Friday, August 7, 2020

Blood Ban (Lev. 17:10-14)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2020

 

Outline:

      I.    The ban’s coverage is comprehension (vv. 10, 13).
            A.    It applies to any native Israelite.
            B.    It applies to any resident alien.
Application: While your present diet does not determine your final destination, it does demonstrate your devotion to God (Isa 66:17).
     II.    The ban’s consequence is catastrophic (vv. 10, 13).
            A.    It affects a man’s relationship with God.
            B.    It affects a man’s relationship with others.
Application: More exposure to God’s word will make people more aware of God’s will (Acts 15:20-21).
    III.    The ban’s complement is clear (vv. 11, 14).
            A.    It is essential to one’s physical life.
            B.    It is essential to one’s ceremonial life.
Application: God directs a select few of His commands to some people, but He intends many of His commands to most people, even all people (Matt 22:36-39).
 

Introduction: There are some things a person should not do, especially a child, because of the possible danger it presents:

Frequently complimented on what a pretty girl she was, five-year-old Maria had become accustomed to receiving praise from relatives and friends. One evening her mother’s sister came to visit just as Maria was being tucked into bed, so her aunt came to say good night. “You have really long eyelashes!” her aunt said, “Yes,” Maria replied. “My lashes should be long. I’ve been growing them for five years…and I never cut them.”

There are some things a person should not do, especially a child, because of the possible danger it presents, like trimming one’s eyelashes with scissors. If a child is not reluctant to attempt such activity, it may be necessary for parents to forbid it, to issue an ‘eyelash trimming’ ban. When the Israelites left Egypt, the Lord issued several commands, including a Blood Ban, forbidding His people from consuming blood, which may have been a popular activity among the Canaanites.

 

Background: Some of God’s commands may seem difficult to obey because they require additional instruction (e.g., tying tassels on a garment), special equipment (e.g., using a ram’s horn to sound on the New Year), or careful preparation (e.g., preparing a meal with several courses on Passover). Other of God’s commands are easy to obey because they require an individual to refrain from doing something simple, like the Blood Ban that requires only that an individual abstain from consuming blood.

 

Lev 17:10 Any Israelite or any alien living among them who eats any blood—I will set My face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from his people. 11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. 12 Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may an alien living among you eat blood.” 13 Any Israelite or any alien living among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth, 14 because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, “You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off.”

 

      I.    The ban’s coverage is comprehension (vv. 10, 12).

Lev 17:10 Any Israelite or any alien living among them who eats any blood—I…will cut him off from his people…. 12 Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may an alien living among you eat blood.”

            A.    It applies to any native Israelite.
 
    God intends most of His laws for Jews, those with whom He has a covenant. Even His most well-known laws, those in the decalogue, He specifically addresses to the people of Israel He delivered from bondage in Egypt:

God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” (Exod 20:1-2)

The Blood Ban God also intends for Jews. Yet this law is broader still and applies to all who are part of Israel, Jews as well as gentiles. “It was a religious rule of the first importance” (Wenham 1979:244).

 

            B.    It applies to any resident alien.

 

     At first, Jews and the gentiles who associate closely with them live only in the land, so the ban applies especially in the land. Elsewhere, God issues the Blood Ban with a broader geographical designation, “wherever you live”:

This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live: You must not eat…any blood. (Lev 3:17)

Wherever you live, you must not eat the blood of any bird or animal. (Lev 7:26)

Later, when this group moves beyond the borders of Canaan, as in the Babylonian exile, the prohibition also applies more broadly. Isaiah writes:

Foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to My covenant—these I will bring to My holy mountain and give them joy in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” The Sovereign Lord declares—He who gathers the exiles of Israel: “I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.” (Isa 56:6-8)

Here, God expands the recipients of many laws to include gentiles who have joined themselves to Israel, called sojourners or aliens.[1] The Blood Ban is one of those laws for Jews and resident aliens. But it is not for other gentiles, those not connected to Israel. Right? …According to an even older law, one God gave to Noah and his descendants (all of us), the Blood Ban applies to everyone:[2]

You must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. (Gen 9:4)

It is also a command the Jerusalem Council reiterates for all Christians:

We should write to them, telling them to abstain…from blood (Acts 15:20).

