the food laws. Exodus 15:26 says that if we obey Father’s Torah then we will not know the diseases known in Egypt. This applies to ALL of the commandments, not just those of which we can find a scientific link between the commandment and good health. If you believe, by faith, that God wants you to walk in divine health then you must also believe by faith that this health is directly linked to your obedience to His Torah.
Ultimately that’s what keeping Torah is all about, faith that God is God and He does not make mistakes. Continuing with the theme of the food laws, but certainly applicable to every mitzvot in Torah, a rejection of the food laws is a denial of God being God. It is a claim that either He made a mistake somewhere along the way or that, contrary to Malachi 3:6, He changes. As such, not keeping the food laws or anything else in Torah is a denial of faith in God and an act of saying The Bible contradicts itself. I would be very careful about that.
James 2:14-17 talks about how it is impossible to have real biblical faith if you do not have corresponding obedience. The Apostle says that faith without works is dead. There may not be a better example of this than the food laws, but really all of Torah is involved in his statements. If you believe God is God, and you acknowledge that Torah is God’s personal instructions to humanity, then true faith does what is written in Torah. A person who claims to have faith but does not follow Torah has faith in a lie and, as a result, their faith is dead and will lead them to death.
Should Christians Go Plant-Based?
I want to turn our attention now to a part of the discussion about diet and The Bible that seems to be a sensitive topic for some. Often times people will claim that people were meant to be solely vegetarian or vegan in their diet, and they point to the pre-fall texts of Genesis 1:29-30, 2:9, 16, and 3:18 as a basis for this. There are a number of issues with this, of which I will discuss in this segment.
First I want to point out that if we continue on, verse 30 of Genesis 1 tells us that the same is said of all other living creatures on the earth. Let’s take a look at these passages and then discuss this matter further:
Then God said, “I have just given you every green plant yielding seed that is on the surface of the whole land, and every tree, which has the fruit of a tree yielding seed. They are to be food for you. Also for every wild animal, every flying creature of the sky and every creature that crawls on the land which has life, every green plant is to be food.” And it happened so.
~Genesis 1:29-30 (TLV)
Then Adonai Elohim caused to sprout from the ground every tree that was desirable to look at and good for food. … Then Adonai Elohim commanded the man saying, “From all the trees of the garden you are most welcome to eat.
~Genesis 2:9, 16 (TLV)
You will eat the plants of the field…
~Genesis 3:18b (TLV)
So, the first problem I see here is that not every living creature on the face of the earth today is still naturally and by instinct eating a solely plant-based diet. In the present state of the world there are herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores—creatures that eat only plants, creatures that eat only animals, and creatures that eat both plants and animals. So it stands to reason that even if the original state of Creation is such that only plants are food, clearly that is not the state of the world we currently live in. Let’s explore for a moment what The Bible says about the future of the world:
The wolf will dwell with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the kid,
the calf and the young lion and the yearling together,
and a little child will lead them.
The cow and the bear will graze,
their young ones lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like an ox.
A nursing child will play by a cobra’s hole,
and a weaned child will put his hand into a viper’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of Adonai,
as the waters cover the sea.
~Isaiah 11:6-9 (TLV)
This prophetic statement is considered to be at least something that will occur during the Millennial reign of Messiah, the thousand year Sabbath at the end of the age. If this is not something that will occur during that time, it seems it would certainly be something that will take place after the Earth is purified and renewed during the period that will start with what is stated in Revelation 21:1: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” What is certain is that you can go out into a wilderness setting or even your local zoo and observe animals that still eat the flesh of other animals, so we are not in the period spoken of in Isaiah 11 just yet.
Most students of Scripture assume that the initiation of animal meat being given to human beings began in the post-flood world. We will look at that text in a moment, but I believe there is an argument that can be made for meat-consumption to have already been established prior to the flood event. While there is not enough information in the biblical record to make a solid conclusion on this matter, there is enough to suggest the possibility of it. For this we will look at two clues given to us.
Now the man had relations with Eve his wife and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “I produced a man with Adonai.” Then she gave birth again, to his brother Abel. Abel became a shepherd of flocks while Cain became a worker of the ground.
~Genesis 4:1-2 (TLV)
The first clue that indicates meat-eating may have begun after the event referred to as the fall of man but prior to the flood event is that Abel, the second known son of Adam and Eve, was a shepherd. This poses a very important question: Why was someone a shepherd if nobody was yet eating animal meat?
It could be argued, I suppose, that Abel was raising sheep purely for the purpose of using the wool for making clothing. After all, clothes are clearly something that were needed after Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate that one piece of fruit that brought a curse on our universe that continues on to this day. But I think there is some additional information that causes a problem with the “wool only” ideology.
