The Sabbath Issue

Chapter 13: Do the Food Laws of Moses apply to us today? - Part 2

The one who has issues over certain foods is called ‘weak in the faith’, because he has not yet been fully established in New Testament truth and so his conscience still convicts him of things that were not allowed under the Law, but are now permitted. Such a one, should be accepted in the Church, but he should not be allowed to cause trouble (disputes) by voicing his legalistic views (v1). Those who believe they can eat ALL THINGS are not condemned as wrong, for ‘God has received them’ (v2,3). In fact, they are described as being ‘strong’ in contrast to those who are weak: “We who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (15:1). Paul counts himself among the strong, who know they are free from the Law.The strong are to be understanding of the weak, and the weak are not to judge the strong, as if they were breaking Divine Law (v3,4).

Romans 14:6b: “He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat (certain foods), to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.” What matters (spiritually) 
now is not what foods you eat, but that you eat them ‘to the Lord’, with thanksgiving, with a clear conscience that you are not breaking His Law: “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (v17). 

If your conscience convicts you, then do not eat it, until you have trained your conscience to be strong in New Testament truth: “I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean” (v14). There is nothing unclean in itself, but if your conscience convicts you because of past traditions or false teaching you have heard, then you should not eat, for if you act against your conscience you are sinning and not eating ‘to the Lord’: “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offence. Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin” (v20,22,23). In all things however, we are still governed by the Moral Law (Love): “It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak” (v21).

This clear Apostolic teaching in the Epistles is confirmed by developments in the Book of Acts as the Church began to understand the nature of the New Covenant, helped by the Spirit.

Until Acts 10, the Jewish Church (bound by their traditions) had not reached out to the Gentiles, but now the Holy-Spirit initiated a first contact, that helped them to realise that in the New Covenant, God had removed the old barriers between Jews and Gentiles, including the Jewish Food-Laws. They had to revaluate their whole attitude to the Gentiles, and they were no longer to use the Law of Moses as a basis to not fellowship with them, because they were no longer under the Old Covenant, but under the New Covenant in which Jews and Gentiles are treated with total equality in Christ. This is an example of how the Holy-Spirit, the Teacher, led the Church into all (New Testament) truth according to John 16:13.

Acts 10:9-16: “Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the 6th hour. Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the 4 corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of 4-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a Voice came to him, “Rise,
Peter; kill and EAT.” But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have 
never eaten anything common or UNCLEAN.
” And a Voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed 

you must not call common.” This was done 3 times. And the object was taken up into heaven again” (see also Acts 11:4-10).

The plain literal meaning of this vision is that God has now cleansed the foods that He had previously called unclean. Immediately after receiving this vision, messengers arrived to invite Peter to the Gentile house of Cornelius, and the Spirit told Peter to go (v17-23). Peter realised from this that the vision also applied to Gentiles, so that all nationalities were now equally acceptable to God (v34,35), and therefore are not to be called or treated as unclean: “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.” (v28). This verse reveals how Peter was shown (supernaturally) that the Law of Moses (which required Jews to keep separate and not fellowship with Gentiles) was no longer in force. This meant that he was free to stay in their house and eat with them, which he did, despite the criticism he knew would inevitably come from those who thought that believing Jews were still under the Law (11:3). 

Some try to argue that this cleansing only applied to the unclean Gentiles, but not to the unclean foods. But that can’t be right, for then God would have been using a false analogy. God used a vision about Foods to make a larger point, by analogy, about Gentiles. 

But if God had not in fact made those foods clean, the whole analogy breaks down, and the communication would be confused. In any case, you can’t separate the two, because it released Peter to go to his house and eat together with the Gentiles, which would no doubt necessitate breaking the strict Jewish Food Laws (v28,47).

Finally, in Acts 10:44-48, God added His own supernatural confirmation to the fact that Gentiles were not under the Law of Moses (including the Food and Sabbath Laws), by baptising Cornelius and his household in the Spirit, just as He did to the believing Jews on the Day of Pentecost. By doing this, God was demonstating that He was accepting the Gentiles, apart from the any Law-Observance (requirements of keeping the Law of Moses).
This showed that Gentiles in the New Covenant are not under the Law of Moses. Peter was obliged to accept this witness of God, by baptising the Gentiles, thus accepting them into the Church. 

Galatians 2:11-14 records a key encounter when Paul rebuked Peter for going back on this revelation in a moment of weakness, when he came under pressure from the traditionalists who insisted on the Law of Moses: “Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would EAT with the GENTILES; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the Gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews (not keeping the Food Laws), why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?” 

Notice that eating practices are especially in view here. Peter had not been eating as a Jew under Moses, but as a Gentile free from the Law, but under pressure had separated himself, going back under Law, insisting by implication that if the Gentiles were to fellowship with him over food they would have to submit to Moses. Paul correctly pointed out the inconsistency in his behaviour, and that believing Jews are free to live like Gentiles, and believing Gentiles are not to be compelled to live as Jews under the Law of Moses, especially as far as foods are concerned.

