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Didn't Jesus say, "It is not what goes into a man but it’s what goes out which defiles him"? Why put so much emphasis on health? Does it really make much difference?

The passage under consideration is Mk. 7:18-20. What issues are involved here? The New Testament plainly declares, "What, know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy spirit ....glorify God in your body" (1 Cor. 6:19, 20). "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy, for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" (1 Cor. 3:17).

Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). The scriptures are consistent. They don't tell us to carefully consider what we eat and drink in one place, and then that it doesn't matter what we eat or drink in another. Let's summarize Mk. 7 in its entirety. The Pharisees had very strict laws regarding ceremonial cleanliness. They believed to touch a Gentile (non-Jew) in the market place was defiling. All cooking utensils, such as pots, cups, and plates must be washed thoroughly lest some Gentile touch them, thereby defiling them (see Mk. 7:1-5).

The object of discussion in Mk. 7 was not the Levitical health laws (Lev. 11) given by a loving God to preserve the health of His people but the Jewish tradition of the elders" (Mk. 7.5). The Pharisees believed that to eat with unwashed hands, you absorbed or took in defilement from the Gentiles. The question here was not what you eat, but how you eat. The issue is not a repudiation of the health laws which Our Lord Himself gave, but rather a rejection of the idea of ceremonial defilement by touching Gentiles.

In this context "nothing from outside you can produce defilement or sin. All sin results in the mind." The Jews rejected God's commandments, to maintain their tradition of exclusiveness (Mk. 7:9). The expression "purging all meats" (K.J.V.) in verse 19 is better translated "purging all foods." The word is broma. No food is ceremonially unclean. No food carries sin within it. Not from without, but from within sin arises (Mk. 7:21).

Jesus did not consider unclean animals food. They were scavengers never to be eaten. The issue in Mk. 7 is not health which comes by eating unclean animals, but ceremonial defilement which comes by touching Gentiles and transferring it through foods into the body.

Didn't the apostle Paul say, "Meat doesn't commend us to God, we are no better or worse if we eat" (1 Cor. 8:8). Didn't he also declare, "Whatever is sold in the market place eat, asking no question for conscience sake (1 Cor. 10:25)?

1 Cor. 8:1 provides the background for the answer to these thoughtful questions. Paul introduces the passage by saying, "Now as touching things offered to idols" (verse 1) so there will be no misunderstanding he emphasizes it again in verse 4 "as concerning those things that are offered in sacrifice to idols." In 1 Cor. 10:28, at the end of the discussion, he speaks of meat "offered in sacrifice to idols."

Portions of the meat which were used in idol worship at pagan temples in Corinth were sold in the market places. This led some very strict Jews to become vegetarians (Rom. 14:2-4). The issue at stake here is whether it is morally wrong to eat meat offered to idols. In eating will one be participating in idol worship. Paul's response is idols are nothing at all (1 Cor. 8:4). We are no better or worse if we eat (1 Cor. 8:8).

If your liberty is a stumbling block to someone else, offending their weak conscience, don't eat any meat offered to idols (1 Cor. 8:11-13). At stake here are not unclean foods but food offered to idols. Jesus did not come to cleanse pigs. He came to cleanse sinners. Unclean animals which are unhealthful in the Old Testament are still unhealthful in the New. Since our Lord will not withhold from us any good thing (Ps. 84:11) unclean animals are not good things.

Aren't the health laws Jewish Old Testament rituals which Christ did away with at the cross?

When Jesus died, He gave His life to redeem mankind. His death did not affect in any way what is healthy and what is not healthy. It only makes sense that if pork, for example, was unhealthy because it was a scavenger before the cross, it is unhealthy because it is a scavenger after the cross. Contrary to popular opinion, the Biblical health laws are not for the Jews alone.

When Noah entered the ark, he was instructed to bring the clean animals by sevens and the unclean by twos. Since the clean animals would be eaten due to the shortage of vegetation after the flood, they were brought by sevens. In Lev. 11, God distinguishes between clean and unclean animals for all mankind. Isa. 65:2-5 describes those who have rebelled against God as worshipping idols and eating swine’s flesh.

The prophet Isaiah reveals that the rebellious will be destroyed as those "eating swines flesh." God knows best. He desires our bodies in good health. He invites us to give up anything which harms His temple.

