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Grace Community International
Rev. John S. Mahon  |  Houston, Texas
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The Mission Field, Food Stories and The Law
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2016
Posted by: Grace Community International | more..
Some of the stories I am most frequently asked to retell on the mission field are food stories. Now, l don’t mean only in America, but all over the world, people request, “Tell us some food stories.” There is a natural interest in food because eating is a universal action, which transcends all cultures. I imagine that its only equal is sleep--and sleep stories are not that interesting but food stories are. People are intrigued that something as common as a meal can be so different in different parts of the world. It is also interesting that people would never imagine their own food as being a “story”-- it is only other people’s food. Americans never imagine that Asians love to hear “food stories” about what Americans eat. The same is true for Africans about Russian food, Russians about African food. Africans and Russians are also amazed to hear, not only what Americans eat but what they don’t eat. Food stories are a surefire source of entertainment, no matter the culture. Once you have been around the block a couple of times, at any gathering, if the conversation lags, I had better be ready--for the host will turn to me and say, “Pastor, tell us some food stories.”
Last week I posted the blog on vegetarianism. This was on my mind because neither Russians nor Africans can understand the Vegan lifestyle sweeping Europe and the US. It is truly bizarre to them – especially when practiced by evangelical Christians. Thus, I am asked about this and need to have a Scriptural response ready for them--especially as collegiate summer parachurch missionaries sometimes bring their zeal for the vegan lifestyle with them, in some cases with more conviction than the gospel--but that sad commentary will be for another blog. Another eccentric teaching that both summer missionaries and visiting pastors are importing from the US, is a return to the dietary restrictions of the Law of Moses. I am reminded of God the Holy Spirit’s exhortation to the church in Roman’s 10:2 “For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.” Indeed, zeal without knowledge can be damaging to the church. In light of this, I will use this blog to post a Biblical response to this erroneous teaching.
(If you want to get a quick, but incomplete, idea of the dietary laws of the Old Covenant, then read Leviticus, starting at chapter eleven. You may want to stop and read this passage before continuing on.)

I. Dietary laws were not given for health reasons.
This is a common, erroneous teaching by those advocating a return to the dietary laws of Moses. We live in a health food culture here in the west. For most American evangelical Christians’ diet, dietary restrictions and health are virtually synonymous. Thus, it is a simple matter to assume that dietary laws were given for health reasons. Why else would one go on a diet or submit to a dietary regime, if not for health reasons? Is the natural assumption. The problem is that the dietary laws of the Old Covenant were not written as a series of articles in an American ladies’ or health magazine. They were, as we will discover, not given for health reasons but, instead, for reasons of doctrine. Nowhere in Holy Scriptures are the health benefits of dietary laws ever mentioned. It is simply a fabrication of zealous teachers. I would refer them, again, to God the Holy Spirit’s admonition in Roman’s 10:2 “For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.”

II. God the Holy Spirit goes out of His way to emphasize in Mark 7:18 & 19 and Romans 14:2 that those who keep the dietary laws are both ignorant and weak in faith.
The fact that those who would resubmit the Christian church to the curse of the Law, in the guise of revealing spiritual secrets and health benefits of the Law, while God the Holy Spirit is calling this same practice ignorance born out of a lack of faith, shows how upside down this whole issue has become.

III. Dietary laws were given to illustrate doctrines. They were given to show that there exists in God’s value system the clean vs. the unclean – Leviticus 11:47. The purpose was to lead to the instruction that, in the same way, there also existed righteousness vs. sin--Leviticus 14:57. These symbols have been fulfilled in Christ--Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law of the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.”. As a result, we are no longer under the tutorship of the law--(Galatians 3:23 – 25). God the Holy Spirit teaches us in Hebrews the value of the doctrinal symbolism and prophetic pictures contained in the Law. These, however, have now been fulfilled. There is, of course, value and joy in reading these passages because they are, indeed, a part of the holy, eternal, inerrant written revelation of God the Holy Spirit. They are cause for marvel, for reflection, for worship and joy. However, like the prophetic passages concerning the birth of Christ, or instructions on the sacrifice of animals, they have no direct application as spiritual disciplines and instruction for the church today. They have been fulfilled and, as such, laid aside.