This was a key encounter that won over Peter. Paul forced him off the fence into seeing that the only consistent position relative to the Law was that they were free from it, especially with food (although believing Jews could still voluntarily choose to keep the Law).

By the time of the Church Council of Acts 15 (which specifically discussed Food Law), Peter clearly stood in agreement with Paul, that believing Gentiles were not to be put under the Yoke of the Law, including Jewish food regulations: “Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a Yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” (v10). This Yoke was clearly the Law of Moses (Acts 15:5,24, 21:24-26). 

The final decision inspired by the Holy-Spirit and announced by James declared: “we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath” (v19-21). 

The only Food Law that applies to believing Gentiles in the Church (and to believing Jews also - by implication from the principle of equality) was to abstain from eating blood. This was from the Covenant of Noah, not from Moses. It was a reminder that all nations (Gentiles and Jews) were still under God’s Covenant with Noah, which allowed man to eat ALL animals, but that the blood (life) had to be poured out first, since that belonged to God. 

However, believers were clearly not required to be under the Law of Moses. If God intended us to submit to Jewish Food Laws we would have been told in Acts 15, since food was one of the issues covered. If Gentile believers are expected to come under the Food Laws of Moses, then that would be clearly taught in the New Testament, but it manifestly is not. Instead the opposite is taught.

The reference in Isaiah 66:17 to God’s fiery judgement coming down on those involved in idolatrous worship and feasts, which include the eating of swines flesh, is best understood as a reference to the Jews of Isaiah’s time, described in similar manner just before in Isaiah 65:3,4, and Isaiah 66:3. These activities perfectly describe Israel under Manasseh in the time of Isaiah (see 2Kings 21:1-17), but not Israel in the Tribulation just before Christ’s Return.

In Conclusion, the evidence from the New Testament is overwhelming that the Food Laws of Moses are no longer in force. This agrees with the many scriptures that say the Old Covenant in its entirety has passed away and has been replaced by the New Covenant. This New Covenant (Testament) does not mention the old Food Laws or the Sabbath Law, but rather declares our freedom.

Necessity and mercy-moral law-overides ceremonial law
1cor 9:21
leviticus 23 (holy convocations)
matthew 12:5, luke13”10-17, lk14:1-6, jn5:8-18 (jer17:21-22, Neh12-22) i am working!
jn7:19-24-priests worked circum (jmatt12:5) also kindle fire (ex 35:3), baked showbread (16:23)
jn 9:14-16

Jesus quoted Hosea 6:6: "I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice", in the context of Sabbath breaking. is that the Sabbath law (sacrifice) could be overruled by the human need of the moment. (compassion- "situation ceremonial ethics") In common law today, this principle is known as the "law of greater good". It means that a civil law can be suspended if there is a greater good achieved by breaking it. Examples of the "law of greater good" are that police and ambulance drivers are allowed to break the law by going through red lights. For that matter, in any emergency medical situation, any man is permitted to go through red lights if there is a pressing medical need that may be a matter of life or death. No one would wait at a red light for 60 seconds, just because it is red, when someone is dying in the back seat and needs to get to the hospital. This is exactly what Jesus argued when he defended the disciples breaking the Sabbath.

2. "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27), meaning the Sabbath was made to help man, not man to serve the Sabbath. God's purpose for the Sabbath was to serve man and better his life. Thus the Sabbath Law is to be interpreted according to human needs and possibilities. After all the purpose of the Sabbath was to recharge man after 6 days of hard labour! Only ceremonial laws are subject to being nullified by the "greater good principle", true moral laws are never nullified. 

Remember, that the Sabbath Law did not exist before Exodus 16 and was abolished on the Cross according to Colossians 2:16. Moral Laws, on the other hand, have always remained constant.

Jesus called himself the "Lord of the Sabbath", meaning that he was OVER the Sabbath Law perhaps even its Author, and knew exactly what constituted breaking the Sabbath in God's mind. Jesus, as the perfect judge of all men (John 5:22) understood what was permitted on the Sabbath and what was not. He also knew, when the "law of greater good" was correctly applied and when it was not. 

Then all three narratives tell what happened on another Sabbath as a continuation of the previous thought: Jesus was asked: "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" Jesus replied ‘ye’s and justified that by showing that you could break the Sabbath to save the life of a sheep, how much more a man. If a man lifted a sheep out of a pit when its life was not in danger, that man would be stoned. But if the same man lifted the same sheep out of the same pit when its life was in danger, he was excepted from the Sabbath law and not considered a sinner!
parallel texts: Mt 12:1-14; Mk 2:23-3:6; Lk 6:1-11:
*Matthew 12:7
greater than Temple-ceremonial bows to higher (holy) need cerememonial
Temple made it valid.

# The Sunday of Jesus' resurrection: Jn 20:19
# The very next Sunday, the next week: Jn 20:26
# On Pentecost Sunday, they were already meeting before the Holy Spirit came: Acts 2:1 
other sunday resurrection appearances?

Jesus, our example, kept the weekly Sabbath holy, but this doesn't prove we should keep the Sabbath today, because Jesus also kept animal sacrifices. If Jesus' example proves we must keep the Sabbath, then it also proves we should keep animal sacrifices.



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