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Is Ash Wednesday Biblical?

Core Christianity / Adriel Sanchez and Bill Maier
The Truth Network Radio
February 22, 2023 7:06 pm

Is Ash Wednesday Biblical?

Core Christianity / Adriel Sanchez and Bill Maier

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February 22, 2023 7:06 pm

Episode 1168 | Adriel Sanchez and Bill Maier answer caller questions.

Show Notes


Questions in this Episode


1. Should Christians keep the food laws in Leviticus?

2. Why did the Levite allow evil to befall the concubine in Judges 19?

3. Why did God constitute the Levitical dietary laws?

4. Is participating in Ash Wednesday biblical?

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Core Question – How Do Christians Relate to the Law?


Is Ash Wednesday biblical? That's just one of the questions we'll be answering on today's edition of CORE Christianity. Hi, this is Bill Meyer, along with Pastor Adriel Sanchez, and this is the radio program where we answer your questions about the Bible and the Christian life every day. We'd love to hear from you and you can call us right now for the next 25 minutes or so. Here's our phone number. It's 833-THE-CORE. That's 1-833-843-2673. You can also post your question on one of our social media sites, and you can always email us your question at

First up today, here's a voicemail from one of our listeners named Jamie. My question is, I was wondering about the diet. It shows in Genesis of the things that we are to eat, and then again in Leviticus about the things that we are to eat in the law, everybody eats whatever they want, like pork, sausage, and they say that this has all been changed, that God said eat whatever you want. So I was just wondering if we could get some clarification on what the diet should be for us to be following Jesus and just the law. That's all.

Thank you. Yeah, Jamie, a really good question. So those laws that you find, the cleanliness laws related to food and what you eat in places like Leviticus are part of the ceremonial law, which Jesus Christ fulfilled were not under the types and shadows of the law, the ceremonies of the people of God related to the Old Testament, the Old Covenant. We're in the New Covenant now through Christ and his work, and so those laws in particular have been abrogated.

They've been fulfilled. They're no longer binding upon us as believers today. That was a very big conflict in the early church as Gentiles were coming to faith in Christ and joining together with a predominantly Jewish community of faith, if you will, many early converts being Jewish, people who were still, some of them wanting to adhere to some of those ceremonial laws. So there was a tension in the early church, but it's very clear that those food laws have been set aside, that we're no longer to judge each other on that basis. Two passages of scripture, I think, that make this abundantly clear. One is in Acts chapter 10. It's a vision that Peter has. Beginning in verse 9, we read, the next day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. Then he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air, and there came a voice to him, rise, Peter, kill and eat. And Peter said, by no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean. And the voice came to him again a second time, what God has made clean, do not call common.

This happened three times and the thing was taken up at once into heaven. So there, this picture of God cleansing that which was unclean. Now, as the story continues, this is also a picture of the Gentile inclusion, the Gentiles being welcomed into the church as a part of the one body of Christ. The other passage that I was mentioning where this is clear is Jesus' words in Mark chapter 7. In Mark chapter 7, he says something related to food again, beginning in verse 14, he called the people to him again and said to them, hear me, all of you, and understand there is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him. But the things that come out of a person are what defile him. And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable, and he said to them, then are you also without understanding?

Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach and is expelled? And then this is added, thus he declared all foods clean. That's verse 19.

So this is something that even Jesus himself, our Lord, declared. And so we're no longer bound again by those food laws, and so you ask the bigger question, well what should our diet be then? The Bible doesn't bind your conscience on that. I think there's freedom for us to eat and drink only as unto the Lord in everything we do. Paul says whether you eat or drink, do it to the glory of God.

So obviously you think of moderation there and wanting to be healthy, wanting to take good care of our bodies, but you're free to eat pork and bacon and shellfish and all of those things that were forbidden in places like the book of Leviticus because those laws have been abrogated. Thank you, Jamie, for your question. Thanks for that great explanation. Thanks, Adriel.

Appreciate that. This is Core Christianity with Pastor Adriel Sanchez. If you have a question about the Bible or the Christian life, doctrine, theology, you name it, we would love to hear from you. Now if you want to leave a voicemail, you can do that 24 hours a day by calling us at 833-THE-CORE.