IV. Because of these three preceding scriptural principles, dietary laws do not fall into the category of “not commanded yet helpful.”
The argument cannot be made that dietary laws, though not required, should be kept because God gave them for health and spiritual reasons which would still have residual benefits. This is simply not the case. In fact, as the above passages teach, the exact opposite is the case. A good example of the fallacy of this line of thinking is Deuteronomy 14:21. If, indeed, dietary laws were helpful both spiritually and physically, then it would be an act of overt cruelty to obey this aspect of the dietary law.

V. Since there is no redeeming value in dietary laws, evangelical Christians should not be championing a return to a system which God the Holy Spirit refers to as a curse. (Galatians 3:10)
This is not small thing. God the Holy Spirit has very strong things to say concerning Christians who advocate a return to the curse of the Law. Christians, pastors and authors should heed this warning. We are free from the curse of the Law and any book advocating a return to any aspect of this curse should not be sold in Christian bookstores. Teachings concerning a return to the curse of the Law should not be allowed in our churches and Sunday School classes.

VI. In our approach to any aspect of Christian discipline, we do not have to be more conscientious than Jesus. Mark 7:15 – 19; Matthew 15:11, 18 – 20
Like the spiritual attributes falsely associated with Veganism, so the spiritual attributes falsely associated with the dietary laws hint at spiritual pride. If Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the second member of the Holy Trinity, has freed us from the dietary restrictions of the Law, we do not have to be more health conscious and spiritually conscientious than God the Son.

VII. In our approach to any aspect of Christian discipline, we do not have to be more holy than God the Holy Spirit Colossians 2:16, 17, 21; I Timothy 4:2
Like the spiritual attributes falsely associated with Veganism, so the spiritual attributes falsely associated with the dietary laws hint at spiritual pride. If God the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Holy Trinity, has freed us from the dietary restrictions of the Law, we do not have to be more health conscious and spiritually conscientious than God the Holy Spirit.

I recently saw a book in the Christian bookstore entitled “What would Jesus Eat?”. This, like many books, was erroneously presenting the theory of the health benefits of the Law, in specific, and the first century Jewish diet in general. However, this would actually be one of the shortest books ever written, for on the first page would be written, “Whatever was set before Him with thanksgiving. The End.”
It does, indeed, make interesting after-dinner conversation on the mission field to tell “food stories.” Just last night, I was at a fellowship dinner hosted by Pastor Ravil in Tyumen, Russia (central Siberia). Pastor Ravil loves food stories and, once again, I was asked to bring a little levity to the table by sharing what Americans do and do not eat. A good time was had by all. What I should not have to do, though, is answer questions concerning the dietary restrictions of the Law at gatherings such as this--as a result of the eccentric teachings of European and American missionaries and authors. I would encourage the church, the denominations, the mission boards and, yes, the Christian publishers to begin exercising a little doctrinal discipline in their teachings on this subject.
Let me close by saying…

I. The dietary laws are part and parcel with the Law of Moses--a curse from which all Christians are freed.
II. There is neither spiritual nor physical benefit in keeping the dietary laws.
III. Christians are, therefore, free to eat whatever is set before them with thanksgiving, without reference to the dietary laws of the Old Covenant
IV. It would be extremely helpful if denominations, churches, parachurch mission societies and Christian publishing houses would exercise a little discretion and doctrinal discipline so that these eccentric teachings are not disseminated on the mission field.
V. Speak up – you do not have to sit idly by in your Sunday school class, home group, Bible study or church while some zealous, but misinformed, Christian seeks to bring those present back under the curse of the Law as regards to its dietary restrictions. (Galatians 2:11 – 21)
By His mercy,
II Corinthians 4:1
Rev. John S. Mahon – Director: Grace Community International – 02.24.16 Tyumen, Russia

Category:  Oct. 2014 - Home

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