Should I follow the Old Testament “Food Rules”?
From our first session, we can clearly see that Gentile believers have no obligation to follow the Old Testament dietary law. In our second, we questioned but did not answer whether Jewish believers should follow the dietary laws. That is what I shall attempt to answer today.
I argue that there are two types of laws given in the Old Testament: universal law (sometimes called the “moral law”) which springs from the nature of God, and specific law (including sacrificial law, civil law, and laws of distinction) which is given for a specific people in specific circumstances with a specific purpose.
The former laws are universal (duh) and unchangeable. All men everywhere are accountable to obey them at all times. The latter laws, on the other hand, do not apply in certain circumstances. There are three reasons why a specific law may not apply to an individual:
- If a person does not belong to the group to which the command was given, they are not obligated to keep that specific law
For example, only those who had taken the vow of the Nazirite were required to avoid all fruits of the vine; only male Jews or male aliens who wished to become Jews were required to be circumcised
- If the circumstances for which the law was given have changed, one is no longer obligated to keep that command
For example, the civil laws regarding punishments for stealing, killing, adultery, etc. were given for the ruling of the theocratic nation of Israel. That nation no longer exists.
- If the purpose of the law is fulfilled, there is no longer a need to continue to follow the external law meant as a shadow to point towards the thing that would come
For example, the sacrificial law and all the laws regarding temple ritual have been fulfilled in Christ, who was the ultimate sacrifice and who established in the church a temple not made with human hands.
If the purpose of the dietary laws are, as I purport in my previous post, to distinguish the Jewish people as separate from all the other nations of the world, the next question to ask is whether that purpose has been fulfilled.
Must the Christian Jew continue to follow those laws that were intended to identify the Jews as distinct from the rest of the world? Does the Christian Jew need some sort of external practice or mark to identify Him as chosen by God?
I was hoping to finish this week-but I have, yet again, let my word count run away from me. Next week, I’ll pick up where I left off, looking at Peter’s Vision and the conversion of the Gentile Cornelius.