Among the many verses which are presented as proof texts to say that “the food laws are no longer in effect”, these words written by Paul to Timothy take center stage. Is Paul saying that everything is sanctified just by our prayers, even if God says some things are in fact not holy according to His Word? We must carefully dissect what Paul is saying, before we jump into conclusions and become someone who abolishes God’s Law.
1Ti 4:1-5 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.
The 2 erroneous doctrines addressed here by Paul are:
1. Forbidding to Marry 2. Abstinence from food*
These 2 doctrines are brought forth by people who:
1. Depart from the Faith
2. Turn their minds towards misleading spirits
3. Turn their minds towards teachings which are not from God, but evil/demonic
4. Promulgate erroneous doctrines under false pretenses
5. Have consciences which are rendered unsensitive towards God
Looking at the above 2 erroneous doctrines and the signs of the people who bring them, we can be assured that it goes against God’s Word. In fact Paul equates these 2 erroneous doctrines to “doctrines of devils”. The only way a person could say that the above verses speak of “God’s separation of Clean/Unclean Meats” spoken of in Lev 11 & Deut 14, is to equate God’s Law to doctrines of devils. God’s Law, of which Yeshua(Jesus’ true name) said that not a jot or tittle will pass and that the person who breaks the least of the commands would be the least in His Kingdom(Mat 5:17-19), would suddenly have to be equated to “doctrines of devils”.
*Furthermore, the word translated “meats” in the original Greek Manuscripts of 1Tim 4:3 is not specifically speaking of meat of animals, rather of food in general. (G1033 – βρῶμα – brōma – Thayer’s Greek Lexicon: that which is eaten, food)
While abstaining from foods such as in the case of vegetarianism or living a celibate life does not go against God’s Commands, enforcing such practices on others and teaching it as God’s Word(when there is no mention of such commands in the Scriptures), could be equated to doctrines born from evil. Such practices were known to be part of the doctrine of Gnostic sects in the 2nd Century AD, and the seeds of their teachings may have been prevalent even in Paul’s time.
There is another simple reason Paul could not have been speaking of God’s Food Laws here. In verse 3 Paul says of “meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” Meats which God created to be received with thanksgiving were listed by Him as clean animals mentioned in Lev 11 & Deut 14. Additionally, Paul also speaks of “people who believe and know the truth” in the end of verse 3.
What is Truth? According to the Bible, “Truth” is God’s Word(John 17:17, Psa 119:151).
Verse 5 is a must when reading verse 4. In verse 4 Paul seems to be saying that we can eat everything irrespective of what God said in the Scriptures. But in verse 5 this is clarified – nothing is to be refused as it is sanctified(made holy) by the Word of God and prayer. Now the question is what exactly is sanctified by the Word of God…. If God says “eat this” and “don’t eat this”… surely what He says to eat, is what is sanctified. Whatever He deemed unclean cannot be sanctified by His own Word.
So in conclusion, Paul cannot be talking of people who were adhering to God’s Commands, in the passage in question. These were foreign doctrines which were not from God. Paul, who walked perfectly according to God’s Law (Acts 21:24), would have adhered to God’s dietary instructions – and when he speaks of Food which should be received with thanksgiving, as it is sanctified by God’s Word and Prayer – he could not be speaking of the food that God deemed unclean and unholy.
Food Laws or Fasting? Misunderstandings regarding Romans 14
Can we eat all meats? Food sacrificed to idols and misunderstandings regarding 1Cor 10:25
Did Christ declare all foods clean? Misunderstandings regarding Mark 7:19
Did God tell Peter that he is free to eat unclean animals which He had banned before? Acts 10:1 – 11:18
Was God’s Law blotted out and nailed to the cross? Misunderstandings regarding Col 2:11-17
Gentiles have to obey only 4 Commandments? Misunderstandings regarding Acts 15