Acts 15:28-29: For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep your selves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.
Sometimes we carry burdens we don’t even realize we have taken on. One of the many wonderful attributes of God is that He can free us from any burden, even those we don’t know we have. This was a message necessary to prevail at the Jerusalem Council. Barnabas and Paul left with a letter of great relief to new Gentile Christians. Circumcision was unnecessary for salvation and the inclusion in the body of Christ.
Initially, the letter might have seemed contradictory. The Gentile converts did not have to be circumcised but they to obey certain other Jewish traditions. So, were they actually free from the law or not? Yes, they were free from the law of Moses. No, they were not free from the life-giving laws of God. God’s freedom allows us to come out from the world, and to separate ourselves from the former, worldly, way of life in which we were lost. While the letter from Antioch set them free, the areas of abstinence would help them remain free. One of these prohibitions as an example would be in the purchase of food sacrificed to idols. One might well acknowledge that they would never sacrifice anything to idols. So, what harm could be done by simply buying meat at a cheap price.
Satan often tempts us in a similar fashion. We don’t desire to go back to our old lifestyle, but some of the former habits, friends, or refreshments might seem completely harmless. The warning was essentially that there was nothing harmless about the former elements of a lost lifestyle. Staying close to old and deadly habits can bring us right back to that lifestyle, sometimes, in the most subtle ways. They might also cause someone else to stumble.
You might think of a situation Paul was asked to address in the Corinthian Church. Some might assume that this is contradictory. In 1 Corinthians 8 Paul reminds the Church that eating meat without care for our brother is to bring judgment upon ourselves.
In 1 Corinthians 10:23-29,
All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor. Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience’ sake; FOR THE EARTH IS THE LORD’S, AND ALL IT CONTAINS. If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience’ sake. But if anyone says to you, “This is meat sacrificed to idols,” do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience’ sake; I mean not your own conscience, but the other man’s; for why is my freedom judged by another’s conscience?
When we are raised to a new life, we are given a new opportunity to stay away from the dangerous and deadly acts of our sinful past. We must always remember how our actions and decisions will also affect others around us. Thus, the decision of Acts 15, and the judgment of the Elders and the Holy Spirit. If it is truly avoidable, never do anything if it can help a brother or sister to grow by our abstinence. We must always obey the spiritual necessities, but remain mindful of the “unnecessary.” Our family is always more important than some personal preference or desire. A true sign of maturity is when we consider how our actions affect those around us. May God bless us all to His glory. Godspeed on your journey…