God’s End Time Vegetarian Diet: Bible Truth or Human Invention?

Part 1: Romans 14 and Related Texts—Meats, Drinks, and Sabbath Days

David Qualls

Preface

In Part 1 of this study we examine commonly used texts in the New Testament that seem to support a non-vegetarian diet or at least seem to neutralize the issue. Part 2, Restoring God’s Diet for the Last Generation, undertakes a Biblical study of diet across the salvation timeline with special focus on the end times. Those who are confident of their knowledge of the topic of Part 1 may choose to go directly to Part 2.

Table of Contents for Part 1

Introduction
Texts Used to Oppose Vegetarianism and Other Healthy Lifestyle Practices
       Romans Chapter 14
       Matthew 15:11
       Acts 10:9-16
       1 Corinthians 10:19-33
       Colossians 2:14-17
       1 Timothy 4:1-5
Bible Answers
       Romans Chapter 14
       Colossians 2:14-17
              Ceremonial Meats, Drinks, and Sabbath Days
              Texts Similar to Colossians 2:16
       Matthew 15:11
       Acts 10:9-16
       1 Corinthians 10:19-33
       1 Timothy 4:1-5
Summary of Part 1
Endnotes

Introduction

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has long been known as a denomination that maintains certain health standards and encourages its members in a healthy lifestyle. In fact, members are bound by the following solemn vow:

Baptismal Vow. Candidates for baptism or those being received into fellowship by profession of faith shall affirm their acceptance of the doctrinal beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the presence of the church or other properly appointed body.

Baptismal Vow Number 10 (out of 13) says the following:

Do you believe that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; and will you honor God by caring for it, avoiding the use of that which is harmful; abstaining from all unclean foods; from the use, manufacture, or sale of alcoholic beverages; the use, manufacture, or sale of tobacco in any of its forms for human consumption; and from the misuse of or trafficking in narcotics or other drugs?

Furthermore, Number 21 of the 27 Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church states the following (in part):

21. Christian Behavior: We are called to be a godly people who think, feel, and act in harmony with the principles of heaven. For the Spirit to recreate in us the character of our Lord we involve ourselves only in those things which will produce Christlike purity, health, and joy in our lives… It also means that because our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, we are to care for them intelligently. Along with adequate exercise and rest, we are to adopt the most healthful diet possible and abstain from the unclean foods identified in the Scriptures. Since alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and the irresponsible use of drugs and narcotics are harmful to our bodies, we are to abstain from them as well. Instead, we are to engage in whatever brings our thoughts and bodies into the discipline of Christ, who desires our wholesomeness, joy, and goodness.

Many people question what the basis is for some of the stands that Seventh-day Adventists take on this issue. After all, doesn’t the New Testament (NT) make it clear that the health laws of the Old Testament (OT) were removed at the cross? Aren’t we Christians free from the restrictions placed upon the Hebrews of former times?

In this paper, we set about to examine the NT texts commonly used to back up this claim (Part 1). We then set about to explore the biblical basis for the healthy lifestyle practices adopted by the Adventists since its inception (Part 2).

Texts Used to Oppose Vegetarianism and Other Healthy Lifestyle Practices

First, we will simply read the passages that are commonly used to back up the claim that diet is not an issue Christians should be concerned about from a moral standpoint. If you are familiar with these texts and simply want to see our discussion of them feel free to skip forward to the section entitled, Bible Answers below.

Romans Chapter 14

1Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. 2For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. 3Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. 4Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. 5One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. 6He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. 7For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. 8For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. 9For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. 10But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. 13Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. 14I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. 16Let not then your good be evil spoken of: 17For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. 18For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. 19Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. 20For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. 21It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. 22Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. 23And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

Matthew 15:11

Christ speaking to the Pharisees:

Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

Acts 10:9-16

9On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: 10And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, 11And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: 12Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. 13And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. 14But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. 15And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. 16This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.

1 Corinthians 10:19-33

19What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? 20But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. 21Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils. 22Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he? 23All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.24Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth. 25Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: 26For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. 27If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. 28But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof: 29Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? 30For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? 31Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 32Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: 33Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

Colossians 2:14-17

13And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. 16Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

1 Timothy 4:1-5

1Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. 4For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 5For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

Bible Answers

Now we turn to a discussion of the above passages. We want to know what is being said and what is not being said. Let us allow Scripture to interpret itself.