That's 1-833-843-2673. Let's go to Diane in Rapid City, South Dakota. Diane, what's your question for Adriel?

Hi there. I'm reading in Judges 19 and about the Levites concubine and she was young and she was given to, I can't think for who it was, anyways, he ended up giving her to the men, homosexual men, and they did with her to whatever they wanted and she ended up dying and there was like 30 of them. And I wonder why that was allowed. Well, obviously just a horrible, horrible situation that is described there in Judges 19. And one of the things that we see, Diane, throughout the book of Judges is the result of sinfully rejecting God's law.

That is when people just go off and do whatever is right in their own eyes, it gets worse and worse, it leads to depravity and to dehumanizing. And that's essentially what happens there in Judges 19. And so of course this is something that God condemns, that God is totally against, but it's being described here as an illustration again for human sinfulness.

And what happens, I mean you have that repetition of that phrase throughout the book of Judges, everybody doing what was right in their own eyes, and that's precisely what's taking place. Now you ask another question which is a broader question that I think applies to any kind of human suffering, which is why was it allowed? Why does God allow such horrific suffering to take place? And that's where I think we have to be very careful that we don't just try to give some flippant, easy answer, just saying, well, here's exactly what God was doing in this situation or in that situation. I'm thinking about the kinds of suffering and abuse that people today experience, horrible things, and that's the question that we ask is, okay, why did you allow this God?

And I think there's a temptation for us to try to search for an answer, you know, what was it that God was doing in this situation? But I think first and foremost we have to lament the horrible things that happen and cry out to the Lord, and take these things to Him, these lamentations, praying to Him, seeking Him, and recognizing that we don't always have the specific answers as to why God allowed something in His providence. What I think some of the greatest theologians have said, Diane, about this is that God does not allow anything that He hasn't already purposed to defeat, to conquer, if you will, and He has done that through His Son, Jesus, and in Jesus, those who experience pain, abuse, suffering, betrayal find an advocate, someone who can sympathize with them in that shame, in that weakness, in that abuse. And, of course, when we think about the story of Christ and His crucifixion, we know that God used that for our redemption, in other words, was able to bring good out of immense evil. And so we have those realities that we can cling to, the fact that we believe that God is good and that God is able to use even horrible circumstances, you know, the sinful actions of men and women for His own purposes, but I want to be very careful in trying to give a simple, well, here's why God allowed this. In the story of Judges chapter 19, I think, just taking a step back in the big picture that we're seeing there in the book of Judges is God exhibiting for us the depths of human sinfulness and what happens when we abandon His law and it's ugly. And so we cry out to the Lord and we ask God for His mercy and we cling to Him, trusting in His goodness and trusting that He is somehow, according to His providence and power, able to use even the sinful acts of men and women, horrible things, for His own sovereign purposes.

Diane, I don't know what you're going through, if this is something more personal for you, but may the Lord be with you and bless you and thank you for giving us a call. Another one of those tough passages of scripture, and there are several of them, and again, we can't presume to know the mind of God or understand completely His providence and sovereignty, so thank you for that explanation, Adriel. Can I just bring up one other verse, Bill, because this is, I mean, the question, right, we're just looking at one text there, but it can be applied in so many situations, and it's a question I think that each and every one of us has asked before. God, what are you doing in this?

How could you allow this? And again, I think you see stories in the Bible of God using these horrible circumstances for His purposes, but I think in the moment we just have to be careful that we don't try to give an easy answer, especially for those who are in the middle of suffering. Joseph, after being betrayed by his brothers and left for dead, you know, after they're restored, he says to them, this is that wonderful verse in Genesis chapter 50 verse 20, as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good to bring it about that many people should be kept alive as they are today. He looks at his story and all the pain and the difficulty he had endured, I mean, really horrific things that Joseph endured at the hands of his own brothers, and he's able to see how God redeemed it, how God used it in his life and even in their lives. And so God is able to do that, and I think that's, you know, we look to the Lord and we say, God, I don't see how you're doing it in this situation, I don't know how you could. Lord, I want to trust you and cling to you and trust what you tell me in your word that you are good and that you care for me. Amen. Great example from the life of Joseph. This is Core Christianity with Pastor Adriel Sanchez. Our phone lines are open.