If you have been craving blood pudding, you should probably reconsider that ‘food’ selection.

 

Application: Disobeying this law will not invalidate your salvation (Manuel 2013a), but if your goal is to please your God and not just yourself (Manuel 2017), choose another item on the menu. Some people think God does not care what a person eats, an opinion often derived from a misunderstanding of Jesus’ statement in Mark 4:19 where he “declared all foods clean.”[3] Apart from ignoring the context of that statement (Manuel 2006), such a view ignores God’s repeated declarations about what He considers unclean and about what displeases Him, like eating pork:

Those who eat the flesh of pigs and rats and other abominable things…will meet their end together” declares the Lord. (Isa 66:17)

Like blood, “the other white meat” (pork) is not an acceptable food choice for God’s people. While your present diet does not determine your final destination, it does demonstrate your devotion to God (Manuel 2013b). Many of His commands may seem arbitrary, even burdensome. It does not matter. Whatever God commands, He expects His people to obey.
 

     II.    The ban’s consequence is catastrophic (vv. 10, 13).

Lev 17:10 I will set My face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from his people…. 13 Any Israelite or any alien living among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth.

     The first result of disobeying the Blood Ban is serious: separation from the believing community.

 

            A.    It affects a man’s relationship with God.

 

     The same penalty attends child sacrifice, idol worship, and occult practices, three activities God abhors.[4] Consuming blood hardly seems as serious as these three pagan activities, yet God says it is, and He attaches to it an equally serious punishment: excommunication from the religious life of Israel, which means no involvement with annual holidays such as celebrating the Feast of Booths and no participation in temple activities such as offering sacrifices to secure atonement. All these things that once connected an individual to the God of Israel are gone. Yet another consequence awaits the person who eats blood.

 

            B.    It affects a man’s relationship with others.

 

     When a person ignores the Blood Ban it has other consequences, both professional and casual. He can no longer participate in community activities and is cut off from whatever support he once received by those he knows best. Earlier, he was accepted, even welcomed by others;.[5] Now, he no longer enjoys familiar associations and gatherings. Transgressing the Blood Ban also limits his ability to conduct business and may require that he make his living outside the land, among the gentiles. Family, friends, and associates shun him, all because he consumed blood.

 

Application: Today, with society as mobile as it is and congregations as isolated as most are from each other, excommunication, for the very few groups that practice public shunning, is less of a significant incentive to modify one’s behavior, especially when it concerns food, which most Christians consider a non-issue. Whatever your opinion may be on the matter, it is best to consider what God has to say so that you are not unpleasantly surprised one day and discover you should have—you could have—been doing things differently.
     Jesus says that what goes into a man’s mouth is not as important as what comes out of his mouth:

What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’” (Matt 15:11)

This does not mean what goes into a man’s mouth is not important at all. God has deemed that what a person ingests is important, and the Jerusalem Council which addresses gentile believers agrees. Peter says:

Abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath. (Acts 15:20-21)

In other words, more exposure to God’s word will make people more aware of God’s will.

 

     God does not always give a reason for His prohibitions. In this case He gives two reasons. The first result of disobeying the Blood Ban is serious: separation from the believing community. The second result of disobeying the Blood Ban is also serious:

 

    III.    The ban’s complement is clear (vv. 11, 14).

 

Lev 17:11 The life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life…. 14 because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, “You must not eat the blood of any creature [wild or domesticated], because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off.”

     The second result of disobeying the Blood Ban is that such behavior violates the order God established in creation.

 

            A.    It is essential to one’s physical life.

 

     Of the various (ten or eleven) bodily systems, the circulatory system, with its (approximately) five quarts of blood, is the most important to life. It keeps nutrients and oxygen flowing throughout the body to be absorbed or excreted as necessary. Blood is a vital source of life. When blood is lost, life is lost. That is how Joseph’s brothers proved his death to their father:

They got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. (Gen 37:31)

Had his brothers been directly responsible for Joseph’s death, the penalty God may have exacted is death:[6]

Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man. (Gen 9:6)

Man’s being in God’s image refers to his moral makeup and does not mean that God has the same physical characteristics as man (Manuel 2001).[7] Still, blood is essential to one’s physical life. Yet for God, blood has another significance, beyond the physical.

