Friday, October 29, 2021
During the course of my Christian life, I haven’t dealt with the subject I share today. I never thought I would need to. I’ve been to numerous Christian churches, heard their teachings, have myself been a Bible teacher for truths of Christ for decades, and am an ordained minister. But not until the last several years have I become aware of the dangerous inroads being made by deceived teachers who foist the strange and spiritually damaging belief on believers to uphold the O.T. Levitical law. It’s frankly quite shocking. These teachers wrongly add works of the law which are not of faith, [because “the law is not of faith” (Gal. 3:12)] to grace through faith.
In these last days there’s a sudden increased effort by some to Christianize Judaism. Believers are deceptively being taught to abstain from unclean foods as described in the Levitical law, and more. This is not an insignificant spiritual issue, for those teachings could destroy grace by faith with legalism. The Spirit has much to say about foods and nowhere are believers told to keep the law of clean and unclean foods; rather, we find strong warnings not to return to works of the law because the law is not of faith. But first, a small portion of that Old Testament Levitical law…
“Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying, These are the animals which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth: Among the animals, whatever divides the hoof, having cloven hooves and chewing the cud—that you may eat. Nevertheless these you shall not eat among those that chew the cud or those that have cloven hooves: the camel, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; the rock hyrax, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; the hare, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; and the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. They are unclean to you’” (Lev. 11:1–8). Again, this is just a very small portion of that Levitical law.
Post-Calvary: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:1–5). [My bold emphasis added] The bold type latter here is the focus. The above passage, together with numerous others are very important to understanding and knowing the truth of works by faith.
In review of 1 Tim. 4:1–5: first, if permitted, Satan will destroy the works of Christ and His Spirit. Accordingly, some teachers heed deceiving spirits and command “to abstain from foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth”. Do you “believe and know the truth”? The Spirit then says that “every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused, if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer”. But that doesn’t satisfy the law, so certain teachers convince their hearers that they’re not free to eat every creature even though God said “every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused, if it is received with thanksgiving and prayer”. Do you hear it – do you hear the Serpent’s hiss as his “deceiving spirits” try destroying the truth and works of Christ?
By the Spirit the Apostle Paul specifically said in the context of foods that “I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; [that’s powerful] but to him who considers anything to be unclean, [personal choice] to him it is unclean” (Rom. 14:14). [My emphasis added] In the verses that follow the apostle recognizes that there will be those who insist on keeping the law of clean and unclean foods and makes allowance for it in love, but they must not put another under conviction to also perform the law! The Spirit said “if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died…for the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, [though the law wants to make it that] but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:15, 17). Deception is the fruit of those who impose the Levitical law.
Accordingly, the Holy Spirit said “Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:22–23). Therefore, if a believer has a conviction against eating what the law declares unclean, so be it, but he should keep it to himself before God without trying to convict another believer of being disobedient or less pleasing to God if he or she eats foods the law forbids. This is God’s law of love which far supersedes the Levitical law of clean and unclean foods and we live by that love.
Also note here, when the Spirit said that “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works’” (James 2:17–18), the Spirit was NOT speaking of works of the law, for that same Spirit said “the law is not of faith” (Gal. 3:12), and “whatever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23), and “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). The works of faith by the Spirit are listed as “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22–23), and concludes, saying “Against such there is no law”. And for those who believe they’re obligated to perform the law, they must indeed heed the solemn warning of Gal. 3:10.
The Holy Spirit said to believers “Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience sake; for the earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness” (1 Cor. 10:25–26). That’s the liberty we have by grace through faith. Pork and shellfish are foods sold in the meat markets, yet, they’re listed in the law as unclean. So, do we live by grace through faith and eat according to 1 Tim. 4:4 or by works of the law which are works of the flesh and not of faith? “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.’ But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for ‘the just shall live by faith.’ Yet the law is not of faith, [here, see Rom. 14:23c] but ‘the man who does them shall live by them.’ Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’)” (Gal. 3:10–13). Christ Jesus suffered that curse.
Similarly, those teachers impose the law for keeping certain festivals of ancient Israel, e.g. the festivals of Tabernacles and Unleavened Bread. In keeping the festival of Tabernacles, ancient Israel left their homes and went into the wilderness and built huts in which to live for a week to commemorate their deliverance from physical bondage to Egypt. For the festival of Unleavened Bread, leaven being symbolic of sin, Israel was commanded once a year to physically sweep out of their homes every single spec of leaven as a reminder to get sin out of their own lives, which was altogether impossible, but the reminder was there to do it nonetheless. If one examines both of these festivals in light of the Spirit, it becomes clear that today under the New Covenant, both of those festivals and their works are performed by the indwelling Holy Spirit, which the people of ancient Israel did not have present in their lives. So, in the Spirit “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1). Being Spirit led, we do not need the works of the law to remind us when we sin, nor remind that we’ve been delivered from the bondage of sin through true faith in the atoning shed blood of Christ; that’s the ever present work of the Holy Spirit.
God gives us an example of those who, upon receiving Christ by faith, began in the Spirit, but sought to return to the works of the law. “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? [Clearly by faith] Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?…[Meaning the works of the law?] Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Gal. 3:1–3, 5). Discern the truth here, that the works of the law are works of the flesh, not of grace through faith and God’s amazing Gift of His indwelling Spirit.
Consider: the Spirit said, “you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements [the law] that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. [We can’t add to that] Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Col. 2:13–17).
If some believe they must practice the law of clean and unclean foods, they should keep it between them and God; knowing, however, that they exclude many other Scriptures that bring freedom. And as that law grows over time, they risk subjecting grace by faith to the law. In this context the Spirit said “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1). Consider: unbelieving, Orthodox Jews and Muslims who literally curse Jesus Christ and the work He wrought at Calvary yet hold to the law of clean and unclean foods. Why would a believer want to be numbered among them by participating in their works of the flesh, who know absolutely nothing of salvation of grace through faith and the indwelling power of God’s Holy Spirit He sent at the Day of Pentecost?
Marlin J. Yoder