Bible Study: Can Christians Eat Pork? - What the Bible Says About Unclean Foods Under The New Covenant of Grace
"What God has cleansed and pronounced clean, do not you defile and profane by regarding and calling common and unhallowed or unclean." (Acts 10:15, AMP)
Are there any unclean foods under the new covenant?
Is there any food that I should stay away from because I believe in Jesus Christ?
These are probably questions that many Christians have, and chances are, the reason why they ask these is because they want to be right with God.
This personal Bible study is written to answer these questions and to explore what the Bible says about this.
I will be showing two sides of the coin: For and Against the belief that "yes, a Christian cannot eat pork and there are unclean foods under the new covenant of grace".
Enjoy this Bible study, and remember to like, share and leave a comment at the bottom of this blog post! :)
Let's start with the case FOR the belief that "yes, a Christian cannot eat pork and there are unclean foods under the new covenant of grace".
The following Old Testament verses are what some Christians and even non-Christians from other religious groups quote to show that Christians cannot eat pork, and that pork is considered an unclean food:
“And the swine, because it divides the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud; it is unclean to you. Of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch; they are unclean to you.” (Leviticus 11:7-8 AMP)
“Yet these you shall not eat of those that chew the cud or have the hoof split in two: the camel, the hare, and the coney, because they chew the cud but divide not the hoof; they are unclean for you. And the swine, because it parts the hoof but does not chew the cud; it is unclean to you. You shall not eat of their flesh or touch their dead bodies.” (Deuteronomy 14:7-8 AMP)
However, like my church pastor Pastor Joseph Prince teaches, context is key. If you remove the "text" from the word "context", all you're left with is a con. Let us explore the context behind these instructions given by God.
Before the Books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus, is the Book of Exodus.
Notice that the Ten Commandments and the Old Covenant of the Law was given before God said that the swine (pig) is unclean for the children of Israel. Take a look at the verses below:
“IN THE third month after the Israelites left the land of Egypt, the same day, they came into the Wilderness of Sinai. When they had departed from Rephidim and had come to the Wilderness of Sinai, they encamped there before the mountain. And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him out of the mountain, Say this to the house of Jacob and tell the Israelites: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will obey My voice in truth and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own peculiar possession and treasure from among and above all peoples; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation [consecrated, set apart to the worship of God]. These are the words you shall speak to the Israelites. So Moses called for the elders of the people and told them all these words which the Lord commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord has spoken we will do. And Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord. And the Lord said to Moses, Behold, I come to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you and believe you and remain steadfast forever. Then Moses told the words of the people to the Lord. And the Lord said to Moses, Go and sanctify the people [set them apart for God] today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes And be ready by the third day, for the third day the Lord will come down upon Mount Sinai [in the cloud] in the sight of all the people. And you shall set bounds for the people round about, saying, Take heed that you go not up into the mountain or touch the border of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. No hand shall touch it [or the offender], but he shall surely be stoned or shot [with arrows]; whether beast or man, he shall not live. When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain. [Num. 24:8.]” (Exodus 19:1-13 AMP)
The word "wings" in "how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself" is the Hebrew word "kanaph". It represents God's grace.
For more explanation on that, click here to read Pastor Joseph Prince's sermon about Psalms 91 that expounds on this.
God is saying that from Egypt until Sinai, God had been dealing with the children of Israel by grace, and that grace is the covenant relationship that He wants to have with the children of Israel.
However, the children of Israel responded in an arrogant, prideful way, boasting in their own strength and ability to keep God's commandments. The focus was on themselves and not on God.
From that point on, God changed His attitudes towards them, not dealing with them by grace, but by the Covenant of the Law.
Essentially, the children of Israel had asked for the Law themselves. It was not God's original plan for them.
The instruction that God gave to the children of Israel with regards to not eating pork because it was unclean, was never the original plan for them!
It was only because they were under the Old Covenant of the Law, that's why it was pronounced unclean to them.