 

            B.    It is essential to one’s ceremonial life.[8]

 

     This is a dimension of the Blood Ban unfamiliar to most people. It marks the difference between what is acceptable and unacceptable to God:

You must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean. (Lev 10:10)

This applies to sustenance as well as to sacrifice:

You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between living creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten. (Lev 11:47)

The Blood Ban also applies to the ceremonial use of blood in the sanctuary, which is primarily for atonement:[9]

The life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. (Lev 17:11)

“Because animal blood atones for human sin…it is sacred and ought not to be consumed by man” (Wenham 1979:245).

     The difference between what is a clean or unclean offering obtains only in the temple. Absent a temple today, the Blood Ban would seem no longer to apply, but it does, because it is “a lasting ordinance for the generations to come (Lev 3:17).[10]

 

Application: Does the Blood Ban still matter? …Yes, it does, because it indicates what God considers an appropriate dietary choice for you who claim to belong to Him. It indicates how you should order or prepare meat—steak is not to be ‘blue.’ It also says that you should avoid delicacies like blood pudding and blood sausage. However much you consider such items a tasty addition to your diet, the Blood Ban makes them unacceptable food options for God’s people.

     God intends certain commands for some people (e.g., kings, priests, farmers, merchants), but He intends many of His commands like this one, to all people. The Blood Ban is a universal command you must follow if you want His approval, and His approval is the best you can get.
 
Conclusion: The Blood Ban is one of the oldest commands in the Bible and one of the few commands that applies to everyone. It is also a command that is easy to follow, requiring no additional instruction, expensive equipment, or special preparation. It is not difficult to adopt, and heeding it is a small concession to make unless you prefer your steak extremely rare. Nevertheless, being aware of God’s wishes for you, it is still up to you to follow His instruction or not. The Blood Ban is your choice.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Manuel, Paul http://paulwmanuel.blogspot.com

     2001  “The Image of God in Man.” Anthropology Excursus 1 in A Reader’s Digest Approach to Theology.

     2005  “What About Gentiles in the Theocratic Ideal?”

     2007  “The Sinaitic Law and the Gentile Believer.”

     2009  A Roadmap to Holiness: The Highest Value in God’s Economy.

     2013a “Can a person lose his salvation?” An excerpt from the Soteriology unit of A Reader’s Digest Approach to Theology.

     2013b “Diet: A Demonstration of Depravity or Devotion.”

     2017  “The Choice: Please Yourself or Please Your God” (Lev 22:20; Deut 12:13-14). [Sermon]

Wenham, Gordon J.

     1979  The Book of Leviticus. NICOT. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.



[1]It is a statement of inclusion He makes several times:

Exod 12:49 The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you.

Lev 24:22 You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born.

Num 15:29 The same law applies to everyone…whether he is a native-born Israelite or an alien.

God intends all people to follow the laws He specifically addresses to gentiles (Manuel 2004 and 2007). Jesus may intend the two greatest commandments to apply broadly as well, both to Jews and gentiles:

Matt 22:37 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Nevertheless, there is one difference between the requirement for the alien and the native born:

Deut 14:21 Do not eat anything you find already dead. You may give it to an alien living in any of your towns, and he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. But you are a people holy to the LORD your God.  

[2]God may have repeated the Blood Ban because a general decline of true religion caused the original law to fall out of use, and it remained so until He reiterated the precept to Moses.

[3]Paul makes a similar statement:

Rom 14:20 All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.

[4]The same penalty attends three activities God despises:

Lev 20:2 Any Israelite or any alien living in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech must be put to death. The people of the community are to stone him. 3 I will set My face against that man and I will cut him off from his people; for by giving his children to Molech, he has defiled My sanctuary and profaned My holy name. 4 If the people of the community close their eyes when that man gives one of his children to Molech and they fail to put him to death, 5 I will set My face against that man and his family and will cut off from their people both him and all who follow him in prostituting themselves to Molech. 6 I will set My face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people.

