Posts Tagged ‘Romans 14’

Romans 14 – Disputable Matters

“Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters” (Romans 14:1).

According to Hebrews 11:6, the definition of faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see … and it is impossible to please God without faith.” ‘Faith’ in Hebrew is emunah and is more than just ‘believing’ something. This word infers a persistence and steadfastness to those things that transcend reason.

In Greek, the word for ‘weak’ in Romans 14:1 is astheneo and means ‘weak and sick’ in a moral sense or ‘without strength.’  So one who is weak in faith is without moral strength to make a persistent decision regarding disputable matters. In other words, their human ability to please God is weak.  They are not sure how to respond to others in questionable matters especially when there are arguments.  They are weak in faith.

Non-Disputable Matters

The word ‘indisputable’ means “unable to be challenged or denied.” According to Sha’ul, it is futile to argue about the Torah or ‘the law,’ because they are Elohim’s commandments (Titus 3:9).  They are indisputable.  They cannot be challenged or denied. They are His standard of righteousness that will not disappear until heaven and earth pass away (Matthew 5:17).  However, many today would argue the ‘end of the law’ with Yeshua’s death so let’s be a little more specific.

What about the Ten Commandments? Which of the ten are disputable? Can we worship other gods? Have idols? Should we take Elohim’s name in vain, profaning it among the nations? What about the Sabbath?  Though it has become a ‘disputed’ matter, it remains the seventh-day as created by Elohim and can not be denied.   Should we no longer honor our parents?  Can we murder, lie, commit adultery, steal, and covet?  None of these commands are disputable because they were established by Elohim as His Torah – the specifics to these commands are explained in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.   

Eating or Digesting

“One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.  The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them” (Romans 14:2-3). 

In the Orthodox Jewish Bible this verse says, “For example, one person has emunah [faith] to eat every potential food; but the weak practice vegetarianism.”

Since it has been established that Torah is indisputable, we should already know and understand what Elohim considers potential food as explained in Leviticus 11.  Thus, Romans 14 is not  a discussion to nullify the dietary laws; it is about whether one eats ‘clean’ meats or chooses vegetables.

During the first-century, street markets sold different kinds of foods. There were markets for fruits, vegetables and meats. In the meat market, there could be, especially in Rome, ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ meats. However, as new non-Jews were coming to faith in Messiah, they were joining the community of Isra’el. The question was not whether a meat was ‘clean,’ but whether or not it had been sacrificed to an idol.

Sha’ul explains food sacrificed to idols in more detail in 1 Corinthians 8.  We all know that food may be sacrificed to idols.  Yet, an idol has no real existence in the world as there is only one Elohim – most especially for us – our Father, from whom all things come and for whom we exist.  We all have one Lord, who is Messiah Yeshua, through whom we have our being.  But, according to Sha’ul, not everyone has this knowledge.  He says that some non-Jewish believers are so accustomed to a life of idolatry that when they eat food which has been offered to an idol, they believe the food really is affected by the idol, and their conscience, being weak, becomes defiled.

Eating or not eating foods doesn’t change our relationship with God – we will not be poorer if we abstain from food nor richer if we eat.  However, we must be careful of what we understand so that we don’t become puffed up or become a stumbling block to one of weaker faith.  Sha’ul sums up his discussion about food sacrificed to idols by saying that he would never eat [clean] meat again if it causes his brother to sin.  This is the essence of Romans 14 to protect the weaker brother or sister from not having a clear conscience.  

“Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand” (Romans 14:4). 

In some modern-day Chinese restaurants, plates of food are offered to Buddha before it is taken to the guest to eat.   I worked in a Chinese restaurant and witnessed this with the owners even though I never personally offered a plate of food to Buddha.   Sha’ul is saying that a person of ‘weak’ faith will not have a strong enough faith to eat the plate of food because it may have been offered to an idol or foreign god.  To keep their conscience clear, they choose to eat only vegetables.  A person of strong faith understands that holding a plate of potential food and offering it to Buddha means nothing.  

“For none of us lives only in relation to himself, and none of us dies only in relation to himself; for if we live, we live in relation to the Lord; and if we die, we die in relation to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord — indeed, it was for this very reason that the Messiah died and came back to life, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” (Romans 14:7-9). 

