Sunday, 31 December 2017
…for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. 1 Timothy 4:5
Paul said in the previous verse that “every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving.” Any person who reads that without a presupposition would obviously conclude that there are no dietary restrictions of any kind levied upon the believer in Christ. No other conclusion could be made. Paul now explains why this is so. He says, “for it is sanctified by the word of God.”
These words are not without debate as to their intended meaning, but what is certain is that Paul uses the exact term “word of God” about ten times when speaking of the Bible. He also calls it “the word of the Lord,” and “the word of truth.” Though the term “word of God” is not limited to the Bible, it encompasses what we would now call “the Bible.” If God has spoken, and if it is recorded in the Bible, then what is said is “sanctified” or “made holy” through His proclamation.
In Genesis 1:29, God gave all the herbs which yield seed, and every tree whose fruit yields seed, to man to eat. Thus all plant life of this kind is sanctified for food. In Genesis 9:2, 3, every beast of the earth, every bird of the air, and every fish of the sea – indeed, “every moving thing that lives” was granted as food to man. The only restriction at that time was consuming the blood. Thus every creature of God is sanctified through His proclamation.
The dietary laws of the Law of Moses were given to Israel alone. They were given for a set period of time, and for specific purposes (as explained in the previous verse). The set period ended at Christ’s fulfillment of the law, as did the set purposes. The proclamation of God in Acts 10 to Peter concerning the annulling of these dietary laws, along with Paul’s explanation of these things in the epistles (including this verse), show that God’s proclamation has sanctified all creatures for food.
There are now no dietary restrictions to be placed upon any people, because the word of God has spoken. To say that dietary laws are still in force, is to deny the word of God. It is to call unclean that which God has purified. It is to reject the word of God, and it is to bring condemnation upon oneself.
But Paul does continue by saying that every creature is acceptable, having been sanctified by God “and prayer.” What God has authorized is to be accepted with thanks and praise. Prayer itself has a sanctifying power in our lives, because it shows that our consciences accept what God has allowed, and that we are grateful for it. If we have a defiled conscience and eat, we sin. As Paul says in Romans 14:23 (in a passage speaking about that which is clean and acceptable for eating and drinking, meaning all things), “he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.”
As a final point concerning the words of this verse, though they are speaking of food, the precept surely stands for any precept of our lives. Quite often people ask, “How do I know if I should accept this job?” or “How do I know if I should marry this woman?”. The answer is found in the precept laid out by Paul here. If something is not forbidden in the word of God (meaning Scripture), then it is – by default – something that one can participate in with a clear conscience. If it is something they desire, they should sanctify that decision with prayer, and they should then trust the Lord with a clear conscience. God is not going to give us a sign in heaven over such things, and he does not expect us to ask approval from our pastor if it is OK to do such things. Rather, He gives us free will to direct our lives, and expects us to do what is lawful, but to sanctify what we choose through prayer.
Life application: The more you speak to the Lord about the affairs of your life, the closer You will be to always being in God’s will. But You must know first what the word of God allows, and what it forbids. If your words to the Lord are in accord with His will (meaning His word), then speak to Him about it, asking Him to bless or inhibit your desire according to His will, and then proceed on with what You have raised to Him in faith.
Lord God, may we understand that those things which are not forbidden for us are acceptable for us. And so if we have a life-decision to make, and it is not contrary to Your word, help us to remember to sanctify our desire through prayer, and then to go forward with a clear conscience, and in faith, with our decision. If it is meant to be, it will come to pass, and if it is not Your will, then surely you will inhibit its happening. But help us always to first check if what we desire is allowed, and then we shall move forward in faith. Amen.