A reader at my Anne’s Health Place website sent me an excellent comment last week:
While I enjoy your writing, I have to say I am shocked to hear that you are encouraging your readers to abstain from some foods on the basis of the Levitical law. Besides Peter’s experience in Acts 10 that teaches us that all animals are now “clean” and may be eaten freely with thanksgiving, if you are going to be consistent, you have to embrace all of the requirements of the Law. Why stop at unclean animals? Will you also refrain from wearing clothing made out of a blend of fibers or certain haircuts or hundreds of other requirements that the Law placed on the Jews (which they couldn’t keep either–hence the need for and joy in the news of the coming Savior!)? It’s one thing to say, “I feel pork or some seafood is not a good choice for me so I will abstain and I think you should, too.” It is quite another to cite the Bible as your grounds for the abstinence. It is absolutely fine, from a moral and nutritional standpoint, to eat animals formally considered “unclean.” You may have very valid reasons to encourage others to refuse to eat them, but “because God says so” cannot be one of them.
This is an excellent comment because it shows this reader is paying attention and is comparing what I say to Scripture. I’m so pleased about that!
Here are her questions, as I see them:
What about Peter’s experience in Acts 10 that teaches us that all animals are now “clean” and may be eaten freely with thanksgiving?
Acts 10 doesn’t teach that God has called all the animals “clean.” In fact, Peter never did eat any of them! God was using the unclean animals as an object lesson to Peter, that he shouldn’t call any people, for whom Christ had died, “unclean.” As Peter says,
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. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all… All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:35-36, 43, emphasis added).
Peter was “shocked” at what God was asking him to do, and for good reason! How could God, who cannot change, ask Peter to sin? That’s why Peter needed to have the sheet lowered three times before he finally understood what God was telling him. You’ll note, though, that after God had shown him the sheet three times, “immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven” (verse 16). Peter never did eat anything unclean.
Rather, Peter wondered at the meaning of the vision and was still wondering when he got the knock on his door and met Cornelius’ men. Then the Spirit explained to him the meaning of the vision and told him, “Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them” (verses 17-20).
This whole story reminds me of another time that it appeared like God was asking someone to sin. Remember the story of Abraham, when God asked him to sacrifice his only son Isaac? If we apply the same logic to Abraham that we often do to Acts 10, then we would conclude that human sacrifice is now okay. No, God’s laws never change, but sometimes He uses a little “shock factor” to get us to think and apply it to another area of our lives.
If you were going to be consistent, wouldn’t you have to embrace all of the requirements of the Law?
Yes, absolutely! If I were to be consistent, this is exactly what I’ve been trying to say!
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
(What is the only “Scripture” that these first believers had access to? Only the Old Testament.)
What is the definition of “sin”?
“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin” (1 John 3:4-5).
John continues that those of us that have had our sin taken away by Jesus will not continue to sin. (Keep in mind what the definition of sin is: “sin is lawlessness.”)
“No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God” (1 John 3:4-9).
John isn’t saying that I will never sin, but that I won’t sin willfully, knowingly, or as the Psalmist put it, “presumptuously.” I won’t take advantage of the grace of God by continuing to do what I know displeases Him.
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2).
How do I know what displeases Him? I don’t have to guess. As Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “all Scripture” is given so that we’ll be “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The Law defines sin, shows us of our need of a Savior and to repent, then instructs us in righteousness.
“All the requirements of the Law”? 🙂 I’m sure your head is spinning, and this blog post is getting too long already, so this is probably a discussion to be continued another day. But may I remind you that I didn’t say, “All the requirements of Judaism” or “oral tradition” or “a long list of do’s and don’t’s” by this church or that. I said, “All Scripture.” God warns us not to add to or take away from His Word. In my own life, God has simply convicted me to open my Bible, begin reading (all of it, starting in Genesis), and simply do what He says, one thing at a time, as I read it.
The Law placed hundreds of other requirements on the Jews, which they couldn’t keep either, hence the need for and joy in the news of the coming Savior. What about this?
“Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?’ The word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws…” (Deuteronomy 30:11, 14, 16).
Paul quotes from this passage in Romans 10:6-8, as he makes a case in that chapter for the spiritual needs of his dear people Israel. He says that they “did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own” (verse 3). He also states that in reality, as God looked deeper than their outward actions into their hearts, He saw “a disobedient and obstinate people” (verse 21).
In fact, all through the book of Romans, Paul makes a deliberate case that we are all disobedient and sinful.
