Did Christ and the Apostles Keep the Food Laws of the Old Testament?


On the basis of the words used by our Lord in Mark 7, verses 18 and 19, and the story of Peter's vision as found in Acts 10, it has become the popularly accepted teaching in organised Christendom, that the Divine Food Laws as set forth in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 have been abolished, and that Christians can now eat any kind of food they wish.

BUT what are the Biblical facts?

The Food Laws are much older than their codified form given to Moses. The distinction between clean and unclean was known even before the Genesis Flood, and so we read of Noah that he was commanded by God:

"Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens the male and the female, and of the beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female" - (GENESIS 7:2)

This distinction was set out clearly and in detail to the Children of Israel by Moses and Aaron in Leviticus 11, where such abominable things as swine's flesh, shellfish etc., were strictly forbidden, God Almighty declaring:

"This is the law of beasts and of fowl and of every living creature that moveth upon the waters, and of every creature that creepeth upon the earth to make a difference between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten" - (LEVITICUS 11:46-47)

A generation later in Deuteronomy 14, Moses reiterated the Divine Food Laws once again to God's Covenant People Israel, forbidding them to eat unclean food because:

"Thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto Himself above all the nations that are upon the earth." - (DEUTERONOMY 14:2)

The same God who said: "Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing," also said "Thou shalt not kill" and "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Do our clergy who so glibly proclaim that they are not under law but under grace and can eat what they choose, also suggest that these other "Thou shalt not" commands are abolished, blotted out or nailed to the cross?

These animals, birds and fish were prohibited by God for the health and well being of His people. Whilst Israel obeyed these laws, they were a fit and healthy people, an example to all other nations, and we read of them at the end of their wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, and on the eve of their entry into Canaan, that:

"There was not one feeble (sick) person among their tribes" - (PSALM 105:37)

It was only when they fell into religious apostacy, as we have done nationally today, that they abandoned God's Divine Food Laws, and thus we read of them that they became:

"A rebellious people ... a people that provoketh me to anger ... that burneth incense upon altars of brick ... which eat swine's flesh and the broth of abominable things in their vessels." - (ISAIAH 65:2-4)

Now let us turn to the New Testament and see if the Lord Jesus, Peter or any of the other Apostles changed the Commandment of Almighty God or in any way purified forbidden meats to make them acceptable.

Purging All Meat

We read the following words of our Lord in the Gospel of Mark 7 verses 18 and 19:

"And 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, because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly and goeth out into the draught, PURGING ALL MEATS."

If we study this passage honestly and sincerely, we will see that our Lord was not referring to the Food Laws, nor was He making unclean and forbidden meat to be clean and acceptable. He was, in point of fact, drawing attention to the man-made observances and rituals of the Pharisees and religious leaders in Jewry, who had made the Word of God null and void by their tradition. Jesus was attacking and repudiating their ritual handwashing, and pointing out that it was not the dirt which enters into our system by eating with unwashed hands which defiles, but the evil thoughts which emanate from the heart of man, e.g., adultery, murder, fornication. This becomes crystal clear if we read on into verses 20-23. This much-misquoted text, taken from its context, has therefore absolutely nothing to do with abolishing the Divine Food Laws. It merely shows that anything harmful taken into the system, is purged out in the natural way, and therefore the religious rituals of Phariseeism are irrelevant and unnecessary.

Peter's Vision

In Acts 10, we find the story of Peter asleep on the roof of Simon the Tanner in Joppa, when he sees a strange vision. In this vision he saw a great sheet let down from Heaven, full of forbidden, unclean animals, and he heard a voice saying:

"Rise Peter, kill and eat" - Verse 13

Peter objected saying:

"Not so Lord, for I have never eaten anything common or unclean." - verse 14

In spite of his objection, the voice proclaimed.

"What God hath cleansed THAT call not thou common" - Verse 15

On the slim basis of these verses, modern Christians are told that the vision meant the total abolition of the Divine Food Laws, and that we can now eat anything we like or desire. Evidently Peter did not see this explanation, for we read that he:

"doubted in himself (was not sure) what this vision which he had seen should mean." - Verse 17.

The true meaning was soon to become clear to him and I trust to you also. At the outset of Chapter 10, we are told that while Peter was having his vision, some miles away in Caesarea, a devout Gentile, a Roman soldier called Cornelius, also had a vision in which an angel told him to:

"send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon whose surname is Peter ... he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do." - Verses 5 and 6.