Many Christians and even non-Christians from other religious groups also use the following verses to strengthen their argument that pork is an unclean food. Take a look:
“THEY CAME to the other side of the sea to the region of the Gerasenes. And as soon as He got out of the boat, there met Him out of the tombs a man [under the power] of an unclean spirit. This man continually lived among the tombs, and no one could subdue him any more, even with a chain; For he had been bound often with shackles for the feet and handcuffs, but the handcuffs of [light] chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he rubbed and ground together and broke in pieces; and no one had strength enough to restrain or tame him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always shrieking and screaming and beating and bruising and cutting himself with stones. And when from a distance he saw Jesus, he ran and fell on his knees before Him in homage, And crying out with a loud voice, he said, What have You to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? [What is there in common between us?] I solemnly implore you by God, do not begin to torment me! For Jesus was commanding, Come out of the man, you unclean spirit! And He asked him, What is your name? He replied, My name is Legion, for we are many. And he kept begging Him urgently not to send them [himself and the other demons] away out of that region. Now a great herd of hogs was grazing there on the hillside. And the demons begged Him, saying, Send us to the hogs, that we may go into them! So He gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out [of the man] and entered into the hogs; and the herd, numbering about 2,000, rushed headlong down the steep slope into the sea and were drowned in the sea. The hog feeders ran away, and told [it] in the town and in the country. And [the people] came to see what it was that had taken place. And they came to Jesus and looked intently and searchingly at the man who had been a demoniac, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, [the same man] who had had the legion [of demons]; and they were seized with alarm and struck with fear. And those who had seen it related in full what had happened to the man possessed by demons and to the hogs.” (Mark 5:1-16 AMP)
Firstly, why did the group of demons called "Legion" asked to be sent into the hogs (pigs)?
It's simple. It is simply because the pigs were nearby on that hillside and the demons could see them there!
The demons just didn't want to be sent away out of that region as Legion said, that's why they settled for the pigs - they just needed living hosts to possess.
If there was a herd of sheep or goats or cows, instead of a herd of pigs, I believe that they would still beg Jesus to be sent into that herd, regardless of what kind of animals they were!
It is not that they specifically wanted to possess the pigs.
Secondly, just because the demons possessed that herd of 2000 pigs, doesn't mean that all pigs are possessed by demons!
In fact, the pigs knew that the demons were unclean and they would rather rush into the sea and drown to death than to be possessed by the demons.
If the pigs were so unclean, wouldn't they have warmly welcomed the demons and basked in that uncleanness, instead of killing themselves to free themselves from the demons?
Now, let's look at what the Bible says which supports the case AGAINST the belief that "yes, a Christian cannot eat pork and there are unclean foods under the new covenant of grace".
Let's start with what Jesus Himself said about what makes a person unclean and defiled.
This same incident was recorded twice - once in the Gospel of Matthew, and once in the Gospel of Mark:
“You pretenders (hypocrites)! Admirably and truly did Isaiah prophesy of you when he said: These people draw near Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts hold off and are far away from Me. Uselessly do they worship Me, for they teach as doctrines the commands of men. [Isa. 29:13.] And Jesus called the people to Him and said to them, Listen and grasp and comprehend this: It is not what goes into the mouth of a man that makes him unclean and defiled, but what comes out of the mouth; this makes a man unclean and defiles [him]. Then the disciples came and said to Him, Do You know that the Pharisees were displeased and offended and indignant when they heard this saying? He answered, Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be torn up by the roots. [Isa. 60:21.] Let them alone and disregard them; they are blind guides and teachers. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a ditch. But Peter said to Him, Explain this proverb (this maxim) to us. And He said, Are you also even yet dull and ignorant [without understanding and unable to put things together]? Do you not see and understand that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the abdomen and so passes on into the place where discharges are deposited? But whatever comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this is what makes a man unclean and defiles [him]. For out of the heart come evil thoughts (reasonings and disputings and designs) such as murder, adultery, sexual vice, theft, false witnessing, slander, and irreverent speech. These are what make a man unclean and defile [him]; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him unclean or defile [him].” (Matthew 15:7-20 AMP)