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:10-11).
All Scripture points to God’s righteousness, our own sinfulness, and God’s merciful and loving provision of a Savior through Jesus Christ. As Paul says,
“Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4, NIV).
The word translated “culmination” here has the meaning of “end” or “goal.” Everything in Scripture points to Jesus. He is the the bull’s eye of all the law.
But as we saw from the verses above, the word “culmination” does not mean “end” as in “ceases to exist.” It couldn’t, because it would contradict what Jesus said about God’s commands:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19).
Since there are many things in the law and prophets that have not yet been accomplished, I need to take Jesus’ words seriously.
“Because God says so” — in other words, to cite the Bible — cannot be one of your grounds for abstinence from pork.
I think this would be a good spot for a little personal testimony. Over three years ago, I first heard a friend “talking crazy” about God’s Law, much as I have today in this post. I was horrified, and I spent many months searching my Bible in an effort to refute her. Instead, God opened my eyes to many things that His Word says, things I had never seen before.
One of the most convicting verses I read, and one you’ll see that I quote often on this blog, was
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
The question that raged through my mind, haunting me even in the middle of the night, was, “What are these good works which God prepared in advance for me to do?” Whose list should I follow? What verses should I consult? Only the New Testament? Only parts of the New Testament? How do I know which parts are for me and which parts are not? Should I follow the ten commandments? Only nine of them? Eight of them? Which verses are the “moral” law, and which ones are the “ceremonial” or “civil”? What about passages where all the laws seem jumbled up together? etc.
Yet God’s Word also says,
“Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:2-4).
My knowledge of God will give grace and peace to my life. His divine power, revealed to me through His Word, will give me “everything I need” for a godly life. In my own life, my conclusion has been that I want to get to know Him better, to learn more about this God who called me “by his own glory and goodness.”
So yes, I feel that citing God’s Word is the very best thing I can do. If God’s Word provides “everything I need” for life, then His Word is the first (and often, the only) place I should turn for answers — in everything! On my health website, “everything” means that if I had no other reason for not eating pork, “because God said so” is the only reason I need. On this blog, submission to my husband or headcovering or any other difficult topic only needs “because God said so” as my grounds for obedience.
I didn’t take the time today to answer all this reader’s questions in great detail, but if someone wants to continue the discussion in the comments, feel free! This is a huge topic, and I’m aware it has many implications for our lives, but BOOKS have been written on this subject! I doubt that this one little blog post did much justice to it. 🙂
P.S. Please be patient with me as I reply to this discussion. These kinds of questions and answers take a lot of time, something I don’t have much of. If it takes me days — or even weeks, sometimes — to formulate an answer, please forgive me in advance.
Anne, I think you did an excellent job here of using the WHOLE counsel of God.
A personal testimony from me: I used to be at the same place this dear lady is, so I know where she is coming from. We all need to realize that we have been indoctrinated with the way of thinking that Jesus died on the cross so we don’t have to obey the Father’s instructions. I think if we were to read the Bible from the beginning for ourselves, without any biased teaching, we would come to a different conclusion.
I would just like to encourage this dear lady to TRY to take off her glasses of teachings through which she is reading the Bible. She may not think she is reading it that way, but believe me, she is. I know from experience. Ask for the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth as you read. If you truly want to know the truth, He will reveal it to you! But if you are close-minded, thinking you already have all the truth, then
no, you won’t see things any differently. Just remember, we need to read Scripture in the context of the WHOLE BOOK. And remember, the “Old Testament” came first and should be the foundation! It determines how we should view the “New Testament”, not the other way around. If the “New Testament” is saying something that contradicts the “Old Testament”, then we have a problem! Either #1. What we are reading in the “New Testament”, is a lie OR #2. What we are reading in the “New Testament” is a. mistranslated or b. misinterpreted. I would go with 2 a. or b.
Again, pray for truth and be prepared to have your world rocked. Don’t hang onto doctrines and traditions of men.
Well said!!! I love it when I find someone who believes the same way my family does. My father was someone who refused to listen to us, when we told him that we should follow the whole bible, especially the ten commandments, and not eating unclean animals. Praise be to God, my father finally saw the whole truth, he told me that when God opens your eyes to the whole truth, like going to church on a Saturday, and not eating pork, no one can close your eyes, and your heart from Gods truth then. I love the part how we died to sin, so how can we sin again? Isnt our God amazing? He frees us from sin, He is a never changing God, and this way we can trully love HIm. Thank you for your beautiful post. Do you mind if I link it to my blog? 🙂
Rebecca Holland says
Wow I wish I had time to pour over this post, you nailed so many of the common questions about following the Torah. Have you read Restoration by FFOZ.org, great resource for seeing the light on following Torah.
