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Holiness at the Lord’s Table — and should we “Keep the Feasts,” abstain from ‘unclean’ food, and Eat with Unbelievers?

 

Renette Vermeulen

 

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OLD ISRAEL HAD EVERYTHING PHYSICAL JUST AS NEW COVENANT BELIEVERS HAVE EVERYTHING SPIRITUAL

Jesus kept the Sabbaths, Feasts, and other outward laws that were commanded under the ceremonial law, because He lived and ministered under the Old Testament Covenant before the cross and Pentecost!  There is not a single, contextual word under the New Covenant to command the ceremonial abstaining from food.  Neither did Jesus command His New Covenant disciples to keep religious feasts — which, being absent from Scripture, were artificially instituted by Christianity!  Religious Christian feasts such as “christ-mass,” “Easter,” “Saint Valentine’s day,” etcetera, were all based on pagan gods and customs.  They are Christianized replicas of the Real Jesus Christ; His death and resurrection, and so forth.

Jesus only commanded obedience to the inward Moral Law of the New Testament, (Jn. 13:34; Heb. 10:16.)  Even under the Old Testament covenant before the cross, Jesus explained the insignificance of outward religious ceremonies, feasts, and ceremonial laws concerning food.  He said in Matthew 15:17, “Do you not understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated?  [Physical food, germs, etcetera, cannot spiritually defile a man, verse 11.]  But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the [unrenewed] heart, and they defile a man.  [From there] proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.  But to eat with [ceremonially] unwashed hands [or to eat ceremonially ‘unclean’ food,] does not defile a man.”  That is why Paul wrote, “[Because Jesus fulfilled the entire law at the cross,] do not let anyone judge you [if you reject ceremonial] food, drink, festivals… [for the Creator of every substance] is Christ…  If you died to those [ceremonial] principles, why are you still subject to regulations such as, ‘Do not touch, taste, handle,’ which... perished with the [Old Covenant when Jesus annulled it at the cross to establish His eternal, spiritual New Covenant,” (Heb. 8:13; Col. 2:9-23.) 

· What is still valid for born again believers, is caution in attending pagan or Christianized feasts, eating the Lord’s Supper in “an unworthy manner,” and eating food that was sacrificed to idols — but not in the way churches teach that.  The truth is always in the context of Scripture and the given situation. 

· In 1 Corinthians Chapters 10 & 11, Paul tackled the technicalities of these subjects.  He began with a comparison between “spiritual food and drink” in Old and in New Testament terms, (1 Cor. 10:1-5.)  Old Israel had most things physical under the Old Covenant; true believers have all things spiritual under the New Covenant in Jesus, (Heb. 8:13; chapters 7-9; Jn. 3:16.) 

In 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, Paul began to unravel the physical food and drink of the Old Israelites in the wilderness to compare them with the spiritual food and drink of New Covenant believers in Christ.  He explained that the Old Hebrews “were all under the cloud; [protection and guidance of the Holy Spirit.] All passed through the sea, [from Egypt or in New Covenant terms, ‘the world,’ on their way to the promised land or ‘heaven.’]  All were baptized into Moses, [the Law,] in the cloud and in the sea, [symbolic of Jesus’ baptism with the Holy Spirit at the rebirth when believers personally accept Him, and of the water baptism of Jesus' disciples, 1 Pt. 2:9-10; Romans Chapter 6.]  All ate the same spiritual food, [manna or in New Covenant language, Jesus Himself the Bread from heaven,] and all drank the same spiritual drink, [Living Water or the Word of God, Jn. 4:21-24.]  For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ,” (Ex. 17.)  Jesus told the Hebrews in John 6:47-54, “Your fathers ate the [literal] manna in the wilderness, and are dead.  [I Am] the Bread which came down from heaven.  The one who eats [spiritually of Me] shall not die…”  Jesus was the prophesied Christ in the Old Testament, and He is the ever-living Christ of the New  Covenant Who fulfilled every prophesy and every part of the Law. 