Praying over ‘unclean’ meats like pork, horse, shellfish, dog or rat doesn’t suddenly make the meat acceptable to God any more than praying over a same-sex couple changes their abominable lifestyle into something acceptable to Elohim.  We do not have the authority to transform something that Elohim calls an abomination into something holy.   Yeshua did not die on the cross to redeem the pig, the horse, the dog, the clam or homosexual or adulterous relationships.   However, a ‘clean’ meat that has been corrupted through idolatry can be consecrated back to Elohim through prayer.  

Each of us has a personal walk of faith before the God of Israel.  We will, on a daily basis, face disputable issues.  We must determine for ourselves what Elohim would want us to do and what He wouldn’t in that individual case.   According to Sha’ul, we do not live or die for ourselves alone because we are part of the Body of Messiah.   Yet, every choice we make affects those in the Body. If we have strong faith, we must not destroy the work of the Lord in a person of weak faith over a matter that is not grounded in Torah. 

Sacred Days

“One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God” (Romans 14:5-6). 

 What does ‘sacred day’ mean in this Biblical context? Let’s look at a cultural holiday that affects the world like New Year’s Eve on December 31 into the new year of January 1.  For some people New Year’s Eve is ‘sacred’  holiday.  They plan great parties, eat outrageous foods and wear crazy clothing.  This is the way they ‘bring in’  the new year.  For those who own a business, it is the end of one fiscal year and the beginning of another – it is somewhat sacred for their financial year.  For others, New Year’s Even only represents  a new date on the calendar they need to remember when writing checks, but has no other significant value to them.  New Year’s Eve/Day is a disputable matter and each person will acknowledge it according to their conscience.

A more personal example is birthday celebrations and wedding anniversaries.  Some cultures celebrate these days with pomp and splendor while other cultures take no notice.  These celebrations are a disputable matter on which no one is to argue.  Each of us has to be convinced in our own mind that these benign holidays, in the way we celebrate, honors Elohim.

These verses are not about the Biblical holy days found in Leviticus 23.  These verses are not about the seventh-day Sabbath. Sha’ul is in no way advocating picking any day of the week and claiming it as Elohim’s created holy day.  Of course, we can all take a day off  and ‘shabbat’ whenever we choose, but no one has ever been given the authority to negate the ‘appointed times’ that are holy to yod-hey-vav-hey which embody the past, present and future work of Yeshua.   We can and should worship Elohim everyday of the week every moment of the day, but to use Romans 14 to negate Elohim’s divine appointments with us distorts Sha’ul’s words and brings on individual as well as corporate destruction of the Body of Messiah. 

“He [Sha’ul] writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters.  is letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16).

In an effort to ‘prove’ Romans 14 is about ‘unclean’ foods suddenly becoming ‘clean,’ many pass judgment on the Word of God.   They already have contempt in their hearts regarding His Torah and those people who choose wholeheartedly to obey His commandments.  Some will even judge a person’s standing with Yeshua –  a serious accusation of someone’s heart before the LORD. 

“You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’” So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God” (Romans 14:10-11). 

Whether or not we are in Messiah, saved, born again, we will give an account of our lives.  If someone wants to stand before the Creator of the Universe, the Lawgiver,  the yod-hey-vav-hey and say, “I ate unclean foods because of my freedom in Christ,”  then let it be so.  Let Elohim be the judge of that person. However,  I would rather stand before Yeshua and hear him say I was too zealous for the teachings of his Father than to hear, “Depart from me, I never knew you, you worker of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).

“Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Yeshua, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil” (Romans 14:13-16). 

A little more in-depth study showed the Greek word for ‘food ‘ is not even in Romans 14:14. The Strong’s Concordance said the word was “not in Greek” meaning the word ‘food’ was not found in the original Greek manuscript though it was added to some of our English Bibles.  This is significant for two reasons. First, Sha’ul was not speaking to the Romans about the removal of dietary regulations or the ‘appointed times’ of Elohim and our freedom to do whatever we want. He was teaching about what individuals consider acceptable or unacceptable in their personal lifestyles – disputable matters and how as a Body the strong in faith need to accept the weak.