Continuing on in the story recorded in Genesis 4 we see that Cain and Abel brought offerings to God. Cain’s offering was made up of the fruit of the ground that he farmed and Abel’s offering was the firstborn of his flock of sheep. While the text does not actually say that Abel’s offering was slaughtered in sacrifice, it is generally assumed it was as every other such offering of an animal in Scripture was. Additionally, in at least most cases animals that were offered to Yahweh were eaten as part of a meal, especially during the Spring and Fall Feasts. Cain’s offering was made up of items that were clearly food, so it is entirely within reason to conclude Abel’s offering was also a food offering. So there is enough to say it is at least within the realm of possibility that even these first humans were already eating animal meats, at the direction of God, immediately following the fall. Now let’s look at our second clue:
Of every clean animal you shall take with you seven of each kind, male and female; and of the animals which themselves are not clean two, male and female; also of the flying creatures of the sky seven of every kind, male and female, to keep offspring alive on the face of the whole land.
~Genesis 7:2-3 (TLV)
So, here’s the big question: Seeing as the animal distinctions of clean and unclean are applied specifically to those animals to be used as food and those prohibited from use as food (Leviticus 11, Deuteronomy 14), how would Noah have known which animals were clean and which unclean if people were not yet eating animals and following the food laws established by God?
Again, I suppose it could be argued that this doesn’t really prove that animals were being eaten yet. Perhaps God told Noah about these distinctions because He already had it planned what would be commanded in the future. After all, it is after the flood that Noah sacrificed from each of the clean animals. But like the record with Abel, this does bring post-fall pre-flood meat consumption into the realm of possibility. Now let’s look at something I find particularly interesting:
Then Noah built an altar to Adonai and he took of every clean domestic animal and of every clean flying creature and he offered burnt offerings on the altar. When Adonai smelled the soothing aroma…
~Genesis 8:20-21a (TLV)
Let me ask yet another question: If God’s original plan and the entire design of Creation was for humanity, and all life for that matter, to have a solely plant-based diet, and meat consumption is thus simply a result of the curse of the fall of man, why would the burning of the flesh of clean animals be a soothing aroma to God?
Contrast this with Isaiah 65:4-5 where “swine’s flesh, and the broth of detestable things in their pots” is described as “smoke in the nostril’s of God, a fire that burns all day”. The cooking flesh of clean animals offered to God and consumed through faith that He is God and He knows what He created for us to eat and what He did not is a soothing aroma, while the cooking of unclean animals for food is a fire that burns in the nostrils of God and provokes His wrath.
Before I move on, let me take a brief moment to address Genesis 9:3. A lot of people like to use this verse to claim that Noah was allowed to eat all animals, including those that are considered unclean. While not really the topic at hand, if true this would seem to conflict with what I am sharing here. I have covered this in more detail in my article The Key To Divine Health, however as a quick note of what I shared previously the phrase “every creeping thing” is based on the Hebrew term “kal-remes – כָּל־רֶ֙מֶשׂ֙”, which appears to refer specifically to a division of clean ruminants that live wild and are hunted for food like deer, gazelle, antelope, fallow, and ibex. With this in mind, it shows first that Noah was likely not told he could eat things like pigs and camels and rodents in Genesis 9:3 and also, since the category of animals listed under “kal-remes – כָּל־רֶ֙מֶשׂ֙” are those hunted in the wild, it remains within the scope of possibility that domesticated clean animals like cows, sheep, and goats were already being used as food prior to the flood. Again, Abel was a shepherd. It is clear that clean domestic animals, at the very least sheep, were already being raised by people prior to the flood. This could then be a third possible clue of post-fall pre-flood meat eating.
So we see here from other portions of Scripture that the use of Genesis chapters 1 through 3 as a basis for a strictly and solely plant-based diet simply doesn’t work. Author Gary F. Zeolla makes some statements about this in his book God-given Foods Eating Plan: for Lifelong Health, Optimization of Hormones, Improved Athletic Performance that are quite appropriate to the error of using Genesis as a basis for a “Bible-based veganism”:
If the Bible only contained these three chapters, it would be an appropriate interpretation to say that the Bible teaches vegetarianism. However, there are 1189 chapters in the Bible. And it is simply a faulty hermeneutic (method of interpreting Scripture) to base a theory on just three chapters. All of what the Bible teaches on a subject should be considered, and by ignoring the rest of the chapters is where many go wrong on this.
Then, following on the context of Genesis 9:3, Zeolla says:
The text does not say God merely “allows” us to eat meat, or that He gives us permission to do so, as some comment on this verse. It says He has “given” us meat and that it “shall be food for you.” So to refuse to eat meat is to refuse one of God’s gifts to us and to think we know better than He what’s best for us to eat.
