Foods and beverages

 

 

Christians must abstain from certain foods and beverages

 

 

 

Ellen G. White, the prophetess of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, taught that every Christian must abstain from eating meat, for the eating of flesh is unnatural. Here are some quotes of Mrs White on meat-eating: ‘Let not any of our ministers set an evil example in the eating of flesh-meat. Let them and their families live up to the light of health reform. Let not our ministers animalize their own nature and the nature of their children’ (Spalding and Magan, p. 211); ‘If ever there was a time when the diet should be of the most simple kind, it is now. Meat should not be placed before our children. Its influence is to excite and strengthen the lower passions, and has a tendency to deaden the moral powers. Grains and fruits prepared free from grease, and in as natural a condition as possible, should be the food for the tables of all who claim to be preparing for translation to heaven’ (Testimonies, Vol. 2, p. 352); ‘Those who have received instruction regarding the evils of the use of flesh foods...will not continue to indulge their appetite for food that they know to be unhealthful. God demands that the appetites be cleansed, and that self-denial be practiced in regard to those things which are not good. This is a work that will have to be done before His people can stand before Him a perfected people’ (Testimonies, Vol. 9, p. 153) In the light of the above mentioned words of Ellen White, therefore, every Adventist should eat only vegetables, or rather vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains. For they constitute the diet chosen for us by our Creator. However, the Adventist Church has taken the following position on meat-eating: every Christian must abstain from the so called unclean foods spoken of in the law of Moses while he is allowed to eat the ‘clean foods’: ‘Do Seventh-day Adventists believe that foods such as lobsters, crabs, pork, et cetera, all forbidden under the Mosaic law, are still forbidden, binding upon the Christian, and hence not to be eaten under penalty of sin? …. It is true we refrain from eating certain articles, as indicated in the query, but not because the law of Moses has any binding claims upon us. Far from it. We stand fast in the liberty with which God has set us free. It must be remembered that God recognized "clean" and "unclean" animals at the time of the Flood, long before there was a law of Moses. We reason that if God saw fit at that time to counsel His people against certain articles of diet, these things were not best for human consumption; and since we are physically constituted in the same way as are the Jews and all other peoples, we believe such things are not the best for us to use today. To us, the whole matter of unclean foods is primarily a question of health ….’ (Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions On Doctrine, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Washington, D.C. 1957, pages 623-624); ‘Along with adequate exercise and rest, we are to adopt the most healthful diet possible and abstain from the unclean foods identified in the Scriptures’ (Fundamental Beliefs, 21) So the vegetable diet taught by Ellen G. White is not a test of fellowship in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, though it is considered the proper diet chosen for mankind by God. The Adventist Church teaches also that a Christian must abstain totally from tea, coffee, beer, wine, or any alcoholic drinks, for all these beverages have harmful effects on mind and morals.

The Adventist Church is not the only sect which teaches such things, for there are many other sects all over the world which teach similar doctrines. For instance, the followers of Herbert Armstrong teach that we must abstain from the ‘unclean foods’ of the law of Moses: ‘The instruction in the 11th chapter of Leviticus, then, is not some ritualistic regulation for the Mosaic period only. Why do so many people have the idea that God is some great unfair monster who imposes foolish hardships on His people? Whatever God instructs us is for OUR GOOD, not some nonsensical restriction for one period to be changed around some different way for other people of a different period. Swine flesh--pork, ham, bacon, sausage, etc.-- is simply NOT FIT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION. The same is true with oysters, lobsters, clams, crabs, shrimp, crawfish, dogs, snakes, rats, and skunks. The only seafood fit for food are fish having both fins and scales. Halibut has both and is clean. Catfish is a skin fish--unclean. It's all a matter of what we have become accustomed to doing. It seems strange and horrifying to hear that some Orientals eat mice as a delicacy. But many Orientals are horrified to hear that we eat nasty, slimy, filthy oysters! But some human grown-ups, like little babies, will eat anything they can get their hands on and stuff into their mouths. At so-called "quality" grocery stores in large towns and cities, specializing in rare delicacies, you can purchase "delicious" canned rattlesnake--if you care for it. So far as I am concerned, you may have my portion if you wish to try it. I do not care to eat it for the same reason I do not eat slugs, skunks, cats, or eels—for the same reason I do not eat poison ivy or weeds. Yes, and for the same reason I do not put fuel oil mixed with sand in the gas tank of my car! The day will come when the learned (so-called) doctors will at last learn that eating greasy hog flesh and other unfit "foods" has been a prime cause of cancer and other deadly diseases’ (Herbert W. Armstrong, IS All ANIMAL FLESH Good Food?). And Mormons teach that one must abstain from some kinds of flesh during certain periods of the year, and from wine, alcoholic beverages, tea, and coffee: ‘Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation. That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him. And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make. And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies. And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill. And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly. And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man. Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving. Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly; And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.’ (Doctrine and Covenants, 89:4-13).

