Due to some visitors to our church in Houston who have expressed
their reasons for not participating in our Sabbath Fellowship meals
the Church Council of the TJC in Houston have assigned me to
research on “Clean and Unclean Meats” for their consideration.
At one time I was in the chapel on the second floor of our Houston Church
when one of our youths came and told me there was a tall American visitor who would like to meet the minister. I went downstairs to the front entrance to meet this tall visitor.
He came forward and introduced himself. I shall call him Brother Will. He said he was a Messianic Jew who had just returned to Houston from a conference
on nutrition in Israel. He is a professional nutritionist who has a clinic in
Houston, Texas. He told me the reason he wanted to visit us is because he had
heard about our church and that our beliefs are similar to those of Messianic Judaism.
I shared our beliefs with him and he said, “Well, we’re brothers in the faith.”
After settling down he asked me this question, “Are y’all
kosher?” I gave him a blank look because I did not know how to answer him. Then he asked again, “Do y’all eat pork chop, ham, bacon or sausage?” I answered, “Yes, we do.” He
raised his eyebrows and said, “You’re not kosher then.” I became
very defensive and said, “We’re not Messianic Jews. We’re Gentile
Christians. We can eat anything we want as long as we have prayed and asked God
to sanctify the food (1 Tim. 4:4-5). I then showed him the passage in Acts 15
that describes the Jerusalem Conference where the apostles and elders resolved that Gentile Christians need not keep the law
of Moses except the four abstinences (Acts 15:19-21, 28-29). He pointed his finger
at the words “abstain from things
offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled” and said, “Well, that’s kosher”. I told him our church calls it the Apostolic Instructions and we read it every time
we hold our Spiritual Convocation. I did not even know our church is kosher just
like the Messianic Jews. I learned something that Sabbath afternoon from Brother
Will. He explained the reason the apostles wanted the Gentile Christians to keep
the four abstentions is because they could have the fellowship meals together. I
have never looked at the four abstentions in Acts 15 as kosher before, but since talking to Brother Will I looked at it in
a different light. We continued to talk for at least two hours. He said our church is kosher but did not go far enough to also abstain from unclean meats. He said he would be willing to come to our church and give us a clinic or seminar on “Biblical kosher
foods, nutrition and good health.” People all over America would pay a
fee to attend such lectures but he would do it for us free, and we could ask as many questions as we like.
One Sabbath afternoon when we usually have free discussions we invited Brother
Will to give us a clinic/seminar on Biblical kosher foods, nutrition and good health.”
That was one of the most enlightening Sabbath afternoons that we have ever spent.
For my wife and I those three hours were truly learning experiences and it also changed our lives. If ever there is a turning point in our physical health that was it.
God had brought a Messianic Jewish nutritionist to our church to help our members achieve excellent health.
I could write a small booklet on Brother Will’s seminar and clinic on
kosher foods, nutrition and good health, but at this time I shall just focus on one point.
Should Gentile Christians eat pork or any meat that is termed as unclean? Brother
Will pointed out that all the apostles and elders in Jerusalem were Jews who had been eating kosher foods all their lives. When they resolved the Gentiles should also be kosher it was understood the meats
must also be from the clean animals, birds and fish otherwise it would not do justice to the word “kosher” that
means “fit, proper or correct.”
Here are some of the Clean and Unclean Meats
Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14
Creatures that are Clean and may be eaten
Animals that part the hoof, cloven footed and chews the cud namely:
Cow, Deer, Lamb, Caribou, Buffalo, Elk, Goat, Moose.
Fish that have fins and scales namely:
Bass, Bluefish, Crappie, Perch, Pike, Salmon, Sunfish, Trout.
Birds that are clean namely: Chicken, Turkey, Pheasant, Grouse,
Clean creeping animals namely: Locusts, Cricket, Grasshopper
Creatures that are not clean and may not be eaten
Animals that do not do all of these: part the hoof, cloven footed and chews cud namely: Pig (pork), Rabbit,
Raccoon, Squirrel, Monkey, Dog, Coyote, Fox, Wolf, Lion, Tiger, Horse, Mule, Zebra, Bear, Camel, Elephant, Llama, Hippo, Kangaroo
Water creatures that do not have fins and scales: Catfish,
Eel, Marlin, Shark, Abalone, Clam, Crab, Crayfish, Lobster, Oyster, Shrimp, Jellyfish, Squid, Dolphin, Seal, Whale
Unclean Birds: Bat, Eagle, Osprey, Raven, Duck, Swan, Vulture
Unclean creeping animals: Frog, Toad, Crocodile, Lizard,
Snake, Turtle, Salamander, Newt, Snail
Let us look at some of the objections
to Gentile Christians being kosher.