I am amazed at times with what I see from some Christians in regard to this issue. I have literally seen some people who claim The Bible is their authority, but promote strict veganism, who will go into some of these vegan cafés and restaurants themed after Eastern mystic religions and New Age beliefs and eat foods named for the gods of other religions. Not so long ago I saw a photo shared on social media by a friend who is otherwise a wonderful Believer with strong convictions in other areas. The picture was of a meal they had in one of these “Zen Café” type places of something named a Buddha Burger. It was one of those plant-based hamburger-alternative patties. I just don’t get how professing Believers think nothing of such things, it’s no different then all the “Christians” out there who drink coffee from a company that uses the pagan goddess Melusine as their corporate logo, displayed prominently on the coffee cups these “Christians” are drinking their coffee out of. This makes no sense at all, especially when there are twenty other cafés to buy your coffee from. Nor does it make sense to eat some unnatural vegan-burger, especially one named after Buddha, when God, as noted by Zeolla, gave you the gift of clean animal meats to make hamburger patties from.
Let me also make a few brief statements about what many today are calling the “Daniel Fast”. Some have written entire books to promote this fad diet. This comes from the story in Daniel 1 where, as captives to a pagan king, Daniel and three of his friends—faithful servants of The Almighty—refused to eat the king’s selection of meat. Their temporary (just ten days) all-plant-based diet allowed them to actually be in much better physical condition than others who ate the meats. Some use this to promote veganism. There are two major issues with this. First of all, the refusal to eat the meat was almost certainly because it was unclean according to Torah. They were in a pagan culture, likely what was being served was a lot of pork and other unclean things. Second, there is no indication that the reason they appeared healthier than others was because of their vegan diet. It could be, and more likely was, because of their refusal to eat unclean things. Had meats acceptable under Father’s Torah been made available, it’s possible that they would have appeared that much more in better physical condition than they did on the vegan diet.
Some people try to promote veganism, even some kind of so-called “biblical veganism”, by saying that it is unhealthy to eat animal meats. This is simply not true. Concepts of a strictly plant-based diet are unbiblical. While there is good evidence that meat from animals deemed unclean in The Bible contributes to health issues, those that are clean are being shown more and more to be essential to optimum health, so long as the animals are raised the way God designed them to be. A recent article from USA Today titled Let them eat steak: Hold the shame, red meat is not bad for you or climate change highlighted three recent studies that looked at 61 past studies consisting of over 4 million total participants and concluded: Decreasing red meat consumption had little to no effect on reducing risk of heart disease, cancer or stroke. The article also points out that these plant-based “meatless meats” coming out probably are worse for you than real meat. Something like that vegan-burger named after Buddha is actually “ultra-processed” and likely filled with unpronounceable ingredients to make it more “meat-like”. It’s not food the way God made it to be. No wonder such a thing is named for a pagan idol.
Another thing I have seen proponents of veganism do is demonize dairy products. While there may be concerns with heavily processed items like conventional pasteurized milk, it is just wrong to say things like “milk is killing everyone”. There are plenty of good organic dairy products like yogurt, cheeses, and even milk available that does not pose the risks possibly associated with some conventional dairy products. The Promised Land in The Bible is a land flowing with milk and honey. Think about that. If dairy products are so evil, then it would be pretty cruel of God to want to bring us to such a place. Do you believe God is right or modern scientific “food theories”? Who is your Creator? What are you basing your faith on if not The Bible?
If you are a follower of The Bible and The God of The Bible then part of that is eating things that God created for humans to eat according to His Torah and that are not heavily processed to altar them beyond the way God created them. Anything that goes against The Bible is unbiblical. Veganism/vegetarianism is unbiblical. Opposing dairy is unbiblical. Eating unclean meats like pork and shellfish is unbiblical. If your concept of diet is different from what is outlined in The Bible, it’s unbiblical. And if you are not following God and His Word, you are following man and the world.
The Passover Lamb
I want to turn our attention now to a unique commandment in The Bible. While the eating of animal meats is more than something “permitted/allowed” by God, as we have seen, up to this point we have looked at passages that alone would mean that eating meat could remain a completely optional personal choice. In other words, you are perfectly free to eat meat or not eat meat if you wanted. But there seems to be more to the matter, which is where I want to turn our attention to now.
Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month, each man is to take a lamb for his family one lamb for the household. … They are to take the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the crossbeam of the houses where they will eat it. They are to eat the meat that night, roasted over a fire. With matzot and bitter herbs they are to eat it.