Second, by adding the word ‘food’ or even the idea of ‘food’ in Romans 14 shows the tainted views of Scripture by those who are writing it. Rather than give the pure Word translated from the Greek, they input their own theological beliefs creating more dissension and confusion than Sha’ul intended.

The disputable matters could fall into the category of elementary teachings where one is able to only digest the milk of the word versus the one who has strong faith and can digest the meat of the word.  Each person must live out the faith that they have already attained.  When it comes Romans 14 and disputable matters, the discourse is about protecting the conscience of the person of weak faith through the compassion of the person of strong faith so that everyone is united in the love of Messiah. 

“So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.  But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:22-23). 

©2014 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.

The Flesh of Swine

“I made myself accessible to those who didn’t ask for me, I let myself be found by … a nation not called by my name. I spread out my hands all day long to a rebellious people … who follow their own inclinations; a people who provoke me to my face all the time … they eat pig meat and their pots hold soup made from disgusting things” (Isaiah 65:1-4).

It’s not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, it’s what comes out.  Jesus made all foods clean in Mark 7.  Read Acts chapter 10 if you don’t believe me.  Peter ate with gentiles so he had to have eaten pork.  What about the Council of Jerusalem?  There were only four requirements for gentiles.   The broken record continues to skip, skip, skip.

Rightly Dividing Mark 7

“The Pharisees and some of the teachers of law Torah who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Yeshua and saw some of his disciples eating food with ‘unclean‘ – that is, ceremonially unwashed- hands” (verse 1).

When reading verse 1, notice two things.  First, the disciples were eating food.  The word ‘food’ in this verse is the Greek artos and means ‘bread.’  The disciples were not eating just any food, they were eating bread.  Second, they had not washed their hands.

“The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders” (verse 2).

Verse 2 specifically states that hand washing was a prerequisite to eating food, in this case bread.  Hand washing had become a tradition that even involved a certain way to wash the hands.

“When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash.  And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles” (verse 3).

Verse 3 explains the tradition was not just about hand washing, but about everything in Jewish tradition. The rituals of the elders made cooking and eating a burden because of all the rules, including the ritual of hand washing.

“So the Pharisees and teachers of the Torah asked Yeshua, ‘Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean‘ hands?” (verse 4).

The question asked in Verse 4 by the Pharisees is not about what the disciples were eating, but why they were not following the tradition of the elders in regards to hand washing. According to these leaders, the disciples were eating with unwashed or ‘unclean’ hands.

“Yeshua replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written” ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.  You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men….’  And he said to them, ‘You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions” (verses 6-8).

At this point, there is no further mention of food, bread, artos – clean or unclean.  The issue being disputed in Mark 7 is the traditions of the elders or manmade Jewish laws that nullify the commandments of God, specifically in reference to hand washing.   

Yeshua continues to give other examples where the Pharisees and teachers of Torah “nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down” (verse 13).

“Again Yeshua called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen to me, everyone, and understand this.  Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him.  Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean’” (verse 14).

In Verse 14, Yeshua never mentions food, bread.    He says that nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ referring to something greater outside of the Jewish tradition of hand washing.

“After he had left the crowd and entered the house, the disciples asked him about this parable.  ‘Are you so dull?’ he asked.  ‘Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’?  For it doesn’t go into his heart, but into his stomach, and then out of his body (into the latrine)” (verses 17-19).

Yeshua does not ever mention food when he explains the parable to his disciples.   He says that ‘no thing’ that enters a man from outside can make him ‘unclean.’  Consider at this point the issue being discussed: ceremonial hand washing.  Yeshua’s disciples had come from the marketplace or a grain field or even the Sea of Galilee.  Their hands were dirty and they were eating bread (artos).  This offended those leaders who held to the tradition of the elders in regards to ritual hand washing.  According to the tradition, no one is supposed to eat food, in this case bread, with dirty hands.  Yeshua tells his disciples that dirty hands don’t make a man dirty or unclean in his heart.   The dirt that may enter his mouth on the food (bread)  or his hands will go through his body and out into the toilet.

Verse 19 causes all the confusion. “In saying this, Yeshua declared all foods clean.”  In some Bible versions, there is a footnote clarifying that this parenthetical statement was added later by translators meaning  that some translator was injecting an opinion rather than taking the Scriptural events at face value.