Romans Chapter 14

1Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. 2For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.

Who are the ones spoken of as being the “weak” ones? Unquestionably, it is those who choose to eat only herbs (vegetables). The vegetarians are the ones spoken of as being “weak.” Paul doesn’t mention the word “strong” here for the non-vegetarians, but it is implied. In the next chapter (Romans 15:1) Paul admonishes, “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”

Clearly, in this passage those who eat only herbs are considered “weak” in the faith. But now let’s turn to a well-known story in the book of Daniel. Daniel 1:5-20:

5And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king. 6Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 7Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego. 8But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself... 11Then said Daniel to Melzar... 12Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse [vegetables] to eat, and water to drink... 18Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. 20And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.

Let’s ask a simple question: In the passage above, would we consider Daniel and the three Hebrew worthies “weak” in the faith? Were they weak for insisting on eating only vegetables? If we are honest with the Word, we would have to answer, No. The fact is, Daniel and his companions were standing with utmost courage against the great Babylonian conquerors. They were captives in exile. They were being offered an enormous incentive to obtain the best training and opportunities that could be afforded them. Under threat of death, they stood firm for their beliefs and refused the king’s meat and wine and instead opted for a simple vegetarian diet. “Weak” would just not be a good word to describe these faithful Hebrew exiles. So what makes the difference between them and the vegetarians spoken of by Paul in Romans? Perhaps Paul can give us a clue. Let’s turn over to the book of 1 Corinthians. Scholars estimate that this book was written about one year apart from the book of Romans.

1 Corinthians Chapter 8:

1Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. 2And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. 3But if any man love God, the same is known of him. 4As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. 5For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) 6But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. 7Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 8But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. 9But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. 10For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; 11And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. 13Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

What is the issue in 1 Corinthians 8? Simply this: Certain Christians had knowledge that an idol is nothing. It has no real power. It’s just a stone or piece of wood. The old pagan practice of offering flesh food to idols before bringing it into the market place to be sold, was causing certain Christian converts to avoid eating flesh food altogether. These Christians believed they should not eat food that had been offered to idols. But Paul knew better. He realized that an idol was nothing. He really could care less if his food had been consecrated to an idol. It meant nothing to him. He was at “liberty”; strong in the faith. But for others, their religion was more restrictive in that they believed they must follow a rigorous set of rules to remain free of guilt. Being “weak,” their conscience did not allow them to eat food offered to idols. Therefore, to be on the safe side, they chose not to eat flesh foods altogether, instead opting for herbs only.

Paul’s main point in this chapter is that the strong should not be a stumblingblock to their weaker brethren by callously exercising their own “liberty.” To do so would be to “sin against Christ.” Charity (love) is better than mere knowledge, because knowledge, apart from charity, only puffs up. Summarizing his point, Paul states that if necessary he will not eat “flesh” food so as not to offend his brother. [Please note that the word, “meat” means food in a general sense, while the word, “flesh” means animal flesh food.]

The parallels between this passage and Romans 14 are unmistakable. The issue is not one of dietary concern or of clean versus unclean meats in dietary sense; the issue is that of food being offered to idols and how fellow Christians should relate to each other in that regard.

Two primary issues facing the new church were that of (1) meat offered to idols, and (2) whether the ceremonial law was still binding. These two issues plagued the Christian believers of that era as we shall see below.

Continuing in Romans 14:5-6 we read:

One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.

What is meant by this passage? Some have assumed that Paul is talking about the Seventh-day Sabbath and that he is admonishing the Christians in Rome to allow everyone to make up his own mind in regards to what day is to be considered special for worshiping God. But we note that the passage does not state this. This would be an assumption that is not necessarily warranted by the context. Neither can we find any other statements by Paul that would clearly indicate that this passage is talking about the Seventh-day Sabbath. Colossians 2:14-17 comes close and we will examine it. But first, let’s think about this phrase, “every day alike.” Does this really mean that some Christians truly esteemed every day the same? For a clue, let’s look at another Bible verse that uses this same phrase.

5Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread [manna] from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove [test] them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. 6And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.... 26Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none. Exodus 16:4, 5, 26. (Emphasis supplied.)

Notice, God tells the Children of Israel that they should go and gather the manna “every day.” But then in verse 26, there is an important exception. On the Seventh-day Sabbath, they were not to go out and gather the manna. There would not be any to gather. So we see that the “every day” phrase earlier in the chapter really means every day that was not a Seventh-day Sabbath.

