Q. During my recent Bible studies, I began to delve into the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. I had never really studied it before. I started to wonder at the meaning behind abstaining from blood and the meat of strangled animals and how it applies to Christians today. After going through various commentaries, I received so many varying points of view that I felt entirely uncomfortable eating any meats.
What are your thoughts on the following:
1. The purpose of the edicts in Acts 15 and their applicability today
2. The Law of Moses’s place for today’s Christian
3. Kosher as it applies to believers today
A. The Bible being a timeless document, the edicts of Acts 15 remain in force, as does the Mosaic Law. Jesus Himself said that He didn’t come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. (Matt. 5:17)
In giving the personal hygiene and dietary regulations God was preventing disease among His people, who because of them had a life span of nearly 100 years at a time when the average Egyptian lived to be about 35. Down through the ages adherence to these regulations has shown to be medically beneficial over and over. And even today it’s been proven that if we followed these laws we’d be much healthier and live longer.
But the real issue here is motivation. If we followed all the behavioral admonitions of the New Testament we’d pretty much be keeping the Law, but for us it’s a matter of living in such a way as to be pleasing to God out of gratitude for what we’ve been given, not working to earn or keep our position. In Romans 3:20 Paul declared that no one would be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the Law. He said the Law was given to make us conscious of sin. My big quarrel with the Messianic movement is the misguided effort among many of its members to put themselves back under the Law again, especially in matters of diet.
Paul, who was present at the Council of Jerusalem, said that for the believer everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. He said we could eat anything sold in the meat market without raising issues of conscience, but that whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, we should do it all for the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:23-33) He also said not to let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink or how you observe the Sabbath or other Holy Days. These were a shadow of things to come, he said. The reality is found in Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)
So I think the believer is free to keep kosher for health reasons and free to keep the commandments out of a desire to please God and express our gratitude for all He’s done. But as soon as these things become “have-to’s” rather than “want-to’s” we’ve defeated the purpose and denigrated the cross.