· In 1 Corinthians 10:5-13, Paul warned how Israel abused their freedom and mingled their food, (in New Testament terms, the Lord’s Gospel and the physical ‘sign’ thereof, manna or the Lord’s Supper,) with idols or strange gods.  “Now these things, [the Moral Law in the Old Testament,] became our examples… that we should not lust after evil things as they lusted.  Do not become idolaters as were some of them.  [Because, instead of staying on The Way to Canaan or heaven,] they sat down, [or were sidetracked from their journey] to eat, drink, and play.  [They made the unbelieving world their friend and began to party with them and ended up worshiping their gods, Jam. 4:4.]  So, let us not commit sexual immorality as some of them did, and 3,000 fell in one day. Or tempt Christ [by abusing our liberty and think He will not punish us,] as some of them did, and were destroyed by snakes.  Or complain [about what God has given us, because we covet the mad and dirty pleasures of unbelievers,] as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer…” 

 

DID PAUL RE-ESTABLISH SOME HEBREW FEASTS AND CUSTOMS AFTER PENTECOST?  

Could it be that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 5:8 and Acts 18:21, re-established some of the Hebrew feasts — and if he did, on whose authority was he acting?  Jesus said Moses added to the Old Covenant law to satisfy the Hebrews who wanted to divorce their wives “for just any reason,” not just for adultery, (Mt. 19:1-9!)  There is no guarantee that Paul would not have done the same under the New Covenant, (1 Tim. 2:15.)  However, as everything else, we must see this in the context of “all Scripture.”

· In Acts 18:18-20, Paul shaved his head to supposedly “discharge him from the Nazerite law.”  This too, is completely against what Paul himself taught about the outward, ceremonial laws — which were all completely and eternally fulfilled with Jesus’ own, dying breath, (Jn. 19:28-30; Heb. 8:13; chapters 7-9!)  So why did Paul do that?  It might have been that Paul was still growing in God’s New Covenant revelation as he was a mere human being like we all are.  This can also be one of those once-off verses that were misinterpreted in translationOr it might be that Paul conformed to Jewish custom to “win some for Christ,” which would have been sinful if it were in violation of God’s New Testament Covenant, according to Paul’s own teachings on the ousted ceremonial law, (1 Cor. 9:20; Gal. 2:20-21.) 

What is important, is that Paul declared in Galatians 2:1-21, “I preach to [to the Hebrews] the same Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles…  [No one] was compelled to be circumcised [or keep any other outward ceremonial law.]  But false brethren [not Paul] secretly brought in heresies by stealth to spy out our liberty in Jesus, that they might bring us [back into bondage to the ceremonial law,] which we did not yield submission even [once,] that the truth of the Gospel might continue with [us...]  God shows personal favoritism to no man [either Hebrew or Gentile...] I withstood Peter to his face… for playing the hypocrite, fearing those of the circumcision. I said to him, If you, being a Hebrew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not Hebrews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Hebrews… no one is justified by the works of the law… by which NO FLESH shall be justified... but by faith in Jesus Christ… I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through [any of] the [precepts of the ceremonial] law, Christ died in vain!” 

· So, can some Hebrew feasts be exempted from Jesus’ complete fulfilment of the Law?  In the context of the passage, where Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:8, “Let us keep the feast, not with old leaven [unrepentant attitudes,] but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth,” he was not referring to ousted Hebrew feasts or to ‘holy communion in church,’ but to the Lord’s Holy Supper — one of the only three outward ‘signs’ or symbols we have in the Truth of the New Covenant.  The other two are the water baptism of disciples, and the anointing of oil to heal the sick with the confession of personal sin against each other to each other, and with prayer!  (Mt. 28:18-20; Jam. 5:15-18.) 

So, what feast did Paul so earnestly had to attend in Acts 18:21?  Some say it was the feast of unleavened bread, but according to Acts 20:16 it could have been a tribute to the Day of Pentecost!  Whatever he did, we never hear about that ‘special feast’ again!  Paul’s head-shaving and, if it were a Hebrew feast he was attending, could have been because he was merely in compliance to “become as a Hebrew to win some for Jesus Christ.”  However, as said, it seems impractical that he would return to the ousted old covenant ceremonial law to teach them the Gospel.  That would have been a sin, (1 Cor. 9:20.) 

