“It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.”
It’s interesting that these are the only four things that the leaders of the early church required of those that would join their fellowship. Peter also noted that this counsel came from “the Holy Spirit”—it wasn’t just Peter’s opinion.
I’ve never heard a sermon preached on these things, and I know quite a few Christians that ignore most of these requirements. But we cannot easily dismiss these things as being merely meant for the cultural setting and time in which the early church began. These four points are mentioned again and again.
Prior to Moses, and even before Israel was made into a nation, God made it clear that “life was in the blood” and man was not to drink it. Again, this was not a command to a nation, but to Noah—-our progenitor—and to all mankind. God said, “Don’t drink the blood of an animal”—-period. It would come to reason that if an animal was strangled, it would not have been drained of blood. So don’t strangle animals. Cut them (humanly) and bleed them.
I can see how the idea of meat scarified to idols might have been intended for the weaker Christians of this time that were offended by the idea of anything having to do with an idol, but that’s the only part of this passage that we might relegate to “customary laws”.
But the big requirement, the one consistently taught throughout the bible, is sexual morality. Obviously the apostles are not saying that you can only be saved if you are chaste or sexual pure; but it is the witness to others and your respect of the Holy Spirit dwelling within you that is at stake, therefore if you call yourself a disciple of Jesus, live a sexually moral life. Clearly that means a monogamous relationship, for life, with the same partner. Pornography, adultery, fornication, and any form of sexual activity outside the confines of marriage would have been understood as being “not moral” and inconsistent with God’s intentions…….but we don’t like to talk about things like this from the pulpits, do we?
Yet the early church’s leaders were concerned about the integrity of those that were associated with the name “Christian”. Today we seem to say, “Come as you are and stay as you are”, rather than to lay down the requirements of that association that is clear-cut and consistent.
I realize that we’re not supposed to preach morality first and salvation second, but we do seem to be hesitant to discuss death, sex, marriage and morality in general to those of us within the body, it seems to me. These things are issues the early church did not shy away from—-and the church exploded in converts over the next three hundred years. We must be very careful that we do not water down God’s word so as not to divide people. Preaching the word of God will divide people. It’s meant to bring a divide light from dark. Some prefer darkness…