I’m preaching on Acts 15 this week, which is the big discussion the early church had about wether Gentile christians were required too follow the law of Moses in order to be saved.
The tricky part of the passage is that although the apostles and elders say no, the gentiles don’t have to follow the law of Moses, they do ask the gentiles to do four things – don’t eat meat offered to idols, don’t eat strangled meat, don’t eat blood, and don’t engage in sexual immorality.
The big question is, why are these four commands given? I had always thought that this was a matter of not offending the Jewish Christians, and that’s why we no longer have to keep these commands today – most Christians just aren’t in contact with any Jews. The problem with this reading is sexual immorality. It isn’t just a ceremonial concession to maintain fellowship with Jewish brothers and sisters, it is wrong under any circumstances.
Fortunately, Kutz our student did assignment on this recently. His suggestion (which follows Ben Witherington), is that the four issues addressed are a kind of shorthand for worship at idol temples, and what the apostles are saying is “you don’t have to follow the law of Moses, but don’t go back to living the life of an idol worshipper.
I think I’m convinced – so Kutz has more than earned his pay this week (not that you have to do much to earn a student minister pay!!).