Objection: The revelation to Peter “What God has cleansed you cannot call common” is an indication that all the unclean
creatures in the world have now been cleansed by God and can be eaten in the New Testament time.
Answer: The main purpose of God’s
revelation to Peter is not for him to eat the meat of any creature on earth. If
it were so then after seeing the vision Peter would have started looking for unclean foods to eat. We need to interpret God’s intention correctly. When
Jesus talked about eating His flesh and drinking His blood He did not mean it literarily (Jn. 6:63). The vision that Peter saw had a spiritual teaching. “While Peter thought about the vision the Spirit said to him, ‘Behold three men are seeking
you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have
sent them.” (Acts 10:19-20) God had guided Peter and
showed him the true meaning of the vision. It had nothing to do with the physical
eating of unclean foods at all. The unclean creatures in Peter’s vision
symbolized the Gentiles that God was going to cleanse. Peter understood its spiritual
meaning and said to Cornelius, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company
with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call
any man common or unclean.” (Acts 10:28-36).
This clearly explains what the voice in the vision said, "What God has cleansed you must
not call common." (Acts 10:15)
Objection : Our Lord Jesus
Christ said, "There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him: but the things
which come out of him, those are the things that defile the man.” (Mk. 7:15) So Christians cannot
be defiled by eating whatever meat they want.
Answer : In order to correctly
understand this text, we must carefully examine the context of the passage. Mark 7:1, 2 indicate there was a contention between
the Pharisees and certain of Jesus' disciples because the disciples did not go through the ceremonial washing of hands before
they ate. The Jews in the time of Christ had added significantly to the commandments of God by instituting all kinds of ritualistic
washings and ceremonies that had to be performed before a person ate. Jesus' disciples did not perform these ceremonies. According
to Jewish law, what they ate was therefore unclean.
Please note that this discussion has nothing to do with clean and unclean animals as described in
Leviticus 11, but instead is talking about the ceremonial washing of hands that made foods clean ceremonially. God never commanded
His people to do this; it was a Jewish tradition. Mark 7:3- 5 continues with an explanation of the charge of the Jewish leaders
against the disciples of Jesus. Mark 7:6- 13 contains Jesus' tremendous denunciation upon the Pharisees because they had rejected
the commandment of God and yet were so meticulous about their own traditions. Verse 8 in particular notes that the tradition
Jesus is speaking about is ceremonial washings. Jesus categorically states that if people worship by these traditions instead
of the commandments of God, they are worshiping God in vain.
Finally, in verses 15- 20 Jesus specifically addresses the issue of the food that they eat being
unclean because it did not go through the ceremonial washings. In Mark 7:19 Jesus declares He has purged all meats. The word
translated "meats" is the Greek word bromata, which means
"food." It does not refer to flesh food; it simply refers to any kind of food. Again, remember the context. The charge was
that the disciples had eaten without going through the ceremonial washing of hands that the Jews required. Therefore, to the
Jewish Pharisaical mind the food that they ate was thereby unclean. Jesus now categorically declares that whether they have
gone through these elaborate washings or not does not affect the food. It does not make the food unclean, because food simply
goes into the system and is excreted. As Jesus says in verse 15, it cannot defile people or make them unclean simply because
they did not go through these ritualistic washings.
