I would love to be able to preach through the Bible in 10 years. I am currently 7 weeks into that task. If I am to accomplish this task then I can only take 8 weeks on average for a book (520/66 = 7.87). This will cause some books to have more of an overview type feel. In fact, is making Acts more of an overview feel currently.
I could go on about how there are literary cycles in biblical narrative making it perfectly fine to “summarize” rather than preach on all passages, but to be completely honest, I just plain do not enjoy “skipping” over passages. So, here are a few thoughst on Acts 15, specifically verse 29.
22Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. 23With them they sent the following letter:
The apostles and elders, your brothers,
To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:
24We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
This passage marks when the Jewish believers accepted the Gentiles into the family of faith with no rules or additions to their faith. To be a follower of Jesus meant to repent of sin and follow Jesus.
That’s simple. Repent. Believe.
But what about these things mentioned in verse 29? Aren’t these 4 “rules” an addition to the gospel? How is this not a works based salvation? How is this any different than making them be circumcised, baptized, follow sabbath restrictions, or only eat Kosher food?
One word: context.
Gentiles were coming out of a world of idolatry. Literal idolatry. Not our Western World idolatry of TV, Sports, Fashion, Sex, Money, and Cars. These were people who were sacrificing to Zeus, Artemis, Dionysus, Mars, Jupiter, Apollo, the Emperor, Aphrodite, Athena, Cabirus… (and the list could go on!).
These areas where they were to abstain were primarily related to 1st century idolatry. To give these rules and regulations was a way to protect these young believers from back sliding into idolatry and just simply adding Jesus into the mix.
Christianity is a new way of life. When one says “I will follow Jesus,” that person is turning away from sin and turning towards God. So many times our lives are chocked full of distractions, obstacles, and stumbling blocks that keep us from wholeheartedly worshiping God.
God deserves all the glory and honor in our lives. This is why “rules” are set in place some times. This is why we are to live a disciplined life.
We need to ask what are vices and doorways into sin that we keep in our lives? We need to give them up.
It may be different for you than for someone else (See Romans 14 & 1 Corinthians 8-9). But we need to be gracious and understanding with others in their weakness, praying they are the same with us.
This does not mean that we simply allow other believers to waddle in their sinful habits. Rather, this means we exhort them and hold them accountable. They have been given a new life, and that life is a blessing. Our job it is point them to our Savior.
God is greater.