Now, we turn to Colossians 2:13-17 to see what this passage has to say. Learning about this passage will help us to understand what Paul is talking about in Romans 14:5-6.

Colossians 2:14-17

13And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. 16Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

Once again we read that no man should judge another in respect of meat, drink, holy days, or sabbath days. That in fact, these were blotted out and nailed to the cross. Surely this is proof positive that diet and Sabbath-keeping is something everyone should decide between them and God, correct? It’s really no one else’s business, is it?

Let’s turn to a parallel passage in Ephesians and see if there are any clues:

14For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace (Ephesians 2:14-15).

Notice that this is saying almost the same thing as in Colossians except here it is slightly more specific. What is abolished? The law. But which law? The law of commandments contained in ordinances. What is that talking about? Well, let’s turn to Hebrews and see what it says.

3For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this Man have somewhat also to offer. 4For if He were on earth, He should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: 5Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things… (Hebrews 8:3-5).

Note that in the next few verses we insert the marginal readings from the KJV to help clarify the meaning.

1Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances [margin—ceremonies] of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.... 9Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 10Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances [margin—rites, ceremonies], imposed on them until the time of reformation. Hebrews 9:1, 9-10.

We note that in this passage, the old ceremonial law is being described. Words like example, shadow, ordinances, ceremonies, and rites (rituals) are used to describe it. Notice what is included in these rites and ceremonies: meats, drinks and sacrifices.

What does the word shadow signify in this context? The Greek Strong’s number 4639 [skia] means: “1a shade caused by the interception of light. 1b an image cast by an object and representing the form of that object. 1c a sketch, outline.”—Strong’s Concordance.

Ceremonial Meats, Drinks, and Sabbath Days

The ceremonial system of meat and drink offerings and sacrifices and ceremonies served as a shadow. What cast the shadow? The cross of Christ. What was the source of that light? Christ, the light of the world (John 1:9).

Now, remember we are trying to understand in Colossians 2 and Ephesians 2 what law was abolished or blotted out or nailed to the cross. Let’s examine a series of Old Testament verses that should help us.

What are the “sabbath days” mentioned in Colossians 2:16? Is this not the Seventh-day Sabbath? Let’s look at Leviticus 23 for a clue.

1And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. 3Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.
4 ¶ These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons. 5In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S passover. 6And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. 7In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.

Note that this chapter contains a listing of the old Jewish festivals, feast days, and associated sabbath days. In verses 1 and 2, God introduces His topic: feast days and holy convocations. He then talks about the Seventh-day Sabbath. But note that this is not part of the festivals. We can tell this by the fact that verse 4 starts back up again by re-introducing the topic: “these are the feast… even holy convocations.” The paragraph mark (in the KJV) shows a logical break at the beginning of verse 4. The Seventh-day Sabbath is set apart and mentioned at the beginning before God then goes into topic of the festivals and their associated sabbath days. Beginning with verse 4 and throughout the remainder of the chapter, God describes the festivals.

Verses 24, 32, 39 mention “a” sabbath. Verses 7, 8, 21, 25, 35, and 36 designate that the people “shall do no servile work therein.” Putting these together, we find there to be a total of seven ceremonial sabbath days. But note that these were not the weekly Seventh-day Sabbath. For example, verse 27 designates “the tenth day of the seventh month there shall be a day of atonement,”—“a sabbath of rest” (v. 32). This is tied to a particular day of the month and thus could fall on any day of the week, Monday, Tuesday, etc. When a festival sabbath day happened to fall on the weekly Seventh-day Sabbath, it was known has a “high Sabbath” (John 19:31).

Furthermore, we note that the weekly Sabbath was institutionalized by God back at the very beginning during Creation Week (see Genesis 2:1-3). This happened before sin entered into the world. Additionally, the weekly Sabbath is enshrined in the heart of the Ten Commandment Moral Law written in stone by the finger of God (Exodus 20:8-11; Exodus 31:18). Thus it was not a shadow pointing forward to Christ like the ceremonial sabbaths. Instead, it is as eternal as God’s Moral Ten Commandment Law.

Let’s now examine some Bible verses that use language similar to that found in Colossians 2:15 and Ephesians 2:15. Remember that we want Scripture to be its own interpreter.