Jesus was here declaring that ceremonial washings have nothing to do with food being either clean
or unclean. This text has absolutely nothing to do with the clean and unclean animals of Leviticus 11. The issue is clearly
whether or not Jesus requires His followers to practice the ritualistic washings of the Jews before they eat. He is answering
the charge that the disciples are ceremonially unclean because they did not follow these ritualistic washings. Therefore Jesus
declares that the ritualistic washings do not affect whether a person is clean or unclean, or whether his food is clean or
unclean. The context, then, deals not with biological uncleanness, but with uncleanness supposedly incurred from the omission
of ritual washings. See verse 15. The kind of food the disciples ate (verse 2 and 5) is not even referred to, but the way
in which they ate it! Throughout, Christ is dealing with the commandments of God versus the traditions of men. To make this
verse refer to the clean and unclean animals of Leviticus 11 is to ignore completely the meaning of the Greek and the context
of the passage.
every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the
word of God and prayer.” (1 Tim. 4:4-5) Does this not
indicate we can eat any meat we want including pork chops, sausages, bacon and ham sandwiches as long as we pray and ask God
to sanctify them?
Answer: If we interpret these two verses
without qualification or limitation then it becomes fatal disaster. If we follow
this instruction to the extreme - “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to
be refused” then we should also eat rattlesnakes, skunks, lizards, flies and mosquitoes as long as we pray
and ask God to sanctify them. After eating these creatures you don’t have
a prayer! Where do we draw the line of what the people of God can and cannot
eat? This is where God steps in and tells us exactly what His people should eat
and should not eat. In Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 we can find God’s
guideline for healthful living.
What Paul was writing to Timothy is not to eat any creature or food
that defiles the body just as he had written to the Corinthian church. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple
of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own.” (1 Cor. 6:19) “Do
you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple
of God is holy, which temple you are.” (1 Cor. 3:16-17) What
kind of food defiles the believer’s body that God will destroy? “You shall not make yourselves abominable with any
creeping thing that creeps; nor shall you make yourselves unclean with them, lest you be defiled by them. For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore sanctify yourselves,
and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with
any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. . . to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the animal
that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten.” (Lev. 11:43-47) Do you ever wonder why so many Spirit-filled Christians
still get sick and die? It is because they defile the temple of God that is their
own bodies by eating a lot of unclean food.
Objection : The dietary laws described
in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 is a part of the laws of Moses that have been abolished and already nailed to the cross
when Jesus Christ was crucified. We do not have to keep them.
Answer: Many believers do not know
that clean and unclean creatures were revealed to Noah, which is at least a thousand years before God gave the dietary laws
to the children of Israel (Gen. 7:2-8). Just like the Seventh Day Sabbath was
given to mankind during the time of Creation and we observe it not because of the law but according to grace, therefore we
also abstain from unclean meats for the same reason. Another truth is that the
dietary laws were given not only because God wanted to sanctify His people unto Himself but also for health purposes as well. They had been living in Egypt for centuries and had learned to live like the Egyptians
who ate almost anything and had all kinds of sicknesses and diseases. Moses spoke
to them, “If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in
His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought
on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you.” (Ex.15:26) The dietary laws that were given to the children of Israel as recorded in Leviticus
11 and Deuteronomy 14 are, what in modern terms, called good nutrition or preventive medicine. In other words what God is saying is this, “If you keep My dietary laws on clean and unclean meat
you will not get the kinds of sicknesses and diseases like what the Egyptians were getting.
Many pious, Spirit-filled Gentile Christians get sick and cannot understand the reason why they remain so. Is it possible that they are ignorant of the dietary laws and have not been eating right? God is saying to them, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I will reject you from being a priest for Me;
Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children.” (Hos. 4:6)
Our Lord Jesus Christ did not nail the dietary laws to the cross.
The apostle Paul wrote, “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that
was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the
way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Col. 2:14) How can any law or rule that makes us free from sicknesses and diseases be “against
us” and “contrary to us”? No, the dietary laws were not nailed to the cross, only the ordinances that pertain to the curses and
the priestly sacrificial system were nailed to the cross (Eph. 2:15; Gal. 3:13; Heb. 9:9-10). Our Lord Jesus Christ could
not have abolished the very laws that He had observed all His earthly life in order to qualify Himself as the sin-bearer and
perfect sacrifice for mankind. Jesus was the unblemished Lamb of God that took
away our sin. He had to be absolutely sinless and 100% healthy. Our Lord Jesus Christ had never been sick all His entire life on earth because He had never defiled His
own body and had never tasted even one bit of unclean meat. Should we not also
follow His example? (1 Pet. 2:21-24)
Objection: No one can be justified by
keeping the dietary laws so why do Gentile Christians have to restrict themselves by observing those dietary laws?