~Exodus 12:3, 7-8 (TLV)
In this passage we find something very interesting. Here we have a commandment to eat lamb prepared with bitter herbs for the Passover. All indications are that this was not a one-time commandment, although some aspects of the initial Passover celebration appear to have been exclusive to the first Passover—such as the act of applying blood to the doorposts. What never appears to have been abandoned, at least during the periods of history covered in Scripture, is the act of eating the Pesach lamb.
Ultimately, the act of eating lamb (or goat, the only other acceptable Passover offering according to the biblical record) during Passover is a commandment. In Deuteronomy 16, one of the four places we find instructions within Torah for keeping The Feasts (the others being Exodus 23, Leviticus 23, and Numbers 28-29), we are told that the Passover offering was to be taken from a one’s personal flock/herd. This further confirms that eating the Passover offering—a lamb or goat prepared with bitter herbs and cooked by fire—was not left as being optional.
While there are other Feasts outlined in Torah and even The Sabbath, and there are indications that clean animals were prepared in sacrifice during these times, the eating of the Passover lamb/goat was not given any real flexibility. This would mean that even today, the commemoration of the Passover is intended to include the eating of the lamb prepared with bitter herbs and cooked by fire.
Now let me make a few comments here before I go on. Modern society does not afford most people the opportunity to raise a lamb or goat, slaughter it, and prepare it for Passover. While there are some who have so committed to following Torah that they have turned to a homesteading lifestyle, if someone is unable to raise a lamb at their home I see nothing at all wrong with purchasing what you need for your Passover celebration. Scripture seems to give enough liberty in this regard so long as you roast the lamb over fire with bitter herbs. After all, the record of Yeshua’s final Passover with His disciples in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22 give no indications that they raised a lamb themselves, but prepared the Passover meal perhaps in a way much closer to what I am suggesting than the way it was celebrated during the earlier years of Israel’s history.
Now, why I am I talking about all these details of the Passover celebration? Because I want you to understand that, no matter how we are able to keep the commandment in any given generation or cultural setting, we have a commandment to eat meat, specifically from a lamb or goat, at least on this one day of the year. Logic dictates that if we cannot do certain things because there is no Temple in Israel, we go back to the beginning and emulate the first Passover as closely as we can. This would be, at the very least, gathering as a family in your home and eating your own Passover lamb cooked by fire and prepared with bitter herbs, and to begin seven days of eating unleavened bread. Christians, more than any other time in biblical history, should want to do this as our Messiah, Yeshua, told us to do it in His memory and Paul told us to keep the Feast in Messiah’s honor (see my article Three Witnesses To Passover)
Now, I am talking about faith and the food laws, whether or not you believe God is God and as a result will obey His commandments. What I simply can’t figure out is how Christians can possibly think that a vegan or solely plant-based diet is acceptable when it essentially requires you to not keep the commandment of eating lamb at Passover.
It’s also interesting to me the lengths some people will go when they have come to a conclusion that they should ignore a commandment of God. I once listened to a message from an Orthodox Rabbi who was a part of a modern movement within Judaism toward a strictly vegan diet. He proceeded to come up with all sorts of opinionated interpretations of why the commandment didn’t apply today or that since there are certain aspects of the original Passover we don’t do today, like the aforementioned blood on the door, then in his mind it stood to reason that we don’t need to eat the flesh of a lamb today either.
Here’s what I want to know: If it is not at all God’s will for us to eat meat, and we are even supposed to keep Passover without eating lamb today, why did God ever require lamb to be eaten in the first place? Also, why didn’t God ever have it written into The Bible that we can have a vegan Passover? Both Yeshua and Paul tell us specifically to keep Passover, yet I see neither of them saying to do it without meat. Many times people amaze me in the way they approach the Scripture. It’s as if they want something to be a certain way, they already have a predetermined conclusion they want to reach, and so they study until they can find what they believe is a Scriptural justification to do what they decided ahead of time they want to do. After that, they ignore anything in Scripture that conflicts with their belief and their “proof-text”. This is the same way Christianity has come up with such heresies as eternal security, because there are certain Bible passages that must be ignored for that doctrine to work. I have seen this with the food laws, I have seen it with The Sabbath, I have seen it with the Feasts, I have seen it with tattoos, I have seen it with the celebration of holidays rooted in secularism and paganism like Christmas and Easter, and I have seen it in so many other points of God’s Law.
Why is it so hard for people to just obey the commandments the way they are written? Why can’t “Believers” actually live out the belief they profess? Why are people who call themselves “Christians” so determined to entertain the question of whether or not God really meant THAT—the same exact question the serpent asked in the midst of God’s Garden—than to just do what The Book says? Both the eating of biblically unclean meats and the refusal to eat biblically clean meats result from the same question we find asked in Eden: Hath God said?