Anne Elliott says
I haven’t read that exact thing, but I’ve spent quite a bit of time on FFOZ’s website. I like their Torah club stuff! I also love their children’s materials. Very nice.
Barbara Shipman says
So I take it that you don’t read Act 10;13-15 literally, when Paul asked the Lord about it, he was definitely talking about eating not people, and the Lord answered,”what God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” AKJV?And when Paul said,”Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon…: if Paul still believed that certain foods were unclean, how could he not tell believers this? If God did not mean that these were now clean to eat, How could Paul in good conscience not say that to the churches? I take God at His Word literally that what He has cleansed, I should not say is unclean anymore. The Old testament is good for instruction and reproof, not for our Gospel. For as Paul wrote In Romans, “For Christ is the END of the law for Righteousness to every one that believeth.” Rom 10:4 I don’t eat a lot of pork because it disagrees with me sometimes, but I would never tell someone not to eat it because God says so, because He clearly has said He made all these things clean.
Barbara Shipman says
PS Aren’t the good works we should follow to all who believe, the instruction to walk in the Spirit? When I walk in the Spirit, and pray unceasingly, would it not follow that I do God’s will in my life? If I am in constant communication with my Lord, I will not follow after the flesh. We should not try so hard not to sin, as we should try to always walk with Christ. Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ beside me. God bless you in Christ Jesus, Lord and Saviour.
God said we would be persecuted for following him.. a little heat on your blog is a good thing. Pray that the veils on their eyes are lifted, that they have Eyes to See and Ears to Hear.. that means.. see is an idiom for understanding or wisdom, and hearing is an idiom for obeying.
Fear not, keep speaking, there are a few who are listening, and they’ll reveal themselves to you in time. Fear not, keep walking boldly, Yah is using you to bring forth the remnant for the end time..Revelation 12:17 says the remnant, or the children of the woman – are those who obey God’s commandments and have the testimony of Jesus/Yeshua.. How will they know unless someone shows them the way.. you are showing them the way..
I know.. I’ve been walking this path, and I know the joy of producing fruit even though the persecution comes..
Barbara, if you take God at His word literally, then please stop deciding that His word starts at Matthew, and please that the WHOLE of God’s word in context – and know that Jesus is not bound by time, He payed the penalty for sin before the foundation of the earth… coming to the earth as a man 2000 years ago isn’t a moment in time when suddenly there was a new way to salvation, Jews are saved the same way we are, by faith in The One Who Saves – and Jesus is the one who gave us the Law in the first place, it says so in 1John 3:4 He is the LAWGIVER – who is able to save.
We can’t read a Hebrew document with a Greek mindset and understand it. You have to develop a Hebrew Mindset and then re-read these new testament scriptures with a Hebrew (otherwise known as Eastern vs a Western mindset) mind and then you’ll understand what Annie is trying to share. The verse that says, Let this Mind Be in You.. is trying to show us, we need to have a Hebrew mindset.
Shalom – Peace
In Christian circles, grace has always been defined as “unmerited favour”. Although this may be the proper English definition, we really need to understand what the correct interpretation of this word is in the New Testament. The Greek word for grace is charis, defined as “the divine influence upon the heart, and it’s reflection in the life” (one’s life). (Strong’s #5485). To quote Henry Wright, in other words, “grace is G-d telling you what you need to know”
To see this in context, take a look at Luke chapter 2. It describes the life of the
Messiah when He was still a child. Verse 40: “And the child grew, and
waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the GRACE of God was
upon him.” KJVNow read John 1, describing again, the character of
the Messiah. Verse 14: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,
(and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the
Father,) full of GRACE and truth.” KJVNow, ask yourself, would the
Messiah need grace (unmerited favour) if he was the son of YHWH?
Ridiculous! Did the Messiah have grace (the divine influence)? He sure
did!What about the Law, then? It is YHWH’s teachings, which He
gave on Sinai, which Yeshua obeyed and followed, which He will write on
our hearts! If grace is YHWH telling you what you need to know,
wouldn’t it guide you to Torah? If we are to live according to His
commandments, and His will, do we not need grace to do so? Therefore, I
must conclude that grace DID NOT replace the Law. Grace IS the Law!