Later, God uses this phrase to describe punishment for breaking the Mosaic covenant:

Lev 26:17 I will set my face against you so that you will be defeated by your enemies; those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee even when no one is pursuing you.

[5]The NT has the most to say about shunning:

Rom 16:17 Watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.

1 Cor 5:11 You must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

2 Thess 3:14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed.

Titus 3:10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.

2 John 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him.

[6]There is a distinct legal category for a person who avenges the death of a family member against his murderer:

Deut 19:12 The elders of his town shall…hand him over to the avenger of blood to die. 13 Show him no pity. You must purge from Israel the guilt of shedding innocent blood, so that it may go well with you.

[7]God regards human life as more important than animal life:

Lev 24:21 Whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a man must be put to death.

God is not indifferent to animal life, both domesticated and undomesticated:

Exod 9:19 Give an order now to bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter, because the hail will fall on every man and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die.

Exod 20:10 The seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you…nor your animals.

Exod 23:11 During the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what they leave.

Nevertheless, life in general is not the highest value in God’s economy (Manuel 2009).

[8]Blood has several uses outside the body, especially in ceremonial functions.

      Blood can validate a covenant:

Exod 24:8 Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

      Blood can consecrate an altar:

Lev 8:15 Moses slaughtered the bull and took some of the blood, and with his finger he put it on all the horns of the altar to purify the altar. He poured out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. So he consecrated [the altar] to make atonement for it.

      Blood can atone for a menstruating woman:

Lev 12:7 He shall offer them before the Lord to make atonement for her, and then she will be ceremonially clean from her flow of blood.

      Blood can atone for land where blood has been spilled:

Deut 19:9 Carefully follow all these laws I command you…. 10 Do this so that innocent blood will not be shed in your land, which the Lord your God is giving you as your inheritance, and so that you will not be guilty of bloodshed.

Deut 21:1 If a man is found slain, lying in a field in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess, and it is not known who killed him…. 6 Then all the elders of the town nearest the body shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley, 7 and they shall declare: “Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it done. 8 Accept this atonement for your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, O Lord, and do not hold your people guilty of the blood of an innocent man.” And the bloodshed will be atoned for. 9 So you will purge from yourselves the guilt of shedding innocent blood, since you have done what is right in the eyes of the Lord.

Still, there is a limit to what blood can accomplish:

Num 35:33 Atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it.

Moreover, God links transgressing the Blood Ban with practicing the occult:

Lev 19:26 Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it. Do not practice divination or sorcery.

[9]This provision is the basis of Jesus’ declaration at his last Passover seder:

Matt 26:28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

The importance of blood extends to its proper disposal:

Lev 17:13 Any Israelite or any alien living among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth,

Deut 12:16 You must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water.

Deut 15:23 You must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water.

[10]It appears again in the deliberations of the Jerusalem Counsel’s recommendation to new believers:

Acts 15:19 We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 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.


Sunday, August 2, 2020

Kashrut: To Eat or Not to Eat (1 Tim 4:1-5)


Dr. Paul Manuel—2020

 

Text:

1 Tim 4:1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Outline:

      I.    There will be opposition against the godly (vv. 1-2).

            A.    It will come from the supernatural realm.

            B.    It will come from the natural realm.

Application: Like man, the devil and his angelswill receive punishment from God for their sin (Matt 25:41).

     II.    There will be legislation against the godly (v.v. 3-5).

            A.    It will distort God’s creation.

            B.    It will distort God’s intention.

                    1.    Marriage is forbidden.

                    2.    Diet is restricted.

Application: Realize that your encouragement of another person may be what keeps him from error and prevents him from succumbing to a lie (Titus 1:9).

