A church member revealed to me one morning that her leader said if she ate “dinuguan,” then she will lose her salvation. I was surprised that this practice is continually creeping in many churches today. How can we explain this? Are we supposed to observe this practice of Jewish rule?
Dinuguan is a viand or delicacy in the Philippines that came from the blood of animals like pigs and chickens. Cult groups like Seventh-day Adventist, the Messianic groups, and the splintered groups of Herbert W. Armstrong disdain this viand or blood delicacy to avoid eternal condemnation. They constantly cite passages from the Old Testament, which are instructions for the Israelites and not for Christians. But, what will be our response if a person says that Acts 15:28-29 proves you should not eat dinuguan?
In interpreting the Scripture, three important rules must be observed. Those are context, context, and context. A Christian apologist once said that a text out of context is a pretext meant for error. There are many Christians today who quote many passages in the Bible. Yet, they do not observe the proper grammatical-historical setting of the Scripture. Now, the book of Leviticus mentions this law on animal blood observance in several passages.
“No Israelite may eat any fat or any blood; this is a rule to be kept forever by all Israelites wherever they live” – Lev. 3:17
“Moreover, you shall eat no blood whatever, whether of fowl or of animal, in any of your dwelling places.” – Lev. 7:26
“Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood.” – Lev. 17:12
“For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.” – Lev. 17:14
“You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it. You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes.” – Lev. 19:26
Since we are quoting from the Old Testament, one immediately notices that these commands are meant for the Israelites. The Lord issued this command for them to understand that life comes from the blood. And this makes a distinction between them amongst the surrounding pagan nations. After several years, the religious authorities, along with many Jewish members, continued this practice, but not without legalism. Unfortunately, many Jewish carried this legalistic practice, even when they became followers of Christ. This brought disparity between the Jewish believers and the Gentile believers in Antioch. To resolve this issue, Paul, Silas, and the other believers traveled to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles and elders, to consider whether the Gentile believers need to be circumcised according to Jewish law. In the end, Peter stood up to the council saying, “But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (Acts 15:11).
Peter explained that salvation is through God’s grace, not by the observance of any laws. The apostle James concurred saying that Peter’s explanation is supported by the Scripture (see Amos 9:11-12; Isa. 45:21). He now concluded that they should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. However, to address the division between them and the Jewish believers, they must keep the following traditional Jewish practices. These are the following:
- Abstaining from what has been sacrificed to idols.
- Abstaining from eating blood.
- Abstaining from strangled animals.
- Abstaining from sexual immorality (relationship from very close kin).
These were issued by the Jerusalem Council to the Gentile believers in that particular context, but not a dogma to be followed by the universal body of Christ around the world. After all, we are not surrounded by Jewish believers unless you are in Israel. Remember, Gentile believers in Antioch are living among Jewish believers. Therefore the letter is not meant to be followed by believers outside of that geographical context. The apostles believe that if the Gentile believers in Antioch will follow these commands, then their relationship with the Jewish believers will surely improve. (see Acts 15:28-29)
The requirements are not for believers in the Philippines, America, Japan, Russia, Indonesia, or Hongkong, but Gentile Antiochian believers situated in Israel. If this is the case, then it is not contextually right to apply such rules to impose it on every Christian believers not living among the Jewish believers. We are not under law but grace.
Are we now to eat anything since we are not under the law? The Scripture reminds us that everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. (see 1 Cor. 10:23) It is permissible to eat anything. After all, these will not affect our spiritual standing in the Lord. But not all food is beneficial for the body. So, is it sinful to eat dinuguan? Well, if the context is properly interpreted, then no. It won’t even affect your salvation. But we also know the disadvantageous effect of this in our body’s health. Although, preventing oneself from eating blood as a viand or delicacy to avoid condemnation places a believer under the law. A believer usually follows God’s command not to be saved, but because Christ’s love compels him to follow.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” – Jn. 14:15
“For Christ’s love compels us…” – 2 Cor. 5:14
Consider these questions. Why do you disciple the lost? Why do you give more than the tithes? Why do you pray? Why do you avoid alcoholic liquors and smoking? Why do you attend church services? Why do you read your Bible? Why do you abstain from eating pork or dinuguan? Why are you faithful to your spouse? Why do you observe holiness and purity? Is it because you are under the law, or compelled by Christ’s love for us?
First, one needs to check the motive behind, before doing something. Are you doing a particular thing out of legalism? Yes, we are free to eat and drink! But, our freedom should not stumble the young believers around us. And everything a believer does is done out of Christ’s love that compels to give Him glory and honor. As the Scripture says,
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” – Gal. 5:1
“They will try to stop others from getting married and from eating certain foods. God created food to be received with prayers of thanks by those who believe and know the truth. Everything God created is good. Nothing should be rejected if it is received with prayers of thanks. The word of God and prayer set it apart as holy.” – 1 Tim. 4:3-5, God’s Word Translation