The Pork and Sabbath Dilemma for Gentile Believers
I follow Christ and Christ kept the Sabbath & didn’t eat pork. I don’t follow a different Gospel.
Following Christ as a “Jewish believer” (Acts 21:24) and as a “Gentile believer” (Acts 21:25) is different as the verses in (brackets) clearly show.
Apostle Paul was commissioned to the “Gentile believers” (Romans 11:13, Galatians 2:8) and delivered the “commands of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37) to ‘them’. The distinction of the Gospel being different to “Jewish vs Gentile believers” is evident in the phrase ‘Gospel to the circumcision (Jewish believers)’ vs ‘Gospel to the uncircumcised (Gentile believers)’ in Galatians 2:8 itself.
That is why he writes to demonstrate ‘how to follow Christ’ as a ‘Gentile believer’ too in 1 Corinthians 11:1. This is not to be confused with the part where apostle Paul followed Christ as a Jew too (1 Corinthians 9:20, e.g. Acts 21:24) and kept the Sabbath (Acts 17:2). Apostle Paul could do it because ‘he was a Jew’ and some things ‘Gentile believers can’t’ do (Acts 21:25, Acts 15:29, Acts 15:10, Acts 15:28).
For example, Christ was Circumcised (Luke 2:21) but it is ‘not’ implied that ‘Gentile believers’ must be circumcised too as ‘part of following Christ’ (erring in logic as some quote 1 Corinthians 11:1 out of context). Jewish or half-Jewish believers have an option though (Acts 16:3, Philippians 3:5). Fact is, apostle Paul clearly writes that ‘to follow Christ’ (1 Corinthians 11:1) as a ‘Gentile believer’ is to ‘imitate it based on the commands of the Lord’ (implied in 1 Corinthians 14:37) and the ‘traditions’ which he delivered (in ‘New Testament writings’, 1 Corinthians 11:2, the immediate context). For example, ‘Gentile believers’ (such as myself too) need not be circumcised though ‘Christ obeyed it’ as the verses actually warns against it! (not an option, in Galatians 5:2 – 3).
Similarly ‘no’ verse in the New Testament Commands a Gentile believer to keep the Sabbath. The verse in Hebrews 4:9 is not directed to Gentile believers as the Book of Hebrews is for the “Jewish believers” (as God spoke “to the fathers/ancestors” in Hebrews 1:1) who may ‘keep the Sabbath’ even post-Resurrection of the Lord (Luke 23:56, Acts 15:21).
Regarding the ‘Sabbath-keeping’, Gentile believers may choose to keep or not keep it (hence they may join the Jews in synagogue too to listen to Moses in Acts 15:21 but are not obligated beyond the 4 things from the Law of Moses, Acts 15:29). Related verses —> (Colossians 2:16 – 17, Acts 21:25, Acts 15, Romans 14) . For a Jewish believer, it may not be okay to ignore the Sabbath (Acts 21:24).
To quote (an explanation):
The only question is about the Sabbath Commandment because some believers observe it, some don’t, while others observe it on a Sunday instead of a Saturday!
God didn’t change the Sabbath from a Saturday to a Sunday.
However, there is a singular verse which puts to rest all arguments for & against the Sabbath observation under the New Testament. Here it is (please note that the word Sabbaths and feast refers to primarily ‘Jewish Sabbath & Feast’ Observances including the Passover which a Gentile believer may or may not keep it as discussed below, an example of the ‘option’ of keeping the Passover for ‘Gentile believers’ is found in 1 Corinthians 5:8):
“Let no one, then, judge you in eating or in drinking, or in respect of a feast, or of a new moon, or of Sabbaths, which are a shadow of the coming things, and the body [is] of the Christ;” (Colossians 2:16 – 17)
Yes, 1 Corinthians 5:8 does not contradict Colossians 2:16 – 17 but rather describe the fact that ‘Gentile believers’ have an “option” (‘choice’) as to whether to keep these things or not and are certainly “not” obligated to beyond the four things (Acts 15:29) from the ‘Law of Moses’ (603 commandments) which is distinct from the ’10 Commandments’ as these were separately delivered (and the ‘Traditional Jewish definition of viewing it as one is not New Testament Context at all’ and hence it does not apply; in fact, the other 9 out of the 10 Commandments are found in New Testament writings which pertain to a ‘Gentile Believer’ as we shall see later).
