Search Our Site
Liberty in Christ
and Yet Prohibition
in Christ: Extended Introduction
Liberty in Christ: Introduction
and New Testament Survey
for Liberty in Christ
the Law, and the 10 Commandments
of the Law of Liberty
and Yet Prohibition
Pagan Practices in the Old Testament
is Observing Times?
Bondage, and Righteousness
and Meat Sacrificed to Idols
and 1 Corinthians 8
1 Corinthians 10, and Idolatry
1 Corinthians 10, and Your Neighbor
and Practical Applications
Romans 14, the Conscience, and Morality
this point in our study, we need to examine what the apostles,
including Paul, upheld from the Old Testament regarding the
first commandment ("thou shalt have no other gods before me")
and the practice of idolatry. Did the apostles consider the
second commandment regarding idols to be inseparable to the
first commandment to have "no other gods before" God?
For an answer to these questions, we first turn to Acts 15
and it's parallel Acts 21.
Acts 15:5 But there rose up certain of the sect of
the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful
to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of
Moses. 6 And the apostles and elders came together for to
consider of this matter.
...13 And after they had held their peace, James answered,
saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:
...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.
...23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner;
The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the
brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and
...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.
Acts 21:25 As touching the Gentiles which believe,
we have written and concluded that they observe no such
thing, save only that they keep themselves from things
offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled,
and from fornication.
There are several things we need to mention from these passages.
First, notice that the initial question brought before the
Jerusalem Council for a decision can be found in chapter 15:5-6.
A group of Pharisees who had believed the Gospel message also
believed it was necessary for the Gentile converts to Christianity
to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses. So, the apostles
convened in order to decide the matter. What was their decision?
The apostles decided that it was not necessary to "trouble"
the Gentile converts by requiring them to keep the entire
Law of Moses.
Now, we know from earlier in our study that throughout the
New Testament the apostles maintained that Christians had
to abide by the 10 Commandments (except regarding the Sabbath.)
And we know that the reason the apostles maintained the 10
Commandments is because those 10 Commandments were deliberately
contained and expressed in the Law of Christ.
However, from the decision of the Jerusalem Council we can
see that the apostles also ruled that it was necessary for
the Gentiles to abide by the following 4 regulations carried
over FROM the Law of Moses.
1.) That they abstain from meats offered to idols.
2.) That they abstain from eating blood.
3.) That they abstain from eating strangled animals,
since the blood would not have been properly drained from
4.) That they abstain from fornication.
It is worthy of note that the very first of these 4 requirements
carried over from the Law of Moses was the prohibition of
eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. This in itself
was part of the second of the 10 Commandments of Moses. Since
the second of the 10 Commandments forbid idolatry, it likewise
forbid the eating of meat that had through sacrifice become
a means of fellowshipping with the false gods depicted in
idols. Paul has more to say on this subject, which we will
review later on in our study.
Third, and perhaps most significantly, this command by the
apostles, including Peter, forbidding Christians from eating
meat sacrificed to idols occurred AFTER Jesus had proclaimed
all foods clean in Matthew 15:11,17-20 and Mark 7:15-20. Perhaps
even more to the point is the fact that the apostles, including
Peter, agreed to this decision after Peter's experience in
BEFORE there had been any Gentile converts, Peter has a vision
recorded in Acts 10:9-16,28. In that vision, Peter sees all
kinds of animals that were off limits for him to eat under
the Law of Moses. The Lord then commands Peter to "rise, kill,
and eat." To this Peter responds, saying, "No, for I have
never eaten anything that is unclean." To which the Lord rebukes
him, saying, "What God has cleansed, do NOT call unclean."
This vision repeats a total of 3 times.
So, having personally heard the Lord tell him 3 times in a
vision, "What God has cleansed, do NOT call unclean," how
could Peter then agree to the decision forbidding Christians
from eating meat sacrificed to idols? After having heard Jesus
declare all foods clean in Matthew 15:11,17-20 and Mark 7:15-20,
how could any of the apostles have agreed to forbid Christians
from eating meat sacrificed to idols?
Were the apostles confused? Did Peter still not understand?
Did the apostles make a mistake in Acts 15 when they issued
this ruling? Or, perhaps the apostles understood perfectly
well and decided to go against what Christ was teaching and
prohibit eating meat sacrificed to idols anyway.
But of course, none of these are the case. In reality, the
decision of Peter and the other apostles in Acts 15 did not
in any way contradict Jesus teaching in Matthew 15 and Mark
7. And the reason can be found in those two passages, as this
next quote from Mark 7 will demonstrate.
Mark 7:18 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without
understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever
thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile
him; 19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but
into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging
In both Matthew 15 and Mark 7, Jesus is abolishing the dietary
requirements of the Law of Moses. The reason Jesus declares
food clean here is quite significant. Jesus declares food
clean BECAUSE food is natural and, therefore, it does not
affect the spirit of a man.
So, wouldn't meat sacrificed to idols be unable to affect
the spirit of a man as well?
No. The problem with the meat sacrificed to idols was not
anything physical about the meat, what animal it came from
or whether you had washed your hands or not before eating
it. These were natural things and as Jesus taught, natural
things about food cannot defile a man. However, meat sacrificed
to idols was a matter, NOT of food, but of idolatry, which
was a spiritual matter, NOT a natural matter. And so eating
a sacrifice was spiritual, not because of the meat involved,
but because of the sacrifice involved. Once again, Paul has
more to say on this, which we will cover later on in our study.
However, even before we get to Paul's statements, it is clear
that only by categorizing sacrificed meat as spiritual (due
to the sacrifice) instead of as merely natural, as the meat
would be if it were not sacrificed, can we explain why in
the world Peter would declare meat sacrificed to idols as
"forbidden" AFTER the Lord specifically told him 3 times "What
God has cleansed, do NOT call unclean." Peter must not have
considered sacrificed meat to fall under Jesus teaching in
Matthew 15, Mark 7, and Acts 10. Peter and the other apostles
must have considered sacrificed meat as a separate issue from
dietary requirements. They must have considered it capable
of affecting the spirit of a man.
So, it is clear from Acts 15 and 21 that the apostles maintained
the Old Testament prohibition of idolatry even to the extent
that they forbid Christians to eat meat that had been sacrificed
At this point we know that Jesus himself upheld the first
Mosaic commandment that we must "love God above all else and
with all our being" as the "first and greatest commandment"
and as the first of the two commandment in his law, the law
of Christ. And, we also know that the apostles upheld the
second Mosaic commandment, which forbid idolatry, not only
here in Acts 15 and 21, but in the following passages, which
we listed earlier in our study.
1. 1 Corinthians 5:10-11 and 6:9 - Paul forbids fornication,
coveting, and idolatry.
2. 1 Corinthians 10:7,14 - Paul forbid idolatry.
3. Ephesians 5:5 - Paul forbids idolatry.
4. Revelation 21:8 and 22:15 - John condemns those
who practice murder, sorcery, idolatry, lying.
Since the apostles clearly upheld the Old Testament prohibition
of idolatry, it is necessary for us to review what the Old
Testament itself had to say about this matter. We'll start
at the beginning.