Sabbath Food - Part 1

John Plunkett
June 30, 2012

Through recent conversations with some brethren, I believe that God led me to prepare a sermon series on the subject of Sabbath Food.  As we go along, I would like to ask these questions and answer them from God’s Word:

What are the answers to these questions?

I am in the very early stages of working on this study – one which is already turning out to be quite extensive.  As it is such a big subject, I'm sure that it will take more than one single sermon to cover the whole thing. 

Although I will not get into the core of these three questions today, I feel that it is important for us to discuss and to seriously consider just one small segment of this big topic. This is one aspect I believe to be most important and one that very much needs to be covered.

I want to ask you all to be thinking and praying about this topic over the next little while.  Why?  Because recently it has been brought to our notice that there has been a certain amount of inappropriate judging going on regarding this
– judging between various church members, specifically on this sub-topic of eating out at restaurants on the Sabbath Day.  The judging itself is not just recent; it is something that goes back quite a long way .  

Whichever side of "the fence" you are on this issue, I would like you to consider a couple of very important scriptures, starting with this one:

Colossians 2:16-17:
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

Let us take the new moons sub-topic out of there just for the time being as that is a separate issue all of its own.  But please consider the other sub-topics mentioned by Paul here: Meat, Food, Drink, Holy Days and Sabbath Days.

What is God
– through the apostle Paul – talking about  to us here?  We all know that they are not saying that it is okay for New Testament Christians not to keep God’s Sabbaths and the Holy Days.  We all know, too, that they are not saying that it is okay for us to eat unclean foods. 

The main problem here, as brought out in this scripture in Colossians, is unrighteous judging.  Now judging is yet another major topic all of its own.  In a surprising number of scriptures God tells us that it is very right to judge righteous judgment; so we should beware of "throwing the baby out with the bath-water."

If, through personal, diligent, Bible study and prayer, you believe that God and His Word do not permit you to eat out at restaurants on God’s Sabbaths and Holy Days, please exercise your right to refrain from doing so; but without unrighteously judging those who believe otherwise.

Now, on the other side of the issue: if, through personal, diligent, Bible study and prayer, you believe that God and His word do permit you to eat out at restaurants on God’s Sabbaths and Holy Days, then please exercise your right to do so; but without unrighteously judging those who believe otherwise.

Please note what I said here: "through personal, diligent, Bible study and prayer."  Please do not just parrot your minister's or your church group’s policy on the subject
– especially if it happens to be the most convenient choice for yourself.

If you have not studied it yourself, then you really need to do so.  If you have not studied it yourself, you cannot have true faith that your belief is the correct one.  That is exactly why I am studying it right now.  I want to know what God and His Word say and teach on this issue
– not just what other men have told me and taught me over the years, and what I have accepted blindly without proving it for myself.  We need to know what God’s Word says about it.  Because if it is not of faith it is sin:

Romans 14:23
And he that doubts is damned if he eat, because he eats not of faith: for whatever is not of faith is sin.

I know, o course, that Paul is not talking about eating out in restaurants here.  I don’t know if they even had restaurants in Paul’s time.  Let us stay here in Romans 14 and glean a few more relevant and important points from it.  Paul is writing here about differences between brethren over food; there is no doubt about that – yes, other aspects of food-related differences than our particular topic today.  He was writing about vegetarianism versus meat eating.  He was writing about specific days on which to have voluntary fasts.  Possibly, he was also talking about meat offered to idols.  The same, very relevant, Christian-living concepts can be gleaned from these scriptures and can be applied to our topic today.  So let’s go back to the beginning of Romans 14, and apply the inspired words of the apostle Paul to our topic today:

Verses 1-2:  Him that is weak in the faith receive you, but not to doubtful disputations.  For one believes that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eats herbs.

Again, let us apply these instructions to our topic of eating out on God's Sabbaths and Holy Days.  Many of us, over the years, have read these words and we have proclaimed, without researching the topic in detail, that the brethren we disagree with on a certain issue are the ones who are weak in the faith.  Let’s admit it, this approach is carnal, inaccurate, selfish and immature. This approach is certainly not God’s "way of give."  Continuing...

Verse 3:  Let not him that eats despise him that eats not; and let not him which eats not judge him that eats: for God has received him.

The original Greek word for ‘despise’ means ‘set at naught’ or 'esteem least' – belittling the other person; feeling that their opinion is not worth anything.  It also can mean 'have contempt for' – contempt for our brethren!

The main point is this:  Whichever side of "the fence" you are on, please do not unrighteously judge the brethren on the other side.   Why not?  Because "God has received them."  Yes, them as well as you.  They too are God’s called children.  They are your spiritual brothers and sisters.  We are not to look down on our brothers and sisters just because we disagree with them on these kinds of things.  Of course, we do have differences of opinion between brethren.  We have much variety of backgrounds and experience in the church.  We are not all expected to be the same, except on the really important points. 

Verse 5:  One man esteems one day above another: another esteems every day alike... {Again, he is not saying that it is permissible not to keep the Sabbath}... Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

Can we be "fully persuaded" if we have not studied this for ourselves, or that we just toe our minister’s line, or the policy of our Church of God group?  What if they are wrong?  What if they have not studied it adequately and are merely toeing somebody else’s line, either from the present or the past.  Maybe their opinion on it is merely for the sake of their own convenience.  Again, please remember what God says: "If it is not of faith, it is sin!"