If you have a question about the Bible or the Christian life, maybe you're struggling in some area of your Christian walk, or maybe you've run up against some persecution of some kind, perhaps at work or at school. We'd love to hear from you. Here's the phone number. It's 833-THE-CORE.

That's 1-833-843-2673. By the way, we're also open to your questions if you have any doubts about the Christian faith. If you consider yourself to be an agnostic or an atheist, Adriel will be happy to talk to you as well.

Let's go to Roger, who's on the line from Kansas. Roger, what's your question for Pastor Adriel? You opened your program with a calling question, and her question had to do with the ceremonial diet, as told in Leviticus, and you answered that question. My question is, why was there a ceremonial law to begin with? Why the book of Leviticus and Deuteronomy? Why was there a ceremonial law to begin with?

Excellent, excellent question. I love the book of Leviticus. I preached to Leviticus some time ago. You've got Genesis, God creating all things from nothing, mankind in his presence there, mankind falls, and mankind is exiled, if you will, from the presence of God, from the garden.

And then the big question is, okay, how are we going to get back into fellowship with the Lord? God calls his people out of slavery in Egypt, the book of Exodus, and he commands them to construct this structure, the tabernacle, which has within it all of this Edenic imagery. There's a quote-unquote tree of life there, this menorah-like tree there in the middle burning with fire. There's all these symbols, if you will, of being in the garden of God back in his presence. And so, Genesis, you have creation and fall.

Exodus, God redeeming his people out of slavery in Egypt. And then Leviticus, it's almost like God is setting the table, if you will, preparing his people to come back into his presence, back to Eden, we might say. But how are they going to do that as sinners?

You have to have this system of sacrifice, and that's what the ceremonial law was. It was the way in which the people of God as sinners could come back into the presence of a holy God, invited to his house. And so God called from the tabernacle. That's how the book of Exodus ends, with the completion of the tabernacle, and then Leviticus begins with God calling his people to the tabernacle and giving them a series of instructions about how they should approach the presence of a holy God as sinners.

That's the answer to the why question. Why the book of Leviticus? It was showing the people of God how they could dwell in the presence of a holy God as sinners.

And a part of that was being distinct from the nations of the world. And so you get some of that with the laws related to food, clean and unclean foods. And a lot of people, was this just random, God choosing certain things not to eat and then saying they could eat other things? The other thing that's helpful is a lot of the ceremonial law has to do with life and death. To be in a state of uncleanness is to be in a state of death or loss of life, leprosy, your bleeding, those kinds of things, right?

It's loss of life. And many of the animals that were forbidden for the children of Israel to eat were those scavenger type animals, the animals that would feed on the carcasses of other animals that were already characterized by death, if you will, and decay. And so the people of God were commanded to steer clear from those because being in the presence of God was this picture of being in the presence of the one who gives life and who is life and so we can't approach him in a state of death. And this is kind of complex, but I'm giving sort of a summary of what you have in the early chapters of the Bible. Now all of that stuff, the food laws, specifically the sacrificial laws, they were shadowy pictures of how God was going to conquer death once and for all through his son Jesus. How he was going to make his people distinct in holiness from all the peoples of the world in and through Jesus Christ and that's why Paul could say in the New Testament in Colossians chapter 2 verse 16. Therefore, let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

Let no one disqualify you insisting on asceticism and the worship of angels going on in detail about visions and saying, look, this is what it was about. Jesus Christ pointing us to Jesus, leading us to Jesus, and so that was the purpose ultimately of those ceremonial laws is they were like these guides leading us by the hand to Jesus Christ. And one of the beautiful things we see in all of that is how all of scripture, the law even in the Old Testament, is meant to take us to Jesus, our Redeemer, our Savior. Thank you for that question and may the Lord bless you.

Some really good words. Thanks for that, Adriel. This is Core Christianity with Pastor Adriel Sanchez. By the way, our mission here at Core Christianity, in case you don't know, is to answer those tough questions about the Bible and the Christian faith, but we can't do that without your support.

