Do the Old Testament food laws apply to the Christian?
Topic(s): Old Testament
When God called Israel out of Egyptian bondage, He intended for Israel to be different from other nations. God gave Israel the Ten Commandments, and hundreds of other laws to follow. Many of the laws given to Israel prohibited the eating of certain foods. Certain foods were unclean to Israel. Leviticus 11 mentions a number of animals considered unclean, including the hare (11:6), the swine (11:7), fish without fins and scales (11:10), and many birds such as the eagle, and the raven (11:13-15). Among the foods not unclean for Israel were the locust, the beetle, and the grasshopper (11:22). For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. This is the law of the beasts, and of the fowl, and of every living creature that moveth in the waters, and of every creature that creepeth upon the earth: To make a difference between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten (Leviticus 11:45-47).
The two primary reasons for God's restrictions on Israel's diet were to keep them separate from the nations around them, and to protect their health. Leviticus contains many laws that deal with health issues. Many of these laws were in direct conflict with the customs of Egypt, where Moses had been trained, but God revealed them to protect His chosen people. We now know, for instance, that pork was a very unhealthy food then, because it carried diseases that modern science has been able to detect and control. It is not evident, however, that all the diet restrictions had special value for health. Many conservative Jews still follow a kosher diet today based on the Levitical laws.
Following the Old Covenant diet would not be wrong, or unhealthy, but these laws no longer bind Christians. These food laws were part of the old law that Jesus freed us from. In His crucifixion, He was blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross (Colossians 2:14). Paul adds, Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ (Colossians 2:16-17).
In preparation for taking the gospel to the Gentile household of Cornelius, Peter saw in a vision a vessel descend from heaven filled with unclean beasts. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common (Acts 10:13-15). The purpose of the vision was to make Peter understand the gospel included Gentiles, but it also indicated that the Gentiles would not be held accountable for the Jewish food laws. The only special restrictions placed on the Gentiles by the Jerusalem council were 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 (Acts 15:29).