Foods and beverages

 

 

We are free in the Lord to eat blood, things offered to idols and strangled things

 

 

 

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Christians are free to eat blood, things strangled and things offered to idols. For the Council of Florence stated as follows: ‘It [the holy Roman church] firmly believes, professes and teaches that every creature of God is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because according to the word of the Lord not what goes into the mouth defiles a person, and because the difference in the Mosaic law between clean and unclean foods belongs to ceremonial practices, which have passed away and lost their efficacy with the coming of the gospel. It also declares that the apostolic prohibition, to abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled, was suited to that time when a single church was rising from Jews and gentiles, who previously lived with different ceremonies and customs. This was so that the gentiles should have some observances in common with Jews, and occasion would be offered of coming together in one worship and faith of God and a cause of dissension might be removed, since by ancient custom blood and strangled things seemed abominable to Jews, and gentiles could be thought to be returning to idolatry if they ate sacrificial food. In places, however, where the Christian religion has been promulgated to such an extent that no Jew is to be met with and all have joined the church, uniformly practising the same rites and ceremonies of the gospel and believing that to the clean all things are clean, since the cause of that apostolic prohibition has ceased, so its effect has ceased’ (Ecumenical Council of Florence [1438-1445], Session 11, 4 February 1442). In other words, according to the Roman Catholic Church, those decrees determined by the apostles and elders were disciplinary decrees for those times only, and as the circumstances did permit it – that is, when the merging of the Jews and Gentiles was completed - they were revoked. To support the temporariness of those decrees, it holds that Paul permitted the saints to eat things sacrificed to idols (cf. 1 Corinth 8:1-13), which is a clear evidence of the temporariness of those decrees. The Catholic Church affirms not only that those decrees were temporary but also that in the days of the apostles they applied only to the Churches of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. To support this thesis they point out that Paul did not mention those decrees in his epistles, which indicates that those decrees applied only to some churches and for a time (cf. New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, Jerusalem, council of).

Even many Protestants teach that Christians are free to eat blood, strangled things and things offered to idols for the decrees determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem were temporary. In the Matthew Henry's Commentary we read the following things about the decrees determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem: Acts 15:7-21 – ‘…. The opinion of James was, that the Gentile converts ought not to be troubled about Jewish rites, but that they should abstain from meats offered to idols, so that they might show their hatred of idolatry. Also, that they should be cautioned against fornication, which was not abhorred by the Gentiles as it should be, and even formed a part of some of their rites. They were counselled to abstain from things strangled, and from eating blood; this was forbidden by the law of Moses, and also here, from reverence to the blood of the sacrifices, which being then still offered, it would needlessly grieve the Jewish converts, and further prejudice the unconverted Jews. But as the reason has long ceased, we are left free in this, as in the like matters. Let converts be warned to avoid all appearances of the evils which they formerly practised, or are likely to be tempted to; and caution them to use Christian liberty with moderation and prudence’ (From: http://www.htmlbible.com).

 

Confutation

 

What the Roman Catholic Church and many Protestant Churches teach on the decrees determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem is not true for those decrees were not just for some Churches nor were they temporary. Now I am going to prove it through the Holy Scriptures.

First of all, let me quote the first thirty-two verses of the fifteenth chapter of the Acts of the apostles: “And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation. And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.”

As you can see, some brethren who were Jews by birth troubled the Gentile believers who were in Antioch telling them that unless they were circumcised they could not be saved. But the apostles Paul and Barnabas – who at that time were at Antioch – opposed those brethren for they were fully convinced that we are saved by grace through faith apart from the works of the law. However, the brethren of Antioch determined that Paul and Barnabas and some other believers should go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. After they arrived at Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas told the Church and the apostles and elders the things which the Lord had done with them among the Gentiles. But some of the Pharisees who believed rose up saying that it was necessary to circumcise the Gentile believers and to command them to keep the law of Moses. Then the apostles and elders gathered together to consider the matter. After much discussion, and after Peter, Paul and Barnabas, and James had spoken, the apostles and elders determined not to command the Gentile believers to be circumcised nor to keep the law of Moses, but to command them to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals, and from fornication. Therefore, by that decision the apostles and elders confirmed that salvation is by grace and not by the works of the law as some Jewish brethren taught.