 

HOLINESS, RESPECT, AND SINCERITY AT THE LORD’S TABLE

Paul continued this discussion and commanded in 1 Corinthians 10:14-22, “Therefore, flee from idolatry…” and here Paul talks about "the communion of the blood… and broken body of Christ." This is The Lord's Supper for true believers; we dare not share His Supper with unbelievers or try to spice up His Spiritual Table by using pagan practices to partake in an “unworthy manner…” (1 Cor. 11:27-34.) We must also “examine ourselves” before the Supper and confess all our own sin to God, and to others where we abused them, (Jam. 5:16-18.; Mt. 5:23-24.) We must not be self-indulgent, but respect and consider one another at the Lord’s Table and throughout our conduct in this world, (1 Cor. 10:23-33.) 

· Participating in the Lord’s Supper confirms our Covenant with God through the blood and broken body of the Man Jesus Christ.  It cannot be used as a healing, saving, deliverance ceremony, or as a ritual that has spiritual power in itself.  Participating in the Lord’s Supper is confirming our personal redemption, salvation, and blessing in Christ.  If we do not participate in it in holiness, respect, and sincerity, we eat “condemnation” over ourselves.  Sickness and death can follow disrespect for the blood and broken body of Jesus, (of which the bread and wine are mere symbols;) not “discerning” the utter holiness of Jesus’ (spiritual) blood and broken body, or His New Covenant through His full atonement in the place of all believing humanity, (Jn. 3:16; 1 Cor. 11:28-29.) 

In itself, the Lord’s Supper has no spiritual power — just as the water baptism of believers is just another worthless ritual without our personal, spiritual rebirth in Jesus.  Abusing the Lord’s Supper or the water baptism for feasting, church exclusivity, or as a mere ritual, defiles God’s Holy Covenant.  That is hypocrisy, which God hates and judges. 

· When Jesus stated that His flesh is real food and His blood is real drink, He was not calling His disciples to cannibalism and vampirism!  He was speaking metaphorically.  Through the Lord’s Supper, “we proclaim His death until He comes.”    The bread and wine are symbols of the spiritual life, healing, redemption, salvation, and blessing of Jesus’ sincere disciples until He returns to take His bride to the Marriage Feast in heaven, (Gal. 3:10-14; Mt. 25:1-13.)  As such, unbelievers, mere religionists, and unrepentant believers dare not eat God’s judgment over themselves by eating and drinking in an “unworthy manner,” (1 Cor. 11:27-32.)  Sincere believers only, who are willing to confess their sins in repentance, are welcome at the Lord’s Table.  This is an extremely personal “association” with Jesus Christ Himself. 

All of the above does not mean we may judge the hearts of other believers, as in condemning them or sending them to hell, as only God can do that.  But we must ‘judge’ their fruits or constant behavior, (Mt. 7:16-20.)  If believers sin unrepentantly, they are not true believers, (1 John 2:1-6.)  This does not include “stumbling,” because “we all stumble in  many things,” (Jam. 3:2.)  But “if we confess our sins [and repent,] God is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 Jn. 1:10.) 

· Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 5:10, “I did not mean you cannot [interact with sinners] of the world, since then you will have to go out of the world, (Mt. 28:18-20.)  But now I write to you not to not keep company with anyone named a brother [that sins unrepentantly.]  No, not even to eat, [especially at the Lord’s table,] with such a person.” 

Because personal holiness at The Lord’s Table is so important, we cannot eat “food sacrificed to idols” during this Most Holy Feast, (as during the Christian "mass" or so-called 'holy communion,' where they mingle God’s Supper with idolatrous practices and false doctrine.  “We cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons,” (verses 17-22.)  Sharing the literal wine and bread at the Lord's Table is spiritual union with Jesus and each other through His symbolic blood and broken body. 


HOLINESS AT THE TABLE OF UNBELIEVERS

The second part of Paul’s discussion 1 Corinthians 10 focuses on Eating with Unbelievers – or Not. 

If either our church and its false doctrines; or political rallies, alcohol, drugs, parties, gluttony, sex, the praise and acceptance of people; or bad family and friends are our weak points, we must avoid it (and them) like poison; even if they are religious Christians.  Satan knows how to tempt us into idolatry, (everything we place above God is idolatry,) to make us fall.  Even worse, to make other people fall through us.  Jesus warned in Matthew 18:6, “Whoever causes one of [My disciples] to stumble and fall away – it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck…”

We can never compromise our commitment to Jesus in any way. We are completely free from Hebrew and all other religious feasts, ceremonies, so-called ‘saving’ sacraments, and church forms and norms, but we are still wholly bound to God and to each other, (even to unbelievers to give them the Gospel as God leads,) by obedience to His inward, Moral Law – the only New Covenant Law Jesus and His apostles ever commanded, (Jn. 13:34.) 