The answer to these questions is just as simple as is plainly obeying The Torah itself. Most Christians today simply do not really believe God is God. If they did, they would believe that eating (biblically clean) meat is a part of the plan, as it is clearly laid out in The Bible as such. If they really believed God is God, then the eating of the Passover lamb would not even be something to be questioned: If they truly loved the God they claim to serve, then even if they only ate lamb once a year the eating of the lamb for Passover, in fulfillment of the commandment, would be something they look forward to all year long.
The whole issue here starts with Genesis 1:1, in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Believing that God is God is believing that He is The God who created the heavens and the earth. If you believe that is true, then His commandments regarding meat means that He created certain [biblically clean] animals to be used as human food. It goes back to the very first sentence in The Bible. If the flesh of animals He deemed clean for human consumption was not written into the whole “Creation Code” in Genesis 1, then even God would not have the authority to permit their consumption by parts of His Creation. The simple fact is that the giving of animal meats from animals approved by God for human consumption is a part of the design of Creation, and to deny that and go wholly plant-based is to reject the design of Creation, which ultimately is a rejection of The God of Creation. You are flat out worshiping another god, even if you call it “Yahweh”, if you do not follow the whole Bible. This is true whether you eat no meat or whether you eat all meats (including that of unclean animals like pigs and shellfish). If you are not following His Word, you are not following Him.
Veganism Equates To Weak Faith
Some people believe that they can eat all kinds of food. Other people with weak faith believe that they can eat only vegetables.
~Romans 14:2 (GW, emphasis added)
In Romans 14, as well as 1 Corinthians chapters 8 and 10, Paul is addressing a concern that had begun to arise among the first century community of Believers. Because meats were sold in markets by this point in history, a question had begun to go around about whether or not meats should be eaten at all because of the commandment not to eat things offered to idols. There were those who contended that meats should be avoided because there was no way to know if the meat being sold at the markets came from sacrifices to pagan gods.
Some have contended that these beliefs started with a heretical group, such as the Gnostics. That seems like it has some credibility, but is probably a topic for another time.
Many translations render Romans 14:2 to say that some people believe they can eat everything or anything. This is misleading and has led to the use of these passages as support for the belief that the food laws from Leviticus 11 no longer apply to Believers under Christianity or the new covenant. The reality is that the context of these passages has to do with whether or not it is acceptable for a Believer to unknowingly purchase and eat meats sold in the markets that may have been offered to idols. Because Romans and 1 Corinthians were written by Paul, a man whose profession of faith included that he believed everything written in the Torah and the Prophets (Acts 24:14), and there is no clear statement in Paul’s letters or anywhere else in the Apostolic Writings that outright says the food laws were abrogated, we must approach the statements in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 and 10 with the assumption that “food” refers to that which is biblically permissible as such. And these permissions are defined in Torah.
The actual context of Romans 14 is that those who follow ALL of Torah, which would include eating biblically clean meats (and, as a side note, not eating biblically unclean meats), are those who have matured faith and that those who practice veganism are weak in their faith. Now, one could argue that the veganism in question here was born out of a fear of eating meat offered to idols, but I would contend that the statement, which is quite clear, that “people with weak faith believe they can only eat vegetables” may go beyond the direct context of Romans 14.
Clearly, as I have been showing in this message, veganism does not appear to be a part of God’s will. If it is, it was a part of His will prior to the fall in Genesis 3 and will only again be a part of His will when the events of Revelation 21 and 22 come into being. Apart from that, eating meat is a part of following The Bible and the smell of clean animal meats being prepared and cooked in honor of our Creator is described numerous times as something He receives as a sweet smelling savor (while the smell of unclean meats being cooked as food is harshly described as a smoke in His nostrils and a fire that burns all day). So it seems God considers being a vegan—at least in this present world—to be a sign of weak faith.
I find it very ironic that in Paul’s day people were shunning meats because they were afraid to eat things offered to idols, and today there are people like my aforementioned friend who will eat a vegan meal named for an idol—and sold by a restaurant named after demonic Eastern mysticism. It’s interesting to me how veganism in the first century was embraced by those who feared even unknowingly eating things offered to idols, while veganism in modern Christianity seems to have no regard for things offered to idols. Despite the error Paul was addressing, it’s still smarter to err on the side of caution then to have no regard at all for the commandments of God—of which knowingly eating things offered to idols is still prohibited.
Don’t Be So Rigid!
Recently I had a discussion with a longtime friend about biblical topics. We were together for several hours and a lot of wonderful things were said. But there were two statements that my friend made, points that together I find to be a good example of what I believe to be one of the biggest problems in modern Christian practice. Let me also note before I go on that I am not putting this in here to be judgmental against anyone, my friend included. We were talking, some things he said caused me to think and I believe through that Holy Spirit showed me something. His statements triggered something in me, that’s it.
