Tag Archives: Diet and the New Testament

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: What Scripture Says About Food Part III

22 Nov

Last week in Part II of our series, we took a look at the New Testament perspective on the Old Testament dietary laws. Unfortunately, Peter’s vision in Acts 11 didn’t entirely clear up the issue of what a Christian should or shouldn’t eat. The Church remained conflicted about which dietary rules did or didn’t apply and even found some new ways to argue about those rules.

The Apostle Paul spent more than his fair share of time trying to clear up these arguments and we find him addressing them in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-11 (among others). While it was clear that Jewish believers and Gentile believers weren’t likely to come to any agreement on the matter (the Gentiles were even divided among themselves regarding meat sacrificed to idols), there were a few ground rules which could be put in place. Pay attention, because these rules still apply to Christians today! Among them are:

  • Don’t judge. (Romans 14:3-8) Not every issue is as clear cut as we like to think. While we may be deeply convicted that we aren’t doing honor to our bodies (God’s temple) or to God’s Name by eating or drinking certain things, other believers may not share our conviction. What may be “obvious” to us isn’t always “obvious” to everyone else. When this is the case, Christians ought to approach each other’s dietary choices with an attitude of grace.
  • Don’t ignore your conscience or encourage anyone else to ignore theirs. (Romans 14:14,23) If you think it’s a sin to eat a certain food or to drink a certain beverage, it is… for you. God often convicts individual believers about what they shouldn’t do in their situation. This means that we have an obligation to support each other in these beliefs. We may discuss the relative merits of certain diets or even spend time examining the Biblical text for support, but in the end, we ought never to do something which violates our conscience or encourages our brothers and sisters to violate theirs.
  • Don’t destroy members of the Body. (Romans 14:20,21; 1 Corinthians 8:9-12) While we aren’t responsible for the choices of other believers, we do need to be sensitive to the ways that our actions may tempt or influence them. Not everyone has a will of iron and plopping down your box of doughnuts right in front of a diabetic may result in an unrestrained binge which does serious physical damage to their body. This doesn’t mean that you should never eat another doughnut or that you shouldn’t eat doughnuts in public, just that you need to use discretion when determining what, where, and when you eat. (Hint: this means that you need to take the time to get to know other believers and understand their strengths and weaknesses.)
  •  Don’t make an issue out of food. (1 Corinthians 8:8) In the big scheme of things, what God does or doesn’t want us to eat is not as important as who He wants us to be: people who demonstrate His love. There is a time and place for discussing the Biblical view of food… but it isn’t when tempers are likely to flare. If you don’t see eye-to-eye with another believer concerning what you should eat, don’t debate them. Let it go. God is working in both of your hearts and the Holy Spirit will bring you to the conclusions He needs to bring you to in His time. Don’t separate other believers from the fellowship of the body over the issue of food or drink.
  • Glorify God always. (1 Corinthians 10:31-33) Paul was careful about what he said and did when he sat at someone else’s table. He recognized that sometimes, conveying the message of the Gospel meant saying “yes” to what was offered and that other times it meant saying “no”. He also recognized that the food which received a “yes” at one table might receive a “no” at another. What he ate wasn’t about what he ate it was about the people with whom he was eating. Our decisions to eat, moderate, or abstain should follow the same rule.

Next week, we’ll begin to examine two very clear Scriptural commandments regarding what we take into our body and how they apply to what we will or won’t eat. In the meantime, feel free to share your own thoughts in the comment box below!

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: What Scripture Says About Food Part II

15 Nov

Last week in Part I of our series, we took a look at the role that food played in the Old Testament, setting apart those who served God from those who did not. We examined how being set apart in such a seemingly unimportant way can trigger questions in the minds of those around us that open opportunities to talk about God. But is this still what God wants from us today? It’s a question which plagued the early Church and is worth, at the very least, a few minutes of our time.

If you’ve spent much time reading the New Testament, you’re probably familiar with the story found in Acts 11:1-10. Having gone up to the roof to pray, the Apostle Peter was given a vision of a sheet descending from heaven with all manner of beasts inside. A voice spoke to him telling him to eat, but being a good Israelite, he quickly objected. After all, some of the beasts in the vision were “unclean” and, as a careful follower of God, he could not in good conscience disobey a very clear command. Three times the vision appeared and each time, the voice responded to his objections with the words, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” (Acts 11:9)

The message, of course, had as much to do with accepting uncircumcised Gentiles into the newborn Church as it did with food, but still, this lifting of an ancient command left the young Christians to sort out what must have felt like a muddled mess. Did Peter’s vision mean that Jewish believers ought not to obey the dietary laws? Were pork and shellfish to be a part of regular church meetings? What about food which had been previously sacrificed to idols? And how were conflicts to be resolved when two parties disagreed about what should or shouldn’t be eaten?

In the end, a church council was called (you can read the account in Acts 15) and the Apostle James suggested that in regard to Gentiles entering the Church that they need only obey three of the dietary laws: “abstain from things contaminated by idols… and from what is strangled and from blood.” (Acts 15:20) But this still didn’t answer questions regarding whether Jewish believers ought to simply ditch the old dietary laws or what ought to be done when Jewish believers and Gentile believers ate together or with others who didn’t share their faith.

Resolving these conflicts fell largely to the Apostle Paul who seems to have spent nearly as much time sorting out the Church’s dining arrangements as he did actually preaching the Gospel. But then again, when what you ate could have a real impact upon how receptive others were to your message, it was worth the time necessary to make sure that everyone was “eating from the same menu”. The solutions he provided are important to our study, largely because Paul’s words concerning the diet of a faithful Christian continue to have as much an influence upon modern believers as they did upon those living in ancient Rome.

Next week, we’ll take a look at a few of the key principles set forth by Paul, but in the meantime, feel free to share your own thoughts on the subject in the comment box below!

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