Since God told Noah, "Every moving thing which liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things" (Gen. 9:3), isn't it permissible to eat whatever we want?

We might ask "was God giving Noah permission to eat snakes, rats, alligators, lizards, Worms, and cockroaches?" Certainly not! Noah already knew the difference between clean and unclean foods (Gen. 7:2). God was simply making a statement, "Noah, you may now eat flesh foods." The evidence for this is that God clearly forbade unclean animals later in both Lev. 11 and Deuteronomy 14.

Since God does not change His moral standards (Ps. 89:34) and since God's character does not change (Mal. 3:6) He did not give permission to Noah to do something He forbade Moses to do. All God's laws including those relating to health were given in love to reduce disease and increase happiness (Ex. 15:26). Many in the scientific community recognize that the health principles of the Bible can significantly assist in reducing both heart disease and cancer. God's ways are best.

Doesn't the Bible say to beware of those who command you to abstain from meat (1Tim. 4:3)?

Our passage describes a group who depart from the Biblical faith in the last days. According to 1 Tim. 4:3, they teach two twin errors. This group forbids marriage and commands to abstain from meats (K.J.V.) or foods (Greek broma) which God has created to be received with thanksgiving. The word meat here refers not to animals in particular, but food in general.

The same word is used in the Greek version of the Old Testament in Gen. 1:29. "Every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in which is a fruit of a tree yielding seed to you shall it be for "meat" or food." Throughout the centuries, certain ascetics, monks, and priests have declared the world as evil. Both marriage and food are created by God.

They are both part of God's good plan for the human race. According to 1 Tim. 4:4, 5, those creatures sanctified by the word of God are good and not to be refused when received with thanksgiving. Paul here is arguing against the fanatism which declares all physical pleasure as evil. He reveals that God's creation is good. God desires that His creatures heartily enjoy the food He has created for them. The issue here is not clean or unclean foods, but whether food itself is part of the material world and rejected through monastic life. Paul says, NO! God's creation is good.

What difference does it make what we eat and drink, isn't God interested in our spiritual life only?

Human beings are a unit. Whatever affects the physical also affects the mental and spiritual faculties. Our physical habits affect the quality of blood which passes through the brain. A poor quality of blood supplied to the brain makes us less capable of comprehending spiritual truth. In 1 Thess. 5:23, Paul states, "I pray God will sanctify you wholly, body, soul and spirit."

In Rom. 12:1, he adds, "I beseech you brethren, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice to God." John adds, Jesus desire for all His children, "I wish above all things, that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" (3 Jn. 2). God's word declares it does make a difference what we take into our bodies.

What did Paul mean when He instructed Timothy to take "a little wine for the stomach's sake" (1 Tim. 5:23)?

It's obvious that Paul was not advocating social drinking in this passage. He clearly states, "Drink no longer water." (Anyone who has traveled in the Middle East knows the difficulty of getting pure, unpolluted water), but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities. Whatever kind of wine Paul was talking about (fermented or unfermented), it is exceedingly plain that the purpose of his counsel to Timothy was due to his stomach ailments. Paul's counsel relates to a medicinal use, not a social enjoyment. What kind of wine was Paul recommending?

Would the apostle encourage the moderate use of a drink which Prov. 23:31 says "Look not upon the wine when it is red," a drink which brings "woe, sorrow, babbling, and wounds" (Prov. 23:29), a drink which is deceptive (Prov. 20:1), a drink which perverts the judgment causing thine eyes to behold strange women and thine heart to utter strange things (Prov. 23:32, 33). Certainly not! The Bible uses the word wine to refer to both an alcoholic fermented beverage as well as unfermented grape juice. According to Isa. 65:23, the new wine is found in a cluster and there is blessing in it.

This is obviously the unfermented, freshly squeezed juice of the grape. Referring to the communion wine served, Jesus told His disciples that He would not participate in the service again until He "drank it new with them in the Father's kingdom" (Matt. 26:29). The communion wine representing Christ's pure, undefiled Blood must be unfermented since fermentation is a sign of sin. In 1 Tim. 5:23, Paul encourages Timothy to use a little wine or grape products for his stomach's sake. Unfermented grape juice has healthful properties for the body. Indeed there is blessing in the freshly squeezed juice of the grape.