As I was sharing some points about various aspects of Torah, of which he generally agrees, he made a statement about how he is not so rigid with certain things. Now, in many circumstances I would be perfectly fine with that. It is my contention that it is more important that you obey Torah than how you obey Torah in many cases.
When it comes to something like the food laws, however, they are pretty cut and dry. There is really no way to be flexible on a commandment like: Don’t eat pork. Either you obey God and don’t eat pork or you rebel against God and do eat pork. There’s no room for compromise or other interpretations.
On the other hand, when it comes to keeping the Feasts, there is perhaps more flexibility with how a Believer fulfills the commandment. While there are a handful of things we find in Scripture related to how the Feasts are kept—like the eating of lamb with bitter herbs at the opening night of Passover, and the ridding your home of leaven and eating only unleavened bread during the seven days following the Passover meal—there is no formal instructions beyond that about how you keep the Feast. There is, after all, no shortage of Passover service guides.
Now, I mentioned that my friend made two comments that I found concerning. In addition to feeling I was being too rigid with some things—of which I can fully back up by Scripture, mind you—he shared about how he and his family “does Sabbath” on Friday evenings. He had asked me about my keeping of The Sabbath, to which I told him I don’t do a lot of the man-made traditions but I certainly keep The Sabbath.
His eyes lit up, as it seemed he felt an opportunity to share his experience, which I fully appreciate. He went into detail about telling me how his family does the candles, shares the challah bread, reads and discusses Scripture together, and numerous other traditions that are good, just not found in The Bible. It seemed he was really into it, which I think is a wonderful thing. I am absolutely not opposed to any of these things and I think they are all beautiful and wonderful traditions. But at the end of the day, they are just that, man-made traditions found nowhere in The Bible.
Keeping The Sabbath is much more simple than most people seem to make it. The commandment of keeping The Sabbath is: You shall do no ordinary work. I have written numerous articles that will give you a much deeper understanding of what The Sabbath really is, and what it is not. But to break it down in simple terms, keeping The Sabbath is a matter of not working on The Sabbath. Some of the best expressions of keeping The Sabbath I have read about among Believers involve not religious rituals, man-made traditions, or congregational gatherings, but making it a time to spend the day with your family in some form of relaxing recreation. Even Heschel, in his famous book The Sabbath, speaks of family walks in the park and other leisurely family-oriented activities on Shabbat.
Mark 7, another chapter often misunderstood and wrongly used by modern “Christians” to justify eating unclean things (which I cover in detail in my article Did “Jesus” Say Pigs Are Clean? A Study Of Mark 7), provides three very strong statements about those who seem to put more emphasis on man-made traditions than the actual commandments of God. Yeshua was addressing those who leave behind the commandments of God and hold onto the traditions of men, set aside the commandment of God to validate their own traditions, and make void the Word of God through their traditions.
One thing I have noticed through the growing interest in Torah among Christians is that the majority seem to be attracted to the more exciting parts of Torah-keeping, like the Feasts, but often are more hesitant to jump on board with something like the food laws. Some even embrace traditions not in The Bible much more easily than they do actual commandments. Many are more willing to hang a mezuzah on their door or wear a tallit to Church than they are to stop eating unclean meats. This is a great concern!
I suppose my return question to those who might think that “keeping the letter of the Torah” is going too far or being too rigid would be: How serious is your love for God? Scripture is clear, Yeshua said, “If you love Me, you will keep the commandments [Torah]” (John 14:15). Sadly, for decades some “Churches” have only applied this statement to giving tithes and offerings.
1 John 2:6 tells us that we are to walk as Yeshua walked, at least if we claim we are a member of His Body. Part of that is following the biblical food laws—what not to eat and what to eat. It is not difficult at all to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that Yeshua followed the food laws from Torah. He didn’t eat anything unclean, but He did eat meats permitted under Torah like fish [that would have had both fins and scales] and since He partook in the Passover He most certainly ate lamb. Some might be inclined to say that there is no record of Him teaching people to follow these food laws in The Gospel records. Perhaps that’s because He was living in first-century Israel where everyone was following them as a cultural norm. But we are told to walk as He walked, follow His example, and that includes eating as He ate—in accordance with all of the instructions regarding food found in Torah.
I just want to lead people to obey God. If the simplicity of just obeying The Bible at face value is too complicated of a concept for some people, I can’t really help that. I realize that many want to feel like there is more to it than just doing what The Bible says, and I can’t really help those who want things to be harder than they actually are.
Will God Really…?
