Thanks all. Good stuff.
he is speaking as one who becomes all things to all men, but don't you think Paul clearly teaches that the law has been made of no effect, anulled, nailed to a cross?
He speaks from the law to demonstrate the insufficiency of the law
This is how the principalities and powers were disarmed and the keys to hell and death taken(imo)
Since we on the forum have had spirited discussion on the Law recently, I thought I would open a thread to discuss Acts 15, and something I noticed in the text. The context behind Acts 15 is that Jews were were teaching that Paul was against the Law of Moses, which if you read Romans 7 carefully is clearly untrue. Paul just understood the difference between following moral codes for a purified heart, and following the Spirit for a purified heart according to Grace.
Nevertheless, the Jews were offended. So, the church got together to discuss this difficult issue in Acts 15.
28 "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: 29 that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell."
Ok, so I hear that this scripture is proof that Christians today cannot eat meat sacrificed to idols (notice it doesn't mention the description of the meat as being pork or shellfish, just make sure it's not sacrificed to idols) and blood (therefore no blood sausage you Brits! or things which are strangled (we gotta be Kosher). Not only that, Acts 15 is also used to assert that Christians are bound to other laws within Moses.
Apostle Paul is famously the one preached that meat sacrificed to idols is permissible. So, many people tend to assume that Paul allowed a compromise in his doctrine by being part of the Council of Jerusalem and seemingly not providing objection to what the church was handing down to the Gentiles. But Paul did not allow idol meat in all cases either, or at least he recommended against it in certain cases. Please observe:
1 Corinthians 8
7 However not all men have this knowledge (that idols are nothing and God is one); but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.
So, when the possibility of doing HARM to another person is opened by exercising Gospel freedoms, Paul recommends self-regulated restrictions on for the sake of someone whose faith could be harmed when they don't understand that sacrificial meat is actually fine to eat.
In the case of Acts 15, the issue was not pagans, but Jews. They were offended. Since Paul taught to live peacefully with all men, what could the solution be? Force the freedoms into the surrounding cultures? Or, willingly and lovingly restrict ourselves for their sakes? I think it's the latter.
The Christians in Acts 15, particularly Peter, are crystal clear. Salvation from sin does not come by the Law of Moses, but by GRACE. Peter says,
8 And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; 9 and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
It's really easy to overlook and miss that scripture in among an analysis of Acts 15. You cannot apply greater purification on the heart by Law that Grace somehow doesn't cover. For those who teach that Peter preached Law to the saints in his epistles, this pretty much destroys that teaching because Peter taught the same grace that Paul taught. Paul taught in Titus 2:11 that Grace teaches us to abandon ungodliness. The Law could not achieve that end. Here, Peter is teaching that the cleansing of the heart by faith occurs because of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does the cleaning. Faith is how we access this Grace (Romans 5).
Notice, though, that when they arrive at their recommendations for the Gentile believers, what they say, but particularly what they label these Laws as being:
28 "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater BURDEN than these essentials: 29 that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell."
Do you ever wonder why they didn't select what Jesus called the two greatest commandments? Love eachother. Love God. That doesn't come up here. Why?
Notice how he doesn't say "lay upon you no greater life giving written ordinances than these essentials." No, he says "lay upon you no greater BURDEN." Why a burden? Well, they just got through explaining that the Law of Moses was a YOKE, a hard burden to bear. So why did they place these particular burdens on the Gentiles? Again, because the Jews were offended. Notice what Paul does with Timothy just one chapter later in Acts 16.
3 Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.
So it's really as simple as this: Timothy was circumcised because Jews. Not because it was a commandment from God to Timothy for Timothy's purification of heart, or righteousness by faith. That occurs by the Spirit. Timothy was circumcised because that's what Jews were looking for to keep him out. They wanted to preach the Gospel, and they didn't want circumcision to be a barrier to that. With that in mind here is the reason the church placed this kind of BURDEN upon the Gentiles:
20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.
It's the same reason Timothy was circumcised: because Jews. They were told to do these things "because Moses of old has been preached in EVERY (yes even Gentile) cities since the old times." The church is telling the Gentiles to live at peace with the Jews. Now, notice that "fornication" is included in these BURDENS. How can such a righteous commandment be called a burden? The same way that in Romans 7 the written ordinance "do not covet" can become a burden. When you look to Laws for righteousness, "do not covet" becomes a burden because the sin within you becomes too much to battle.
Grace is what will cause you be cleansed from within, by the Spirit. However, some Gentiles struggled with this, and the church is letting them know that Jews are hearing certain things that the Law does not permit, and if they Gentiles continue in these things, the Jews will be offended and it will place an undo burden upon the Gentile church. Fornication is not permitted but that is because the carnal mind is doomed when we walk according to the SPIRIT, not because we are under Law.
As I have said before, NO Christian is under written codes. We are all under the inspiration of the Spirit to walk in righteousness. You can have blood sausage when you are in Britain (if you go for that kind of thing), but pay mind to those who are with you and around you in the culture. Be smart about your freedoms, because while the Law of Moses can never purify your heart, just know that there are others around you who strongly believe in those Laws. That is what I believe Acts 15 is all about. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts about this.