However, on some level, what the translator wrote is true.  Everything created by God for food is clean.  However, the specific food spoken about in this passage,  artos or bread, has always been, and always will be clean.  Some versions of Mark 7 have translated artos as ‘meat’ taking this discourse into a very different direction than what was asked, Yeshua explained and his disciples understood.

What God Considers Food

Leviticus 11:1-23 outlines what God considers food and what He does not.  These verses are often referred to as ‘clean and unclean’ laws or the dietary regulations. They are not for the Jews alone because they are God’s dietary laws; not Jewish tradition.  Non-Jews who put their faith in Yeshua and are adopted into the commonwealth of Israel are not excluded from obeying these rules as part of God’s Kingdom.

“The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat: You may eat any animal that has a divided hoof and that chews the cud.  “‘There are some that only chew the cud or only have a divided hoof, but you must not eat them. The camel, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is ceremonially unclean for you.  The hyrax, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is unclean for you. The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is unclean for you. And the pig, though it has a divided hoof, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.

“‘Of all the creatures living in the water of the seas and the streams you may eat any that have fins and scales.  But all creatures in the seas or streams that do not have fins and scales—whether among all the swarming things or among all the other living creatures in the water—you are to regard as unclean.  And since you are to regard them as unclean, you must not eat their meat; you must regard their carcasses as unclean.  Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be regarded as unclean by you.

“‘These are the birds you are to regard as unclean and not eat because they are unclean: the eagle,  the vulture, the black vulture, the red kite, any kind of black kite,  any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl,  the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat.

“‘All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be regarded as unclean by you. There are, however, some flying insects that walk on all fours that you may eat: those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground. Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. But all other flying insects that have four legs you are to regard as unclean.’”

It is interesting to note that there are more animals mentioned in Leviticus as ‘unclean’ than just the pig.  There is the rabbit, the camel and the hyrax.  There are creatures in the ocean without both fins and scales that are not considered food.  Birds such as vultures, ravens, hawks and owls are not considered food.  Insects that walk on all fours are also not considered food.  Verse 11 clearly states that ‘unclean’ means ‘not food’: “And since you are to regard them as unclean, you must not eat their meat.”

Noah Ate Everything, Right?

Noah lived before God gave dietary instructions to the Israelites.  Before the flood and during his lifetime,  people ate only what they produced from the earth.   According to the book of Enoch where more details are given to the ‘days of Noah,’ the Nephilim ate everything:  every animal, bird, and creature.  They even drank the blood of men.  They devoured the earth and defiled humanity.  God not only saw the lawlessness of the Nephilim, but also every evil inclination in the heart of mankind.  He decided to wipe the human race from the earth and with them, the animals, the birds and creatures that move along the ground (Genesis 6:5-7).

Within this context, Noah was commanded to build an ark.  He was also told to take with him into the ark “seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth” (Genesis 7:2-3).

“Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah” (Genesis 7:8).

Two times it is mentioned that Noah took ‘clean and unclean animals’ with him on the ark.  Because Noah had never eaten the meat of animals, he  probably did not know the difference between ‘clean and unclean’ so God brought the animals to him. From what he was shown in pairs of two or seven pairs of two, he learned and understood the difference immediately.

After the floodwaters subsided and the Ark rested on Ararat, Noah and the animals left the Ark.   At this time, Noah worshipped the LORD by offering a sacrifice.  He took some of the clean animals and birds, but none of the unclean. 

“Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.  The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done” (Genesis 8:19-21).

“Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands.  Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you.  Just as I gave you green plants, I now give you everything” (Genesis 9:3).

It would seem that after the flood, Noah could eat the mean of every animal that came with him on the Ark because ‘everything that lives and moves about will be food for you.’ However, if he ate one of the pigs or rabbits or hawks, they would have immediately become extinct since there were only one male and one female of every ‘unclean animal.’

