Study Starter: Rare Steak or Power in the Blood?
by: Christopher Wiles
What's the beef with blood in the Bible? In our Wednesday evening adult studies Bible class, we've had recent lively discussions on passages including Deuteronomy 12:23, "But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat." Then compound the implications of that verse with the commands given in a letter from the Jerusalem Council to the Gentile churches. "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things." (Acts 15:28-29)
Wow, with such strong scriptural admonitions against eating blood, what do we do about traditional foods today such as the German blood pudding, blood soup, and blood sausages? Should we be warning all those carnivorous men and women who enjoy eating their steak rare? Should we be teaching more on this topic as part of the plan of salvation since it seemed good to the Holy Spirit?
Seeing Eye to Eye with God's Word
We must be cautious in reading verses separate from the rest of the Bible. It was Jesus who said, "It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (Matthew 15:11) Don't forget Paul who carried that Acts 15 letter from Jerusalem to the Gentile churches. This same Paul, in a letter to the church at Colossi, said, "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day." (Colossians2:16) Consider also that time Jesus gathered with His closest disciples to share deep truths just before He was betrayed and crucified. "Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'" (Matthew 26:27-28)
Agreeing with God's Word
Within a document as varied as the 66 books of history, wisdom, poetry, letters, and apocalyptic writings of the Bible, we can unintentionally pull out scriptures that seems contradictory, as if God's Word doesn't agree with itself. Thankfully we have a good God who gives understanding through His Holy Spirit as we study, meditate, and ponder God's good Word. For us, Gentiles, in churches today striving to follow the wisdom and patterns of the New Testament, it is essential that we pray for God's guidance and that we study with "best practices" such as considering the context of our passages.
Enlightenment from Jerusalem and beyond.
- First, consider the broader context of the NT. We don't see the prohibition of blood anywhere else.
- Consider the context of the covenant moving from the external purity of OT to inward purity of the NT, as evidenced in Matthew 15:11 (see above) and Matthew 5:8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."
- Consider the context of Acts 15 where we see discrepancies in the practices of the Jews and Gentiles within predominately Gentile churches such as Antioch (15:1). The Jews were teaching that one couldn't be saved without circumcision, including Gentiles. There were problems between the two culture systems existing within the church. It appears that the Jerusalem Council, in an effort "to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," (Eph 4:3) gave the Gentiles four big ideas to abstain from so as to maintain unity with the Jewish Christians in their congregations. While it wouldn't be a personal sin to eat blood, it would be a moral struggle for Jews growing up under the law of Moses. This is the concept behind the often quoted 1 Corinthians 8:9, "Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak."
My To-Go Box
After all that meaty conversation, I'll summarize what I take away from the table after this spiritual meal.
- There are no purity prohibitions on food today (drunkenness is a different issue), except that we try not to consume things that cause groups of believers to question our faith, out of respect for their faith.
- We are grateful that the Jews believed there is Life in the blood, because that sets up our belief that through the Blood of Christ, we find eternal Life today!
- Be grateful for blood and the power of life it gives for all who would know and obey Jesus!
So that's what I've got cooking on the subject. There's a lot more information and scripture we can go to if you want more discussion, but I think it would have belabored the blog and points would have been lost if I posted it all here. I'm curious your thoughts, especially those of you with Jewish backgrounds. What do you think? I'd love to listen and learn. Oh, and thanks for the invite, but I'm not interested in eating your blood pudding and I like my steak medium well.
"We have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus." - Hebrews 10:19b
Living Lessons & Study Starters are articles written for the weekly Washington Church of Christ bulletin. You can find more by clicking HERE or searching for "Study Starter" in the right sidebar search.
Speaking of Blood, don't forget that we have a blood drive coming up this weekend so that you can donate life to another! Sign up at www.washingtoncoc.org to give blood between 12-4pm on Sunday, Feb 26th.