The question arises, Is there confusion in teaching that the record of clean and unclean meats of Leviticus II should be observed today, and at the same time teaching that the ceremonial law as a whole is done away with? And would this be forbidden in I Timothy 4:3, 4?
There need be no difficulty in answering this question if there are set forth the broad principles upon which the facts are founded. God's word is the guide to knowledge for His followers, and Leviticus II gives information in a very explicit manner, classifying clean and unclean meats. In verses 46 and 47 it is stated: "This is the law . . . to make a difference between the unclean and the clean." In this same chapter in verses 4 to 8, the expression "unclean unto you" is used five times, and in the following verses "abomination unto you" is used five times. Also the words "in abomination" and "an abomination" are used. But notice that the expression "unto you" is used ten times. Why? Leviticus zo: 24-26 answers in these words:
"I am the Lord your God, which have separated you from other people. Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean: and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean, And ye shall be holy unto Me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be Mine."
Here is set forth the fact that God, having separated Israel from other people in order that they might be a holy people, differentiates between clean and unclean meats for them. In this connection it may be of interest to call attention to the vision of Peter in the Acts of the Apostles, where the sheet filled with clean and unclean animals was let down for him to view, and he was instructed to "kill and eat." Peter refused. We learn by the explanation given in chapter To, verse 28, that God was teaching Peter that he should not call men clean or unclean, for God is no respecter of persons. And yet God does separate men from others even now, as will be noted in 2 Corinthians 6:14-17.
"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: . . . Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing ; and I will receive you."
Here the apostle Paul sets forth the definite principle that God's people are a separate people and that they should leave unclean things alone. Paul further states:
"I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself : but to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean." Rom. 14:14.
The reason, therefore, that we esteem certain foods unclean is that God has stated that the people whom He has separated unto Himself to be holy unto Him are to "touch not the unclean thing"—meaning to abstain from unclean foods.
"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people ; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who bath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." 1 Peter 2:9.
Some will refer to I Timothy 4 as condemning any segregation. However, if we note Paul's words carefully, it will be seen that those who "depart from the faith" command "to abstain from meats, which God bath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth." Then Paul makes the statement that "every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving." This implies of course that only those who know the truth can do this, for as verse 5 says, "It [every creature] is sanctified [set apart] by the word of God." Hence everything is good that is set apart by the word of God, and not to be refused, the Word being our guide in making the decision. Consequently, if the food is not sanctified by the Word, it cannot be received with thanksgiving, and therefore should be refused.
We are also counseled in 1 Corinthians 1o: 5, 6 that we are not to make the failure Israel did by lusting after the evil things that God has forbidden, for the Spirit of prophecy instructs us ("Counsels on Health," page 473) that the Lord is bringing His people back to the original diet He gave man in the beginning. Since God is our Creator, He knows what is best for our bodies, and as He desires in these last days to have a clean people, they must necessarily partake of a clean diet.
The distinction made between the clean and unclean animals when the Lord gave Noah instruction regarding the clean and the unclean animals and fowls as they were to be taken into the ark [Genesis 7], antedates the instruction given in the ceremonial law by hundreds of years. It was also clearly understood in the early sacrificial service that only clean animals and clean fowls were to be used. Gen. 8:20. Note further that while the instruction in Leviticus II may be included as part of the ceremonial law, so also were the ten commandments, the worship of God, and the mediatorial work of Christ.
It might be well to notice other restrictions placed upon the flesh diet. Deuteronomy 12: 23 reads, "Only be sure that thou eat not the blood." (See also Genesis 9 :4; Leviticus 17: 30, 14; and 1 Samuel 34:33.) Further, Leviticus 3:17 states, "It is a perpetual statute . . that ye eat neither fat nor blood." In a general council of the early Christian church, it is apparent that they distinguished between the ceremonial law as a whole and some of the unchanging restrictions, as in the command of the council "that they abstain from . . . things strangled, and from blood." In eating "clean" flesh, it must be bloodless and not "strangled." This would debar the fish sold in the markets today.
Hence we must conclude that the distinction given by the Lord in Leviticus II between clean and unclean meats holds good today, inasmuch as this distinction between the creatures named there as clean and unclean has never been changed by the word of God.
M. A. H.