Consider also that though Noah had eaten ‘all green plants,’  he probably didn’t eat poisonous mushrooms or poison ivy or the green leaves of rhubarb.   Just as some plants were not edible or created as food, some animals had purposes other than food.  The camel is a beast of burden as is a horse.  A hawk cleans up dead animals on the earth while shrimp and crabs clean up the dead, decaying creatures on the sea bottom.  God saying that just as Noah had green plants to eat so he has all animals is not all inclusive given the information God has revealed to him regarding the number of animals brought onto the Ark and the command to multiply on the earth.

Part of the sacrificial or offering system that was eventually established by God with Israel had to do with feeding the Levitical priesthood.  They had been given no land of their own, no livestock, no farms.  They were fed from the sacrificed animals, all of which were ‘clean’ animals or those that God created for food.   It  is the same for Noah.  He did not sacrifice and eat unclean animals; he sacrificed and ate the clean ones which had been shown to him as he entered the Ark.  He knew what God meat considered food and what He did not.

Making all foods clean was not the purpose of Noah’s deliverance from the polluted world of the Nephilim nor was it the message of  the Prophets(Moses), the Gospel preached by Yeshua or the Apostles. It was not the purpose of Peter’s vision nor the conclusion of the Council of Jerusalem.

What ABOUT Peter’s vision?

“About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray.  He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners.  It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.

While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”

Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?” (Acts 10:9-21).

This Biblical account in Acts is about a vision, a trance, not an actual event.  Just as Joseph’s dreams didn’t literally come true, but had spiritual meaning, so does Peter’s vision.

Peter went to the roof to pray.  He was hungry and had a vision of a sheet filled with all kinds of unclean animals.  (In the KJV, this sheet was bound at the four corners suggesting that it was a talit or prayer shawl which adds another dimension to the spiritual meaning of the vision.)

When God tells Peter to ‘get up, kill and eat’, Peter’s first response is, “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

Peter’s first response is refusing to eat  animals that are not considered food. This seems like a strange response from one of Yeshua’s disciples.  Peter would have been with Yeshua when he ‘made all foods clean‘ in Mark 7 if, in fact, that is what Yeshua actually did.  Of course, after dissecting Mark 7, it is pretty clear that Yeshua was not talking about ‘clean and unclean’ foods, but the tradition of ritual hand washing.   If Yeshua had, during his lifetime, made all foods (meats, included) clean,  Peter, of all his disciples, would have known and should have had a different reaction to the voice of God.   If Yeshua had, after his resurrection, made all foods clean, Peter, of all the Apostles, surely would have known and should have had a different first response.

God speaks to Peter a second time because Peter is not understanding the vision.   Even after the second time, he doesn’t understand and God speaks to him a third time.  It is interesting that many well-meaning, but untaught Christians immediately conclude that this vision was about eating everything as food; however Peter, who experienced the vision, was still wondering about its meaning even after being told THREE TIMES!  While Peter is still thinking about the vision, some men come to visit him.

A tradition at this time was that a Jewish person would not step foot in a gentile’s home. This was an  understood tradition and one that Yeshua himself honored. He never went into a gentile’s home. NEVER. The Centurion in Matthew 8 understood this tradition and told Yeshua he did not need to come to his home.  He knew Yeshua was a man of authority and that whatever Yeshua asked would be done.  Yeshua commended him for having greater faith than those in Israel.  There was also the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15 who had a demon-possessed daughter.   She asked Yeshua for help and was told it was not right to take food from [the Jewish] children and give it to the dogs [gentiles].  Her response was that even the dogs eat the crumbs from under their owner’s table.  She, too, was commended for her great faith.

It isn’t until the following day at the house of a gentile man, a Roman centurion named Cornelius, that Peter begins to understand the vision.  Cornelius wasn’t just any gentile.  He was God-fearing and righteous. He was respected by all the Jewish people with whom he came in contact.   In the presence of Cornelius, Peter is finally able to  interpret the vision. He begins to understand the message of Yeshua, the message of salvation, is to go to the nations that were represented by the four-footed unclean animals in the sheet.

“Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (Acts 10:34).

Notice what Peter states: God accepts people from every nation who not only FEAR Him, but DO what is right.  What does this mean?  To be a God-fearing gentile meant  that gentile obeyed God’s commandments.  To do what is right is nothing more than living rightly before God, being righteous.

