Rom. 12:1-2 says, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
1) What does it mean to present our bodies a living sacrifice? And why is it called a reasonable service?
Answer: "The love of Christ constrains us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died.; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again." 2 Cor. 5:14. It is simple: The Lord died for us, so we should live for Him.
1 Cor. 6:20 says, "You were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Cor. 9:24-27 says, "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown, . . .I discipline my body and bring it into subjec-tion, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified." The purpose in discipline is to keep this body offered to God always in the best shape. Christians are compared to athletes, who are ready to discipline themselves for worldly fame. We should strive harder for eternal glory.
2) When God created man, what did He give him to eat?
Answer: In Gen. 1:29 God said, "See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food." Advanced knowledge on nutrition affirms that food best suited to health is found in vegetables, fruits, grains and nuts. The nutrition in whole wheat and brown rice is far higher than that of white flour and polished rice, because the natural ingredients in the skin of the grains have been removed in the refining process, leaving mainly starch and protein.
3) When did God permit man to eat flesh foods?
Answer: After Noah’s flood, God said in Gen. 9:3,4, "Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood." Before the flood came, God ordered Noah to build an ark to preserve living species, saying, "Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation. You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of the earth."
It was after the flood that God permitted man to eat flesh foods. At the time only one pair of unclean animals had been preserved, so man must have eaten only clean animals. After the Jews came out of Egypt, God gave them a norm for clean and unclean animals in Lev. 11:2-8: "These are the animals which you may eat among all the beasts that are on the earth: among the beasts whatever divides the hoof, having cloven hooves and chewing the cud--that you may eat. Nevertheless these you shall not eat among those that chew the cud or those that have cloven hooves: the camel, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; the rock hyrax, because it chews the cud, but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; and the hare, because it shews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; and the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. They are unclean to you." The feces of the hare are divided into hard and soft pellets. It chews the cud by eating the soft pellets.
Lev. 11:9-11 teaches how to distinguish between clean and unclean animals that live in the water: "Whatever in the water has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the river--that you may eat. But all in the seas or in the river that do not have fins and scales, . . .they are an abomination to you."
4) What scientific basis is there for these rules regarding clean and unclean foods? Do they help us to keep our bodies in the best of health?
Answer: They are scientific rules. Doctors trained in both Chinese and western medicine teach the sick to abstain from pork. People versed in medicine know that eating shrimp, crab and eel meat tends to excite latent diseases in the body, and eating fish with no scales can cause skin rashes like eczema. For fish toxins are excreted through the scales, so fish without scales retain most toxins in their flesh. The flesh of swine, lobsters, shrimps, crabs and eels have a high cholesterol content, lining the artery walls of all who eat them with fat, thereby increasing blood pressure. Nutrition specialists have made a study of 60,000 vegetarians, and have found that they live 5 to 6 years longer than meat eaters. The advantages of a vegetarian diet are many, but many people are led by their appetite to live to eat, instead of eating to live. The fact is, good cooking can make vegetables tasty. In a word, all who want to keep their bodies in the best shape so that they can give their best to Jesus should be vegetarians. All marathon runners are vegetarians, because a vegetable diet contributes to endurance by retarding the fatigue process. For when an animal is slain, its blood no longer sustains the metabolism in the cells of the dead animal. Yet the cells still function for a time (depending on the ambient temperature). But as there is no blood to carry away the uric and lactic acid, they remain in the cells. When one eats the flesh, his digestive system must send these wastes through the bloodstream to the kidneys. As an athlete uses his muscles, the waste products from his own cells must be handled rapidly in order to avoid fatigue. But if there is meat in his intestines, the toxins from the meat are added to the blood stream, which fails to dispose of them rapidly enough, so fatigue develops faster than in a vegetarian athlete.
5) Apart from the diet, what else should a Christian give attention to, in order to keep his body in the best condition to serve God?
Answer: We must a) have fresh air, b) drink pure water, c) get good exercise, d) get enough sleep, e) don't smoke, drink or use drugs, f) trust in God. Let me explain: a) Our body needs fresh air to carry on metabolism effectively. b) The water we drink should be filtered and used freely, to keep our kidneys functioning properly. Dark urine indicates a water shortage in the body. c) The body was made for action, so every part needs daily exercise to keep them strong. d)Adequate sleep ensures proper recuperation from fatigue. e)1Cor. 6:10 says, "Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." The Bible does not mention smoking and drugs, but anything that defiles the temple of the Holy Spirit is harmful. In the Bible both fermented and fresh grape juice are called "wine." The wine used at the Passover feast was fresh. See Matt. 26:29. When Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast, the master of the feast said to the bridegroom, "Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then that which is inferior, but you have kept the good wine until now." John 2:10. Ancient Jews preserved grape juice by boiling it to a pasty concentrate and sealed it in urns. It was good wine. Fermented wine dulls the taste buds, so that the taste of grape juice is not fully relished, hence it was inferior. Fresh wine from the grape was used by kings. See Gen. 40:11. Grapes ripen in summer and fall, so wine used at the Passover was all preserved grape juice. A papyri letter by a Jewish rabbi has been found in Egypt, telling how they preserved fresh wine for the feast. f) Isa. 26:3 says, "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You." This is true mental health to relieve stress.
