The Dietary Laws
Perhaps one of the most oft quoted texts to "prove" that the dietary laws are not for the church is in Acts chapter 10, Peter's vision of the sheet. This is one of the most amazing scripture transformations I have ever experienced, and an excellent example of backwards interpreting. Backwards interpreting, simply put, means to use the New Testament to prove the validity of the Old Testament or to use our modern "Christian" traditions to validate the New Testament. All the testimony of the early "Church" witnessed to the fact that all New Testament sermons were validated by comparing them to the teaching of the Old Testament, not the other way around. The text in Acts is a good example. First, we look at what we are doing today. Today we eat whatever we want. Then we read the New Testament. We read that Peter had a vision in which the angel tells Peter to rise and eat all these clean and unclean animals. Conclusion? God bagged all the Old Testament dietary laws. How do we know that? Well that's what we are doing today! The same logic is used to prove that the early church met on Sunday, or that the Lord's supper was once a week or every 3rd Sunday! But is this what the book of Acts teaches? Let us take a look.
In Acts chapter 10 verses 1-8 we have the account of a gentile named Cornelius of the Italian band. Cornelius was called a devout man or a charediy in the Hebrew. This was one who made himself dedicated to Torah. He was also described as one that "feared" God. This was known as a ger toshav or one who sits at the gate. This was a term given to gentile converts who were zealous for the God of Israel, but were not yet ready to take on the yoke of the kingdom. There will be more on this in later lessons. Cornelius was told in a vision about the ninth hour ( between the sixth and ninth hour was the minchah or afternoon prayer time) to send for Peter. So he sends two servants to fetch Peter, so to speak. Peter, in verse 9, about the sixth hour, again the beginning of afternoon prayer, is hungry and falls into a trance. The Holy Spirit shows him a vision of heaven opening and a sheet knit at the four corners being lowered down to earth. This sheet contains a mixture of clean and unclean animals. A voice speaks to him in the vision and says to rise, kill and eat. Peter responds naturally. "Not so my Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean." These are two different concepts biblically. The voice speaks again and tells Peter what God has cleansed do not call common. The vision is repeated three times. In verse 17, Peter is perplexed! What does this mean? Well for modern Christian scholars this is a no-brainer. He is telling Peter he can eat whatever he wants now, and Peter is scripturally incompetent. He can not figure it out. "Why would the Lord tell me to do something like this", he must have been saying to himself. In verse 19 the Spirit says to Peter that three men seek him and to trust God for He has sent them. In verse 22 Peter is informed that a gentile, of all people, has sent for him. Between verses 22 and 28 Peter figures out what the vision was all about. Ordinarily Peter would not have gone to this man for he was a gentile and unclean in Peter's eyes. Verse 28 sums up the entire episode. "And he said unto them, Ye know that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean." How much clearer can God be? The purpose of the vision was to teach Peter about what God is doing among the gentiles now. This has nothing to do with changes to what is good to eat and what is not. This has nothing to do with dietary laws being done away with. In chapter 11 Peter retells this vision. In verse 17 and 18 he concludes again, "Forasmuch, then, as God gave them the same gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life."
So you see, the Ruach HaQodesh is showing Kefa (Peter) that he is bringing gentiles into the body of Messiah by trusting just like the Jews. No longer is conversion accomplished by or through the temple or animal sacrifices. Gentiles who trust are now one with HaShem and are no longer unclean or common. Kefa did not rise and eat nor did he explain the purpose of the vision as teaching such a thing. Why, theologically, would something not created to be eaten, suddenly because of Yeshua‘s sacrifice, be alright to eat? Yeshua died and rose to free us from the penalty of sin, not to free us from the laws that reveal our sin.
1 Timothy 4:1-5 has also been used to teach that everything is alright to swallow and digest as long as you pray over it first. First of all, this is cultic thinking to begin with. Sha’ul dealt with this kind of thinking in Corinth. The spirit world was supposed to have a profound effect upon food. The whole idea of contacting a higher power through prayer to change or manipulate the instructions of God is abominable at best. Verse one of chapter four begins with Sha’ul warning us about the latter days which had begun already according to Kefa in his first sermon in Acts. There were dozens of gnostic type cultic doctrines being taught. The cults taught that denying yourself in various ways pleased God or the gods. This would eventually lead to the monastic way of life. Many of these teachers would speak of denial and then partake of that which they denied anyway. This is why Sha’ul tells us that they speak lies in hypocrisy. They forbid marriage, as marriage would defile the body and divert the focus of attention from the deities. Many were teaching what we today would call vegetarianism, the abstaining from meat in particular. Animals were held in high esteem, and one would slowly become one by eating the flesh of anything that once lived and breathed. In verse 3 Sha’ul mentions this and reminds them that God created these "foods" to be received with thanksgiving. Every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused, if it is received with thanksgiving. Let me remind you what the word of God defines as foods and what is not food. This was discussed in part one. This is why Sha’ul reminds us what the subject is, the abstaining of certain "foods" for spiritual reasons. When Sha’ul says that "every" creature is good and not to be refused i.e. for eating purposes, he is not speaking of inedible objects. Bats, cats, spiders, dogs, and other humans are still not FOOD! ALL of God's creation is good, but not all of God's creation is FOOD. Those creatures that are to be for food are sanctified or separated out, by God in His word in verse 5. It is those who trust and know the truth that know these things. These verses are not talking about the dietary laws or even things "Jewish" as is sometimes taught. Forbidding to marry? Marriage is the foundation of Judaism! Forbidding to marry is not a precept of Judaism. We have many new age cults today practicing this same ritual. There are many in the organization called PETA, that call for this kind of lifestyle.
I hold and will continue to hold that God's words are eternal and are never antiquated or obsolete. It has, since the time of Adam, been in man's base nature to rebel and defy God's instructions. Some defy Him by simply not acknowledging Him. Others defy Him in His name. And still others cling to Him as if He were really a Father. Which one are you?