Cornelius was both a God-fearing and righteous gentile.  From his interactions and relationships with the Jewish people around him, he already understood their God, His commandments, and what was food and what was not food.  Cornelius’s eating habits were probably similar to those of the Jews who respected him and considered him righteous!   No one in Cornelius’ house, including Peter, ever mentioned food and eating pig or shrimp because food was never the meaning of Peter’s vision.  It was about going to the gentiles and entering their homes with the message of Yeshua.  It was the removal of a tradition that kept the gentiles separated from the Jewish community.  Now, through the vision it was understood that by putting their faith in the Jewish Messiah, Cornelius and his family could become part of the commonwealth of Israel.  They were filled with the Holy Spirit and immersed in water.  Soon after this event, word spread throughout Judea that gentiles were receiving the salvation of God, not having pork roasts. 

Let’s suppose for a minute that Cornelius did eat unclean foods as many Christians would argue  Would not  his new-found faith in the Messiah of Israel along with the righteous condition of his heart give him the desire to learn the Scriptures and obey God’s commandments?  Would not Peter have taken the time to teach him God’s ordinances or, even more so, the Spirit of God that now filled his heart write them on Cornelius’ heart?  Being a gentile was and is still never an excuse for disobedience after receiving the Spirit of God and being immersed.

After this event, Peter went up to Jerusalem and was criticized for entering the homes of gentiles and eating with them.  Again, it wasn’t about what Peter was eating, but with whom he was eating!  Table fellowship bound people together and the leaders in Jerusalem were worried that the Scriptures were going to become watered down if Peter fellowshipped with gentile believers in their homes.   Peter had to explain that the gentiles were coming to faith in Messiah and living lives of repentance.  Repentance in Hebrew is shuv and means returning to the ways of God which would include obeying the dietary regulations in the Scriptures.

“Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story …” (Acts 11:4).  When they heard that God had baptized the gentiles with the Holy Spirit, they had no further objections to fellowship between Jewish and non-Jewish believers.

“When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18).

It is a serious distortion of Scripture to think that Peter, a faithful Messianic Jew, would suddenly eat animals that were not created to be food in order to win gentiles to faith in Messiah.  In reality, it was the gentiles who were coming to faith in the Jewish Messiah that were challenged to leave behind their pagan, unBiblical practices and live according to the commandments of God.  No one ever mentioned from the first moment of Peter’s vision through its interpretation in Jerusalem that suddenly it was acceptable to eat all animals, ‘clean or unclean.’ Instead, they were rejoicing that the gentles were being saved and grafted into the Kingdom of God.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

Council of Jerusalem

Some time after Paul began his ministry to gentiles, certain people came from Judea in Israel to Antioch in the diaspora and were teaching believers that unless they were circumcised they could not be saved.  This caused dissension within the Body of Messiah, as well as between Paul and Barnabas.  They decided to go to Jerusalem to present the matter to the apostles.

The apostles considered the question and resolved that  gentiles did not have to be circumcised in the flesh in order to be saved meaning that gentiles did not have to convert to Judaism through a ritual circumcision, but could remain as gentiles.   Because the elders heard that God was purifying the gentiles’ hearts and anointing them with the Holy Spirit, they concluded that justification is by faith in Messiah alone.  From these spiritual truths, they developed a ‘judicial statement’ and decided they should not make it difficult for gentiles to turn to God.   They outlined four beginning requirements.

“Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood” (Acts 15:20).

These four requirements were given to gentiles coming from a  pagan culture who were turning to the God of Israel through repentance.  Each of these requirements were part of pagan ritual worship and had to be removed from their lives so as not to pollute the growing Body of Messiah with the ways of the nations.    This was to be the beginning of how to turn to God not the only forever requirements they had to do in their walk of faith.   In fact, these four requirements encompass nearly all Torah commands given to Israel: dietary laws, sacrificial laws, sexual morality/immorality laws, and idolatry.

The next verse is rarely quoted with the four requirements, but is just as important, if not crucial, to the growth of every new believer then, as well as now:

“For the Torah of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath” (Acts 15:21).

