We as gentile believers can take comfort in these initial words of encouragement.
Act 15:8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
We may have lost sight of these exhortations though…
Act 15:19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
This message was both written and orally confirmed to them.
Act 15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
Old John Gill has a long comment on these “rules”.
But that we write unto them,…. Or send an epistle to them, to this effect, concerning the following things:
that they abstain from pollutions of idols; that is, from eating things offered to idols; see Act 15:29 for not idolatry, or the worshipping of idols itself, is here spoken of; for that was no indifferent thing; and besides, these converted Gentiles were turned from that, and there was no danger of their returning to it; but eating things sacrificed to idols was an indifferent thing; but yet inasmuch as it had a tendency to lead to idolatry, and gave offence to the Jewish believers in the churches, and was a stumbling block to weak minds, who by the example of stronger Christians, were led to eat them as sacrificed to an idol, and so their weak consciences were defiled, therefore it was very proper to abstain from them;
and from fornication; not spiritual fornication or idolatry, but fornication taken in a literal sense, for the carnal copulation of one single person with another, and which is commonly called simple fornication: the reason why this is put among, things indifferent is, not that it was so in itself, but because it was not thought to be criminal by the Gentiles, and was commonly used by them, and which must be offensive to the believing Jews, who were better acquainted with the will of God; this is omitted in the Ethiopic version:
and from things strangled; that is; from eating them, and design such as die of themselves, or are torn with beasts, or are not killed in a proper way, by letting out their blood; but their blood is stagnated or congealed in the veins: the Jews might not kill with a reaper’s sickle, nor with a saw, nor with the teeth, or nail; because these חונקין, “strangled” (a): and what was not slain as it should be, was reckoned all one as what dies of itself; and whoever ate of either of these was to be beaten (b); the law respecting these things was of the ceremonial kind, and peculiar to the Jews, and was not binding upon the Gentiles; for that which died of itself might be given to a stranger, and he might eat it, or it might be sold to an alien, Deu 14:21 this has been wanting in many copies, and it was not read by several of the ancient fathers:
and from blood: which is not to be understood of the blood of men and shedding of that, which is of a moral nature; but of the blood of beasts, and of eating of that. There were several laws about eating of blood, and which are different, and ought to be carefully distinguished. The first is in Gen 9:4 “but flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood there of, shall you not eat”; which forbids the eating of flesh with the blood; but not the eating of flesh separately, nor the eating of blood separately, provided they were properly prepared and dressed, but the eating of them together without any preparation. As this was the first hint to man that we know of, that he might eat flesh, it was proper that the manner in which he should eat it, should be suggested to him; that he should not take the creature alive and eat it, or tear off any of its members and eat it whilst alive, or eat raw flesh; but should prepare it by roasting or boiling, or some way, in which it might become proper food: and it is the constant sense of the Jewish synagogue (c), that this law is to be understood of the member of a living creature, torn from it, and eaten whilst alive; six commands, the Jews say, were given to the first man Adam, the first five forbid idolatry, blasphemy, shedding of blood, uncleanness, and theft, or robbery, and the sixth required judgment against offenders; to these were added, for the sons of Noah, a seventh, which forbid the eating of the member of a living creature, as it is said, Gen 9:4 (d). So that this law has nothing to do with eating of blood, simply considered, and no more forbids eating of it separately, than it does eating of flesh separately: in like manner is the law in Deu 12:23 to be understood, and is so interpreted by the Jewish writers (e): another law is in Lev 19:26 “ye shall not eat anything with the blood”; which according to our version, seems to be the same law with the former, but is not; for it is not said here, as before, ב, “in”, or “with”, but על, “upon”, “over”, or “by” the blood. This is differently understood: some think the sense is, that no one should eat of the sacrifices, before the sprinkling of the blood upon the altar (f); or until it stands or is congealed in the basons (g); others, that it is a caution to judges, that they do not eat until they have finished judgment; for