Something I am often asked are questions like: “Do you really think God will send people to hell for eating things like pork, shellfish, or other meats that are prohibited as unclean according to Leviticus 11?” Now, technically no human person is qualified to answer that question because God alone reserves the right to decide who is cast into hell and why or for what they are sent there. But there are some undeniable passages from Scripture and some other points that often need to be discussed in dealing with this matter, which will provide us with guidance not just for the specific issue of the food laws but for other commandments that are contended by many as well.
First we need to look at some passages from Scripture. There are generally three Biblical texts I point people to when questions about whether or not God would send anyone to hell over the food laws is brought up. I want to emphasize that I am not driving a point of dogmatic doctrine here, but simply sharing what The Bible says and asking that you at least seriously consider that these passages can and do provide a sound theological basis for a conclusion that it is at least within the realm of Bible possibility that God will, indeed, send people to hell over something as incomprehensible to the modern Christian as eating unclean meats.
You are not to eat any detestable thing.
~Deuteronomy 14:3 (TLV, emphasis added)
“Those who consecrate and purify themselves in order to enter the gardens, then follow the one who was already there, eating pig meat, reptiles and mice, will all be destroyed together,” says Adonai.
~Isaiah 66:17 (TLV, emphasis added)
But for the cowardly and faithless and detestable and murderers and sexually immoral and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars—their lot is in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
~Revelation 21:8 (TLV, emphasis added)
Throughout Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 the word detestable (or abomination in some translations) is used to describe the action of eating whatever is deemed “unclean” on the list. So eating pork, shellfish, rodents, spiders, camels, horses, sharks, eels, etc. is detestable or an abomination according to the text. In Revelation 21:8, the word detestable (or abominable in some translations, those that use abomination in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14) is used to describe a category of people who have a place in the lake of fire. In the Torah passages regarding to food laws, referring to the Septuagint (the first official Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible), the Greek word used as detestable or abomination is βδέλυγμα. In Revelation 21:8 the Greek word is ἐβδελυγμένοις. These are two variations of the exact same word. In Torah it is used to describe the act of eating unclean things, in Revelation it refers to the people who did the act.
You cannot get around this. No matter how hard you or religion tries, the fact of the matter is that a category of people who will have a place in the lake of fire directly coincides with those who eat meats that are deemed “unclean” in Torah. Upon reading Revelation 21:8, wisdom would dictate that anything called detestable or an abomination anywhere in The Bible can apply here and should be treated as such.
Some people don’t like this, they find it hard to believe that God would do this, and they can’t comprehend that their dead grandmother who read her Bible and prayed every day would be in hell because she also ate pork bacon every morning for breakfast. But, again, I am just telling you what The Bible says. Scripture says to let the dead bury the dead. In other words, it’s not your concern what God decided about someone who has already passed from this world. Your concern is to live right yourself and to proclaim righteousness to the world. Even what those in your hearing do with the truth delivered to them is not your concern.
Now, this message is titled Faith And The Food Laws because I want to bring an understanding that this is not about whether or not you will go to hell for eating pork. The simple fact is nobody actually goes to hell for eating pork any more than they go to hell for murdering another person, committing adultery, stealing from a retail store, or living a homosexual lifestyle. People go to hell for one reason, and one reason alone: They did not put their faith in God and they rejected His Son, Yeshua.
What those who have a hard time comprehending that God could and perhaps would send anyone to hell over any of these things, including eating unclean meats or anything else modern Christians deem could not possibly be hell-worthy (such as breaking The Sabbath or getting tattoos on your body), is that it is not these acts that cause you to be sent to hell, but the fact that these acts are merely the expressed manifestation of not putting your faith in God and rejecting His Son, Yeshua.
You see, the fearful is another category of people in Revelation 21:8. That means that if you are obeying things in The Bible, be it the food laws or anything else, because you don’t want to go to hell, then there is a Scriptural argument for THAT TOO to result in eternity in hell, because you are obeying out of fear and not faith. I’ve heard preachers say that they got saved because they didn’t want to go to hell. If the fear of hell is the reason you made a commitment to Messiah, you should really evaluate your beliefs—you might not be as saved as you think.
People often want to know if something is really a sin or if it will really send them to hell when the question they need to be asking is: Is it holy? If professing Believers would ask if it is holy to eat pork or to work on The Sabbath or to get tattoos on your body, the answer would clearly be: NO! Even if a conclusion can be drawn that such things are permissible “under grace” or “under the new covenant” or whatever, you still cannot call them holy. For something to be holy it must be set apart and sanctified as such in the Word of God. The fact of the matter is that all these things I have mentioned and many others (there are said to be 613 mitzvot in Father’s Torah) are strictly prohibited in the Torah and never once are any of these prohibitions clearly overturned, let alone set apart and sanctified as holy.