Now, in the light of what happened at that time, why should we consider those decrees concerning foods passed away when we know that today it may happen that some Jewish brethren teach some Gentiles believers the same false teaching, that is, ‘Unless you are circumcised and keep the law of Moses, you cannot be saved!’? Why should we consider those decrees passed away when we know that many Gentiles all over the world still kill animals by strangling or chocking them and eat their meat, offer various foods to idols, and eat blood, just as the Gentiles did in the days of the apostles? Don’t you think that if we, as Gentile believers, found ourselves in the same condition as those Gentile believers of Antioch found themselves at that time, we could resist and refute those who teach us ‘unless you are circumcised and you keep the law of Moses you cannot be saved’ by quoting what the apostles and elders said during that assembly at Jerusalem concerning that matter? Don’t you think that if those decrees were temporary, the apostles and elders would have declared it in the letter which they sent to the Gentile believers? Let me tell you another thing: Do you not know that Jews still abstain from blood, from strangled things, and from the things the Gentiles offer to idols, and when some of them believe in Jesus Christ they keep abstaining from all these things? So, let us suppose that some Jews believe that Jesus is the Messiah and they join the Church of which you are a member, don’t you think that if they see you eating blood, strangled things, and things offered to idols, they will be scandalized by your conduct and will stumble and fall because of you?

As for the argument according to which those decrees applied only to some churches of those days, I say this. It is true that the apostles and elders sent that letter to the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia (cf. Acts 15:23), but that does not mean that the contents of that letter was valid only for the believers who lived in those places. If it were so, it would be like saying that the epistle Paul wrote to the Colossians was valid only for the believers of Colosse or the one he wrote to the Romans was valid only for the saints of Rome, for the simple reason that in those letters Paul does not say that they were for the saints who live all over the world. Of course each one of those letters was written by Paul to the saints of a specific city, but the words which are written in them are valid for all the saints of all ages: the same thing must be said about the letter the apostles and elders wrote to the Gentile believers who lived in those places at that time, it is valid for all the saints of all places and ages. That is confirmed by the fact that after that letter was read in Antioch, when Paul and Silas departed to visit the brethren in every city where Paul and Barnabas had preached the Gospel, “as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem” (Acts 16:4 – NKJV). Which were the cities they went through? They were these: Derbe, Lystra, Iconium and Antioch in Pisidia, and other cities which were not in Syria and Cilicia (which are the regions spoken of in that letter). To confirm that those decrees were to be kept also by those believers who did not live in Syria or Cilicia, I point out that in the Church of Thyatira there was a woman named Jezebel who deceived the servants of the Lord into eating things sacrificed to idols (cf. Revelation 2:20), and in the Church of Pergamos there were some who held the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols (cf. Revelation 2:14). In both cases the Lord made it clear that eating things sacrificed to idols was wrong. Notice that Thyatira and Pergamos were not located in Syria nor in Cilicia but in Asia (cf. Revelation 1:4,11).

As for the fact that Paul did not mention in his epistles the decrees determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem, and he permitted the saints to eat things sacrificed to idols, which things indicate that those decrees must be considered passed away, I say this. If one reads carefully the words Paul wrote to the Corinthians about things sacrificed to idols, he will notice that Paul did not want believers to eat things sacrificed to idols. Here are some words written by Paul which prove what I have just said.

“However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled” (1 Corinthians 8:7 – NKJV). Therefore, in the Church of Corinth there were some believers who ate things sacrificed to idols and their conscience was defiled through their wrong behaviour.

“The things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons” (1 Corinthians 10:20 – NKJV). As you can see, Paul was convinced that if a believer eats things sacrificed to idols he has fellowship with demons, for these things were polluted by idols.

Concerning the words of Paul according to which we can eat whatever is sold in the meat market and whatever is set before us by unbelieving people at their home (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:23-30), I say this. Paul, with those words, did not oppose the decrees determined by the apostles and elders, for he just said that we should eat whatever is sold in the meat market and is set before us by unbelieving people, “asking no questions for conscience’ sake” (1 Corinthians 10:25, 27 – NKJV). Please, notice this expression of Paul. So, we, even if those things are things offered to idols, not knowing anything about it, do not have fellowship with demons, for we eat those things not as things offered to idols. On the contrary, if we know that the things which are sold in the meat market or set before us are things offered to idols, and we eat them as things offered to idols, then we will have fellowship with demons and will provoke God to jealousy. So it is absolutely wrong to teach that Paul considered the decrees determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem temporary and valid only for some churches.

 

 

 

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