What God Hath Cleansed

God’s Law identifies certain animals like swine, shrimp and catfish as unclean, unfit for our consumption (Le 11:7,12), but most Christians ignore His instruction, thinking these dietary laws aren’t for us today.

A key text is Acts 10, where Peter was admonished for refusing to eat certain animals God had cleansed, but which Peter identified as “common“. (Ac 10:14)

Peter was looking at a sheet swarming with all kinds of animals, apparently including some clean ones (Ac 10:12), and concluded that even the clean ones were unfit to eat due to being in close contact with the others.

God was teaching Peter that engaging with those who aren’t Jewish wouldn’t defile him, which was a Jewish teaching (Ac 10:28) hindering the spread of the gospel. (Ac 11:19) The Jewish disciples never understood from this that God had changed the dietary laws, and continued keeping them faithfully(Act 21:20)

Every creature which God has set apart for human consumption is clearly identified in His Law (1Ti 4:4-5), and — for eating — He’s called the rest abominable. (De 14:3) Does God mind if those He loves are eating junk? Of course He does.

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3 thoughts on “What God Hath Cleansed”

  1. Some might reason that since God initially provided only plants for food, and not animals, that God is at liberty to change His law as He pleases, and that He does so.

    However, consider carefully that adding new laws is not the quite same as changing an existing the Law. The existing laws may remain unchanged while God reveals more of His universal, timeless law over time.

    Was it a sin to eat animals before the flood? Sin is the transgression of the law; what law would have been broken in eating an animal prior to the flood? No law would have been broken: God was silent about eating animals prior to the Flood. Clearly, God’s intent and design was for all animals to eat plants for food, and plants were clearly sufficient for the purpose of sustaining life, so there was no need to eat animals at that time, but that did not make it a sin.

    After the flood, as both the atmosphere and soil quality evidently deteriorated significantly from its original state, additional sources of nutrition were evidently required for certain kinds of animals. This is not necessarily a change in a perfect law, but an extension of the formal provisions of the dietary law as circumstances warranted. But this is not the same as abolishing a law, or saying that it is now right to do something which was formally forbidden.

  2. When people are dismissing God’s dietary laws, they’re generally doing so selectively, only considering foods they like and believe are healthy.

    They aren’t considering the implications of God suddenly giving us all permission to eat things which are more readily perceived as undesirable and unhealthy, such as mice, cockroaches, flies, maggots, spiders, etc. Loving parents don’t give their children permission to eat things which are bad for them.

    We may not understand why God’s laws are good for us, but we should trust Him and obey just the same.

  3. Another common argument here is the idea that these dietary laws are only for Jews and not for Gentiles, and that the Jew-specific laws aren’t part of the Moral Law.

    There are two basic problems with this view:
    (1) This idea of a “Moral Law” which excludes some laws (we might consider minor) isn’t in scripture; Christ even warns us explicitly against thinking this way. (Mt 5:19).
    (2) Christ bases all of Torah, including the dietary laws, on Love (Mt 22:40), so breaking any of these laws violates the Law of Love, making this behavior immoral and sinful. (1Jn 3:4)

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