The Apple Of God's Eye

April 6, 2009

Does I Corinthians 10:27 Advocate Eating Unclean Meats?

Filed under: Clean/Unclean Meat — melchia @ 6:29 am
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114I Cor. 10:27 says: “If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast and you be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you eat, asking no questions for conscience sake.”

Did God here make an exception to His law? Are there circumstances under which it is all right — even advisable to eat unclean meats? For the answer, we need to consider to whom these instructions were given.

The Corinthians, converted from pagan idolatry, came from a society in which sacrificing to various idols was a daily way of life. Those offerings were sacrificed in the pagan temples continually, and the meat was usually eaten by the person who brought it.

Often, however, not all the meat was consumed. Each day the priests were left with a surplus. Not willing to miss a chance to turn a quick profit, they sold the extra meat to local butcher shops — called “shambles” — where it was sold to the public. This is where the problems arose.

Paul had taught the converts at Corinth not to become involved in pagan rituals or sacrifices (I Cor. 10:14-21). Christians should have no connection with such idolatrous practices.

But some questioned eating the leftover sacrificial meat sold in the butcher shops. How were Christians to tell the difference between ordinary meat and that which came from pagan altars? And if you were invited to a friend’s home, how could you be sure the host wasn’t serving “defiled” meat?

Paul explained that the idol was just wood and stone (verse 19). The meat offered to it was just meat. The sin would be in actually participating in a pagan ceremony (verses 20-21). Therefore, Paul told the Corinthians to stop worrying and to go ahead and buy their meat from the meat markets without asking whether it had been sacrificed to idols (verse 25). It didn’t matter where the meat came from as long as it was good meat.

The same principle applied to eating at the home of a friend. It did not matter where the meat came from or what had happened to it. Meat was meat — regardless. As long as it was clean meat, it was all right to eat. That is why Paul said, “If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you” (verse 27, RAV).

When Paul wrote “whatever,” he was referring to any clean meat which either had or had not been offered in sacrifice to an idol. Paul’s statements have nothing to do with the question of clean versus unclean meat. He was not claiming God’s dietary laws were done away. He was simply showing that it was all right to eat clean meat which had once been part of a sacrifice to an idol.

Paul did add one warning, however. He said to ask “no question for conscience’ sake” (verse 27). In other words, don’t ask the host where the meat came from. It is better to ignore that matter, since it makes no difference anyway. If the Christian questioned the host about the meat, and then ate it,┬áthe host might be led to think that his Christian guest was compromising his belief. And others present might be left with the impression that idol worship isn’t so bad in the eyes of a Christian. If someone volunteers the information that the meat is “tainted,” then, in consideration of that person’s conscience, the Christian should refrain from eating it.

The context of this chapter concerns whether or not it is permissible for a Christian to eat meat that had been offered to idols. Unclean meats is not the subject under discussion and is not even mentioned. As other parts of God’s Word show, unclean meats should never be eaten (Lev. 11 and Deut. 14).

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