Even some Evangelical Churches forbid their members to eat certain foods (in most cases the unclean foods of the law), and to drink wine or any alcoholic beverages.

 

Confutation

 

Those who command to abstain from foods created by God teach a doctrine of demons

 

Paul said that those who command to abstain from foods which God created are hypocritical liars (cf. 1 Timothy 4:2-3) who teach a doctrine of demons, and also that “food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse” (1 Corinthians 8:8 – NKJV).

Therefore those who teach that if one abstains from certain foods created by God he is more appreciated (by God) – or held in greater esteem (by God) - than he who does eat those foods are liars, who deceive themselves. Do you know why food does not commend us to God? For “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17 – NKJV); so those who are pleasing to God and approved by men are those who pursue righteousness and peace and who rejoice in the Lord by the Holy Spirit.

Now let me refute some of the arguments of those who command to abstain from meat.

They affirm that men ought to eat only vegetables and fruits for God at the beginning said to the man and woman: “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” (Genesis 1:29 – NIV). However, they forget that God, after the flood, said to Noah and his sons: “Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything” (Genesis 9:3 – NIV). Furthermore, they forget that in the wilderness God gave the Israelites meat (that is, quail) to eat, as it is written: “The Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat” (Numbers 11:18 – NKJV) and again: “He also rained meat on them like the dust, feathered fowl like the sand of the seas; and He let them fall in the midst of their camp, all around their dwellings. So they ate and were well filled” (Psalm 78:27-29 – NKJV); they forget also that God commanded the ravens to bring to Elijah bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening (cf. 1 Kings 17:2-6); and they forget that Jesus and His disciples ate the Passover lamb as the law of Moses commanded (as it is written: “Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it” Exodus 12:8 – NKJV), and that after He rose from the dead He ate some fish, as it is written: “So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence” (Luke 24:42-43 – NKJV). As you can see, according to the Scripture it is lawful for believers to eat meat, for meat-eating does not have any harmful effects on the health of believers or on their spiritual life. Brothers, remember that what we eat is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer, so it cannot damage our health nor our spirituality. Our health will be damaged if we eat too much meat, for we will break the commandment which says: “Do not mix with winebibbers, or with gluttonous eaters of meat …” (Proverbs 23:20 – NKJV), and thus we will reap corruption from the flesh, for it is written: “He who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption” (Galatians 6:8 – NKJV). If we eat too much meat, our spiritual life also will be damaged, for Jesus said: “Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing ….” (Luke 21:34 – NKJV). As you can see, the ‘diet’ counselled by Adventists, which include the total abstention from meat, contradicts the Word of God. It is indeed a doctrine of demons; so let no one of them deceive you with his smooth words.

They affirm that animals are intelligent creatures of God, which see, hear, suffer, and are affectionate with those who take care of them, so it’s cruel killing them. However, the Word of God allows us to slaughter animals in order to eat their meat, for it is written: “You may slaughter and eat meat within all your gates, whatever your heart desires, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you ….” (Deuteronomy 12:15 - NKJV). In the light of the Word of God, therefore, those who slaughter animals to eat their flesh are not cruel or merciless people. Brothers in the Lord, let no one deceive you with this argument, for it is not based on the Holy Scripture but on human feelings. Please do not misunderstand me, for I am not judging or criticizing those who do not want to slaughter animals for they haven’t got the heart to slaughter them; I am just refuting those who speak about the innocence of the animals and affirm that some of them behave affectionately toward men, in order to command people to abstain from meat, and deceive people into thinking that those who slaughter animals to eat are merciless.

As you can see, in the light of the teaching of the Scripture, therefore, Ellen G. White was wrong in teaching that Christians must abstain from all flesh foods. She was deceived by the devil, who is the father of lies, into teaching this doctrine. Beware of her teaching on meat-eating, for it is a doctrine of demons.