6) There is no direct command prohibiting the use of fermented wine. Am I right?
Answer: The Bible early warned men against the danger of drinking fermented wine. Gen. 9:20-23 says, "Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father's nakedness." Prov. 20:1; 23:31-35 says, "Wine is a mocker, intoxicating drink arouses brawling, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise. . . Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly, at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things. Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying, 'They have struck me, but I was not hurt; they have beaten me, but I did not feel it, when shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?'" A rational Christian who wants to serve the Lord certainly would not want to offer him an intoxicated mind and limbs that cannot move under proper direction.
7) What serious sin did two sons of Aaron commit under the influence of fermented wine?
Answer: "Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. . . Then the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying: Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, that you may distinguish between between the holy and the unholy, and between unclean and clean, and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them by the hand of Moses." Before Jesus was crucified, "they gave Him wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink." (Matt. 27:34) Jesus always took care to have a clear mind, so that He could be constantly on the alert---ready to meet every temptation to sin.
8) Is it true that men whom God sets apart for a special mission do not drink fermented wine?
Answer: Yes. Beside Jesus, we have the example of John the Baptist. An angel said to his father, "Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. . . . He shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah." Luke 1:13-17. "John was clothed with camel's hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey." Mark 1:6. We may not need to follow all these particulars, but should practice his principle of simplicity and modesty--not indulging appetite nor being slaves of fashion. 1 Pet. 3:3 says to women, "Do not let your beauty be that outward adorning of arranging the hair, of wearing gold, or of putting on fine apparel. But let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God."
9) Some people believe in praying when one is sick, instead of going to see a doctor or using medication. Is that what the Bible teaches?
Answer: God works on the principle of cooperation between God and man. As in farming, so in health matters. The farmer reaps nothing unless he works the soil, yet without sunshine and rain, nothing will grow. When one is sick, he should ask himself if he has broken the laws of nature. Has he eaten things hard to digest, irritating and harmful? Has he been under stress and had too little exercise? Does he have fresh air and enough water? People with acid stomach usually don't chew their food enough. So stomach trouble caused by wrong eating habits cannot be cured with drugs, nor by blind prayer, but can be cured by correct eating habits. So when one is sick he should first examine himself to see what wrong living habits have led to the ailment, and then correct it. If the illness is not due to one's ignorance, then he should use all available natural remedies to help the body strengthen its powers of resistance against infection. If it is a common cold, one should drink much water, eat much fruit, and recover without using drugs. If after doing all that is humanly possible, and the disease persists, then we may ask God for help. Even after prayer, we can still use natural remedies. For after God promised to heal king Hezekiah, Isaiah said, "Let them take a lump of figs, and apply it as a poultice on the boil, and he shall recover." Isa. 38:21. Once after Jesus healed an impotent man, He said to him, "See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you." John 5:14. The one healed first became ill because of sin, so Jesus warned him not to sin again. After we are healed by God, we must also be careful, not be proud.
10) Rom. 14:1, 2 says, "Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables." Does "eat all things" mean that Lev. 11 has been abolished? How to explain "he who is weak eats only vegetables?"
Answer: In 1 Cor. 8:10 the "weak in the faith" is one whose conscience is weak and overly sensitive. Here "weak" means "fragile," and the topic under study is the matter of eating food sacrificed to idols. 1 Cor. 8:7,8 says, "Some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse." 1 Cor. 10:25-28 says, "Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no question for conscience' sake; for the earth is the Lord's and all its fulness. If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience' sake. But if anyone says to you, 'This was offered to idols,' do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience' sake." Because some were very sensitive on this issue, and knew that idolatrous priests sold their sacrificial bulls and sheep on the market, Christians often asked the meat vendors about what they sold. In due time the vendors knew why they asked, and would deceive them by saying, "My meat has not been offered." As a result, conscientious Christians decided that it would be safest not to eat meat, but only vegetables. 1 Cor. 8:10-13 says, "If anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble." The "meat" mentioned here refers to beef and mutton that may be offered to idols. The "all things" mentioned in Rom. 14:2 should also be understood in this context, and has its reasonable limits. For even non-Christians do not eat poisonous plants and vermin.