The inspiration of the Holy Spirit to pen those words by Paul is astounding to the last word written.
Notice ‘what the verse doesn’t say’ namely,
(i) Should Paul intended to say, ‘not keeping the Sabbaths is a sin’, he would have written that. He did not.
(ii) Should Paul intended to say, ‘it is not necessary to keep the Sabbaths anymore’, he would have written that instead, similarly. Again, he did not.
What did he write & mean then in the verse above?
All I can see is that by the 10 Commandments, one must keep the Sabbaths. However, Colossians 2:16 allows “no” one to “judge you” as to whether you keep it or not especially as a Gentile believer.
In other words, keeping or not keeping the Sabbaths, as a Gentile believer (like me, to whom the letter is addressed to), I can do either way & “not” be judged by anyone who ridicules my keeping or not keeping of the Sabbaths. That is, God’s Word protects you from Judgment with regard to keeping or not keeping these particular things mentioned in this passage especially the Sabbaths.
Thus, a Gentile believer has a freedom to keep it or not as he is “convinced in his mind” (the verses below say that God accepts both who observe that special day & those who don’t) agreeing also to these set of verses below as ‘observing a special day’ certainly includes (but is not limited to) the “Sabbaths” as well.
“One doth judge one day above another, and another doth judge every day [alike]; let each in his own mind be fully assured. He who is regarding the day, to the Lord he doth regard [it], and he who is not regarding the day, to the Lord he doth not regard [it]…” (Romans 14:5, first part of verse 6)
“Thou — who art thou that art judging another’s domestic? to his own Master he doth stand or fall; and he shall be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:4)
(iii) No Judging others with regards to these things ‘only’:
It is judging another believer for not observing or for observing it is ‘what Scripture condemns’ as it is written too:
“let not him who is eating despise him who is not eating: and let not him who is not eating judge him who is eating, for God did receive him.” (Romans 14:3)
“And thou, why dost thou judge thy brother? or again, thou, why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand at the tribunal of the Christ;” (Romans 14:10)
All that matters is what we meant when we observe or do things for the Lord in a certain way (e.g. the style of worship I wish to do):
“so, then, each of us concerning himself shall give reckoning to God;” (Romans 14:12)
(iv) The ‘one who is judging’ is the one primarily mentioned in the verse below to put a ‘stumbling or offense’ to the ‘one doing it for the Lord in his way’ (and not the other way around) as it is written:
“no longer, therefore, may we judge one another, but this judge ye rather, not to put a stumbling-stone before the brother, or an offence.” (Romans 14:13)
(v) Romans 14 and Colossians 2:16 agree perfectly (Context).
Each subtopic mentioned in Colossians 2:16 is explained in greater detail in principle in Romans 14 such as with regards to “food and drink”, “observance of special days” and even “Sabbaths”.
In short, the meaning is:
For these things (food and drink, observance of feasts and even Sabbaths) ‘only’ either way of living to “observe them or not observe them is allowed” by God —-> meaning implied by ‘let no one Judge you’.
Among these things mentioned in the verses quoted, only the ‘Sabbath’ is from the Ten Commandments. So, though we are to keep ‘all’ the Ten Commandments, God has ‘decided’ NOT to Judge any “Gentile” (Context of Colossians 2:16) with regards to “Sabbath Observance” and hence commanded ‘no one to Judge us’ based on these things especially in regards to the Jewish Way of observing these.
A common Fallacy is to apply Colossians 2:16 and Romans 14 to things NOT mentioned in these passages and say that ‘there is NO Law’ to observe contradicting ‘other Laws’ for Gentile believers which exist to be observed such as it is written in Acts 15:29, Acts 15:19 – 20, 1 Corinthians 14, 1 Corinthians 11 etc.) as it is ‘commanded by our Blessed Lord to the Gentiles through apostle Paul’ (1 Corinthians 14:37). Judgment for it is 1 Corinthians 14:38.
