I am starting a new series named But Paul said… Christians today believe that one no longer needs to follow the law. Some believe that it was nailed to the cross, others believe it was abolished and some just don’t know. The ones that do not know just follow those that think they know. For the most part those that believe this focus entirely on what Paul wrote in his letters, despite the overwhelming evidence otherwise. Do you know what you believe? Do you know why? What kind of foundation do you really have? The twelve disciples had the Tanakh (commonly referred as the Old Testament) as there foundation. Yeshua has the same foundation. How much do you really know about the Tanakh? I mean that was for the Jews, right? That and many other questions we will look take a look at in this series.
Let’s get started with the first topic, food sacrificed to idols. Can believers in Yeshua eat food sacrificed to idols? Let’s first see what Exodus 34:11-16 says – 11 Be sure to observe what I am commanding you this day: behold, I am going to drive out the Amorite before you, and the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. 12 Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will become a snare in your midst. 13 But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 —for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God— 15 otherwise you might make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land and they would play the harlot with their gods and sacrifice to their gods, and someone might invite you to eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you might take some of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters might play the harlot with their gods and cause your sons also to play the harlot with their gods. So we are told in Exodus not to eat something sacrificed to idols (i.e. other gods). That is so Old Testament. Hashem was so restrictive and harsh back then. Now, we have liberty and can eat what we are served as along as someone is not offended or weak in the faith. Is this the truth? Let’s see what Paul said.
Paul writes about this at least three times in his letters. The first instance is in Romans 14:13-21 –
13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. 14 I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. 21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. 22 The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.
Here Paul mentions a couple of things. Clean verses unclean foods. That is a topic that I will write about another day. Paul also speaks about not eating something if it will make your brother stumble. Otherwise you are free to eat because “the faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.” Wow, so Paul is stating eat what you want to eat, just don’t make another stumble. This is in direct conflict with Exodus 34. Oh, that is the Tanakh. Next…
Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians states in chapter eight –
4 Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. 7 However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 8 But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. 9 But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? 11 For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. 12 And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.
Again, Paul states that there really is not another god but G-d, so don’t worry about if someone sacrificed the food to some other god unless it makes a weak brother stumble. We are neither the worse or better if we eat or do not eat. So you see, according to Paul, it does not matter…we are at liberty.
The third time Paul speaks about eating something sacrificed to idols is again in 1 Corinthians just a couple of chapters later in 10 –
23 All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor. 25 Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience’ sake; 26 for the earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains. 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience’ sake. 28 But if anyone says to you, “This is meat sacrificed to idols,” do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience’ sake; 29 I mean not your own conscience, but the other man’s; for why is my freedom judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks? 31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.
Paul, first tells us “All things are lawful”. Hmmm. What does that mean? I can go so many directions on that, but let’s stay within the parameters of our topic. Paul says eat anything that is sold in the meat market for everything is the Lord’s. If someone places something before you eat….just don’t ask questions about it. You know for your conscience. Just don’t cause someone else to stumble. Do it all to the glory of God!
Can you eat something sacrificed to a god or a demon and glorify Hashem? What about looking out in the world wide web? Got Questions is a popular site and this is what it says “The Gentiles rejected the notion that such meat was tainted and held that they could eat meat sacrificed to idols without endorsing idolatry—they had not actually offered the sacrifice, after all.” You see it was all for the Jews. The Jews had issues with it, so let’s be considerate of them. Lay down your personal rights for others. The site goes on, “Paul clarifies the teaching on this subject. First, he says that eating meat offered to an idol is not immoral, because “an idol is nothing at all.” I visited many sites offering the same type of advice. They are just following Paul.
What does anyone else in the Brit Chadasha (New Testament) have anything to say about this? Glad you asked. Luke writes about this 3 times in Acts. Notice that Paul states his thoughts three times as well. The first time in Acts was the Jerusalem Council meeting. The results of this meeting has been used in error for so long in many different ways. Let’s see what it says about eating foods sacrificed to idols. In Acts 15:20 James states “but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols.” The second time is in verse 29 and it states “that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols.” The last time all the elders, including James state in Acts 21:25 “But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols.”
According to Paul we can eat anything sacrificed to idols, but according to James and the other elders we cannot. Is anything else said about eating food sacrificed to idols/gods? It is mentioned twice in Revelation chapter two in the messages to the seven churches. The first time is in the message to Pergamum John writes “But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols.” The second time is to those at Thyatira in verse 20 which states “20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.“
Now, we not only have James and the elders explicitly saying we cannot eat food sacrificed to idols/gods, but we have Hashem telling John to write to the different churches telling them what he is commending them for and what he is charging against them. To two of the churches he tells them they have eaten food sacrificed to idols. Obviously, this is a contradiction. Who is right? I only mentioned Exodus 34 from the Tanakh, but there many other verses that state the same thing. Balaam in Numbers leads people to eating sacrificed foods. Psalm 106 tells us those who ate the sacrificed food provoked G-d to anger. There are even more verses than this in the Tanakh.
Do I have something confused? Did Paul not state we could eat food sacrificed to idols? What are we to do?
Tell me what you think…
Until next time, Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh is Adonai…