Has the Lord given instruction for what Christians should eat? Is there a God-given human diet in the New Testament? Yes, the apostle Paul revealed that God has created foods to be received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:3–5). Many health problems today are apparently connected with eating things that God did not create. By eating real foods that God created, Christians can live healthier lives by God’s design. This post urges the reader to infer for oneself from Scripture what foods God has created to be received.
Foods that God Created to Be Received
In Genesis 1, God spoke to man, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food” (Genesis 1:29 NASB). After the Flood, God spoke to Noah and his sons, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (Genesis 9:3–4). People are to eat what God gave them to eat — plants, fruits, and meat without its blood.
Jesus Declared All Foods Clean
In Mark 7:18–19, Jesus declared all foods clean, but that does not make everything that people consume into food. Christ revealed that food does not defile the body but what comes out of the heart can (Mark 7:14–23). Jesus taught, “‘Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.’ […] ‘Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever [food] goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?’ Thus He declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:14–15, 18–19). Jesus declaring all foods clean does not make all edible substances into food. Christ is not permitting the eating of hemlocks and poisons but foods that God created and designed for the consumption of mankind.
Jesus declared all foods clean as He referred to natural foods that God has given to be received. Jesus’s declaration does not mean that because something is grown then that is food from God. Hemlocks, poisonous ivies, poisonous berries, certain tree barks, wild mushrooms, and more all grow and are deadly. People cannot rightly infer that eating, drinking, and smoking whatever is grown consists of what God has created to be received. Furthermore, wine comes from grapes and beer from barley, yet the Bible warns that these are readily abused (cf. Proverb 23:30–35). One may reason that because of the fall of humanity in sin and its effect upon creation not all that is grown can be consumed or was given by God as food from the beginning.
Revelation for Peter to Kill and Eat
Peter learned that all meats are clean as God told him, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat” of animals considered unclean under the Law of Moses (Acts 10:9–16). Peter later explained, “God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean” (Acts 10:28). Furthermore, Peter declared, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is pleasing to Him” (Acts 10:34–35). This vision revealed that God makes people from among the nations clean by Christ but the vision also reflects the original intent of God’s food laws for the nation of Israel. Ancient Israel’s diet set them apart and increased their health. A kosher diet today is a healthy diet but it is not commanded for all.
Clean Foods under the Law of Moses
While Jesus declared all meats clean to eat, He may not have eaten anything that was unclean according to the Law of Moses. Jesus did reveal that He came to fulfill the Law and the prophets so He made the diet that Moses gave to the Israelites no longer needed for those who trust in Him as the Son of God. Christians are not under the Law of Moses and not under law other than the law of faith in Christ (Romans 7:1–6; 2 Corinthians 3:4–18; Hebrews 8:13). Being under grace rather than law does not make edible things into natural foods created by God to be received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:1–5).
God gave Israel their food laws to eat clean meats for their own blessing as a people set apart by God as His holy people (Leviticus 11). God’s food laws indeed increased their health. God commanded Israel to eat animals with cloven split hooves that chew the cud, fish with scales and fins, birds without an extra high toe, hopping insects without wings, and to eat nothing that dies naturally (Deuteronomy 14:1–21). God’s instruction to Israel reveals that not all things edible are good for the body. Israel’s food laws made them aware that God created foods to be received with thanksgiving.
Food Debates and the Conscience
Christians are not to quarrel over opinions about food (Romans 14:1). The apostle Paul taught about food, “One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him” (Romans 14:2–3; cf. Colossians 2:16). While many believers may have eaten only vegetables to avoid any meat offered to false gods, Christians can eat meat with a good conscience (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:6–8; 10:25–31).
Should Christians keep a vegetarian “Daniel diet,” a mostly carnivore “Abraham diet,” a Mediterranean “Jesus diet,” or a wholefood “Timothy diet”? Believers can call these diets what they want as each one is biblical and healthier than any modern diet as the world promotes unnatural foods. One of these biblical diets may fit one person’s needs better than another at different times in life. As long as each diet consists of foods that God created to be received, then eat with thanksgiving to God.
Christians must respect the conscience of one another. Paul instructed, “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this — not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean” (Romans 14:13–14). Furthermore, Christians should not grieve other believers by what they eat so as to destroy that the faith of others (14:15). “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (14:17). The faithful must strive for peace and to build each other up (14:19). Each must follow one’s conscience as it is written, “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin” (14:23). The disciple of Christ should eat by faith with good conscience of what God has created to be received (1 Timothy 4:1–5).
What Christians Must Not Eat
After the Flood, God revealed that people were not to eat blood because it is one’s life of humanity made in God’s image (Genesis 9:5–6). The New Testament forbid Christians from eating certain things. At the council in Jerusalem, the apostles and elders instructed Gentile Christians not to eat blood (Acts 15:20, 29). This command does remain for followers of Christ instructing them not to consume blood in respect of life and atonement as in Genesis 9:3–4 and Leviticus 17:14. Furthermore, Christians should not eat food dedicated to other gods especially because this would offend the consciences of others (1 Corinthians 8:6–8; 10:25–31). Therefore, the conclusion is: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
What about Gluttony?
Jesus was falsely accused of gluttony (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34). Christians should be cautious before recognizing someone as a glutton. In the Bible, gluttony describes those who eat and do not work (Proverb 23:1–2; Titus 1:12). When the nation of Israel encamped at Mount Sinai, the Bible described their gluttony as they sat to eat and rose to play (Proverb 23:19–21; 28:7; cf. Exodus 32:6; 1 Corinthians 10:7). Paul commanded, “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Furthermore, the Bible depicts gluttony as all those who are overfed on bread and do not care for the needy (Ezekiel 16:49; Amos 6:4–7). The gluttonous were overfed on bread and, or meat and were often filled with wine (Proverb 23:20; Ezekiel 16:49). Jesus told of two men who died: a rich man “who feasted sumptuously every day” and would not care for Lazarus “who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table” (Luke 16:19–31). Therefore, the gluttonous person is someone who eats much and hordes food from the needy or avoids work.
Conclusion: Biblical Principles for Eating
Everyone’s body is a gift from God. “The body is for the Lord and the Lord is for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:13b). The Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit as the temple of the Spirit, so the body is meant for holiness and to operate according to God’s design (1 Corinthians 6:12–20). Christians must eat what God has created to be received with thanksgiving.
God has created foods for humanity that consists of real foods of vegetables, fruits, and meat (Genesis 1:29; 9:4–6). The Scriptures include bread, eggs, honey, curds, and cheese (Genesis 18:8; Isaiah 7:15; Luke 11:3, 12). Many may perceive the health problems are apparently connected with eating foods that God did not create to be received. This post leaves what foods have been formed or altered contrary to God’s design to the inference of the reader. The faithful can make such inferences and form opinions about healthy food while not setting these personal inferences as points to argue or divide from others (Romans 14). Lastly, the faithful who trust that Jesus is the Son of God and rise to new life from baptism can look forward to the resurrection of the body so the saved will eat from the tree of life in the new Jerusalem (Revelation 22:1–4).