 

The mosaic prohibition of eating certain animals has been abolished by Christ, for He has purified all foods

 

As we saw before, both the Adventists and the followers of Herbert Armstrong cite the law of Moses to support the prohibition of eating the flesh of certain animals (such as the swine, the camel, and the hare), certain fish, certain birds, and certain flying insects. They quote the eleventh chapter of the book of Leviticus, where the Israelites were commanded not to eat the unclean animals. However, they are wrong in commanding to abstain from these animals, for the mosaic prohibition of eating those foods was a shadow of something which was to come. That’s what Paul affirms when he says to the Colossians: “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17 - NIV). With these words Paul urged the saints not to subject themselves to those precepts which forbade to eat certain things, which were according to the commandments and doctrines of men, which were of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. Of course the precepts which command people not to eat certain foods have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed religion, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they are of no value to those who observe them. The Scripture affirms that “it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them” (Hebrews 13:9 – NKJV). Therefore, if we keep these commandments of men, we will be enslaved by the weak and beggarly elements again, and we will do something that doesn’t establish our heart before God, for our heart is established by the grace of God and not by the abstention from certain foods. Furthermore, it is not lawful for us to turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, for we have died with Christ to the basic principles of this world that we might walk in newness of life. Considering that foods are for the stomach, and the stomach for foods, and one day God will destroy both it and them (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:13), it is really absurd to believe that it is useful to keep the rules concerning foods taught by Adventists and the followers of Herbert Armstrong.

Jesus Christ was familiar with the precepts concerning foods prescribed by the law of Moses, yet He never commanded His disciples to abstain from certain foods saying that they were unclean and could defile them. On the contrary, He made it clear that no food can defile man. Listen to what He said to His disciples: “Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated ….?” (Mark 7:18-19 – NKJV). By these words Jesus meant that there is no food which can defile those who eat it. Concerning these words spoken by Jesus, Mark says: “In saying this, Jesus declared all foods ‘clean.’ ” (Mark 7:19 – NIV), that is to say, Jesus Christ purified all those foods which were ‘unclean’ according to the law of Moses. That no food is unclean is confirmed by the apostle Paul when he says to the Romans that “there is nothing unclean of itself” (Romans 14:14 – NKJV). I am sure that Paul, who was a Jew by birth and held in great esteem the law of Moses, would never have written these words to the Gentiles if he had not been fully convinced by Jesus Christ that the prohibition of eating the unclean foods had been abolished. Of course Paul said immediately after: “But to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean” (Romans 14:14 – NKJV), but notice that the apostle says that ‘to him it is unclean’, that is to say, it is not unclean to everybody. Therefore if anyone considers the swine to be unclean, to him it is unclean and he is free in the Lord to abstain from it, but he has not the right to impose his opinion on the others.

So, brothers, if anyone comes to you and commands you to abstain from a certain food, saying that it is unclean and thus if you eat it you will be defiled or if you eat it it may have harmful effects on your body and spiritual life, you must not give heed to him for he does not consent to the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ: “He is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings …” (1 Timothy 6:4-5 – NKJV), as Paul says to Timothy. Admonish him, and stop his mouth. The only foods from which we must abstain are blood, foods sacrificed to idols, and things strangled, for these are the things that the apostles and elders commanded us, who are Gentiles by birth, to abstain from when they gathered together in Jerusalem about the year 50 after Christ (cf. Acts 15:1-32). All the other foods can be eaten freely. Christ has delivered us from the law, so that we might be free; therefore stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free.

 

How to behave toward those who are weak in the faith

 

Paul said that “every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused” (1 Timothy 4:4 – NKJV), confirming thus the following words written in the law: “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Genesis 1:31 – NKJV). Therefore, we who have known the truth have the right to eat everything, but we must be careful that the exercise of our freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak, for Paul says: “Beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9 – NKJV). Who are the weak in the faith? They are those believers who eat only vegetables and thus they abstain from all flesh foods. For they are fully convinced in their own mind that meat is unclean. So let us see how we must behave toward those who are weak and how we may cause them to stumble with our food.

The apostle Paul said to the saints of Rome: “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:1-4). First of all, let me say – in order to avoid any misunderstanding - that he who is weak in the faith is not someone who has departed from the faith and commands people to abstain from foods which God created, but a brother who is of the opinion that he must abstain from certain foods, but he does not command others to do the same. Now Paul says that we must receive one who is weak in the faith and thus eats only vegetables, for God has received him in Christ. However, we must receive him without passing judgement on disputable matters, or else we will stir up strives which are of no value and ruin the hearers. We must not despise a brother who eats only vegetables, for he does so to the Lord and he give thanks to God for the food he eats. So why should we despise him?