Answer: When God created this universe
He gave some universal laws that cannot be broken. One of them is the law of
gravity that is a physical law. Our Lord Jesus Christ declared that defying the
law of gravity is tantamount to tempting God (Mt. 4:5-7). There are moral laws
that relate to disobedience to God’s commands. The first sin in the world
that the first man and first woman committed is related to eating. Eating the
forbidden fruit had caused suffering, pain, sickness and death to mankind. The
dietary laws were given by God not to harm or place obstacles in our pathway of salvation but to help and ensure our having
healthy lives. Failure to keep the dietary laws endangers our health and our
careless eating habit is, in a way, tempting God.
It is true that we are not justified by keeping the dietary laws, and the Holy Bible does not state
that failure to keep them will prevent us from going to heaven. In fact a Christian
nutritionist once said with tongue-in-cheek: “Failure to keep the dietary laws will even take us to heaven sooner than
we think.” The Bible states that the saved ones first go to Paradise when
they die and only go to heaven when the Lord returns to take them there.
Objection: In Asian and many other countries
pork, lobster, shrimp and other foods considered “unclean” are actually staple diets and even considered as delicacies. It is very difficult and almost impossible for Gentile Christians in our churches
who have been eating those kinds of foods all their lives to give them up completely.
Answer: There is an actual example
in the Holy Bible in which God’s people could have eaten royal and luxurious foods but they chose not to do so. “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would
not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested
of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. . . . So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs
had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, ‘Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give
us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our countenances be examined
before you, and the countenances of the young men who eat the portion of the king’s delicacies, and as you see fit,
so deal with your servants.’ So he consented with them in this matter,
and tested them ten days. And at the end of ten days their countenance appeared
better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies.” (Dan. 1:8-15) If we have to
give up some delicacies that would improve our health we should do so.
Objection: The Holy Bible states, “For the Kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”
(Rom. 14:17). We can still go to heaven without abstention from eating
pork and other “unclean meats”, so why should we bother to change our eating habits?
Answer: The apostle Paul exhorted
the Roman Christians to have tolerance towards one another concerning the issue of clean and unclean meats. Here is what he wrote: “I know I am convinced by the Lord Jesus that
there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore
do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the Kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy
in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to
God and approved by men. Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”
January 1999 the T.R.U.E. in Yahshua Bible Conference was held in Houston, Texas. Ministers
from various denominational churches attended the Bible Conference; many of them observe the dietary laws. The dinner before the Friday evening session was held at a Chinese kosher vegetarian restaurant. At the foyer of the restaurant there is a framed certificate signed by the rabbi of a Jewish synagogue
indicating the food complies with the Jewish kosher laws. The Sabbath Worship Service was held in the True Jesus Church in
Houston where our sisters in the church had prepared the fellowship meal in full compliance with the Biblical dietary laws. Our church brothers and sisters were doing it out of love for the brethren of other
denominational churches and also for the Kingdom of God. HalleluYah!
Regardless of whether one is eating or abstaining from pork and other “unclean meats”,
although it does not affect our salvation but it certainly affects our physical health.
We need to understand every person is composed of three elements - body, spirit and soul that need to be sanctified
until the return of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thes. 5:23). Our present existence
on earth depends on a healthy body, spirit and soul. The apostle John wrote,
“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul
prospers.” (3 Jn.2) Believers should not only take care of their
spiritual lives but also their physical bodies as well by eating healthful and clean foods.
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies
a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable sergice. And do not be conformed to this world, but
be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what that is good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom. 12:1-2)
article is based on the sermon preached by Paul Wong
a congregation in Houston, Texas on August 25, 2001
comments please write first to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note that the views expressed in this article are from my research and may not reflect the
views of the church that I minister. You may click and read another article on
why "Eating Pork can be hazardous to Your Health" Please also read stories on the connection between SARS and Unclean Animals
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May God bless you
Paul Wong is
a Christian minister and the President of ARK International.
His ministry also serves as an architectural service company
The ARK Forum on the Internet is international and non-denominational.