It’s okay for Christians to eat pork. Why wouldn’t it be okay?
Some suggest that because the ancient Israelites were forbidden by God to eat pork, Christians are to avoid pork as well. That this is nonsense should be obvious to everyone, as Christians are not Israelites. Unfortunately, many preachers and teachers are teaching nonsense.
It seems that in the beginning, people only ate plants. After the great flood, God said this in Genesis 9:3:
Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.
So pigs were definitely on the menu. The command to not eat pork came later, and is recorded in Leviticus 11:7-8:
“…the pig, though it has a divided hoof, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses…”
That’s pretty clear. Let’s make sure we’re reading this verse in its original context…to whom was this instruction given? Go back a few verses to verse 1:
“The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Say to the Israelites…””
That’s very clear. God told Moses and Aaron to pass the word to the Israelites about not eating pork (and other things). Noah and his family were allowed to eat pork, so there’s obviously nothing wrong with using them as food. God had a specific reason for telling the ancient Israelites to not eat pork, but it wasn’t because pigs are bad. Christians are not under the Mosaic Law, and have never been under the Mosaic Law. God didn’t tell the Chinese to avoid pork. He didn’t give these instructions to Babylonians, or Ethiopians, or Canadians. These instructions were given as part of a covenant (agreement) between God and the ancient Israelites. They have never applied to anyone else.
That’s not all, though. These instructions no longer apply to Jews, either. How do we know this? Because we read it clearly in several New Testament passages. Look at Mark 7:14-19. Take note of the last part:
Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
That’s abundantly clear. Jesus – the Son of God, a Jew, and a man who never sinned – declared all foods clean. This was obviously a difficult idea for His disciples, whose culture had forbidden pork for around 1500 years. Simon Peter needed a bit more convincing, which we see in Acts 10. He was given a vision by God, in which he saw all kinds of animals…including those formerly considered unclean. God told him to eat, and Peter refused, saying that he had never eaten anything unclean. God’s response? Do not call anything impure that God has made clean. This was a two-fold message for Peter. The first and most obvious part of the message is that Peter could eat whatever he wanted, which was a change from the laws of Judaism. The second part of the message is that there is no difference in God’s eyes between Jews and non-Jews. Peter was supposed to go and preach the gospel to Cornelius, and God was preparing him to see that non-Jews could receive the gospel and be saved, just as Jews could.
One more passage: 1 Timothy 4:1-5. The apostle Paul is teaching Timothy, a young pastor, telling him to make sure to point out the errors of false teachers. He gave Timothy a few examples, including instructions about food:
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
There have always been people, like those in the Hebrew Roots movement, who work to convince others that they should obey the Mosaic Law. They are wrong. The only people who were ever expected to follow those laws were ancient Israelites. Those laws never applied to anyone else. Now that Jesus has come and made a New Covenant with everyone, the Mosaic Law has been fulfilled and has become obsolete. As we can see from the verses above, Jesus (a Jew) taught Peter (a Jew) and Paul (a Jew) that pork could be eaten, declaring all foods clean. Anyone who says otherwise is contradicting Jesus. That’s something I’m unwilling to do.
God says that it’s okay to eat pork. One might have personal reasons for not eating pork, of course. We’re free to eat pork, but that doesn’t mean we must. It means that those who teach that God prohibits His people from eating pork are teaching contrary to Scripture.
Some believe they can win God’s favor and gain eternal life by following the laws of the Old Testament. Among these are groups like those in the Hebrew Roots movement, some Seventh-Day Adventists, and so on…but this is a misunderstanding. We are not saved by following the law, but by the grace of God through faith.