Yeah, Bill, you're absolutely right. And today we'd like to invite everyone to consider coming alongside and making a one-time donation. Your support allows us to share the gospel and the core truths of the Christian faith with people all around the world through our radio broadcasts, the podcast, our web articles, free resources, and Bible studies. We hear from so many people who are encouraged by these resources, who are benefiting from them and growing in their Christian walk. And if you've ever been blessed by our program, if you've benefited from what we do, would you consider giving a one-time gift to us today? You can do so right now over at forward slash give. You know, it's your generous support that keeps us going here. We don't receive funds from a church, a denomination, a radio station.

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We do receive voicemails here at Core Christianity, and here's one that came in from one of our listeners named Lori. The question is, can they explain to me what started Ash Wednesday? Why does it start the third Wednesday of every February, every year? And we know it starts Lent, but I still don't understand the full meaning of the ash.

Yeah, thank you for that question. Well, I mean, it's supposed to be, among some Christian traditions, the confrontation of our being confronted with the reality of our frailty, the human condition, the fact that we're liable to death because of sin, that we are essentially going to go back to the dust. And so it was a later tradition. When people ask the question, is Ash Wednesday biblical? Well, it's not something that Jesus practiced. It's not something that the apostles practiced. You don't find it in the New Testament as some sort of prescribed ritual.

It was a later development in the history of the church. Jesus, when He talks about fasting in Matthew chapter 6, says in verse 16, The Father who sees in secret will reward you. There's nothing wrong with fasting. Fasting is a part of Christian piety.

It's something that we're told to do. There are seasons in the Christian life, and I was talking about this yesterday on the broadcast, where maybe it's appropriate to fast or for a church to come together and call a fast because of the need of the circumstances around them. But there's nothing that prescribes in the New Testament seasons of fasting like there were in the Old Testament. So that's where we want to be cautious and not impose things on people that the Bible does not prescribe, per se. And so this is a tradition that developed later in the history of the Christian church, and I think that there are many believers who enjoy it and benefit from it. It's an opportunity for them to focus on the Lord, hopefully. Of course, we want to take Jesus' words to heart there in Matthew chapter 6. Whether Ash Wednesday is something that you practice in your own Christian tradition or not, realizing that with whatever we do, things like fasting, we're not doing it to put on a show before others. It's not about letting other people know what you're doing, blowing the trumpet and saying, look at me.

It's something that we do before the Lord, to pursue Him, to seek Him. Also, the idea there with focusing on our frailty and the fact that we're liable to death, even though I don't think that Ash Wednesday is something that's prescribed in Scripture, again, Jesus didn't do it, the apostles didn't do it. I do think it's important for us today to be reminded of that. Nobody thinks we're going to die. Everybody just sort of thinks I'm going to live forever.

At least that's how we live. And so often in the Psalms, you have those prayers, Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Help me to know, O Lord, how fleeting my life is. And so insofar as this sort of practice reminds believers of that, I think that's a good thing. I think that's something that we need to be reminded of just on the basis of Scripture, that our lives are like the grass of the field, that today is here and tomorrow is gone. And so, Lord, help us to number our days, to gain a heart of wisdom, and to live in light of that reality, the reality that we are going to stand before You one day in righteousness and to cling to Christ as a result of that. And so thank you for that question. I know it's something a lot of people are thinking about today on this Ash Wednesday, and hopefully that was helpful for you. That's so well said. And you know, when we acknowledge our mortality, our frailty, that's something that drives us to the Lord, right? Independence on Him. Absolutely. And like I was saying, I was reading an article not too long ago, Bill, earlier this month, a guy who was spending millions of dollars to try to reverse the effects of aging on him. And that's how we live, how we think. I'm never going to die, and I don't want to approach that. No, the Bible teaches us to number our days so that we might live in light of the reality of what God has done for us in Christ. When you contact us, please let us know how you've been encouraged by this program and be sure to join us next time as we explore the truth of God's word together.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-22 21:10:42 / 2023-02-22 21:20:06 / 9

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