Food & Marriage
Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.
We have seen that, as part of Mysticism, there are deceptive spiritual experiences. We will now see that there are also natural deceptive practices, namely, asceticism.
Asceticism is essentially the harsh treatment of the physical body in order to gain merit in God’s eyes. Clearly this is a work of the flesh, and does not achieve any spiritual merit in God’s eyes, for all our righteousness’s are as filthy rags, Isa.64:6.
However we must not confuse asceticism with self-discipline, or self-control (temperance), which is one part of the fruit of the Spirit
The difference between asceticism and self-discipline can be summed up thus:
- Asceticism is submitting my body to my will, self-discipline is submitting my body to God’s will.
- Asceticism sees the body as evil and needs suppression, self-discipline sees the body as good but needs control.
E8.1 Doctrines of men
The Gnostic thinking that matter was evil had one of two results on people.
One erroneous attitude was: since the body is evil it doesn’t matter what you do; this naturally led to licentious behaviour. The other error being is that the body needs harsh treatment in order to discipline it. It is the second of these that Paul points our attention to.
Here Paul says that the rudiments of the world, in this context, of trying to gain righteousness are regulations that forbid things—touch not, taste not, and handle not.
In a later epistle Paul gives a warning regarding the last days.
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
Timothy was also written against the background of Gnosticism, Paul warns Timothy of two things in particular: Forbidding to marry, and abstaining from meat. We note that these are called doctrines of devils. Although men impose them their origin is much more sinister.
Both these doctrines, which forbid what God has given, are things contrary to the scripture revelation.
E8.2 Food does not defile
Jesus said “ Are ye yet without understanding? Do not ye understand that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart ; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, fasle witnesses, blasphemies: these are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.
The above statement was made in response to the Pharisees’ criticism of the disciples for not washing their hands before eating. This being in contradiction to their traditions. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees by saying that they transgress the commandments of God by their tradition. The disciples then saying that Jesus had offended the Pharisee, Mtt.15:1-15. To which Jesus gave the reply that heads this section.
As always Jesus brings us back to the fundamental issue, the heart, just as He did in the Sermon on the Mount. Spiritual defilement has its roots in the heart not in anything that we eat.
In the OT we do have God giving instructions about clean and unclean foods, Lev. 11. But we must remember that the OT Law was given to the nation of Israel. As such is was part of the Old Covenant arrangement that God made with Israel for their occupation of the promised land.
In the New Covenant no such restriction on foods is given. In fact Peter’s experience in Acts 10 makes this clear, there is no longer any such thing as clean and unclean foods. In the vison Peter had God used it as a lesson in saying that the Gentiles are no longer to be considered unclean and out of the scope of God’s salvation.
The touch not, taste not and handle not concerning foods are rules of the world and not of God. They are not to be refused if accepted with thanksgiving. No food stuff can defile a man or woman. It is not what we take into our bodies that causes spiritual defilement but what comes from our hearts. That is why we need to be born again and receive the promised new heart.
E8.3 Despise not him
Paul touches on the subject of eating food in other parts of scripture. This time in terms of considering the brethren. There are two passages in particular Rom. 14 & I Cor.8.
But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.
Here there is an absolute statement that eating makes no difference to our spiritual standing before God. The eighth chapter of I Corinthians and Romans 14 deals with weaker believers for whom eating certain foods and having certain drinks can be a stumbling block. It is because of this that Paul says, that although we are free to eat and drink whatever our own conscience allows, we need to consider those for whom such actions would cause them to stumble in the way. To stumble a brother like that is to sin against Christ, solemn words indeed, I Cor.8:7-13
In the Romans chapter 14 we have a full treatise on the subject.
Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him….. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind… He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks…. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean….. For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
The key is that God’s kingdom is not meat and drink, that is externals of does and don’ts, but of a spiritual reality in the Holy Spirit
E8.3 Marriage is honourable
Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
The Bible calls marriage honourable, so those seeking to enforce celibacy or a libertine style of life are clearly in disobedience to God’s word,
His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
The Lord’s reply to the disciples comments was very simple. It can be summed up as that some people do not marry for various reasons but not everybody can receive this statement.
The key point is that some voluntarily do not marry for the sake of the gospel, but it is their choice and theirs alone. Paul says something similar in I Cor.7:7-9. The important thing is that for the sake of the gospel some people choose freely to forgo the right to marry. And that’s how it should be, no organisation, no so called man of God has the right to tell people whether they should or should not marry.
In the case of the Timothy passage we see that forbidding marriage is part of the doctrine of devils of the last days.
None of these ascetic practices are of any spiritual value. They make a person feel as if they are achieving something towards their spiritual wellbeing. Instead it is the heart that needs to be dealt with and only God can do that through the power of the cross,