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  • Writer's pictureJan Weihl

Living Righteously (Acts 15)

Churches often split today over what is and is not acceptable in the Christian life. But the question is, how do we live righteously. In other words, how do we live our life in a way that pleases God?

We can learn a lot from the early church. As it began there was a mix of Jews and Gentiles. Some of the believers who were Pharisees thought the Gentiles needed to become Jews and obey the Jewish Law. But as the apostles examined Scripture, they saw it was always God's plan for the Gentiles to be saved. It didn't say they must become Jews:

Acts 15:16-17 After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up; [17] So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord who does all these things.

So then, as a Gentile (a non Jew), what "Law" do I need to follow to live righteously, pleasing God? The Jerusalem council sited 4 things:

Acts 15:28-29 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain (1) from things offered to idols, (2) from blood, (3) from things strangled, and (4) from sexual immorality.

But one could argue that this list was comprised so that the Gentiles in that time would not offend the Jews. If that's the case, does this list still apply to us today?

Let's work through it:

Jesus said the two greatest commandments sum up the entire Law:

Matthew 22:37-40 [37] "‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ [38] This is the first and great commandment. [39] And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ [40] On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

So if I love the Lord God with all my heart, I don't want to do or support anything that the Lord hates.

With that in mind, let's look at the list from the Jerusalem council:

(1) Abstain from sexual immorality, pornea in the Greek.

The definition of sexual immorality is given in great detail in Leviticus 18:1-30 and is clearly defined as actions God hates. In fact, God described sexual immorality as abominations that even defile the land.

God never said later in the New Testament that certain forms of sexual immorality are now ok. All the way to the very end in the book of Revelation, God warned the 7 churches of Asia to flee from all forms of sexual immorality.

So if I am simply asking the question, "how do I live in a way that pleases God?" clearly, I need to abstain from all forms of sexual immorality.

(2) The Jerusalem council advised the Gentiles to abstain from food offered to idols.

The point of this was not really the food but rather where they were going to partake of it. The finest food was found in pagan temples, sacrificed to pagan gods as a part of pagan idol worship. Going into this environment was opening a door to temptation.

So as I strive to live in a way that pleases God, I need to be aware of places that will tempt me to take my eyes off of Jesus and living for Him.

(3) The Jerusalem counsel told the Gentiles to abstain from eating anything with blood (things strangled and with blood). Does this still apply today?

In Genesis 9, God gave us permission to eat flesh after the blood was drained out. This is because God defines life as in the blood. Specifically, God's Word says:

Leviticus 17:14 You shall not eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood.

God wants us to respect life. Where there is blood, there is life. So if we are living to please God, we should not eat anything that has blood in it.

But here's the big thing I learned from studying this passage today. Whether or not the answer is obvious depends on my intent behind the question.

For example: If I'm trying to see what I can get by with or wiggle out of, my question is going to be, "Do I still have to do this?" or "Does this still apply to me today?" When that's my intent, the answer isn't as straight forward. It's much more complex.

But when my goal is simply to live in a way that pleases God, my question is "How can I best please God in this?"

When that's my intent, the answer is obvious. So in these specific cases, I'm going to ask God to help me:

  • Abstain from all kinds of sexual immorality

  • Abstain from eating anything with blood

  • Abstain from being in places where I am tempted to take my eyes off of Jesus

Dear Lord, Thank you for teaching me something new today. Thank you for helping me work through this passage so that I can make sure I am asking the right questions; how to live in a way that pleases You. In Jesus' name, amen.

Jan Weihl

Living Word Ministries

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