In Acts 15 there is a verse that says, “Don’t eat meat that has been strangled or offered to idols!” When was the last time you ate meat strangled or offered to idols? You have to work out what this means for your life. You have to find the principle beneath it. Here’s how you do it.
First you go back and find out, ‘What did it mean then?’ Get out a Bible dictionary, read about meat offered to idols. In Bible days people would take meat and offer it to idols. Now obviously a piece of stone doesn’t eat it. So, after it had been left there for two or three days the priests of those pagan religions would take the meat back out on the street and sell it to make a profit.
For a Jewish person to eat that kind of meat was a violation of their faith. In their understanding, if you ate meat that was offered to idols, you were, in essence, taking part in that religion. Paul came along and said, “You know as well as I do that the idols aren’t real so there’s really nothing wrong with that meat, it’s no different to the meat down at the shop, but because it offends people you shouldn’t eat it.”
If you study the context of Acts 15, you will find out they had a big conference in Jerusalem. The first believers were Jewish but the people Paul was leading to Yahshua were from Antioch and other Gentile areas. They were not natural Israelites, but were becoming New Covenant Israelites. This raised some challenging questions. “Does a person have to become a Jew to be saved?” “Does everybody have to accept Jewish law to become a true follower of Yahshua?”
The conclusion reached by the council was that the converts should be given certain directives. They should not:
- Eat food offered to idols
- Consume blood
- Eat the meat of strangled animals
- Commit sexual immorality
If the Jewish believers saw the converts eating meat which had been offered to idols, they would be offended by it. The principle, then, is that we shouldn’t do something that would offend our fellow brother in the faith. That’s the timeless principle.
In fact, Paul applies this principle again in Romans 14:19-22 (NIV Paraphrased), “Let us make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification. It’s better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. So, whatever you believe about these things, keep them between yourself and [Yahweh]. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves”.
Some things aren’t wrong, they’re not sin, but when you’re with other people who would be offended by them, you shouldn’t do them.
Now you’re getting to the application.
After you’ve discovered the principle, write out a sentence that describes a course of action you’ll take to apply the truth. Once you’ve come up with an application, what are you going to do about it?
Note: the image used is merely representative of a butcher's shop - there is no implication that the meat used in this image was offered to idols.
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