 

Introduction: God’s laws are immutable not malleable, not adjustable to fit man’s situation and preference.[1]

A Jew who loves to barbeque moves into a Catholic neighborhood just as Lent is beginning, a forty-day period when Catholics eat no beef, only fish. The Jew barbeques every evening, mostly steaks and hamburgers. It is tortuous for the Catholics to smell the aroma of grilling meat during their restricted diet, so they appeal to the priest for help with this culinary torment. The priest approaches the Jew and, after considerable discussion, convinces him to become a Catholic [= the first absurdity], with the understanding that he will no longer eat meat during Lent. After sprinkling holy water on the man, the priest says, “You were once a Jew; now you are a Catholic. [= the second absurdity]

      The next evening, the smell of grilling beef again wafts through the area. The neighbors complain to the priest, who asks the new convert why he is doing this during Lent. The convert explains, “I just sprinkled some water and used the same pronouncement you used: ‘You were once a cow; now you are a fish!” [= the third absurdity]

God’s laws are immutable not malleable, not adjustable to fit man’s situation and preference. This is true of all His laws, including the ones governing diet, although some false teachers think otherwise.

 

Background: When the people of Israel leave Egypt for the Promised Land, God makes the second in a series of six covenants with them (Manuel 2011a), contracts that outline how this people relates to this deity. The first contract God makes is the simplest; it is with Abraham and establishes the practice of circumcision:

This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. (Gen 17:10)

The second contract God makes is the most detailed; it is with the nation of Israel and includes over 600 laws on all aspects of life, covering all sectors of society. Keeping these covenants is essential for Israel to have a proper relationship with the Lord.[2]

 

     The second contract/covenant includes laws to govern various aspects of life. Some laws are for particular occupations (e.g., farmers, priests). Other laws are for particular activities (e.g., sacrifices, holidays). These activities include what the people may eat (Manuel 2013, 2017), and the “other white meat” is not on God’s menu:[3] “The pig…is unclean for you” (Lev 11:7).

     The devil’s minions are rarely content to leave God’s people alone, be they Jews or gentiles. Here, Satan launches an offensive through his surrogates, some false teachers, who attempt to influence parishioners in Timothy’s congregation. Paul warns his young protégé…

 

      I.    There will be opposition against the godly (vv. 1-2).

 

1 Tim 4:1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

 

     One of the signs that history is winding down is the rise of alternative voices, people who lobby for a different perspective than the one God presents.

 

            A.    It will come from the supernatural realm.

 

     The source of these notions is what Paul means when he writes to the Ephesian church, which is facing a similar problem:

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12).

The spiritual forces of evil” do not operate alone. Satan has surrogates, followers who adopt and promote his agenda. Opposition to the godly comes from more than the supernatural realm, but the ultimate source of that resistance is the same and to which Christians must be alert because “your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8).

 

            B.    It will come from the natural realm.

 

     There are people who wittingly or unwittingly support Satan’s agenda, who have given the devil some “foothold” (Eph 4:27) in life. They do the devil’s bidding by advancing his interests,[4] and they will find themselves on the losing side in the end if they persist.

 

Application: Do not look for the forces of evil under every rock or blame them for your own bad behavior, like Flip Wilson’s excuse “The devil made me do it.”[5] Do not give Satan more credit than he deserves. Unlike God, the devil is not omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, or omni anything. He is created like everything and everyone else. Satan cannot read your mind, although he can read your actions, and respond to them with temptations that test your resolve.[6] Nevertheless, Paul says the devil “masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14). He employs tactics that are attractive but deceptive, which may be why Ezekiel describes him in gemstone terms:

You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. (Ezek 28:13)

Such effusive language may describe the devil’s state before his fall, when he leads many angels in rebellion against God. Nevertheless, like man, the devil and his angels” (Matt 25:41) will receive punishment from God for their sin:

Eternal fire [is] prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matt 25:41)

Their future is surely not one you should envy. Unlike man, who has two options, there is only one path for the devil and his angels, and their company is what you should avoid at all costs.[7]

 

     Paul wants Timothy to realize there will be opposition to the young minister’s efforts. More than that, Paul wants Timothy to realize…

 

     II.    There will be legislation against the godly (vv. 3-5).

 

1 Tim 4:3 [These false teachers] forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

 

     Forbidding marriage ensures a new movement will die out quickly, and abstaining “from certain foods” (v. 3), especially what God does not already prohibit, trends toward asceticism. This is the doctrine of Gnosticism. “The Gnostics teach that all matter is evil; only spirit is good” (Earle 1978:371). What these individuals advocate is damaged, the product of “consciences…seared as with a hot iron” (v. 1).