“But He said to them, Excellently and truly [so that there will be no room for blame] did Isaiah prophesy of you, the pretenders and hypocrites, as it stands written: These people [constantly] honor Me with their lips, but their hearts hold off and are far distant from Me. In vain (fruitlessly and without profit) do they worship Me, ordering and teaching [to be obeyed] as doctrines the commandments and precepts of men. [Isa. 29:13.] You disregard and give up and ask to depart from you the commandment of God and cling to the tradition of men [keeping it carefully and faithfully]. And He said to them, You have a fine way of rejecting [thus thwarting and nullifying and doing away with] the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition (your own human regulations)! For Moses said, Honor (revere with tenderness of feeling and deference) your father and your mother, and, He who curses or reviles or speaks evil of or abuses or treats improperly his father or mother, let him surely die. [Exod. 20:12; 21:17; Lev. 20:9; Deut. 5:16.] But [as for you] you say, A man is exempt if he tells [his] father or [his] mother, What you would otherwise have gained from me [everything I have that would have been of use to you] is Corban, that is, is a gift [already given as an offering to God], Then you no longer are permitting him to do anything for [his] father or mother [but are letting him off from helping them]. Thus you are nullifying and making void and of no effect [the authority of] the Word of God through your tradition, which you [in turn] hand on. And many things of this kind you are doing. And He called the people to [Him] again and said to them, Listen to Me, all of you, and understand [what I say]. There is not [even] one thing outside a man which by going into him can pollute and defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him and make him unhallowed and unclean. If any man has ears to hear, let him be listening [and let him perceive and comprehend by hearing]. And when He had left the crowd and had gone into the house, His disciples began asking Him about the parable. And He said to them, Then are you also unintelligent and dull and without understanding? Do you not discern and see that whatever goes into a man from the outside cannot make him unhallowed or unclean, Since it does not reach and enter his heart but [only his] digestive tract, and so passes on [into the place designed to receive waste]? Thus He was making and declaring all foods [ceremonially] clean [that is, abolishing the ceremonial distinctions of the Levitical Law]. And He said, What comes out of a man is what makes a man unclean and renders [him] unhallowed. For from within, [that is] out of the hearts of men, come base and wicked thoughts, sexual immorality, stealing, murder, adultery, Coveting (a greedy desire to have more wealth), dangerous and destructive wickedness, deceit; unrestrained (indecent) conduct; an evil eye (envy), slander (evil speaking, malicious misrepresentation, abusiveness), pride (the sin of an uplifted heart against God and man), foolishness (folly, lack of sense, recklessness, thoughtlessness). All these evil [purposes and desires] come from within, and they make the man unclean and render him unhallowed.” (Mark 7:6-23 AMP)
Jesus said that it is not what a person eats that makes him unclean and defiled, but it is the sins that comes out of a person's heart that makes him unclean and defiles him.
So what comes from the outside cannot defile a person, but the sins that comes out from the inside is what defiles a person.
The Bible verses above even emphasizes that Jesus was making and declaring all foods ceremonially-clean and abolishing the ceremonial distinctions of the Levitical Law!
Since Jesus declared that all foods are ceremonially-clean, and eating pork is from the outside-in, based on what Jesus said, we cannot become unclean or defiled by eating pork.
Next, the following verses from the Book of Acts shows that under the New Covenant of Grace, all animals have been cleansed and pronounced clean to be eaten as foods:
“The next day as they were still on their way and were approaching the town, Peter went up to the roof of the house to pray, about the sixth hour (noon). But he became very hungry, and wanted something to eat; and while the meal was being prepared a trance came over him, And he saw the sky opened and something like a great sheet lowered by the four corners, descending to the earth. It contained all kinds of quadrupeds and wild beasts and creeping things of the earth and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him, saying, Rise up, Peter, kill and eat. But Peter said, No, by no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common and unhallowed or [ceremonially] unclean. And the voice came to him again a second time, What God has cleansed and pronounced clean, do not you defile and profane by regarding and calling common and unhallowed or unclean. This occurred three times; then immediately the sheet was taken up to heaven.” (Acts 10:9-16 AMP)
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "quadruped" as "an animal that has four feet".
Therefore, a pig is a quadruped.
The verses above says that the great sheet contained ALL KINDS of quadrapeds and other animals, so even the pig was in the great sheet!
God Himself told Peter to kill and eat, referring to the animals on the great sheet. God then said "What God has cleansed and pronounced clean", referring to the animals on the great sheet too.
This means that God has said that all animals are pronounced clean for eating, including pigs.
This means that Christians can eat pork.
This incident happened after Jesus' death, which means that under the New Covenant of Grace, there are no animals that are considered as unclean food.
The New Covenant of Grace was made effective after the moment Jesus died on the cross.