Texts Similar to Colossians 2:16

Numbers 28 talks about meat and drink offerings no less than 20 times. Numbers 28:11 speaks of monthly offerings, “And in the beginnings of your months [new moons] ye shall offer a burnt offering unto the LORD.”

1 Chronicles 23:31-32

And to offer all burnt sacrifices unto the LORD in the sabbaths, in the new moons, and on the set feasts, by number, according to the order commanded unto them, continually before the LORD: And that they should keep the charge of the tabernacle of the congregation, and the charge of the holy place, and the charge of the sons of Aaron their brethren, in the service of the house of the LORD.

2 Chronicles 8:13

Even after a certain rate every day, offering according to the commandment of Moses, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts, three times in the year, even in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles.

2 Chronicles 31:3

He appointed also the king’s portion of his substance for the burnt offerings, to wit, for the morning and evening burnt offerings, and the burnt offerings for the sabbaths, and for the new moons, and for the set feasts, as it is written in the law of the LORD.

Ezra 3:5

And afterward offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the LORD.

Nehemiah 10:33

For the shewbread, and for the continual meat offering, and for the continual burnt offering, of the sabbaths, of the new moons, for the set feasts, and for the holy things, and for the sin offerings to make an atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God.

Psalms 81:3

Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day.

Isaiah 1:13-14

Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.

Ezekiel 45:17

And it shall be the prince’s part to give burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and drink offerings, in the feasts, and in the new moons, and in the sabbaths, in all solemnities of the house of Israel: he shall prepare the sin offering, and the meat offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, to make reconciliation for the house of Israel.

Hosea 2:11

I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.

So, when we come to Colossians 2:16-17 where it says, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ,” how should we interpret it? We recognize that this is clearly talking about the old shadow, ceremonial law of the OT that was done away with by Christ, fulfilling and ending it at the cross. Note that the “sabbath days” is plural. Note also that these are said to be a “shadow of things to come.”

We remember that the Seventh-day Sabbath was instituted before sin entered into the world after the fall of Adam and Eve. The weekly Sabbath was instituted at the very beginning by the Creator God Himself as a memorial of His completed work (Genesis 2:1-3). In the heart of the Ten Commandments, God asks us to “remember” the weekly Sabbath day as a memorial of what He has done (Exodus 20:8-11). To confuse this with the shadow sabbaths of the ceremonial ordinances of the Mosaic law is to wrest the Scriptures to our own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).

Thus, when we read Paul admonishing us to not judge another man in meat, drinks, or days, we recognize that the issue is not about dietary clean and unclean animal flesh or about the weekly sabbath. Instead, the issue is how we are to treat our brothers and sisters who sincerely believe in adhering to a stricter set of rules regarding food offered to idols; it is about whether the ceremonial holy days, and sabbath days, and other aspects of that law are still binding upon Christians; it is about whether we will be a stumbling block or not.

Matthew 15:11

Here Christ is speaking to the Pharisees: “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.”

Is Jesus saying that whatever we eat won’t defile us? Let’s look at the context to see what Jesus is talking about.

1Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, 2Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.... 10And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: 11Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.... 15Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. 16And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? 17Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? 18But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.19For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: 20These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man. Mathew 15:1, 2, 10, 11, 15-20.

What is the issue according the Jesus? According to verse 20, the issue is whether a person is defiled by eating with unwashen hands. The Pharisees were insisting that Jesus and His disciples were breaking the law by not washing their hands (in a ceremonial sense). The parallel passage in Mark chapter 7 is even more clear as to what the real issue was. In fact, it demonstrates that Christ was upholding His laws of the Old Testament. It was the Jews who were breaking God’s law while at the same time enforcing their own man-made traditions.

1Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. 2And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. 3For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. 4And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots brasen vessels, and of tables. 5Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? 6He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 8For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. 9And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. 10For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: 11But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. 12And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; 13Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.14And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand: 15There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. 16If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. 17And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. 18And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; 19Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? 20And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. 21For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23All these evil things come from within, and defile the man. Mark 7:1-23.

