Acts. 15:29 (NIV)- You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.
I have been a meat eater for my whole life. I can still remember how the smell of cumin and garlic would permeate the air of our apartment whenever Mom basted turkey for Thanksgiving Day! Meat was our “daily bread,” but especially during the holidays.
During the last couple of years I have experienced a transformation in regards to meat eating. No, I am not a vegan…but years of teaching the Bible has led me to become a more conscientious person as I look at the world through the interpretive lens of Apostolic Teaching.
For the most part, Western Christendom operates under the notion that outside of the law of Christ (which is love- 1Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2) there are no other requirements. Although the Christian Faith rejects the notion that humans can earn the grace of God by fulfilling religious precepts (Gal. 2:8-10), the love for God constrains us to go beyond what is required by the Law, in loving service to the Master. (2Cor. 5:14-15)
In other words, Christians do not keep precepts as requirements that lead to fellowship with God. Christians obey the desires of the Lord simply because we love and desire to please Him. This is what some have called “the obedience of love.” (2John 1:6; 1John 5:3)
It was in this spirit of love that the Elders and Apostles of the first century Church gave Four Regulative Principles to Gentile Christians. (Acts 15:29) The reason for these principles were given for the purpose of not offending Jewish people who believe in Lord Jesus as the Christ. These Four Regulative Principles were so important, that Paul and his companions shared the Jerusalem decision with every congregation they encountered. (Acts 16:4)
The first of the Four Regulative Principles is the command to not eat of meat that has been sacrificed to idols. The command to not eat of meat sacrificed to idols is sprinkled throughout the New Testament. (Acts 21:25; Rev. 2:14,20; 1 John 5:21; 1Cor. 10:16-22, et. al.) The command to not eat meat sacrificed to idols is so serious that it reverberates in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers. (see Didache chapter 6)
The Four Regulative Principles are usually glossed over because since we associate idolatry as the worship of pagan statues (and the spirits they represent), we do not see a contemporary application to the Biblical injunction to refrain from partaking of meat sacrificed to idols.
But the fact is that idolatry is much more than the worship of spiritual personalities besides the God Most High (Ex. 20:3-6). Idolatry is also the worship of the self by means of unrestrained sense-gratification. (Rom. 3:14; Gal. 5:16)
According to the Bible the stomach is called a “god” (Phil. 3:19) and greed is called “idolatry.” (Col. 3:5) The Apostle Paul teaches us that when we partake of food sacrificed to idols that we fellowship with demons. (1Cor. 10:20)
No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.- 1Cor. 10:20 (NIV)
If this is the case, then why is it that most Christians do not consider the meats they buy at the supermarket as meats “sacrificed to idols?” Well, since Christianity ceased to be a disciplic religion, it is unusual to experience religious instruction that supersedes the meaning of our Creeds and our particular congregational “Statements of Faith.”
First of all, the main reason for the way meat is harvested and sold is in order to make a profit. Meat is not sold in order to quench hunger…it is sold for profit. Second, when Western consumers buy meat, they buy it for stomach-pleasure.
Since Christians have been given the mind of Christ (1Cor. 2:16) and are called to keep their minds on things above (Col. 3:2), we ought to learn how to properly discern the will of the Lord from his divine perspective, while subjecting our personal impulses to his desires.
Whenever we buy and eat meat in a mindless way we participate in the idolatry of greed and our senseless worship of the stomach. Although the Kingdom of God does not consist on eating or drinking (Rom. 14:17), God desires for us to mature and become conscientious of the things we say and do, so that every aspect of our lives becomes an act of worship to the divine. (1Cor. 10:31)
As Christians, we’re not commanded to refrain from eating meat because whatever we consume, goes straight to the latrine and cannot later contaminate our true self. (Mark 4:17) On the other hand, being a Christian means to be “enlightened” so that we might discern the truth, and experience the true freedom that comes through knowledge.
The traditional reason why Christians pray before eating a meal is in order to consecrate the food to God as a sacrifice of thanksgiving and to eat for His glory. (1 Tim. 4:4; Rom. 14:6; et. al.)
As members of a consumer society, most Christians will have trouble finding meat that has been harvested in a Biblical way. (Leviticus 17) On the other hand, if we are conscious of the truth behind what we are consuming, and offer thanksgiving to God, we are disavowing the idols of greed and turning the meal into a sacrifice of fellowship and thanksgiving to the only true God. (1Cor. 10:30)
The command to not eat meat sacrificed to idols leads us to foster an attitude of intentional discernment of what it is that we’re eating and the reasons behind consuming such products.
If you must eat…EAT… but do so conscientiously with the intention to find viable solutions that glorify the Name of Lord Jesus.