 

            A.    It will distort God’s creation.

 

     In the beginning, God institutes marriage and expects that a man and woman will join together to form a family, a practice Jesus affirms:

A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. (Matt 19:5)

Marriage plays an important role in the first couple’s relationship and serves as the model for couples thereafter.

     Also in the beginning, God establishes clear dietary instructions, instructions that expand after the flood:

[Before the flood] God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” (Gen 1:29)

[After the flood] “Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.” (Gen 9:3)

In other words, man’s diet is completely open now. A person may eat whatever he wishes, but God’s people have some restrictions (e.g., no pork). (This is contra Earle 1978:372, who erroneously thinks Israelite dietary laws are abrogated, a view common among many Christians, although they need not care about something that does not apply to them.)

 

            B.    It will distort God’s intention.

 

     It is important that man, no matter how free he is, be attentive to God’s wishes. As Paul writes elsewhere:

Be careful…that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block. (1 Cor 8:9)

…and…

Do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. (Gal 5:13)

These false teachers advocate otherwise.
 
                    1.    Marriage is forbidden.

 

     God’s reason for instituting marriage is, in part, to provide a proper setting for sexual intimacy:

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. (Matt 19:5)

By eliminating marriage, these false teachers would either prevent procreation or consign all sexual activity to illicit liaisons.

     Only Paul enjoins celibacy, and never at the risk of society’s survival (i.e., zero population growth). Rather, his counsel targets a specific portion of society (young singles):[8]

If they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (1 Cor 7:9)

Marriage has always been the norm for most people, as it is today, contrary to these false teachers who would prohibit it.

 

                    2.    Diet is restricted.

 

     In the beginning, man is an herbivore, eating only what he grows or what he finds on trees, and the Lord instructs Adam about what his diet should be:

God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” (Gen 1:29)

At this point, man is a vegetarian.

 

     After the flood, man may eat meat, and with no dietary restrictions. In fact, he may eat whatever he wants (e.g., shellfish):[9]

Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. (Gen 9:3)

At this point, man is an omnivore.[10]

 

     But not everything man may eat is good for him or promotes his spiritual health, so God places restrictions on His people’s diet after the exodus. For example:

The pig…is unclean to you…. Do not make yourselves unclean by means of them or be made unclean by them. I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. (Lev 11:7, 43-44)

Man is still an omnivore but with some limitations. God tells His people what they should not eat, and these prohibitions become the basis for Israel’s dietary laws. God’s purpose for these restrictions is to promote His people’s sanctification, their devotion to Him in all things, even in such seemingly minor matters as diet. In fact, no matter is minor that concerns obedience to God.[11]

 

     What these false teachers in 1 Timothy promote is more restrictive than what God permits to gentiles, who have unlimited sources for food, and more restrictive than what God prohibits to Jews, who already have limited sources for food.[12] In other words, what these men advocate is out of line with what God advocates, for both gentiles and Jews.[13]

 

Application: In the 1970s there were several pseudo-Christian cults, groups that peddled false Christian doctrine and attracted many young followers. They often imposed restrictions that went beyond anything scripture promoted.

     The primary distinction of these cults was often a deficient view of God (e.g., considering Jesus to be less than deity). Most of these groups died out or at least suffered contraction with the passing of their founders (e.g., Victor Paul Wierwille [d. 1985] and The Way International, Sun-Myung Moon [d. 2012] and The Unification Church[14]). Some older established groups remain, like Mormonism (Latter Day Saints) and Jehovah’s Witnesses, but they also espouse aberrant beliefs (Manuel 1990, 2009).

     You must be aware of such deviant groups and be prepared to refute them, not necessarily by understanding their doctrine but by understanding your own beliefs, as Paul admonishes both Timothy and Titus:

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction (2 Tim 4:2).

Encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. (Titus 1:9)

Admittedly, this is not easy and presupposes that you grasp the fundamentals of what you believe. But for someone else, your grasp of basic doctrine and the courage to communicate it may make the difference between life and death, between spending eternity with God or eternity apart from God. Realize that your encouragement of another person may be what keeps him from error and prevents him from succumbing to a lie.

 

Conclusion: In this first letter to Timothy, Paul tells the young minister about the resistance he will encounter as he promotes the gospel among Jews and gentiles. Some people will oppose his message, preferring to substitute their own opinions about what God expects (e.g., regarding marriage and diet), and Timothy will need to refer to God’s clear revelation, including His revelation to Jews about “Kashrut: To Eat or Not to Eat.” So it is with you when questions arise about God’s expectations. “Lean not on your own understanding” (Prov 3:5), but depend on His revelation for clarity and consistency.

Bibliography

 

Earle, Ralph

     1978    “1, 2 Timothy.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 11. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House.

Lewis, C.S.

     1969    The Best of C.S. Lewis. Washington, D.C.: Canon Press.

Manuel, Paul http://paulwmanuel. blogspot.com

     1990  “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormonism).”

     2007  “The Practices of Covenant Review and Covenant Renewal and Their Relation to the New Covenant.”

     2009  “Doctrinal Differences of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

     2011a “A Study of Law and Grace: Finding the Proper Balance.”

     2011b “Is the Sabbath a Universal Requirement?”

     2013  “Diet: A Demonstration of Depravity or Devotion.”

     2017  “Food for Thought.”

Rosen, Moishe

     1974    Jews for Jesus. Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell Company.



[1]This is one of my favorite jokes, because it illustrates the absurdity that often attends Jewish evangelism. That is, Jews do not need to become gentile Christians (contra Rosen 1974) to have a relationship with God. Moreover, the revelation (commandments) God gave to Israel does not expire, although the people’s commitment to those commandments does occasionally wane and need renewal (Manuel 2007). Judaism is not deficient because Jews do not recognize Jesus as the messiah; Christianity is deficient (i.e., a presentation of it) that does not recognize God’s abiding revelation to Jews. I owe this insight in part to my father who, although not a theologian, recognized that Jews have a unique role in God’s program and do not need to be converted to gentile Christianity.

[2]Paul recognizes the abiding relevance of circumcision. Hence, he has Timothy circumcised because of his maternity. His mother was a Jewess, and ancestry passes through that line:

Acts 16:1 He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. 2 The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

Paul does not apply the same rite to a protégé who is not Jewish:

Gal 2:3 Not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.

This distinction accords with Paul’s belief that gentiles do not need to become Jews (i.e., convert to Judaism) to be saved, which also accords with the Jerusalem Council:

Acts 15:5 Some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.” 6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question…. 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

The irony is that the church subsequently adopts the opposite view, that Jews need to become gentiles to be saved (as the opening anecdote illustrates). What all believers need to realize is that the law is a whole cloth, and circumcision is just part of it:

Rom 2:25 Circumcision has value if you observe the law.

1 Cor 7:19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts.

Gal 5:3 Every man who lets himself be circumcised…is obligated to obey the whole law.

Consequently, the law is not a smorgasbord from which gentile Christians can choose what appeals to them. Some do this, for example, by enshrining the Decalogue as a universal mean (usually just nine of the ten)—most Christians eschew the fourth command—but the Lord directs the Decalogue (all ten commands) to Israel:

Exod 20:1 God spoke all these words: 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

The NT does not use convert (prosh/luton) to describe a Jew who comes to Jesus, only a gentile. In fact, conversion is always to Judaism never to Christianity:

Matt 23:15 You travel over land and sea to win a single convert.

Acts 2:11 Both Jews and converts to Judaism

Acts 6:5 Nicolas [was] a convert to Judaism.

Acts 13:43 Many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas.