whoever judges or passes sentence after he has eat and drank, is as if he was guilty of blood (h): another observes (i), that next to this clause, it is said, “neither shall ye use enchantment”; meaning that they should not use enchantment by eating, in the way that murderers do, who eat bread over the slain, that the avengers of the slain may not take vengeance on them; this author smells something superstitious or diabolical in this matter; and indeed this is the case; the truth of the matter is, it refers to a practice among the Heathens, who fancied that blood was the food of the demons, to whom they sacrificed; and therefore when they sacrificed to them, they took the blood of the beast and put it into a vessel, and sat down by it, and round about it, and ate the flesh; imagining that whilst they ate the flesh, the demons eat the blood, and by this means friendship and familiarity were contracted between them; so that they hoped to receive some advantage from them, and be informed of things to come (k). Hence, this law is placed with others against enchantments and observing times, to which may be added, Eze 33:25 “ye eat with the blood”, or “over it”, or “by” it; “and lift up your eyes to your idols”: which is to be understood in the same light, and with these compare 1Sa 14:32. But besides these, there was a third law, which is frequently repeated, Lev 3:17 which absolutely forbids the eating of blood, as well as fat; the Jews except the blood of fishes, and locusts, and creeping things, and the blood of men, and the blood that is in eggs, and that which is squeezed out of flesh, or drops from it, which a man may eat and not be guilty of the breach of this law (l) the reason of this law was, because the blood, which is the life, was given in sacrifice for the life of men, to be an atonement for them; wherefore, to keep up a just reverence of the sacrifice, and to direct to the blood of the great sacrifice of the Messiah, blood was forbidden to be eaten, till that sacrifice was offered up; and then that blood itself was to be spiritually eaten by faith: and now if eating of blood in general was morally evil in itself, it would be a monstrous shocking thing in the Christian religion, that the blood of Christ is to be drank; though it be to be understood in a spiritual sense: the law against eating blood was very strictly enjoined the Jews, and severely punished; whoever ate of blood, but the quantity of an olive, if he ate it wilfully, was guilty of cutting off; if ignorantly, he was to bring a sin offering (m): James knew that the breach of this law would give great offence to the Jews, and therefore for the peace of the church he moves that the Gentiles might be wrote to, to abstain from blood; and which was agreed to and done: and this was attended to with much strictness by the primitive Christians, who seemed to have observed this advice in the form of a law, and thought it criminal to eat blood; but in process of time it was neglected; and in Austin’s time abstinence from blood was derided, as a ridiculous notion; and it is at least now high time that this, and everything else of a ceremonial kind, was dropped by Christians; though where the peace of the brethren is in danger, this, and everything of an indifferent nature should be abstained from: Beza’s ancient copy adds, “and whatsoever they would not have done to themselves, do not unto others”; and so two of Stephens’s: the Ethiopic version is, “whatsoever they hate should be done to themselves, let them not do to their brethren”.
(God forbids his people from eating the blood of any animal. Blood carries both infections and toxins that might circulate in the animal’s body. Therefore, by eating an animal’s blood, one exposes himself needlessly to potential toxins and infections. The harmful effects of eating blood can be illustrated by tribes in Africa who consume large amounts of blood in their pagan culture. These people have developed the chronic diseases seen in our elderly while still teenagers. Their life span is approximately 30 years. Rex D. Russel, M.D. p. 229, “Proceedings of the 1992 Twin-Cities Creation Conference”. Editor’s note.)
(a) Misn. Cholin, c. 1. sect. 2. (b) Maimon. Hilchot Maacolot Assurot, c. 4. sect. 1. (c) Targum Jon Jarchi, Aben Ezra & Abendanae not. in Sol. ben Melec in loc. (d) Maimon. Hilchot Melacim, c. 9. sect. 1. (e) Jarchi and Baal Hatturim in loc. T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 56. 2. & 59. 1. & Cholin, fol 102. 2. Tzeror Hammor, fol. 95, 4. (f) Jarchi & Aben Ezra in loc. (g) Targum Jon. in loc. (h) Zohar in Exod. fol. 50. 3. Vid. Maimon. Hilchot Sanhedrin, c. 13. sect. 4. (i) Baal Hatturim in Lev. xix. 26. (k) Maimon. Morch Nevochim, par. 3. c. 46. Kimchi in I Sam. xiv. 32. & in Ezek. xxxiii. 25. (l) Misn. Ceritot, c. 5. sect. 1. Maimon. Maacolot Asurot, c. 6, sect. 1. Jarchi in Lev. xvii. 10. Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora, pr. pag. 137. (m) Maimon. Maacolot Asurot, c. 6. sect.7.