19 “Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. 21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.” (Acts 15:19–21)
As chairman of the Jerusalem Council, James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus, rendered a judgment. The word judgment (κρίνω; krino) means to give an opinion, make a decision or to hold onto a particular viewpoint. The grammar in the Greek indicates that James’ judgment was not only what he believed at this point in time, but also what he would commit to in the future.
James’ judgment was that the church, and its leadership, should not cause difficulty for the converted Gentiles. In other words, the Gospel for the Jews is the same Gospel for the Gentiles. It is by God’s sovereign grace, the enablement by God-given faith, in the person and work of Jesus Christ that sinners, Jew and Gentile, can repent of their sin and receive Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. Nothing else must be added to this Gospel message of justification.
However, what follows justification is sanctification. Sanctification is a growing life of holiness unto God and unto one’s fellow man. Sanctification is a cooperative and lifelong effort by the believer and the Holy Spirit (Philippians 2:12-13).
It is with this mindset that James proposes several guidelines for the Gentile believers. These guidelines were not given in order to convert the Gentiles, but rather to instruct them into the importance of a believer’s holy lifestyle.
James encouraged the council to encourage the Gentile believers to (1) abstain from the things polluted by idols; (2) to abstain from…sexual immorality; and (3) to abstain… from what has been strangled, and from blood.
Dr. John Walvoord writes, “The Gentiles were to abstain from three items: (a) food polluted by idols, (b) sexual immorality, and (c) the meat of strangled animals and … blood. Many Bible teachers say these are only ceremonial matters. All three prohibitions in Acts 15:20 are best taken in an ethical or moral sense. If this be so, they are still the responsibility of Christians today, even to the point of not eating blood sausage and raw meat. By not attending temple banquets, or being involved in fornication, or eating meat with blood in it, the Gentile Christians would be maintaining high moral standards and would keep from offending their Jewish brothers.”
The high moral standards of the early church are to be the high moral standards of today’s church. God’s Word has not changed.
Soli deo Gloria!