· 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 is our guideline to live in the world without succumbing to self-indulgence and idolatry.  Here, we have instructions on how to act when we are invited to pagan or Christianized pagan dinners like Christmas, over which unbelievers also pray to their gods. (Santa/Satan is the god of the Christian feast of christ-mass.)  Understanding these principles will also help us to correctly attend the feasts and dinners of raw pagans to interact with them in a Scriptural and thus Godly way.  There is no other reason to interact with them, than to be the purifying, preserving “salt of the earth” to them - if the Holy Spirit should open a door to bring them His True Gospel, (2 Cor. 6:14! KJV.)  

At Christian feasts like christ-mass, we are not sitting at the Lord’s Supper; we know the origins of the feast is pagan. We are not attending this table “to seek our own [or to self-indulge,] but the other’s well-being.” We attend this table because God has given us the opportunity to socialize with those people to be His Light and Truth there. 

· Such invitations are a great part of Jesus’ commandment to “go into all the world to preach the Gospel and make disciples…” (Mt. 28:19-20.)  But religious superiority, exclusivity, and pride brainwashed church believers to shun unbelievers without first trying to give them the Gospel — while most of those sanctimonious believers sit, associate, and party with their unsaved friends and relatives as if they do not know Christ at all!  Jesus warned in Luke 12:8-10, “...He who [actively or passively] denies Me before men will be denied before [God.] And anyone who speaks a word against… the Holy Spirit, [or against His conviction, teaching, leading, true Scriptural gifts, works, and Personhood,] will not be forgiven.]”   

Decidedly compromising and rejecting Jesus Who is the Holy Spirit, (Romans 8:9-11,) amounts to blasphemy.  Left unrepentant, that will result in the “unpardonable sin,” (Acts 16:7-8; 2 Ths. 2:9-13.)  Keeping quiet when we must stand up for the Truth of Scripture, or in false accusation and other types of abuse against others, is sharing in sin.  God commanded in Leviticus 5:1, “If a person hears the utterance of a [sinful] oath, and is witness [of abuse and serious sin,] whether he has seen or known of the matter – if he does not tell it, he bears guilt.”  Proverbs 29:24, “Whoever is a partner with a [sinner] hates his own life.  He swears to tell the truth, but reveals nothing.”  Romans 1:32, “...Those who practice such things are deserving of death, and they who not only do the same but [by keeping quiet or defending sin,] they also approve of those who practice them.”   

 

HOW TO KEEP JESUS IN FOCUS WHILE EATING WITH UNBELIEVERS WITHOUT BEING ‘HOLIER THAN THOU’

To reach lost souls, Jesus ate with sinners, (Mark 2:14-17.)  He did not come to “call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”  Paul, testified in 1 Cor. 9:19-21, “Though I am free from all men, [following Christ as my highest priority,] I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more [souls to Jesus.]  And so, to the Hebrews I became as a Hebrew that I might win Hebrews; [not to participate in their errors and other sin.]  To those who are under the law, as under the law, [while not compromising my identity in Christ and His Scriptural truth, I refused to put up a ‘holier than thou’ attitude or religious superiority towards them.] To those without law, I was as one without law, [by remaining humble and not unnecessarily criticising their beliefs, but seeking an opportunity to declare the Highest God to them: Acts 17:22-26!While not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ, [I remained true to Jesus’ Moral Law and Scriptural truth,] that I might win [some of them as God opened up opportunities to preach the Gospel...]  To all I have become all things to all men, that I, [as God’s instrument,] might by all means save some.” 

Spirit Filled Life Bible 1991, Footnote, “While Paul himself was free of all religious or outward, ceremonial actions, he was constrained by the [lack of knowledge and] weakness of others that he might ultimately win them to Christ. Without violating Biblical morality [or denying Jesus,] he went to any length to enter the world of others and lead them to salvation.” 

So, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:23, “We may eat everything [except human flesh, Genesis 9:3-6.]  But not all things edify [people who are ignorant of the freedom we have in Christ.]  Hence, we must not seek our own [pleasure,] but the [spiritual] well-being of others.” This is why we may, after prayer and thanksgiving, “Eat whatever is sold in the market without question; [we are not here to act legalistically to think we can earn merits from God, but to bring Jesus Himself to the table, because He is the Creator God of food and everything else.]”  1 Timothy 4:3-5, “[Deceivers will command] to… abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.  For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.”  We are not under the ceremonial and dietary laws of the Old Covenant; we live in the grace of Jesus’ spiritual New Covenant.  Romans 14:17, “The Kingdom of God is within [true believers, Luke 17:21-21 KJV,] and it is not [outward ascetic or religious] eating or drinking, but [inward] righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” 

· Therefore, “if unbelievers invite you to dinner, and you desire to go, [the choice is yours because you must prayerfully and in Holy-Spirit leading judge if you will be able to promote the Kingdom of God there,] eat whatever is set before you without questions,” (verses 25-27.) 

· Now here comes the tricky part. “But if they say to you the food was sacrificed to idols, do not eat it.”  Not because the food can harm you or offend God after you have prayed over it. Now, it is no longer about food; it’s about your testimony, which can affect the possible salvation of the unbeliever, and compromise your relationship with Christ.

This person does not have knowledge of your freedom in Christ; do not let him stumble or make you stumble by denying Jesus because you do not want to offend him. If you now eat what is sacrificed to demons after the unbeliever has challenged you by telling you this, you will either confuse him, let him mock your faith, or you will fall into his trap to deny Jesus.

· For the sake of his conscience, (not of your conscience, because you understand your liberty in Christ,) abstain from eating his food when he expressly tells you, “This was sacrificed to idols,” (verses 28-30.) 

Paul explained, “If I partake with thanks [to glorify God and also to cleanse the food spiritually,] why [should I risk] being called evil because of the food over which I gave thanks? Therefore, whatever you eat or drink or do, do all to the glory of God. [In this case, you cannot glorify Jesus at this man’s table. But make sure that] you give no [rude, unmannered, or unwarranted] offense to this unbeliever, [“walking in wisdom towards those who are outside,”] because he is testing your faith [according to his pagan or Christianized standards and not according to the truth of God.]” 

· Ungodly offense to other people is when we treat them vulgarly and/or compromise God’s calling and truth to impress them; annulling our testimony and dishonoring Jesus and His Word.  May God have mercy on our souls! 

· But by saying ‘no’ to sin and false teaching, and standing for God’s truth in Holy Spirit leading, we are not offending anyone, although they might feel offended. If we are going to offend God by keeping quiet or by negotiating His truth, we “grieve the Holy Spirit” and commit idolatry, (Ephesians 4:30.)  There are many situations where we simply cannot “please God and men.”  Although we must never be malicious and rude, we cannot be respectful to their sinful ways just because ‘niceness’ fits godliness and we are all human.  Speaking calmly and straightforwardly to address sin as the Holy Spirit leads, is not rudeness but honesty and obedience to God. 

· When Jesus was invited to eat with a Pharisee, a prostitute came in to wash His feet with her tears and anoint His feet with fragrant oil, and the Pharisee objected.  But Jesus answered, “You gave me no water for My feet…  You gave Me no kiss but she kissed My feet.  You did not anoint My head with oil, but she has anointed My feet.  Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much…”  (Lu. 7:36-50.) 

Once, my Muslim neighbours invited me to one of their religious feasts.  I was free to go, but after seeking God’s face on the matter I kindly refused, because I knew there was no open door to preach the Gospel of Jesus there, (Mt. 28:19-20.) 

I risked offending them and maybe live in enmity with them, because now, they would think I am impolite and they will dislike me.  Still, I will only nurture even family relationships as long as I can be the purifying, preserving ‘salt’ and shine the true Light of Jesus at their ‘tables.’  We don’t have to do that aggressively but politely – and of course, always in the leading of the Spirit.  And we must always stay at Jesus’ feet so that we can discern the Holy Spirit’s will in all of this. 

True believers have chosen the Narrow Way of obedience to Jesus’ Moral Law of Love, which states, “I Am the Lord your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, [the kingdom of darkness,] and out of the house of bondage. [We were redeemed and are spiritually free in Jesus.”  However, may God grant us the grace to live “circumspectly” or carefully, because God commanded,] “You shall have no other gods besides Me.  You shall not… bow down to them, [sit down with them and begin to play with them,] for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…”  (Ex. 20:1-6.) 

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