Take a look at the following verses taken from Paul's epistle to the Hebrews for proof of this:
“By this the Holy Spirit points out that the way into the [true Holy of] Holies is not yet thrown open as long as the former [the outer portion of the] tabernacle remains a recognized institution and is still standing, Seeing that that first [outer portion of the] tabernacle was a parable (a visible symbol or type or picture of the present age). In it gifts and sacrifices are offered, and yet are incapable of perfecting the conscience or of cleansing and renewing the inner man of the worshiper. For [the ceremonies] deal only with clean and unclean meats and drinks and different washings, [mere] external rules and regulations for the body imposed to tide the worshipers over until the time of setting things straight [of reformation, of the complete new order when Christ, the Messiah, shall establish the reality of what these things foreshadow–a better covenant]. But [that appointed time came] when Christ (the Messiah) appeared as a High Priest of the better things that have come and are to come. [Then] through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with [human] hands, that is, not a part of this material creation, He went once for all into the [Holy of] Holies [of heaven], not by virtue of the blood of goats and calves [by which to make reconciliation between God and man], but His own blood, having found and secured a complete redemption (an everlasting release for us). For if [the mere] sprinkling of unholy and defiled persons with blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a burnt heifer is sufficient for the purification of the body, [Lev. 16:6, 16; Num. 19:9, 17, 18.] How much more surely shall the blood of Christ, Who by virtue of [His] eternal Spirit [His own preexistent divine personality] has offered Himself as an unblemished sacrifice to God, purify our consciences from dead works and lifeless observances to serve the [ever] living God? [Christ, the Messiah] is therefore the Negotiator and Mediator of an [entirely] new agreement (testament, covenant), so that those who are called and offered it may receive the fulfillment of the promised everlasting inheritance–since a death has taken place which rescues and delivers and redeems them from the transgressions committed under the [old] first agreement. For where there is a will and testament involved, the death of the one who made it must be established, for a will and testament takes effect [only] at death, since it is never in force as long as the one who made it is alive. (Hebrews 9:8-17 AMP)
The New Covenant of Grace is called a "new order" and a "better covenant" as well as "better things that have come".
Through Jesus' death on the cross, the New Covenant of Grace that is better than the Old Covenant of the Law has been established and it is a new order!
See what the Apostle Paul writes to Timothy in Paul's Epistle of I Timothy:
“BUT THE [Holy] Spirit distinctly and expressly declares that in latter times some will turn away from the faith, giving attention to deluding and seducing spirits and doctrines that demons teach, Through the hypocrisy and pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared (cauterized), Who forbid people to marry and [teach them] to abstain from [certain kinds of] foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and have [an increasingly clear] knowledge of the truth. For everything God has created is good, and nothing is to be thrown away or refused if it is received with thanksgiving. For it is hallowed and consecrated by the Word of God and by prayer. If you lay all these instructions before the brethren, you will be a worthy steward and a good minister of Christ Jesus, ever nourishing your own self on the truths of the faith and of the good [Christian] instruction which you have closely followed. But refuse and avoid irreverent legends (profane and impure and godless fictions, mere grandmothers' tales) and silly myths, and express your disapproval of them. Train yourself toward godliness (piety), [keeping yourself spiritually fit]. For physical training is of some value (useful for a little), but godliness (spiritual training) is useful and of value in everything and in every way, for it holds promise for the present life and also for the life which is to come. This saying is reliable and worthy of complete acceptance by everybody.” (1 Timothy 4:1-9 AMP)
Paul writes that the Holy Spirit declares that it is deluding and seducing spirits and demons who teach that abstaining from certain kinds of food is needed. Such teachings are not from God!
He also clarifies that everything that God created is good and that nothing (referring to food) should be thrown away or refused if it is received with thanksgiving to God.
By praying a simple prayer of thanks with faith before we eat anything, the food is sanctified and made holy by the word of God and by prayer.
This is an example of a prayer that my wife and I pray before we eat anything:
"Thank you Heavenly Father/ Jesus for this food, bless it, sanctify it and make it holy and nutritious with Your divine healing properties in it for our bodies in Jesus' mighty name, Amen!"
The Bible verses above show clearly that under the New Covenant of Grace there are no unclean foods.
