This blog is a response to a Muslim’s blog questioning why Christians believe it’s alright to eat pork.
We know Jews avoid pork because they live under the Old Testament law and Muslims avoid pork because it is forbidden to them in the Qur’an. So, why do Christians, who live by the Bible, which includes the Old Testament law,
feel free to eat pork? This is hard for non-Christians to understand, so here’s
The Old Testament was a covenant God made with the Jews. It was a covenant based on living by laws and making animal sacrifices to cover for one’s sins from year to year. It was a covenant made by God to expire. Yes, that’s right. It was never meant to be permanent!
Before He gave the law to the Jews through Moses, God knew the law could not save people from their sin nature inherited from Adam. God also knew the law could not keep the Jews from living in sin. But, the law had a good purpose. The law was given to the Jews as a standard for right living. It was given to teach them that it was impossible to live a truly righteous life through human effort alone. God wanted them to look to Him and their coming redeemer, Jesus, for salvation.
The Old Testament law was multi-faceted. It included ceremonial instructions for the Priests, the Levites, and the religious practitioner to follow to properly worship a Holy God. It also included food and hygiene laws to protect the health of the congregation. And it laid down guidelines for moral living.
Of the three categories of laws, only the moral laws are as binding as gravity. They never change because they are rooted in God’s Perfections. Ceremonial laws and health guidelines can be changed over time based on the current needs.
For example: Jews can’t fulfill the ceremonial instructions God gave them, such as animal sacrifices, without their Temple in Jerusalem. They have been without their Temple for almost 2000 years now. It was destroyed in 70 AD. And, they haven’t been able to rebuild their temple since they became a modern nation in 1948 because Muslims (due to geo-political constraints on Israel) have retained control of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. God obviously knows the situation.
Another example is eating pork. This restriction is a health issue. Eating pork (barbeque sauce or not) can be a dangerous practice when pigs are raised in filthy conditions. Also, when pork isn’t cooked properly it may pass harmful parasites to people. But, eating pork is not dangerous when pigs are raised in fairly clean conditions and the meat is properly cooked. God gave “the laws” He gave “when” He gave them for good reasons. So, pork was forbidden under the Old Covenant guidelines.
The New Testament reveals a New Covenant given by God to the Jews and Gentiles together. It is freely given to all who believe and enter into a covenant relationship with God based on, and guaranteed by, the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus.
When Jesus died on the cross, He said, “It is finished.” What was He talking about? He was proclaiming that the power of death and hell was broken! They could no longer hold a sinner if that sinner claimed, by faith, his freedom from sin’s death penalty through the blood of Jesus! Jesus had paid the full price for our redemption from sin!
The requirement of the law says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.” Under that law, every sinner must pay for his sin with his life. He is doomed forever and can’t help himself or anyone else– for all have sinned and owe their lives as the penalty. The situation looks bleak indeed.
Yes, it looks bleak, but it was never hopeless. From eternity past, before creation, God had a plan! Jesus, the sinless Son of God would die in our place! If He’d been sinless, but a mere mortal man, He could only have died in the place of one sinner. But, because He is God, the value of His sacrificial death covered all sin for all time! Therefore, He is able to “save to the uttermost” all who put their trust in Him! Now, that’s good news!
But, what does it mean to put your trust in Jesus? When one puts their trust in Jesus, by grace, He gives them a new heart which gives them the ability to live a righteous life apart from the law.
For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14
They are born again in the Spirit of God and filled with His love. The past sins of a spiritually newborn Christian are cast into the sea of forgetfulness never to be remembered against them again! And, because mortals are not perfect, Jesus also continuously cleanses His followers from unrighteousness as they confess their sins. Praise God for His love and complete provision!
Many New Testament passages deal with concern for outward cleanliness which neglects the heart. Jesus sat down to eat with the Pharisees on one occasion without washing His hands to teach them about the importance of heart issues. They were indignant and it gave Him the opportunity to tell them about their “unwashed heart issues.”
On another occasion Jesus said, “It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” Matt 15:11
As a good Jew, Peter tried to avoid contact with Gentiles, considering them unclean. In order to open his eyes to his need to change and accept all people, God gave him a vision. A sheet was lowered from heaven filled with all kinds of “unclean” (under the standards of the law) four footed animals, reptiles and birds and he heard a command, “Rise Peter, kill and eat.” Peter refused saying, “I’ve never eaten anything that is unclean.” He was shown the animals and given the command 3 times and then God said, “Don’t call anything unclean which God has made clean.” Finally, he believed and received the command.
After that Peter began to associate with Gentiles and to understand his freedom in Christ. Later, Paul gave more specific teachings about our freedom in Christ dealing with eating meats and many other issues concerning the law. He said, “The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith.” Gal:3:24
“our sufficiency is from God, who also made is sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Corinthians 3:5-7
After telling his disciples (in Matthew 5:20) “unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus warned his disciples to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:6) They did not originally understand His meaning, so He clarified Himself, and they understood He referred to the tainted doctrine of those religious groups.
What was the problem with the doctrine of the Pharisees and the Sadducees? Their doctrines were legalistic and not based on a relationship with God. It was the “letter of the law” which “kills”.
The Pharisees attempted to follow the laws they chose to follow meticulously (even setting stricter requirements than the law) and they focused on outward piety because they loved the praise of men! On the other hand, they felt free to replace some of God’s commandments with the oral traditions of men. Their attempts at works righteousness looked good to men but displeased God. Why? Because they didn’t love God and their neighbors! They thought their good works could save them so they didn’t humble themselves before God and receive His provision of salvation through Jesus Christ.
The Sadducees were sceptics. They didn’t believe in miracles or believe in the resurrection. They focused on the Torah and denied the oral tradition. For them, “an eye for an eye” was a literal punishment that should be carried out without mercy. Unlike God, they were big on law and low on mercy. So, they missed God’s provision of mercy for themselves when they rejected Jesus Christ.
For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17
Just as you can wash your body and make it clean, God can wash your heart and cleanse you from unrighteousness. Yes, the unclean can become clean. Praise God for His marvelous, saving grace.
Let me be clear. God cares more about the condition of your heart than about whether you eat pork or not. He doesn’t want you stuck struggling with trivial details of the letter of the law. That will surely kill you. He wants you to turn to Him for new life and total salvation!