Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Acts and Mission 60

JerusTem.jpgHere goes the fundamental decision by the Apostolic council in Jerusalem. They debate whether or not Gentiles have to be follow the Torah to be saved — reduced to circumcision. Peter, Paul, Barnabas tells stories; James knows their stories but appeals to Scripture. Gentiles are part of the eschatological people of God, and experience shows that they come in by faith and not by Torah. So they render this most important of decisions:

15:19 “Therefore I conclude that we should not cause extra difficulty for those among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 15:20 but that we should write them a letter telling them to abstain from things defiled by idols and from sexual immorality and from what has been strangled and from blood. 15:21 For Moses has had those who proclaim him in every town from ancient times, because he is read aloud in the synagogues every Sabbath.”


There are various ways to read these expectations (Beverly Gaventa: The Acts of the Apostles (Abingdon New Testament Commentaries)
): it could refer to the Noahide laws, the laws Gentiles are to keep because they are universal. Or it could refer to the laws Gentiles were to keep when they are dwelling in the Land of Israel (Lev 17-18), which would suggest that Syrian Antioch might be the furthest reach of the Land of Israel north. The focus for all is on idolatry.
Four things Gentile believers are to follow, at least to follow in the Land:
1. Abstain from things defiled by idols — probably food and drink offered to idols.
2. Abstain from sexual immorality.
3. Abstain from food that has been strangled.
4. Abstain from drinking blood.
Gentiles are saved by faith in Christ, but they are expected to keep these laws — for salvation? for the sake of Jewish believers’ consciences? for any time they are in the Land? Forever and ever?
Comments read comments(3)
post a comment

posted November 12, 2009 at 7:15 pm

I had a prof in seminary that believed we were still, to this day, to abstain from eating blood. Just about every culture has blood sausage of some kind, so I asked in class if they were to not eat them, and he said they should not. I was flabbergast. That seems to me to be saying you do have to give up your culture and take on the Jewish culture.
I interpret the passage to mean they should not eat such things to keep from offending Jews, but not to worry about it in other cases. I think that works with Paul’s view of meat sacrificed to idols in 1 Cor. as well.

report abuse


posted November 13, 2009 at 3:46 am

The Jerusalem Conference laid many groundrules for how discussions and decisions are made. There was to be no ironfist where the apostles word was always right. Not even that the Pharisees were right either.
So there were important precedents in how believers should work together.
The actual decisions the Conference came to are tricky. Paul basically said eating stuff offered to idols was not a sin later, but the significant part was that we should never use our freedom in Jesus as a license to do as we please.
Items 2, 3 and 4 were probably to lessen Jewish sensitivities in the Roman world.
But it was still the fact that all believers, Jew and Gentile, should live in harmony as disciples of Jesus, and this is what Paul recognised. He went further bringing husband/wife, slave/master, etc into harmony by submitting to each other. Radical stuff, then and now!
What about Item 2? The definition is very broad as to what the Gentiles should and should not do as far as sexual immorality was concerned. But the principle of committment to Jesus and thus committment to our partner was there for all to see, and that was what made the followers of Jesus different. That is, there was not the pre-occupation with sex that seems to burden some. Sex is a gift from God, and not to be abused in any way. Sex was and still is, commitment to another in love for Jesus sake. Not all can do it, but it is the ideal. The grace of God covers any gaps in more ways that we can understand.

report abuse

Warrick Farah

posted November 13, 2009 at 9:04 am

Dr. McKnight, This is a favorite text of those who advocate insider movements (IM) of Muslims who trust Christ but who remain in Islam. IM says that since Gentiles did not have to convert to Judaism (Acts 15:19-21), Muslims should not convert to Christianity (Christendom) but can socially and religiously remain as Muslims (1 Cor. 7:20). Since you are the NT scholar, I wonder if you can comment on this: aren’t the 4 prohibitions you outlined above related to pagan temple worship that was common among 1st Century Gentiles? If so, then it seems to me that Acts 15 says that Gentiles do not have to go through the Old Coventant first to get to the New Covenant(PTL), but it also says that they should not identify with their old pagan spiritual identity (cf. 2 Cor. 6:14ff). So Acts 15 seems to say that Muslims who come to Christ don’t have to convert to Christendom(PTL), but that they should cease certain elements of Islamic worship incompatible with biblical faith, i.e. they cannot religiously remain in Islam because they have a new religious/spiritual identity in Christ. So my question is, are the prohibitions in Acts 15:19-21 relating to pagan temple worship?

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More Blogs To Enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Jesus Creed. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Red Letters with Tom Davis Recent prayer post on Prayables Most Recent Inspiration blog ...

posted 11:15:58am Aug. 16, 2012 | read full post »

Our Common Prayerbook 30 - 3
Psalm 30 thanks God (vv. 1-3, 11-12) and exhorts others to thank God (vv. 4-5). Both emerge from the concrete reality of David's own experience. Here is what that experience looks like:Step one: David was set on high and was flourishing at the ...

posted 12:15:30pm Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Theology After Darwin 1 (RJS)
One of the more important and more difficult pieces of the puzzle as we feel our way forward at the interface of science and faith is the theological implications of discoveries in modern science. A comment on my post Evolution in the Key of D: ...

posted 6:01:52am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Almost Christian 4
Who does well when it comes to passing on the faith to the youth? Studies show two groups do really well: conservative Protestants and Mormons; two groups that don't do well are mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics. Kenda Dean's ...

posted 12:01:53am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Let's Get Neanderthal!
The Cave Man Diet, or Paleo Diet, is getting attention. (Nothing is said about Culver's at all.) The big omission, I have to admit, is that those folks were hunters -- using spears or smacking some rabbit upside the conk or grabbing a fish or ...

posted 2:05:48pm Aug. 30, 2010 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.