Should Christians Eat Unclean Food?

I remember when I was a new Christian in 1981. I was taught that the New Testament was better than the Old Testament; that we no longer had to follow God’s dietary laws of clean and unclean food. They were good laws in Moses’ day but do we still have to follow them today?

So, today’s question is, “can Christians eat unclean food?”, or more specifically, “can Christians eat bacon or shrimp?” For the past 35+ years, I’ve been eating food that God says is unclean, such as pork and shrimp. The majority of my Christian friends were also eating unclean food so that makes it okay, right?

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Should Christians Eat Unclean Food like Bacon?
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Just because some Christians do something one way, does that make it right? If they were jumping off a cliff, would you follow them? No, you wouldn’t! Well, to answer this question about unclean food, let’s see what God’s Word has to say about it.

We’re going to examine the truth

  • that God does not change,
  • plus look at two New Testament passages that many say unclean food is okay to eat
    • 1 Timothy 4:4 and Acts 10:3-33.

God Does Not Change

Here’s the first thing we need to clarify found in Malachi 3:6, For I am the Lord, I change not

God does not change. He gave the Ten Commandments to Moses for a reason. The Hebrews and the strangers in their households were to follow them. Not because He is a mean God and wants to take away any fun they might have, but because He wants to protect them from harm. His commandments display His love for them.

Let’s think about this for a moment. If God doesn’t change, then why would He give laws and statutes that would only be applicable for a specific time frame? Why and when would the laws and statutes become null? He never said they would. He never said they would be for a time frame.

After God gave the Ten Commandments, God gave Moses the laws and statutes for everyday living. He went into detail about the clean and unclean animals; what could and could not be eaten in Leviticus 11.

Would you like to know something? God first mentions unclean animals back in Genesis, before the Law and the statutes were given!

Genesis 7:2, Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. God had a purpose for the unclean animal and it was not for food.

Another verse to look at is Hebrews 13:8, Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh, John 1:1. He is God and He does not change, He is the same forever.

So, we have just established the fact and truth that God does not change.

What Paul Taught about Clean and Unclean Food

Let’s look at a verse that seems to say that we can eat whatever we want. Did you have an opportunity to exam this passage fully? Let’s do that right now.

Let’s look at 1 Timothy 4:4. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:

It’s time to examine the surrounding verses in context.

1 Timothy 4:3-5, Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

Paul is teaching that some believers will be deceived by seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. These individuals will leave their faith and begin teaching lies and false doctrines. Lies such as

  • commanding others to stop eating meat that God said was clean, and
  • commanding others to eat unclean food.

All clean food is to be received with thanksgiving as it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. Paul is reinforcing how to receive their food given to them back in Leviticus 11.

The reverse of this is eating unclean food is not okay. God never allowed them to eat unclean food and it is not allowed now.

Look back at 1 Timothy 4:3. The latter part mentions that the food is to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. What truth is he talking about? It is the truth of God’s dietary laws as found in Leviticus 11:1-47.

Thy Law is Truth

Psalm 119:142 confirms, Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth.

So, if God’s law is truth, then it is still the truth now because God does not change. We have already established that.

So, Paul is not saying that ALL food, clean and unclean, is good to eat. He is saying that all food that God made clean is good to eat because that is God’s law.

Now, let’s take a look at Leviticus 11:47, 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.

What does it mean to make a difference between clean and unclean? It means to have food that is set apart, uncommon, holy and sanctified.

Either this verse is still true or it isn’t. Has God changed His mind about His dietary laws?

What did Paul say about the Scripture to Timothy?

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

Paul confirms that Leviticus 11 is inspired by God, is profitable for doctrine and is instruction for righteousness.

If all the food was made clean and there were no unclean food, then all the food is common. Nothing is set apart for sanctification. God specifically defined food that is clean is sanctified. Unclean food is not sanctified.

Now, if all the food was made common, how could the food be sanctified by the Word of God and prayer? Those who believe and know the truth will know that unclean food cannot be sanctified. They know to eat only the clean food as God commanded.

What Did Jesus Say about Unclean Food?

It’s so easy to follow what someone else is doing. When we are new to faith, we learn by observing our Christian brethren. I know that I did. If someone was a believer longer than I was and they were doing it, then it was good for me to do, too. Whatever “it” was but that is wrong thinking.

It is important to examine the Scripture for ourselves to see what God says on any given topic. God’s Word hasn’t changed in all these years.

Let’s look at an interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees. Turn with me to Mark 7:1-13, specifically Mark 7:3, 5, 7-9. What do you notice?

Jesus repeats several times to the Pharisees that they love to keep the traditions of men. What are they? Man-made laws and for this, Jesus calls them hypocrites in Mark 7:6.

Now, look at Mark 7:8-9, 13. Jesus is saying that the Pharisees reject the commandment of God to keep their own traditions. Their man-made traditions were nullifying the Word of God.

When we look again at Paul’s teaching in 1 Timothy 4:4, he is teaching us that this verse is supporting God’s dietary laws in Leviticus 11, not against it! He is not supporting the Pharisees man-made traditions as they desired to keep believers in bondage to their ways. Nor does Jesus support those who twist the truth to deny God’s laws.

Doctrines of Devils

Let’s turn our attention again to 1 Timothy 4:1, Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

Can I ask you a question? Is it possible for God’s dietary instructions found in Leviticus 11 to be considered doctrines of devils?

