III. THE TRUTH CONCERNING FOOD
In verse 3 Paul speaks of “foods which God has created to be partaken of with thanksgiving.” All edible things were created by God for men to live on. We should partake of them with thanksgiving to God out of a grateful heart.
Because all food is God’s gift to us, we should receive it with thanksgiving. As we partake of our food, we should say, “Lord, thank You.” However, we do not have to follow the traditional ritual of saying a so-called word of grace. On the one hand, I do not agree with the practice of such a ritual; on the other hand, I do not agree with neglecting to thank the Lord for the food He has given us. I can testify that I thank the Lord again and again for my food. I even thank Him for a glass of water and say, “Lord, this water is a gift from You, and I thank You for it.” Those who practice saying “grace” usually do so before they start eating. But we should thank the Lord for our food not only before we eat it, but also while we are partaking of it and when we have finished our meal. Furthermore, we may express our thanks for each particular item we eat.
The foods God has created should be partaken of with thanksgiving “by those who believe and have fully known the truth.” To believe is to be saved and thus begin in the spiritual life. To have fully known the truth is to realize God’s purpose in His economy and to grow unto maturity in the spiritual life. God desires all men to be saved and to come to the full knowledge of the truth (2:4). The truth here is God’s New Testament economy. As those who are saved by believing in the Lord Jesus for salvation and who know the content, the reality, of God’s economy concerning Christ as the mystery of God and the church as the mystery of Christ, we should be thankful for all the food we eat. Those who believe and who know the truth are qualified to receive their food with thanksgiving. We know that we are living on earth for God and for His purpose. Thus, we receive what He has prepared for our sustenance, and we thank Him for it all.
In verses 4 and 5 Paul goes on to say, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, being received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified through the word of God and intercession.” The statement that “every creature of God is good” is contrary both to Gnosticism, which teaches that some created things are evil, and to ascetic teachings that command men to abstain from certain foods. Some insist that we should eat only vegetables and not meat. But according to Paul’s word, every creature of God is good.
Furthermore, Paul says that “nothing is to be rejected.” In the past, I politely said, “No, thank you,” when I was served certain foods at Cantonese feasts. In particular, I declined to eat turtle, snake, or frogs. I simply was unable to eat those things. But according to Paul’s word, we should not reject anything created by Him, but receive all things with thanksgiving.
In verse 5 Paul concludes, “For it is sanctified through the word of God and intercession.” All the food we eat can be sanctified, separated unto God for His purpose, through the word of God and intercession. Here the word of God refers to the word of our prayer addressed to God, of which part may be quotations from the Scriptures, or part, messages we hear and read. In this verse intercession refers to our prayer to God for the food we eat. Such prayer separates our food from being common and sanctifies it unto God for His purpose, that is, to nourish us that we may live for Him.
Many versions do not have the boldness to use the word intercession, even though this is the meaning of the Greek word. Instead, they render the Greek word as prayer. But here Paul is definitely saying that we should make intercession for our food. We may pray for ourselves, but we intercede either for someone else or for something. According to Paul’s word in this verse, we need to intercede for our food and ask the Lord to sanctify it. Whenever we sit down to eat, we should pray for the food and make intercession for it, saying, “Lord, sanctify this food for Your purpose that it may nourish Your servant. Lord, I believe, and I know the truth. I am here on earth for You and for Your economy. I need this food, and I ask that it be sanctified, separated, to Yourself for the fulfillment of Your economy.” In the eyes of God, after intercession has been made for our food in this way, the food becomes holy. This is the proper way to receive our God-given food with thanksgiving.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)