Sermon in English, Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:1-5
In 1 Timothy 4.1-5 we read, ‘Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving head 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.’
What foods can we eat and what does this scripture say about vegetarianism? Is this a ‘doctrine of demons’?
If vegetarianism is linked to the Hindu concept of re-incarnation (therefore animals may be not be eaten because they might be reincarnations of dead relatives) or that animals are sacred or part of the inter- connected divine being (pantheism) it does have a demonic origin.
However if a person prefers not to eat meat out of concern for animal welfare or any reason apart from the ones mentioned above, that is a personal choice and no one can object to it. In the light of food scandals like BSE and alarming reports in the papers about artificial growth hormones put into chickens and other meat products by today’s food industry, there is good reason why many people might want to avoid meat eating. It can also be said that factory-farming methods are cruel, violating the principles God laid down in the Bible about humans taking care of creation (Genesis 1.26-7, Psalm 8).
What does the Bible say about food?
If we look at the Bible as a whole we find that changed conditions on the earth and different dispensations affected what was permissible to eat. The basis of this view is the understanding that the Genesis account is the true history of our origins, not the theory of evolution.
The original creation was clearly vegetarian. Plants were given for food (Genesis 1.30) and the earth was ‘very good’, therefore the process of killing involved in meat eating for humans and animals was not part of God’s perfect world. Even after the fall Adam and Eve were to eat ‘the plants of the field’ (Genesis 3.18), not animals, although animals were offered in sacrifices (Genesis 3.21, 4.4).
The earth would have been much more fertile in that period with an equitable climate all year round created by the canopy of water (Genesis 1.7) which surrounded the earth. This screened out harmful rays of the sun and created a benign ‘greenhouse effect’ causing luxuriant growth all over the planet. It is interesting that there are fossils of coral found near the North Pole. Coral can only grow where the temperature is always above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This points to the existence of a previous climate, quite different from our present one, giving constantly warm weather all over the earth. This also explains the long lives of the patriarchs who lived before the Flood.
The Flood was caused by this canopy of water above the earth and the waters beneath the earth being broken up: ‘On that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth; and the floodgates of the heavens were opened’ (Genesis 7.11). This caused the creation of fossils and the deposits of coal and oil, as billions of creatures were suddenly killed by the surging waters and mudslides of the flood. Creatures dying in normal conditions do not leave behind fossils or turn into ‘fossil fuels’, but decay in the ground or are eaten.
After the Flood we have the first mention in the Bible of cold and heat, winter and summer (Genesis 8.22). The water canopy of Genesis 1.7 was replaced with the much thinner atmosphere we now have on the
earth, resulting in a speeding up of the aging process (hence the drastic reduction in the life span of humans) and the earth becoming much less fertile with great differences in temperature according to location and season. It is interesting that most of the world’s oil deposits are in desert areas of the Middle East today. At some time they must have been very fertile regions in order to produce ‘fossil fuels’.
Britain’s oil reserve is in the North Sea, which was probably dry land connecting this country to the European continent before the Flood.
It is also after the Flood that we have the first mention of eating animals: ‘Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything’ (Genesis 9.3). The one prohibition was on eating meat with its lifeblood still in it. In a world that was less than ideal God now permitted a practice that is less than ideal, the killing of animals for food. The changed conditions on earth meant that the plant life was no longer sufficient to provide for human needs.
It is significant that Flood stories exist in almost every culture on earth, pointing to the fact that there was a great Flood, which changed the world. This is just one of many pieces of evidence that there was a worldwide flood as described in Genesis.
The kosher food laws given in Leviticus 11 reinforce the fact that God permitted meat eating from this point on. Here God distinguishes between land animals, birds, fish and insects which are fit to eat and those, which are not fit to eat. If God objected to meat eating in principle he would not have said which animals could be eaten and which could not.
In the New Testament we find that Jesus and the Apostles relaxed the kosher food laws. In Mark 7.14-22 Jesus declares that it is not what goes into us in the form of food which makes us unclean, but what comes out of us – ‘evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean.’ The Gospel adds ‘In saying this Jesus declared all foods clean (kosher)’ (Mark 7.19).
Peter’s vision of Acts 10 involves him, as an observant Jew, being commanded by the Lord to ‘kill and eat’ unclean animals. When Peter objects, the Lord says, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean’ (Acts 10.15). The occasion of this vision is a Roman soldier summoning Peter to come and explain to him the meaning of the Gospel. God was showing Peter that he as a Jew could go into this Gentile home and confirmed this by pouring out the Holy Spirit on Cornelius and his household as Peter explained the Gospel. If the Jewish disciples had been bound by the kosher food laws, it would have been much more difficult for them to have gone to the Gentiles to spread the Gospel.
In Romans 14 Paul teaches that what we eat or do not eat is a matter of personal choice and should not be an issue bringing division or condemnation among followers of Jesus. ‘For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 14.17). He gives people the option to be vegetarian or meat eating, and also by implication to keep kosher or not to do so. He goes on to say that if what we eat or drink causes offence to a fellow believer or someone we are trying to win for the Lord we should not eat it in their presence: ‘It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is made weak.’ Romans 14.21.
However since meat eating is less than ideal, all this will change when Jesus comes again. During his reign on the earth in the Messianic Age, or Millennium (1000 years) there will be an amazing transformation of the earth. Satan will be bound and unable to influence people, with the result that there will be no wars and human energy will be directed to providing food and creating an ideal society (Isaiah 2.4).
The change will affect the animal kingdom which will return to being vegetarian. Even poisonous snakes will become harmless: ‘The wolf shall lie with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the yearling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra and the young child will put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea’ (Isaiah 11.6-9).
In that glorious time we will all be vegetarians. In the present age that choice is up to us. What we decide about meat eating or vegetarianism does not affect our standing with God. What we decide about Jesus does. Make sure that you have a place in Messiah’s coming kingdom by accepting his offer of salvation now! The following is a prayer you can pray in order to do this:
‘Dear God, I admit that I am a sinner and need your forgiveness. I believe that Jesus the Messiah died in my place paying the penalty for my sins. I am willing right now to turn from my sin and accept Jesus the Messiah as my personal Saviour and Lord. I commit my life to you and ask you to send the Holy Spirit into my life, to fill me and to take control and to help me become the kind of person you want me to be. Thank you Father for loving me. In Jesus’ name, Amen’.