The Laws to be observed by Gentile believers such as Acts 15:29 are mentioned in the context of being Saved by Grace and these complement each other as Acts 15:11 clearly implies.
(vi) Can I do extra obedience to God by observing more Laws from the Law of Moses as a Gentile Believer?
No! and teaching others such doctrine is rebuked by Holy Scripture!
“Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” – apostle Peter (Acts 15:10)
But, aren’t we all ‘one in Christ’? (no more Jew vs Gentile or Male vs Female etc.)
Yes, but the Bible still makes a distinction and despite this, we are still one especially in Salvation aspects and afterlife as both verses are written by apostle Paul. We CANNOT read one verse and APPLY it to a TOPIC apostle Paul was NOT referring to.
On earth, there are still distinctions, for example:
Can you see how Heresies are Created?
We CANNOT read one verse and APPLY it to a TOPIC apostle Paul was NOT referring to.
I repeat, for “Gentile believers”, Romans 14 and Colossians 2:16 – 17 allows it ‘either way’ for ONLY ‘the GENERAL things MENTIONED in these VERSES’.
Jewish believers vs Gentile believers have ‘different’ observances allowed with regards to the Law as Acts 21:24 – 25 itself ‘clearly’ demonstrates and the ‘one in Christ’ phrase in Galatians 3:28 speaks of a ‘different topic’ entirely & the things to which we will be the ‘same’ (e.g. Salvation aspects & things beyond this life being ‘sons of God’).
Best is, apostle Paul wrote all these verses making each of it equally valid with respect to the topic spoken.
A Biblical Logic with “verses” and ‘not culture nor opinions’:
The Messiah ordained apostle Paul to put these distinctions between Jewish vs Gentile believer as Acts 15 describes, already a settled issue with distinctions maintained.
For Gentile believers, Romans 14 and Colossians 2:16 – 17 allows it ‘either way’ for ONLY ‘the GENERAL things MENTIONED in these VERSES’.
Here’s a simple example: Christ was circumcised but Gentile believers need not be (Galatians 5:2 – 3). This is not a contradiction but a proof as to ‘how’ God has decided for Gentile believers to obey Him in a different manner but ‘according to written Scriptures ONLY’ as verses clearly describe.
Apostle Paul was commissioned to deliver these commandments of the Lord (not his opinion) to “Gentile believers ” (proving distinction as he is the apostle of the “Gentiles”) as 1 Corinthians 14:37 clearly states and a warning for ignoring these commands which are “written in his letters” is implied in 1 Corinthians 14:38. Apostle Paul clearly mentions whenever ‘he delivers his own opinion’ (e.g. 1 Corinthians 7:12) and at other times, it’s certainly the ‘command of the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 14:37). Judgment against not obeying ‘these WRITTEN commands’ (please note the word ‘write’ in 1 Corinthians 14:37) is ‘Serious’ (1 Corinthians 14:38). We don’t argue on human logic and terms and stick to what is written not changing it for ‘any pattern of this world which teaches otherwise’ (Romans 12:2).
Apostle Paul and the earliest Gentile believers who followed all these were approved by God, I certainly would stick to that “SAME Narrow path” (at least try to despite my failures, 1 Corinthians 1:10, 1 Corinthians 9:8).
We “break” His Commandment to ‘speak the SAME thing’ & made ‘our OWN DIVISIONS of Christianity when we didn’t stick to ‘what apostle Paul was Commanded to deliver, 1 Corinthians 14:37’ (please note the word “SAME in image below; yes, it refers to whenever we don’t speak the SAME thing as ‘apostle Paul taught’ (It doesn’t refer to anyone else’s mandate but apostle Paul’s only with respect to ‘Gentile believers’, 1 Corinthians 1:10):
How about Pork? Can “Gentile Believers” eat Pork?
“A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!”
But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.”
Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.”