The problem under discussion between Jesus and the Pharisees had nothing whatever to do with the kind of food to be eaten, but only with the way in which it was to be eaten—whether with or without ritual hand washing. The context makes emphatically clear that Jesus was not calling into question in any way the precepts of the OT, but rather was denying the validity of oral tradition [of the Pharisees], and here specifically the tradition that declared food eaten with hands improperly washed (in a ritualistic sense) became the cause of defilement. It was always, and exclusively, “the commandments of men” (v. 7) against which Jesus protested, in sharp distinction to the “commandment of God” (v. 8) as set forth in the Scriptures. To apply vs. 15–23 to the matter of clean and unclean meats is to ignore the context completely. Had Jesus at this time eliminated the distinction between clean and unclean flesh foods it is obvious that Peter would not later have responded as he did to the idea of eating unclean flesh foods (Acts 10:9-18).3

Acts 10:9-16

In the following passage Peter receives a vision that will alter his worldview in a dramatic way. Let’s read it and see what the real issue was.

9On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: 10And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, 11And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: 12Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. 13And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. 14But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. 15And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. 16This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.

Many have concluded that this passage is removing the distinction between clean and unclean animal foods set forth in the OT. But is this what is being said here? Let’s let Peter tell us in his own words what lesson he learned from this dramatic vision. We continue in verse 17,

Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate.

Notice that Peter is wondering what this vision is all about. What is God trying to teach him? A little later, after going with the men to visit Cornelius and finding himself in the midst of a group of his friends and family, Peter relates to them the lesson that God had been trying to teach him with the vision (verses 26-28):

Peter...said unto them, Ye know how 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 shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

What did Peter say was the issue? “God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” The issue was the separation of the Jews from the Gentiles. God was trying to teach Peter that the Gentiles, whom God had created, were not to be treated as common or unclean as was typically done by the Jews of that era.

1 Corinthians 10:19-33

19What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? 20But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. 21Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils. 22Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he? 23All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.24Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth. 25Whatsoever is sold in the shambles [market], that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: 26For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. 27If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. 28But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof: 29Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? 30For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? 31Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 32Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: 33Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

Once again as we saw in the above passages, Paul is dealing with the issue of food offered to idols. This is a continuation of his overall discussion beginning in 1 Corinthians 8 that we examined above.

Some wonder about Paul’s statement in verse 23, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” Is Paul echoing a libertine, anything goes philosophy here? Let’s go back a few chapters to 1 Corinthians 6:12, where we see Paul use the same phrase.

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

Are all things truly lawful for Paul and other believers? Paul answers our question for us a few verses back in the same chapter (verses 9-10):

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

It is apparent from the context that Paul is not saying that everything is lawful, but only those things that were in question in his discussion with the Corinthian believers. That would include the issues of food offered to idols, whether the ceremonial law was still binding, and possibly certain other errors that had begun to creep into the early church (Gnostic errors that we will look at below).

1 Timothy 4:1-5

1Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. 4For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 5For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

Note that Paul is warning Timothy that in latter times there would arise people that would forbid to marry and command church members to abstain from meats. Now notice in the Interlinear Bible how this is rendered:

But the Spirit expressly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith...forbidding to marry, saying to abstain from foods, which God created for partaking with thanksgiving by the believers, and those knowing the truth. Because every creature of God is good and nothing to be thrust away....4 (Emphasis supplied)

What foods are being talked about here? The text clarifies it for us, only those foods “which God created for partaking with thanksgiving by the believers, and those knowing the truth.” Is that clear? The text provides us a qualification; it tells us that only those foods that God created for eating are to be eaten. The OT clearly lays out what was permitted to be eaten. That did not change in the NT. Otherwise Peter would not have protested in the vision of Acts 10 (see above). And note that Peter did not take away from that vision that he should now start eating unclean meats. He knew well what God was trying to teach, not to call an man unclean or common.

Some mistakenly assume from the above text that God is telling us that we can eat literally anything so long as we receive it with thanksgiving. If we believe that is the case, then we have just handed the cannibals of New Guinea a biblical basis for pursuing their practice of eating the flesh of their fellow human beings. After all, doesn’t the text say, “every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving”?

In Genesis 1:29, God tells us, “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” Again, in Genesis 9:3 (after the flood) God says, “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.”

Let’s ask the question, Did God say we could eat every herb bearing seed, and every tree? The answer is, Yes. But would you and I eat Poison Ivy or the Poinsettia plant (think Christmas)? Are they not part of the herbs bearing seed? Yes. But no one in their right mind would eat these things. To do so would be presumptuous. God has given us common sense and wisdom to help us understand what is included in His permission to eat every herb. We recognize that sin has changed things. The curse is resting more and more heavily upon the earth as sin deepens in the world. Could that be something we need to take into consideration in our diet for today (the worsening curse of sin on God’s creation)?