When these messengers arrived with Peter, he obeyed their summons, went to Caesarea and preached the Gospel, resulting in Cornelius and others listening with him, being saved, baptized in water and filled with the Holy Ghost with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues. (Verses 44-48).

This was the first occasion when such a thing had occurred amongst the Gentiles, and then and only then did Peter know the real genuine meaning of his roof-top vision:

"Ye know how 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 showed me that I should not call ANY MAN unclean" - Verse 28.

The vision was in Symbols, it concerned men, not animals or food. Peter had been shown that it was time to take the Gospel beyond the narrow confines which had operated up to that point. In no way was he being told that forbidden food was now clean. There is not one verse of Scripture to teach or even suggest that our Lord, Peter or the other Apostles cleansed or ate that which God had declared to be forbidden and unclean.

Eating what is set before us

A favourite Scripture used by our opponents to justify their eating of unclean food and the breaking of God's Commandment, is found in I Corinthians 10, verses 25 and 27:

"Whatsoever is sold in the shambles (meat market) that eat, asking no question for conscience sake ... whatsoever is set before you eat asking no questions for conscience sake"

It is suggested on the basis of these two verses, that we should not ask any questions about the food given to us, or the method of slaughter etc. If this were true, it would be the worst possible advice for those with stomach or digestive ailments. However that is not what Paul meant, and in order to get a proper understanding, we must look in to the world of the First Century A.D., when the Apostles wrote and ministered.

The context starting from verse 14, has to do with the custom of these days where food was often offered to an idol either in a pagan temple, or to the household gods and idols, before being eaten. Animals were frequently killed and offered as sacrifices to the gods in heathen temples, and the meat would later be re-sold to the public in the shambles or meat market. Paul was therefore saying that it would be improper to ask the host at a meal if the food had previously been part of an idolatrous ceremony, only as is clearly seen in verses 28 and 29, if it was made clear from the outset that the meat had been so offered, had the Christian an obligation to refuse it.

Nothing unclean of itself

Not to be deterred in their disobedience, our opponents will go on to quote the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 14 verse 14:

"I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself."

Once again it is essential that we do not allow a text to be removed from its context to make it a pretext. Therefore we need to read the whole chapter and in so doing we find the key to the subject matter:

"For one believeth that he may eat all things: Another who is weak eateth herbs (vegetables)" - Verse 2.

Paul is in reality telling the members of the Church of God at Rome, not to judge each other over the question of vegetarianism. He goes on in verse 21 to state that as Christians we should do nothing that would cause another Christian to stumble, even if it is something not contrary to God's Law.

As for the word unclean as used in verse 14, it comes from a Greek word KOINOS, in the original, more frequently and more accurately rendered in most other passages of Scripture as 'Common', whilst the more correct Greek word for unclean is AKATHARTOS. Hence we can see that this text has nothing to do with any supposed cleansing of the food prohibited as unclean in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

Nothing to he refused

The final Scripture used by those who reject the Divine Food Laws, is found in I Timothy 4, verse 4:

"For every creature of God. is good, and nothing to be refused, if it is received with thanksgiving"

Just try serving some mice, rats or snakes to our pork-eating friends, ask them to give thanks and eat, quote them this much misquoted Scripture and see the reaction. It will be a real test of their faith and sincerity.

All levity aside however, this verse once again as in all the other cases quoted, is being removed from its true context and misapplied in order to justify disobedience. Paul is writing to young Timothy concerning those who had fallen away from the faith to follow the doctrines of demons. One of the marks of this apostacy and declension was:

"to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth" - Verse 13

In order to find out which foods God did create to be received with thanksgiving, we must return to Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, the only Scriptural guidelines. No amount of prayers of thanksgiving will purify, cleanse or make acceptable for human consumption those foods including pork, which God has declared to be unclean.


Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles kept the Commandments of God, and as faithful Christian Israelites, we must do likewise if we would follow in the footsteps of He whom the Scriptures declare to be:

"the Captain of our salvation"

Whilst disobedience to the Divine Food Laws will not deprive you of a place in. God's Kingdom, which is accorded on the basis of saving faith and repentance, such disobedience, like smoking and the excessive use of alcohol, will rob your body (the temple of the Holy Spirit) of good and abundant health.

For the guidance of our readers, we reproduce the following chart, setting forth in simple form God's Divine Food Laws. May your obedience to the Lord's command produce health and blessing in your life.

Jesus said:

"If ye love Me, keep My Commandments"

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