An act of not obeying The Torah is ultimately an act of not putting your faith in God. It is God who personally gave His Torah to Moses to be recorded for His people. The commandments of Torah are the only thing in the entirety of The Bible that can be attributed to having come directly from the actual mouth of God. Many Prophets are recorded as saying, “Thus says the Lord…,” but it was through the mouth of the Prophet that these “words from God” were then spoken. Only the mitzvot of Torah are said to be spoken by God to a man instead of by God through a man. So not obeying Torah is ultimately a statement that you do not believe God is God, and believing that God is God is essentially a prerequisite for salvation. If a person really believes that God is God, they would not dare to be so arrogant and brazen as to question a commandment that He gave. Just something to think about.
Another qualifier for salvation is the acceptance of Yeshua as Messiah. The thing about that, though, is that Torah tells us that we are to listen to “the prophet like Moses” (Deuteronomy 18:15-19), which is Yeshua, and then Yeshua questions how you can believe His words without believing the writings of Moses, which is the Torah (John 5:46-47). This tells us very plainly that a rejection of Torah, even a part of Torah (like the food laws), is ultimately a rejection of Yeshua. And a rejection of Yeshua IS a salvation issue.
So to those who would dare to be bold enough to ask if God would really send people to hell for eating unclean things or anything else they can’t comprehend being “bad enough” to be cast into hell over, my question is simple: Do you believe God will cast people into hell for not having faith in Him and for rejecting His Son, Yeshua? Because according to The Bible, when you eat unclean things or you work on The Sabbath or you get a tattoo on your body or you do anything else religion tries to tell you isn’t hell-worthy, the simple reality is that you are showing you do not believe God is God and you are rejecting Yeshua.
I opened this message with a quote. It was penned by the great revivalist of a past generation Leonard Ravenhill. He prophesied, essentially, that there would be a day when people actually read The Bible, believe The Bible, and obey The Bible. Whether we are talking about the food laws or anything else a majority of Christianity, both today and historically, has rejected there are those today who are [finally] doing just that. Perhaps God has had mercy on those who have died loving Him through the blinders of the religion of their day. But will He be able to show the same mercy to those who have been shown truths like those I have shared here and so often share in other messages? I don’t know that it would be a wise decision to test God in finding this out.
I know there are those today who would say that faith is found in 1 Timothy 4:4-5, just pray over it and eat it and God will bless your faith. Or they may turn to Mark 16:18 and say that faith overrides ancient concerns about the risks of eating unclean things. To this I would again suggest treading with caution. In Luke 4:12 we find Yeshua quoting the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:16) where we are told not to test Yahweh our God. While I can show that this view of 1 Timothy 4 is in error—as I do in my article Created With A Purpose—and a proper interpretation of Mark 16:18 pertains to things ingested without your knowledge, we are not to test God’s response to faith through acts of disobedience. Do you really think God will honor faith used to violate Torah? The Prophet Samuel answers this for us: To obey is better than sacrifice, and rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft (1 Samuel 15:22-23).
Some people don’t like it when I teach like this. They want me to focus on how keeping the food laws promotes life and not keeping them could cause you to die prematurely. They want everything positive and uplifting. But I came to the realization a long time ago that I am at war with the forces of darkness and souls are hanging in the balance. If there is even a fraction of a chance that transgressing the food laws or anything else religion calls trivial will cause people to spend eternity burning in the fires of hell, and Revelation 21:8 at the very least gives us that fraction of a chance, I will not be silenced by the naysayers who are uncomfortable with classic revival preaching. Even if nobody else will be so bold, I will be combative against demonic spirits with my theology.
It’s not a matter of: “Will people go to hell for eating pork?”
It’s not a matter of: “Will people be tormented for all eternity in a lake of fire for getting a tattoo or breaking The Sabbath?”
It is a matter of: “Will people go to hell for defying Yahweh, the Creator of the universe.”
It is a matter of: “Will people be cast into a lake of fire for rejecting Yeshua by not listening to the prophet like Moses who told us to obey His Father’s Torah.”
It’s a matter of faith.
Do you believe in the God who gave instructions to humanity? And do you believe that those instructions really are HIS instructions? Those are the real questions, and for them there is only one logical conclusion. If God did not send people to hell for rejecting Him through rejecting His Laws, then God is not just and He is not the God described in The Bible.
So, for the sake of those who are feeling that knot in their stomach right about now, I’ll end on a positive note for you. Fall in love with your God. Fall so deeply and madly in love with Him that there is never again a question about His Laws. Fall so in love with Him that breaking any of His Torah is incomprehensible. Fall so crazy in love with your Creator and His Word that all you ever want to do again is find out what He instructed you to do in His Torah and do it. If you will do that, everything else will fall into place.
~Blessings and Shalom~
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