[3]The context of Jesus’ statement where he declares “all foods clean” (Mark 7:19) is a discussion among Pharisees about eating with ceremonially unclean hands, and the possibility that such action renders the food those hands touch ceremonially unclean. There is no question among the conversates about what constitutes (acceptable) food, and swine does not meet that criterion. Jews who claim to serve God yet who eat pork are “an obstinate people”:

Isa 65:2 All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people… 4 …who eat the flesh of pigs.

Moreover, their actions are “abominable” in God’s estimation, a condition on par with eating rats (which are also not kosher):

Isa 66:17 Those who consecrate and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following the one in the midst of those who eat the flesh of pigs and rats and other abominable things—they will meet their end together,” declares the LORD.

[4]Unlike angels, who are loyal to God and support His program, there is no reason to assume demons have the same devotion to Satan. Their Fall already shows a divided loyalty, and their opposition to God may be all that unites them.

Matt 25:41 He will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

[5]It is important that we take responsibility for our actions and not attempt to foist blame elsewhere:

Jms 1:13 Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.

2 Cor 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each for his sin, one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

[6]C.S. Lewis’s book Screwtape Letters (1969) describe how the forces of evil may attempt to manipulate the believer.

[7]In eternity, the punishment of the wicked will be public, visible to the righteous as well:

Luke 17:23 In hell, where [the rich man] was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.

Rev 14:10 [They] will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.

Rev 21:8The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. ()

In the end, there are only two conditions, salvation and condemnation, which is why it is important to decide now, before the end, which condition you will choose, because “man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Heb 9:27).

[8]Paul’s counsel may reflect his understanding about God’s timetable, especially concerning the imminence of Jesus’ return:

Phil 4:5 The Lord is near.

[9]This blanket permission is unlike the restrictions God places on His people’s diet which excludes many foods common today:

Lev 11:12 Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be detestable to you.

In this prohibition God’s people emulate the attitude of God Himself, who regards some of what He prohibits as detestable (n. 3). Some T.V. shows capitalize on exotic foods, the stranger the more interesting (e.g., “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern”).

[10]God may expand man’s diet to ensure that he gets proper nutrition, a vegetarian diet now somewhat depleted after the flood.

[11]Gentiles are not under the same dietary obligations as Jews, but neither should gentiles be oblivious to God’s concerns about such matters, especially when they reflect His opinion (n. 3). Like the Sabbath, God invites all men to keep it, but does not require all men to keep it. Observing the Sabbath is optional not obligatory for gentiles (Manuel 2011b) unlike its requirement for Jews. A gentile’s observing the Sabbath can bring insight into the mind of Him who commands it for Jews. In the same way, attention to one’s diet can help a gentile appreciate what it means to commit all of his life to God’s control, even what he may regard as a minor aspect:

Isa 56:2 Blessed is the man…who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it…. 6 Foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord7 I will bring to My holy mountain and give them joy in My house of prayer. 8 The Sovereign Lord declares—He who gathers the exiles of Israel: “I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.

[12]God does not explain His dietary restrictions for Israel, only that they are necessary for His people’s sanctification:

Lev 11:8 You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you…. 45 I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore, be holy, because I am holy.

Sanctity is the goal of God’s laws for Israel, and the nation’s dietary laws in particular demonstrate the people’s devotion to Him. God’s people, even those who should know better, do not always heed His instruction:

Luke 8:34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside.

Luke 15:15 He went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything

[13]Timothy is a Jew, unlike Titus, and, therefore, is subject to God’s laws to Israel (e.g., circumcision):

Acts 16:3 Paul wanted to take [Timothy] along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek [but that his mother was a Jewess].

Gal 2:3 Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, [because] he was a Greek.

Matronage not patronage determines lineage. Thus, Timothy is a Jew but Titus is not. Therefore, Timothy’s diet may be different from some of his parishioners, if his congregation includes both Jews and gentiles. Moreover, the additional part of Paul’s instruction about circumcision (n. 2) makes clear that people must consider all God has revealed. Paul takes a wholistic approach to obedience. It must include all God has said.

[14]The Unification Church does not forbid marriage, quite the opposite. It promotes (pre-arranged) marriage and organizes mass events (“blessing ceremonies”), but with Moon and his wife as its most prominent figures, as parents to all of humanity.