Lou: You made reference at the beginning to 1 Timothy 4:1-3. It says some interesting things about forbidding marriage and certain foods. With regard to marriage, didn’t Paul go so far as to say that we shouldn’t marry (1 Cor 7:25-28), and didn’t he write 1 Timothy too?
Graham: Well, by selecting random texts you can prove anything you like from the Bible. But if you take Paul’s comments on marriage in the full setting of 1 Corinthians, he has nothing against marriage whatsoever. In fact, at weddings, whose writings do we quote more than the writings of Paul? He said the nicest things about love and marriage. So one needs to read that part of 1 Corinthians as a description of an emergency; his advice about marriage was an emergency measure at that particular time. It’s not fair to Paul, or to the meaning of marriage, to pluck verses out of their setting.
Lou: This reference to food in 1 Timothy 4, however, makes me wonder. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has had a message about food and health. Could 1 Timothy be talking about that?
Graham: That text is sometimes used against us. We certainly do have some things to say about food. But we don’t teach people to avoid certain foods for arbitrary, ceremonial reasons. Through the centuries there have been religious organizations that have forbidden marriage and certain foods for ceremonial and religious reasons. That’s all 1 Timothy 4 is talking about.
Lou: So you are saying it’s quite a different thing to emphasize concerns about food for health reasons.
Graham: That’s right. Paul in Timothy is not discussing health at all. He is discussing arbitrary ceremonial restrictions that put God in a bad light.
Lou: Moving in another direction, you refer to Job frequently. But why would you use Job as a model, when at the end of the book he talks about repenting? That sounds like somebody who has been wrong and is saying, “I’m sorry. I’m a sinner.” How could Job be a good model when he is repenting?
Graham: A lot of folk, I think, misunderstand Job when they summarize with that statement. Job says, “I repent.” And they say, “The friends were right; they said he should repent.” You see, many people who read Job actually side with the friends. Those who take the narrow, legal view are more comfortable with the theology of Job’s friends than the theology of God in the book. But they fail to read on. After Job says, “I repent,” God says, “Don’t. You have done a beautiful job. You have said of Me what is right and those theologians have not” (Job 42:6-8).
Why then did Job say, “I repent?”
“God,” he says, “I have spoken of many things beyond my understanding. I wouldn’t say it the same way next time” (Job 42:2).
And God says back to him, “Look, We’re sympathetic up here. You’ve lost your family, lost your estate, lost your reputation and you are sitting on a dung heap with your clothes torn and your body covered with boils. We didn’t expect eloquent speeches from you. We think under the circumstances you did magnificently, Job! We couldn’t be more proud of you. You have said of Me what is right.”
Job was saying what every preacher could say at the end of every sermon, “I’m sorry I didn’t do a better job.”