However, that being said, the following verses in Paul's Epistle to the Romans that teaches us how we should behave with other Christians, now that we know that there are no unclean foods:
“AS FOR the man who is a weak believer, welcome him [into your fellowship], but not to criticize his opinions or pass judgment on his scruples or perplex him with discussions. One [man's faith permits him to] believe he may eat anything, while a weaker one [limits his] eating to vegetables. Let not him who eats look down on or despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains criticize and pass judgment on him who eats; for God has accepted and welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on and censure another's household servant? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he shall stand and be upheld, for the Master (the Lord) is mighty to support him and make him stand. One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike [sacred]. Let everyone be fully convinced (satisfied) in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. None of us lives to himself [but to the Lord], and none of us dies to himself [but to the Lord, for] If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or we die, we belong to the Lord....... And so each of us shall give an account of himself [give an answer in reference to judgment] to God. Then let us no more criticize and blame and pass judgment on one another, but rather decide and endeavor never to put a stumbling block or an obstacle or a hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am convinced (persuaded) as one in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is [forbidden as] essentially unclean (defiled and unholy in itself). But [none the less] it is unclean (defiled and unholy) to anyone who thinks it is unclean. But if your brother is being pained or his feelings hurt or if he is being injured by what you eat, [then] you are no longer walking in love. [You have ceased to be living and conducting yourself by the standard of love toward him.] Do not let what you eat hurt or cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died! Do not therefore let what seems good to you be considered an evil thing [by someone else]. [In other words, do not give occasion for others to criticize that which is justifiable for you.] [After all] the kingdom of God is not a matter of [getting the] food and drink [one likes], but instead it is righteousness (that state which makes a person acceptable to God) and [heart] peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. He who serves Christ in this way is acceptable and pleasing to God and is approved by men. So let us then definitely aim for and eagerly pursue what makes for harmony and for mutual upbuilding (edification and development) of one another. You must not, for the sake of food, undo and break down and destroy the work of God! Everything is indeed [ceremonially] clean and pure, but it is wrong for anyone to hurt the conscience of others or to make them fall by what he eats. The right thing is to eat no meat or drink no wine [at all], or [do anything else] if it makes your brother stumble or hurts his conscience or offends or weakens him. Your personal convictions [on such matters]–exercise [them] as in God's presence, keeping them to yourself [striving only to know the truth and obey His will]. Blessed (happy, to be envied) is he who has no reason to judge himself for what he approves [who does not convict himself by what he chooses to do]. But the man who has doubts (misgivings, an uneasy conscience) about eating, and then eats [perhaps because of you], stands condemned [before God], because he is not true to his convictions and he does not act from faith. For whatever does not originate and proceed from faith is sin [whatever is done without a conviction of its approval by God is sinful].” (Romans 14:1-8, 12-23 AMP)
So the verses above teach us that a Christian with greater faith believes that he may eat anything, while a weak believer believes that he must abstain from certain foods.
They also teach us that whether the Christian that we are interacting with is a mature believer or a weak believer, we must not pass blame, pass judgment or criticize him for what he believes about this.
Even if a weak believer abstains from eating pork, they do so in honor of God and to be right with Him.
There are no harmful effects of this wrong believing except that he will miss out on enjoying that particular food that he abstains from eating.
Paul then goes on to write "I know and am convinced (persuaded) as one in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is [forbidden as] essentially unclean (defiled and unholy in itself). But [none the less] it is unclean (defiled and unholy) to anyone who thinks it is unclean."
Paul declares that he knows, is convinced and is persuaded that no food is unclean.
He also shared that if a person believes that a food is unclean, it is rendered unclean.
This means that whether a food is unclean or not depends on what the person believes it to be.
Paul continues to teach that ultimately, what is more important than whether a food is unclean or not, is to walk in love, and to pursue harmony and the mutual edification of fellow Christians.
He also teaches that we who understand the truth that there is no unclean food under the New Covenant of Grace should not cause a weaker believer to stumble, be hurt, offended, or weakened because of what we know.
So this is how we could approach a situation where a fellow Christian that we are with is against eating pork:
Don't try to force them to eat pork, and we should not order pork for ourselves to eat as well. Just order something else to eat.
Then after you both have gone separate ways, share this blog post that you are reading now with that Christian brother or sister,
and say "Hey! I came across this interesting article - check it out!" :)
Alright, so now you can go in peace and freedom, and order a delicious pork knuckle or pork ribs soup, and/or whatever pork dish you love without your conscience being hurt.
Or not. Depending on what you believe to be true.
Most importantly, let's walk in love, harmony and mutual edification.
As for me, based on what the Bible says about unclean foods under the New Covenant of Grace, I will continue to enjoy delicious pork!
I hope that you have been blessed by reading this post on "Bible Study: Can Christians Eat Pork? - What the Bible Says About Unclean Foods Under The New Covenant of Grace".
By the way, have you read Genesis Chapter 40 in the Bible? There are so many wonderful revelations and treasures of wisdom in that chapter!
Would you be interested in reading my blog post "Bible Study: Genesis 40 - Hidden Truths About The Bema Seat of Christ, Great White Throne Judgement, and Marriage Supper of the Lamb"?
Click here to read that blog post!
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