This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.” (Acts 10:13 – 16, NASB)
The allegorical meaning here is speaking of Gentiles being able to accept Christ beyond the Jews ‘only’. However, there is a literal meaning here too as ‘foods are allowed to be eaten’ (which are considered unclean by Jews in their Law) but not so for the Gentiles. Both meanings are true and in some exegesis, they opt for one ‘missing the point for the other meaning entirely’.
If this vision ‘only’ has an allegorical meaning (as some claim) and say eating pork is ‘still wrong’ for a ‘Gentile Believer’ (context in vision itself implies this), please ask yourself:
‘Can God give a vision which contains a sin, namely eating unclean animals but that which is not allowed in real life?’
Of course not. And the context of this vision itself proves that “Gentile believers” (to whom this vision refers to) may certainly eat those ‘unclean meat’ simply because ‘God has made it clean too’ (except for ‘things strangled’, ‘food offered to idols’ and ‘blood’ as Acts 15:29 clearly states with regards to ‘food’).
Here’s a verse which clearly describes Lord Jesus Christ making ‘ALL meats clean’ (meaning that ‘Gentile believers’ can certainly eat them as the vision above in Acts clearly shows too):
“because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He [Lord Jesus Christ] declared ALL foods clean.)” (Mark 7:19, NASB)
The Purpose of ‘food prohibition’ in the Law earlier (apart from dietary reasons) was to show that the Gentiles could not approach YHWH until Christ. And since Christ has come and made the Way possible for Gentiles to be Reconciled back to Him as co-heirs too (Ephesians 3:5 – 6, Colossians 1:26 – 27), these food Laws don’t need to reflect this separation anymore.
Does that mean that a Jew may eat pork too?
In Christ’s statement, ALL foods were made clean but Christ didn’t eat pork thereafter. The vision only refers to Gentiles who have been eating of that food and Peter (being a Jew) was never told to eat those foods in real life. This seems to imply that Gentiles may eat it while Jews (not the subject in that vision) may keep the ‘Law, walking orderly too’ (Acts 21:24).
The verses below support this interpretation as apostle Paul himself rebukes apostle Peter (Cephas) for ‘living like a Gentile’ and ‘reverting back to live like a Jew’ at times (so an option otherwise does ‘not’ seem to be given to Jewish believers with regards to this):
“But when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.
For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision.
The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.
But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” – apostle Paul (Galatians 2:11 – 14, NASB)
Apostle Paul continues to mention that ‘such Law keeping’ is for ‘Jews only’ (Galatians 2:15) and that it ‘never includes the Gentiles’ (Galatians 2:14) but yet, no one is going to be ‘saved’ by the ‘righteousness which comes by the Law’ (Galatians 2:16, Galatians 2:21). Apostle Paul mentions ‘not’ to rebuild ‘such Laws’ for the ‘Gentiles’ by compelling them to ‘live as Jews’ (Galatians 2:14, Galatians 2:18).
The Book of James is addressed to “Jews only” just like the Book of Hebrews (Context established even in James 1:1, please note the phrase ‘To the twelve tribes who are dispersed (‘diaspora’) abroad) and thus the ‘Law keeping verses’ here too agree with e.g. Acts 21:24 as well for “Jewish believers only” and the fact remains that ‘Jewish believers may continue to keep the Law’ except for parts which are changed, (e.g. Hebrews 7:12) according to the ‘New Covenant’ (Hebrews 8:13) due to ‘Its fulfilment by Christ (e.g. Hebrews 7:22)’ and thus ‘Its uselessness’ to continue further in it (Hebrews 7:18).
So, whether it’s the Book of James or Hebrews, we must understand that it refers to Jewish believers primarily just like we ought to understand that the Book of Galatians or Corinthians is addressed to Gentile believers. So, the distinctions with regards to keeping the Law are there and can be understood correctly based on the “intended audience”.
Apostle James warns that ‘breaking the Law’ is a serious thing (James 2:10) and that breaking one law makes one a transgressor of all of it. He explains that breaking any part of the Law which still applies makes a transgressor (James 2:11) and further mentions right conduct in both words & speech with regards to the ‘Law of Liberty’ by which ‘believers will be Judged’ (James 2:12).
