Monday, June 16, 2008

Acts:One of These Things... (15:1-35)

Acts chapter 15 is a little difficult to digest. The idea behind these events is pretty straightforward: the Gentile world does not have to become Jewish before becoming Christian. To put it another way, people are saved by faith alone—not works.
 
And yet there is that list of four admonitions: don’t eat idol sacrifices, strangled animals, blood, and don’t engage in sexual immorality. What are we to make of this list? You almost expect Kermit the Frog to show up in verse 21, and the little jingle to start playing:
 
Three of these things belong together,
Three of these things are kind of the same,
But one of these things just doesn’t belong here,
And now it’s time to play our game,
It’s time to play our game…
 
At first glance, three of these things are merely ritual or perhaps dietary and the other is a sin—and one of the “big ones” at that. However, this list does not involve sins and is not a requirement to be in the Kingdom. It is just a list of things that will enable Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians to fellowship. That fact remains, though, that fornication is a sin. Paul seems to dismiss the dietary issues later as things that are not a sin, but that should be observed in cases where “weaker Christians” may have problems. He does not ever dismiss sexual sin. So what is it doing on this list?
 
All four of these items have in common the fact that they were a part of various pagan cultic practices. Could it be that sexual prostitution is what James was referring to here. It hardly seems to make sense, as Gentile Christians would presumably abstain from that anyway, seeing it as a sin.
How does this list apply today?

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