November 15 I Thursday
“It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements…” —Acts 15:28
In Acts 15, the council in Jerusalem concluded that Jesus is the only way to salvation. Peter argued against the necessity of circumcision and the Law, “Why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10). In other words, does the law bring us into liberty? Does it encourage us to live? No, it is a yoke that reveals our utter inability to keep the Law
and our need for Christ.
It may seem odd, then, that after reaching this conclusion, James proposed sending out letters instructing Gentiles to “abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality” (Acts 15:29). What is going on here? Is James imposing a lesser law? Are these rules a revised code of conduct that secure salvation?
Absolutely not! What James is acknowledging is that for Jewish believers, it was a huge thing to give up the Law. It could not have been easy to suddenly shake off rules, rituals and traditions around things they had been convinced their whole lives were sins. The Jewish eating laws provide a great example. Though there was nothing inherently wrong with eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols, it would have plagued a Jewish conscience to sit at a table with Gentiles who do so.
As a result, James includes these four instructions as a cultural concession so that Jews and Gentiles could have fellowship together. He asks Gentiles to give up things that were not necessarily wrong in themselves but were causing their Jewish brothers and sisters to stumble. James was not instituting a theological treatise for the conduct of believers; he was making a concession so the church of Jesus Christ could demonstrate unity.
Addressing a similar issue, Paul writes, “If what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall” (1 Corinthians 8:13). As Christ’s church, we should be striving for unity, but we often break unity when we stubbornly hold to our convictions on non-essential matters. If a believer is conscience-stricken by a certain practice in our Christianity, the compassionate thing to do is forsake that practice for their sake. This is not a matter of right and wrong or following laws. We are saved by faith in Christ alone, but as an outpouring of the grace He first showed us, we may sometimes
have to concede certain practices so the body of Christ might be built up in unity.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, reveal to me to any practices in my life that are causing a fellow believer to stumble and grant me a compassionate spirit to stop that practice for their sake. Thank You, God.