Acts 15:29 plainly debunks the notion that the apostolic church considered all food permissible to eat. “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us [the apostles]...” The early church was commanded to abstain from “blood, and from things strangled.” Clearly the apostles, after careful deliberation and under the watchful guidance of the Holy Spirit, concluded that dietary restrictions most certainly applied to the saints in New Testament times. Evidently, they understood that God’s dietary guidelines had not been removed at the Cross. So, what is Paul talking of in 1 Timothy 4:1-5?

Let us note what the highly respected Protestant commentary by Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown (published in 1871) says about this text:

1 Tim 4:4, 5. ... every creature ... good — (Ge 1:31 ; Ro 14:14, 20). A refutation by anticipation of the Gnostic opposition to creation: the seeds of which were now lurking latently in the Church. Judaism (Ac 10:11–16; 1Co 10:25, 26) was the starting-point of the error as to meats: Oriental Gnosis added new elements. The old Gnostic heresy is now almost extinct; but its remains in the celibacy of Rome’s priesthood, and in its fasts from animal meats, enjoined under the penalty of mortal sin, remain.5

Note that they attribute what Paul is speaking of as referring to the Gnostic heresy that thought that creation was inherently evil. Furthermore, Paul saw prophetically that this heresy would become more widespread in the church. Sure enough, history bears out that the Church of Rome forbade her priests and nuns from marrying and commanded church members to abstain from eating certain foods on Fridays, during Lent, and at other times. In fact, the hedonistic and riotous partying of Mardis Gras (French for “Fat Tuesday”) is the last chance to eat, drink, and be merry before the 40 days of fasting of the Roman Catholic Lent commences the next day on Wednesday leading up to Easter 40 days later.

Summary of Part 1

We have examined Romans 14, Mathew 15:11, Acts 10:9-16, 1 Corinthians 10:19-33, Colossians 2:14-17, 1 Timothy 4:1-5 and associated passages in answering the charge that these texts nullify the OT dietary restrictions imposed by God upon His people. We have allowed Scriptures to interpret Scriptures showing that these passages do not take away God’s plan for our diet or for the keeping of the Seventh-day weekly Sabbath. We demonstrated that the shadowy aspects of the OT, the ceremonial law contained in ordinances was nailed to the cross. The old festivals, holy days, and ceremonial sabbaths, along with the sacrifices and other ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic law were fulfilled by Christ and are thus non-binding today. However, the Moral Law of Ten Commandments, written by God’s finger in stone, and stored inside of the ark of the covenant, is still binding on all people today. Part of this Mosaic Law dealing with the non-ceremonial aspects are also still binding upon us today, including the health laws.

In the next section, we will examine God’s ideal for us in the area of health. We aim to demonstrate that God is very interested in our living a healthy, happy, abundant life here on earth as we prepare for the next life.

Go to Part 2: Restoring God’s Diet for the Last Generation


ENDNOTES
  1. Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, Revised 2000, 16th Edition (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2000), pp. 32-33, http://www.adventist.org/beliefs/church_manual/chapter6.html#32 (accessed March 2, 2004).
  2. Seventh-day Adventists Believe...27 Fundamental Beliefs (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1988), p. 278, http://www.adventist.org/beliefs/index.html (accessed March 2, 2004).
  3. F. D. Nichol, The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1978), Mark 7:15.
  4. Jay P. Green, Sr., The Interlinear Bible (Lafayette, IN: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 1985), 1 Tim. 4:1-5.
  5. Jamieson, R., A. R. Fausset, D. Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), Originally published in 1871. 1 Ti 4:4.

David Qualls is an active member of the Tulsa, Oklahoma Seventh-day Adventist Church. Raised a Seventh-day Adventist by godly parents, he turned his back on God in his teens, but by the grace of God returned to the faith of his youth with a strong desire to serve God and to help others prepare for His soon coming. He has served in several self-supporting ministries and currently resides near Tulsa with his wife, Ruth. Having earned degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, he currently works in the software development field for a large telecommunications firm. Taking an active interest in current theological issues within the Remnant Church, he desires to let God use him to spread the true gospel and to help others avoid being blown about by every wind of doctrine.

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