Every religion has its own dietary restrictions. I’ve learned that there are some food restrictions in Christianity as well. However, the dietary regulations vary from church to church. Which of them are right? What are the Biblical dietary standards?
There are certain foods that God prohibits His people from eating. These food regulations existed from the Creation to the New Testament times. What we should pay attention to is that God gave His people different dietary laws in each age.
Many churches today have their own rules concerning food and insist on keeping them. Most of them say that their food doctrines are based on the Bible, but the reason they insist like that is because they misunderstand the times.
No matter what kind of dietary restrictions there were before, we just need to follow the teachings of the apostles who were taught by Jesus. In the New Testament times, God established certain regulations in regard to food through the apostles. In this age, we should follow the food laws of the New Testament. When we do so, we can be said to have complete faith and obedience.
Food regulations from the time of the Garden of Eden to the time of Moses
God established different dietary regulations respectively in each age—in the time of Garden of Eden, after the time of Noah’s flood, and in the time of Moses.
1. In the Garden of Eden
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.”Ge 1:29
In the Garden of Eden, God gave man every seed-bearing plant and every fruit with seed in it for food. At that time, it was God’s will for man to eat vegetables.
2. After Noah’s Flood
“Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.”Ge 9:3
After the Flood, God gave Noah and his descendants every animal to eat, so it was God’s will to eat meat. There is no need to put any difference between eating meat and eating vegetables. If someone insists on only eating vegetables and fruits even after the Flood, it is not an act of obedience to God.
3. In the Time of Moses
In the time of Moses, God proclaimed the words of the covenant at Mount Sinai, and instituted the specific dietary laws as well.
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat: You may eat any animal that has a split hoof completely divided and that chews the cud.”Lev 11:1-3
In the Old Testament times, the cud-chewing animals with split hooves were classified as clean, and all other animals were regarded as unclean. God allowed His people to eat only clean animals.
Before the time of Moses, God’s people were allowed to eat any animal, but in the time of Moses they were forbidden to eat unclean animals. Although it was difficult and inconvenient to divide food, it was the will of God at that time to eat only clean animals, not unclean animals.
The reason God let the Israelites eat only clean animals was that He especially chose them to be a holy people to Him and distinguished them from other nations. In other words, God gave His people the dietary laws to separate them from the Gentiles. In the Old Testament times, God’s people had to follow the food regulations strictly.
The dietary law in the New Testament times
2,000 years ago, Christ came to this earth in human likeness and sacrificed Himself on the cross to save mankind. In other words, the age of grace arrived when God’s salvation was offered to the Gentiles as well as the Jews.
Since Christ made all unclean foods forbidden in the Old Testament clean and established a new dietary law, the barriers between the Jews and the Gentiles, caused by food regulations, have been torn down (Ac 10:9-48).
It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.Ac 15:28-29
The above is the dietary law which was made in the presence of the Holy Spirit at the whole assembly held in the Apostolic Age. This is the food law which we, who are living in the New Testament times, must follow. We do not have to make a distinction between clean and unclean animals, but we just need to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, and from the meat of strangled animals.
Since it was determined in the presence of the Holy Spirit, who can change it? Although it is hard to change customs and traditions which have been strictly observed for a long time, if God has given us new regulations in this age, we must follow them fully. So the Apostle Paul, whenever he wrote to the churches, he mentioned the matter of food and even said that those who obeyed the Old Testament law would be alienated from Christ.
You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.Gal 5:4
As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.Ac 21:25
About food sacrificed to idols
In this age, we are blessed when we obey the dietary law by abstaining from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from food sacrificed to idols, as directed by the Holy Spirit. “Food sacrificed to idols” is food used to worship other gods. The Bible puts special emphasis on abstaining from food sacrificed to idols.
Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.1 Co 10:14-21
Many people who believe in God know that they must not worship idols. Eating food sacrificed to idols is participating in the altar of demons and it is idolatry.
Those who have participated in the Passover bread and wine, which represents Christ’s flesh and blood, are distinguished as God’s children who have become one body with God. As children of the holy God, if we eat food sacrificed to idols, we come to make ourselves unclean and we cannot help but fall away from God.
So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one…. But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled.1 Co 8:4-7
God shed His blood on the cross to give us salvation. He gave His people laws in each age; and in this age, too, He has instituted the dietary law for our salvation, containing His love for us in it.
Following God’s words given in each age, with absolute obedience
Since God has given us the food regulations in this age, we do not need to follow the food restrictions given in past ages. It is an act of following the teachings of demons to insist on the things of an old age and to break God’s commands given in this age.
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.1 Ti 4:1-3
Now what we must abstain from eating is only these three—food sacrificed to idols, blood, and the meat of strangled animals, according to God’s words given in the New Testament times. There is no need to make a doctrine such as vegetarianism or eating meat; we just need to eat foods according to our body constitution.
If someone insists on vegetarianism because Adam and Eve were vegetarians in the Garden of Eden, would he also say that we should attend worship services without wearing anything because they were naked in the Garden of Eden? Bringing up the dietary laws of Moses is no different than setting out the logic that we should offer the blood sacrifice of animals according to the method of sacrifice in the Old Testament.
As for the same food, there is a time that God allows us to eat it and a time that God forbids us to eat it. When God tells us to eat something, we should just eat it, and when God tells us not to eat some food, we must not eat it. Doing this is obedience.
To live according to God’s will be the right path and the way to salvation throughout all ages. Realizing God’s love contained in His words given in this age, let us obey them completely without adding any opinions or theories of our own to them.