This final statement embodied the life of every believer whether Jew (circumcised) or non-Jew (uncircumcised) in the first century.  Born again non-Jews who were turning to God attended synagogues  every Sabbath, not churches.   They heard the teachings and instructions given to Moses known as Torah and were being convicted and challenged regarding their sinful lifestyles. Through the Spirit their new circumcised hearts and minds were transformed and renewed. This joining and unification of ‘circumcised’ Jew and ‘uncircumcised’ gentile believers in the synagogues that testified to  the ‘one new man’ in Messiah.

For the first 30 years after Messiah’s resurrection, the Messianic community including all gentile believers were taught and instructed in the first five books of the Bible.   They did not  have Acts chapter 10.  They did not have a New Testament gospel called Mark from which to make doctrines about God.  They only had the Torah with which to learn the commandments.  They only had the Prophets and Writings to understand their new covenant Messianic faith.

At the Council of Jerusalem, there was nothing mentioned about foods and dietary changes based on what was happening with the gentiles coming to faith.   No one suggested that eating pork, camel or dog was now acceptable because “Jesus had died on the cross.”   In fact, quite the opposite was true.  Sacrificing and eating unclean animals along with idol worship was not to be among the gentiles who were living lives of repentance.  New believers from the nations obeyed these requirements because Yeshua’s death and resurrection had brought them into the Kingdom of God and had given them a new life, a life they wanted to embrace.

The Real Problem with ‘Porky the Pig’

Did you know that Jewish people who were forced to convert to a new religion called Christianity (via Roman catholicism) were called maranos?   This word in Spanish means ‘damned, accursed, banned   and HOG.’   It was applied to Spanish/Portuguese Jews when they succumbed to eating the flesh of swine in order to save their lives.

Pig in the form of  pork, sausage or bacon has been used throughout Christian history to force Jewish people to convert to Christianity on pain of death.  Jewish people converted to this foreign religion to avoid cruel and inhumane persecutions based solely on the fact that they obeyed Yahweh’s commandments: did not eat pig, circumcised their sons, and kept the Sabbath along with the  Feasts of the LORD.  They were forced with threat of death to disobey God’s commands in order to reside within the Christian community as a marano ‘pig’ convert.

The whole issue of eating pork, the flesh of swine,  has been and continues to be used by the enemy to keep Jewish people from truly knowing the love of God through their own Messiah.  It is used (and eaten) most explicitly by people who say they know and love Jesus Christ!  This is unfortunate because Jewish people are looking for a Messiah who will teach the Torah in proper perspective as Yeshua did.  They do not recognize a pork eating Christian Jesus as their deliverer and they never will.

The Millennial Kingdom

“Those who consecrate and purify themselves to go into the gardens behind one of their temples and eat the flesh of pigs, rats and other unclean things – they will meet their end together with the one they follow,’ declares the LORD” (Isaiah 66:17).

This Scripture from Isaiah is about the time before the new heavens and earth during the Millennial Kingdom when Yeshua will judge the nations.  One of the judgments is against those who eat the ‘flesh of swine’ behind their temples.   Pig roasts, along with pulled pork and every other kind of meat  portion from the pig, have become more and more prevalent in church pot lucks today as Christians fight for and defend eating the flesh of swine.  Bacon has become an almost revered food and flavors nearly everything offered in main and side dishes. If eating pig was no longer considered something ‘unclean’ in the eyes of God, then Isaiah would not have prophesied that those who eat this meat ‘behind their temples’ will meet their end with the one they follow.

Yeshua did not make all bread clean for he did not have to; it was already a clean food and always will be.  Noah understood the difference between which animals were considered food and which were not based on the number of pairs of animals God brought to the Ark.   God’s dietary outline for Israel had no mention of health or undercooked meats.  The only requirement was their faith being expressed through obedience.  Peter’s vision did not remove ‘unclean’ foods from a god-fearer’s diet,  but was revelation that the promise to Abraham was being fulfilled, the good news of  salvation was going to the nations.  The Council of Jerusalem laid the foundation for gentiles who were coming to faith in Yeshua which  included obeying the Torah commands about idolatry, sexual immorality the eating of blood (kosher food).  Finally, Isaiah prophesied what will happen to those in the future who rebel against God and His commands by eating the flesh of swine.   They will meet their end with the one they follow who cannot be the Messiah of Israel.

©August 2010 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this article,  please purchase Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive.