Aug 30, 2009

Wilson on the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15

“The council handed down its decision: Non-Jews entering the Church should not have the Jewish rite of circumcision imposed on them. In its decision the council emphasized the principle of God's free grace in Christ. Gentiles were to know that to stand in the liberty of Christ meant no preconditions or potentially entangling qualifications. So stated, the council ruled out any ‘theological necessity of circumcision for righteousness’ Gentiles should be clear on this point: Salvation was a gift of God; one could not procure or obtain it by mere conformity to any ceremonial ritual.”

”While Gentiles were not subject to the ceremonial law, the council did request that they support Jewish-Gentile fellowship in the Church, that is, that they respect and honor the conscience of their Jewish brothers and sisters. Accordingly, the Jerusalem apostles specified four areas- most of which were associated with pagan or idolatrous practices- Gentiles should avoid: (1) food polluted by idols, (2) eating blood or meat from which the blood had not been drained in a kosher manner, (3) the meat of strangled animals (a guideline similar to the preceding), and (4) fornication- that is, pagan standards concerning sex (see Acts 15:20, 29). Furthermore, in the apostolic declaration it is probably correct to see ‘a form current in the first century.’ The rabbis defined the Noachian commandments as seven commandments binding on the descendants of Noah (Gentiles), that is, on all mankind.”

Marvin R. Wilson, Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 48–9.

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