In light of reading through Colossians (you can read all of my study notes HERE), I was lead to share what I’ve been reading that support the argument Paul makes that Christ is all, and that our faith is based solely on His finished work and not on legalism (tradition), carnality (morality), and philosophy (human knowledge). You may have read in the Bible where it declares certain foods clean and unclean, and the law commands that unclean foods are not pure to eat. There is some concern about the context of the passages that outline this concept, so below are the Scriptures that specifically address this, as well as some background to help you understand it.
First, consider what you may have heard about clean and unclean foods. What do you believe/know the Bible says?
In your own time, you may want to read Leviticus 11 in its entirety. For the sake of brevity, we learn that the main characters are the Lord, Moses and Aaron. Those indirectly involved are the Israelites, or the chosen generation who was delivered from slavery out of Egypt. What is the purpose of this law outlined in Leviticus 11? Background to this can be found in Exodus 19:3-8, when the Israelites were convinced that they had the ability to live by the law of God. In fact, they were more than convinced that it was their keeping of the law that could make them holy before the Lord. As a result, Leviticus 11 comes into the picture. For the sake of this post, we’ll focus on a specific portion of the law, which involved certain animals representing purity, and cleanliness (which are considered holy to God). The Israelites could only consume these animals, lest they be found unclean. Thus, going through a cleansing process to be able to be holy in God’s sight. Their defilement came as a result of what they put in their bodies, or what they consumed.
Now, in your own time, read through Mark 7: 1-23 (trying reading different versions for understanding). In summary, now that we are under the new covenant (grace covenant), defilement is not different, but there was error in the way the Pharisees upheld the law. They became consumed with the tradition of the law without checking the motives and heart condition. (Make note of verses Mark 7:6-8, 13, 20-23)
The Pharisees were making judgment on Jesus’ disciples because they did not keep the traditions of the Mosaic law, which was to wash their hands as a form of purity. Their motives were that the washing of the hands was what made them pure, but verse 20 clarifies that it is not what is done to the man (or goes in the man) that defiles him, but rather the desires and motives of His heart that defile him. Although we’re careful with what we eat, keeping a tradition and forsaking the truth that the Son (Jesus Christ) is Who makes all things pure and clean causes us to make the word of God “of no effect” in our hearts. In other words, it’s not enough to just keep tradition.
Last, read Romans 14 in its entirety. Again, read at your own pace.
In light of Mark 7, whether you eat or don’t eat certain foods, let it be done from faith and not from mere tradition. It gets into the deeper heart of the matter of considering your sister/brother (any person) above yourself when you partake in what you believe in for the sake of their faith. This passage encourages us not to make judgments based on tradition, but to be fully persuaded in our own minds regarding our faith. This passage also uses the example of someone who eats meat and someone who does not eat meat. Paul encourages the Romans (and the reader) to look beyond “right” and “wrong”, “good” and “bad”, but to consider that both should make their decisions based on faith and also based on others who may not be able to eat meat (or do anything) with conviction (or a righteous persuasion). Now, recall Mark 7.
Another example is with alcohol and tattoos. Many people will ask “Is it a sin to do these things?” The question should not be should I do these things, but it should be “Can I do these things as a result of the faith that is God-inspired?” and “Will I be able to help someone based on my faith decision?”. Depending on your answers, pray about making your decision. If you are unsure about your answers, then Paul encourages us to abstain from it because “whatever is not from faith is sin”.