Paul says: “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:13-23). From what Paul says we learn that we can cause a brother who is weak to stumble and fall, we can grieve him and destroy the work of God in him, and destroy him with our food. Therefore, it is necessary to know how to behave toward him lest we destroy him with something which perishes with the using, that is, our food. The instructions given by Paul are useful in this field, therefore let us pay attention to them. Paul says that there is nothing unclean of itself, but if a brother considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean; therefore we must not grieve him telling him that he is wrong and he should change his mind for he is in the wrong, nor should we quote the Scripture in order to show him that his opinion is wrong. Should we grieve him because of his opinion on certain foods, we would no longer walk in love, for we would strive about opinions on foods, and it would be of no value for the brother is fully convinced that certain foods are unclean and he has no doubts about his behaviour. We then who are strong must bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves by trying to convince the weak, that is, by trying to impose our opinion on them. How do we bear with the scruples of the weak? By not eating meat, nor drinking wine, nor doing anything else that will cause our brother who is weak to fall. In this way we walk in love, we please our neighbour for his good, to build him up, and we do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. What we must always bear in mind is that the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, and that consequently if we eat all things, giving thanks to God, we are not better than those who eat only vegetables giving thanks to God. Know this, that if the kingdom of God were a matter of eating and drinking, we would be continually busy choosing the good foods and rejecting the bad ones, and we would continually talk about those foods which would commend us to God and those foods which would defile us. But thanks be to God, the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. That’s why we believers see to it that we are righteous as God is righteous; and we, as much as depends on us, live peaceably with all men, and we do not avenge ourselves, and we always rejoice in the Lord; because we know that we must do these things in order to please God. Brothers, beware of those who command to abstain from foods which were created by God.

I have written about this subject in order to explain to you that while on the one hand we must not tolerate those who command Christians to abstain from foods created by God, for they teach a doctrine of demons, on the other hand we must tolerate those believers who, being weak in the faith, eat only vegetables, for to them meat is unclean, because they do so to the Lord and do not command others to abstain from meat.

 

The Word of God does not forbid us to drink wine or other alcoholic beverages

 

What does the Scripture say about wine and other alcoholic beverages? Does it permit us to drink alcoholic beverages or not? The Scripture commands us not to get drunk, but it does not command us to abstain from alcoholic beverages. In other words, the Scripture condemns the abuse of alcoholic beverages but not the use of them, thus the Scripture allows the partaking of alcoholic beverages in moderation and with circumspection.

Here are some of the numerous biblical warnings against drunkenness. In the book of Proverbs it is written: “Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags” (Proverbs 23:20-21), and again: “Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again” (Proverbs 23:29-35). The apostle Paul says to the Ephesians: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery” (Ephesians 5:18 – NIV). That wine leads men to conduct themselves in a dissolute way is confirmed by the example of Noah, who “drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent” (Genesis 9:21 – NKJV), and by the example of Lot, who was made drunk by his daughters so that they might lie with him, and he did not know when they lay down or when they arose (cf. Genesis 19:30-38). Drunkards will not inherit the Kingdom of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:10; Galatians 5:21).

Let me quote now some biblical passages which permit us to drink wine or other alcoholic beverages in moderation. In the book of Proverbs we read: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1 – NKJV). Notice that Solomon does not say that whoever drinks wine or a strong drink is not wise, but another thing, that is, whoever is led astray by it is not wise. That we are allowed to drink wine is confirmed by Paul when he says to Timothy: “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23 – NKJV), and to Titus that the bishop must be “not given to much wine” (Titus 1:7 – NIV. Cf. 1 Timothy 3:3. Paul says that deacons also must be “not given to much wine” 1 Timothy 3:8 – NKJV), and that the older women must be “not given to much wine” (Titus 2:3 – NKJV). The law also confirms that we are allowed to drink wine and alcoholic beverages, for it says: “Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always. And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household” (Deuteronomy 14:22-26. The NIV reads “wine or other fermented drink”). Notice that among the things God allowed the Israelites to buy were wine and any other fermented drinks. That’s why Paul did not forbid believers to drink wine, because he knew that the law did not condemn the moderate use of wine and other alcoholic beverages. Concerning tea and coffee, we say the same thing, that is, according to the Scripture it is lawful for us to drink them in moderation.

Brothers in the Lord, let no one deceive you with empty words.

 

 

 

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