Verses 6, 10:  He that regards the day, regards it to the Lord; and he that regards not the day, to the Lord he does not regard it.  He that eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he that eats not, to the Lord he eats not, and gives God thanks...  But why do you judge your brother?  Or why do you set at nothing your brother?  For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

It is a serious thing to set our brethren at naught or at nothing!

Verse 13:  Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.

This is not telling us that we are not to judge at all.  Please remember, we are to judge righteous judgment. 

Verse 15:  But if your brother be grieved with your meat, now walk you not charitably.  Destroy not him with your meat, for whom Christ died.

If we grieve or offend one of our brethren due to our stance on food, then we're not being charitable – we're not walking in Christian love.  We must be walking with true, Christian agape love.  We can apply this concept to our restaurant situation:

First, let me address those who choose not to eat out on the Sabbath and the Holy Days.  If some of your local brethren or those that you are attending the Feast with choose to eat out on the Sabbath or the Holy Days, please do not criticize them because of their choice.  Please do not try to convince them to change their minds. Please do not make it hard for them .  Please do not make it a point of division – perhaps by loudly proclaiming, “We're going off now to eat our lunch... by ourselves... in our room!”  I jest only partially because accusations have been made along these lines, and that brethren have caused divisions in such ways.  Having said this, we have found the brethren that we know personally on this side of "the fence" to handle their differences in very a gentle and humble manner. 

Secondly, for those who do choose to eat out on the Sabbath and the Holy Days, if some of your local brethren do not eat out on the Sabbath or Holy Days, please don’t criticize them because of their choice.  Please do not try to convince them to change their minds.  Please do not make it hard for them. And above all, please don’t make it a point of division – by loudly proclaiming “Bye!  We're off to the restaurant now!”  Again, I jest only partially because such things have been done.  If you choose to eat out on the Sabbaths or Holy Days, you actually have more opportunity to promote unity in this regards, especially in the tiny Church groups so prevalent today.  You have an even greater opportunity for Christian, unifying, non-divisive action which is God’s way of give – perhaps by even foregoing your restaurant meal and joining the others for their non-restaurant meal.  Although this would be a win-win, "give way" of handling it, it is just a suggestion and I am certainly not saying that it is the law on the subject.

Verse 16:
Let not then your good be evil spoken of:

Whichever way you believe on this, I'm sure that you believe that your point of view is good and not evil.  Of course you do. What God is telling us here is that we must not turn something that we believe to be good into something that is definitely evil – in other words in this case, further division in God’s Church.

Verse 17:  For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

In Matthew 6:33, Jesus tells us quite clearly that we are to seek first the Kingdom of God and the righteousness of God.  The apostle Paul adds two more priorities here: peace and joy.  These are two major fruits of God’s Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22).  These are the high priorities – big ones!  Food and drink are not the priorities!  And yet we know of sincere, humble brethren who have been virtually kicked out of certain Church of God groups because of their personal beliefs on these issues.  This should not be so! Again, from what little we know of these cases, those brethren were not causing division as they were accused; but they were quietly exercising their sincere beliefs.  It may be true that some of them respectfully and privately disagreed with their church ministry on the issue and that, perhaps, tells a story of itself – that there are ministers out there that, if you disagree with them on anything, then you are on your own...  "It's my way or the highway!"  Where is the peace and joy in such an approach?

Verses 18-19:  For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.  Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

Are we serving Christ?  Are we edifying one another?  To edify is to build up.  Are we building one another up and not tearing one another down? 

Verse 20:  For meat destroy not the work of God.  All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eats with offense.

Can we really offend a brother in our eating?  Yes, we can; and God tells us here that it is evil for us to do so.

Verse 21:  It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby your brother stumbles, or is offended, or is made weak.

Would you deliberately, uncaringly drink wine, beer or whiskey in front of a brother or a sister who you know to be a recovering alcoholic?  Of course you wouldn’t.  Then please think about it in this regard as well and apply the same concept in this case with true agape love for your brothers and sisters; yes, even those who you might disagree with on such matters.

Verses 22-23:  Have you faith?  Have it to yourself before God.  Happy is he that condemns not himself in that thing which he allows.  And he that doubts is damned if he eat, because he eats not of faith: for whatever is not of faith is sin.

Would you deliberately do something that in your eyes is allowable, but offends other brethren?  God says that if you do you are bringing condemnation on yourself.  The apostle Paul also says that if you do it and are doubting – you are not really sure what God’s law rules on it – then you are in danger of damnation on this point.  Do not doubt!  Please study to be sure.

In either case, whichever side of the restaurant fence you are on, please do not make it a cause for division, as some have done and as others have been accused of.

We will study this issue in detail over the next couple of months and hopefully we will all be happy with the conclusion we come to, because it is God’s Word on the subject.

Until God sets up His two witnesses or until Jesus Christ Himself returns and clarifies everything in the finest detail, there will always be certain points for disagreement
– points that may not be totally clear to us.  We may ask the question, “Was Jesus able to foresee this likelihood of disagreement?”  Of course He was.  In closing. I would like us to read what He prophesied in this regard:

Matthew 18:7:
Woe to the world because of offenses!  For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!

We don’t want "that man" to be you; and I don’t want it to be me!  Paraphrasing, I believe that what Jesus is telling us here is this: 

“Beloved brothers and sisters, 
Please agree to disagree, 
But without being disagreeable.”