I don’t think so. They departed from the faith so why would they teach that you should continue to follow God’s laws? It makes sense that as they seduce you, they teach that all food is now good to eat. It’s pretty absurd to believe they would teach God’s law when they departed from it.

Is it okay for Christians to eat bacon or sausage? Is this clean or unclean food?
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Peter’s Vision of Clean and Unclean Food

It’s so important to keep Scripture in context with itself. So, let’s do that right now as we examine Peter’s vision.

Turn with me to Acts 10:9-33. Are you familiar with this vision? Let me give you the condensed version:

Peter had gone to the rooftop to pray. It was the sixth hour and he was hungry and as his host was preparing dinner, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven open and a great sheet with four corners coming down to the earth. In this sheet were all kinds of unclean animals and birds.

A voice from heaven spoke saying “rise, Peter, kill and eat.” Peter’s reply was that he wouldn’t do that because he had never eaten anything unclean or common.

The voice spoke a second time saying, “What God hath cleansed, do not call common.” This vision was repeated three times before the sheet was taken back up to heaven.

Verses 11-16 are commonly taught that we can eat unclean food. We can now eat the unclean animal because verse 15 says, “What God hath cleansed, do not call common.

To use verse 15 as the interpretation is an error. Let’s read the rest of this passage.

Read with me, Acts 10:17, Now while Peter doubted himself what this vision which he had seen should mean…

And Acts 10:19-20, While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.

Okay, it seems that Peter was thinking and pondering the meaning of this vision and while doing so, Holy Spirit gave him instructions to go with three men who were coming for him.

Peter’s Interpretation of the Vision

As Peter was pondering the meaning of his vision, he obeyed the Spirit and went to meet the three men. He listened to their request from Cornelius, a Roman centurion who was a God-fearing man, respected by the Jews.

Have you ever experienced an answer from God that you just knew that you knew what you were to do? Well, that’s what Peter experienced.

He went with the men to Cornelius’ house and when he met him, he said this, Acts 10:28,

And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

You can read the rest of that visit in Acts 10:29-33 to see how God was in that meeting between a Jew and Gentile.

So, the correct interpretation of Peter’s vision had nothing to do with food but everything to do with people: Jews and Gentiles.

Let me say that again,

Food is not mentioned in the interpretation of Peter’s vision.

If you would like to learn more about Peter’s vision, check out 119 Ministries on YouTube.

Why Did God Say?

Then if the interpretation was about the Jews and Gentiles receiving faith, then why did God say to kill the animals and eat?

Think back to another time when Abraham took Isaac with him to offer a sacrifice on the mountain. God told Abraham to offer Isaac, his only son. Did God really mean for him to kill Isaac?

Remember the story? Abraham was obedient and did as he was told. God saw his heart and provided a ram to be offered instead. It had been a test for him.

Verse 17 plainly shows us that Peter was troubled about this vision. He knew that God is clear about His dietary laws. So, why would God change His mind about His own laws when He Himself doesn’t change?

Was the vision a test for Peter? Don’t forget that he had been hungry when he went up to pray. Maybe the vision of animals was to test him to see if he, in his hunger, would eat unclean animals?

Christ had died on the cross years before this vision occurred, and yet, Peter was still eating clean food. The Jews still followed God’s dietary laws. Why would that change now?

Peter shared his interpretation with the apostles and brethren in Judea that the gospel was now to be shared with the Gentiles. You can read that in Acts 11:1-18.

When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

Again, there is no mention of food in the interpretation.

Related Posts on Holiness: 7 Steps for You to “Be Holy as I am Holy” and 1 Simple Truth about Holiness that will Challenge You.

That’s a Wrap

Well, we’ve just had some extensive teaching on whether Christians should eat pork or other food deemed to be unclean. God’s dietary laws of Leviticus 11 still apply today because God’s Word does not change.

So, now you know what God has been teaching me lately. What are your thoughts on this?

I’d love to hear what you have to say about this topic. Will you leave me a comment?

I invite you to stay in touch with me through signing up to receive the Friendship Letters. You will receive personalized “Letters” filled with blog happenings, free printables, exclusive posts, and encouragement for your Christian walk. You won’t be spammed and you can unsubscribe at any time.

4 thoughts on “Should Christians Eat Unclean Food?

  1. I like the context of your post, but there is more to the story. How did Jesus address this subject with the Pharisees? “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” (Matthew 15:11 NKJV). Also: “So He said to them, ‘Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, 19) because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” (Mark 7:18-19 NKJV). The Apostle Paul had a heated discussion with Peter about keeping the dietary laws, thus being a hypocrite. “But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. 12) When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. 13) As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.” (Galatians 2:11-13 NKJV). I wrote a blog on Tuesday: I addressed the angle that we should respect those who eat differently than us, so we don’t become a stumbling block to those who do observe dietary laws, as Peter did. We should be ready to protect our testimony, in the presence of others. I understand that God put these guidelines in place for our health. I have stopped eating bacon and other forms of Pork, for health reasons. I don’t eat bat, or eel, or buzzard, and many of the other unclean beasts listed. We can discuss the same issue, with those who feel it is OK to partake of alcohol. I personally feel it is wrong, others will try and make Scripture justify their participation. Overeating in itself, is wrong. My take on the matter is we need to treat our bodies as a Temple, and only put the best of clean foods inside. Keep up the good work my friend. CHRIS

    • Cindy

      Thanks for bringing that up, Chris. Those verses will be examined in the followup post on this topic. Thanks for stopping by!

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