What is this ‘Law of Liberty’?
“But one who looks intently at the Perfect Law, the Law of Liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:25, NASB)
“So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the Law of Liberty.” (James 2:12, NASB)
The ‘Law of Liberty’ is to ‘Choose’ whether to ‘obey His Word’ or not ‘beyond believing for faith’ as these (consecutive verses describe ‘first’):
“Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror;
for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.” (James 1:21 – 24, NASB)
Please note the phrase ‘effectual doer’ in James 1:25 proving this ‘same meaning’.
This is important as ‘our righteousness’ (gotten by doing the Law, e.g. Deuteronomy 6:25, James 2:24) are like ‘filthy rags’ (Isaiah 64:6) and cannot save us (Galatians 2:16, Romans 3:28) though it helps ‘perfect the free gift of Faith given to us’ (James 2:22, Ephesians 2:8 – 9) where ‘works being absent becomes a dead faith’ (James 2:17) as the danger of ‘such selfish-faith without works doesn’t save’ (James 2:14 – 16) due to ‘sinning by not doing the good which is within one’s power’ (James 4:17) and best is ‘faith by works’ according to His Commandments (James 2:18, James 2:19 – 26).
Now, ‘our righteousness’ doesn’t save us but keeps us from being condemned due to sin when ‘we obey’ as the passage above explains. The ONLY Righteousness which SAVES FROM OUR SINS (Romans 3:23) is the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God which is by Faith of Jesus Christ Alone (Romans 3:22, Isaiah 45:24) which has ‘nothing’ to do with ‘our righteousness’ from the ‘Law’ (Romans 3:21) as the FREE Grace of God Justifies (Romans 3:24) even the ‘ungodly’ too eventually (Romans 4:5).
“But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,” (Romans 4:5, NASB)
Here is a simple list proving that all “9 out of 10 Commandments” are applicable to a Gentile Believer (except the Sabbath as discussed prior; please note that those who quote Hebrews 4:9 often miss the context that the intended audience for mandatory-Sabbath keeping is ‘Jewish Believers’ and not Gentiles as a Gentile may or may not keep it, an option as Colossians 2:16 – 17 explained in detail prior reveals):
Verses which Apply to the Context of “Gentile Believers” (an example quoted):
Here are two ‘historical facts’ which prove that ‘Gentile believers’ in the earliest churches ‘never kept the Sabbath as a Commandment’:
Here are two comments from our history archive that prove the common view between 150 and 200AD was that the Patriarchs never kept the Sabbath!
- 150AD JUSTIN: Moreover, all those righteous men already mentioned [after mentioning Adam. Abel, Enoch, Lot, Noah, Melchizedek, and Abraham], though they kept no Sabbaths, were pleasing to God; and after them Abraham with all his descendants until Moses… And you [fleshly Jews] were commanded to keep Sabbaths, that you might retain the memorial of God. For His word makes this announcement, saying, “That you may know that I am God who redeemed you.” (Dialogue With Trypho the Jew, 150-165 AD, Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol. 1, page 204)
- 200AD TERTULLIAN: Let him who contends that the Sabbath is still to be observed a balm of salvation, and circumcision on the eighth day because of threat of death, teach us that in earliest times righteous men kept Sabbath or practiced circumcision, and so were made friends of God. .. …Therefore, since God originated Adam uncircumcised, and inobservant of the Sabbath, consequently his offspring also, Abel, offering Him sacrifices, uncircumcised and inobservant of the Sabbath, was by Him commended… Noah also, uncircumcised – yes, and inobservant of the Sabbath – God freed from the deluge. For Enoch, too, most righteous man, uncircumcised and inobservant of the Sabbath, He translated from this world… Melchizedek also, “the priest of most high God,” uncircumcised and inobservant of the Sabbath, was chosen to the priesthood of God. (An Answer to the Jews 2:10; 4:1, Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 3, page 153)