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Mysterious Recommendations to Gentile Christians

English > Fields of Research > Biblical Theology

P. Rüst (2009), message Flüehli, Schwarzenburg (Switzerland), somewhat extended,
without pictures, 8 p. (57 kB):
http://www.aneste.ch/files/MysteriousRecommend.pdf
or with pictures, 9 p. (349 kB):
http://www.aneste.ch/files/MysteriousRecommend+.pdf

Translated from the German original, P. Rüst (2009),
"Die rätselhaften Empfehlungen der Apostel an die Heidenchristen",
Predigt Flüehli, Schwarzenburg (Schweiz)

Contents:

1. The council in Jerusalem
2. What is the importance of this mysterious list of exceptions?
3. Does "fornication" here refer to mixed marriages?
4. "Fornication" is adultery, prostitution, or blasphemy of God in all other contexts
5. "Fornication", a deadly danger for christians
6. Do christians have to abstain from blood?
7. Noah's significance misunderstood by young earth creationism
8. Sacrifices and food statutes of the old covenant
9. No binding food ordinances in the new covenant
10. The new covenant requires a new law
11. Eat "my flesh / body"... drink "my blood" - symbols for a new spiritual reality

- When the first christians in Jerusalem were persecuted, they dispersed and some began to evangelize Gentiles in Antioch. But believers of the Pharisees in Jerusalem demanded that they should be circumcised and had to keep the Law of Moses. A meeting of elders and apostles in Jerusalem disagreed: the Gentile christians should just abstain from idols, fornication, strangled animals, and blood.

...
that you abstain from
what has been
sacrificed to idols,
and from blood,
and from what has
been strangled,
and from fornication
...

- What is the import of this mysterious list of exceptions? Idolatry and fornication are certainly wrong, but why should christians abstain from blood? Paul told the christians they may eat whatever is sold in the meat market, even if it had been offered to idols and contained blood, except when it was declared such, in order not to offend anyone.

- Then how about "fornication"? This designation might here refer to mixed marriages between Jews and Gentiles, which under the Law of Moses were strictly forbidden, in order to keep Israel from idolatry. Yet such mixed marriages are unobjectionable if both partners believe in Christ. Does this solve the mystery of the the list of exceptions?
- The Greek "porneia", translated "fornication", designates adultery, prostitution, or blasphemy of God, in all other contexts. God uses marriage and sexual "becoming one" of husband and wife as a symbol for his own relationship with his people. Consequently, apostasy is designated as spiritual prostitution.
- Basically, all things are lawful for christians. But when one, by fornication, sins against one's own body, which is a temple of the Holy Spirit, one risks, by hardening one's heart, to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. Jesus calls this sin unforgivable. It is the Holy Spirit in a believer's heart who leads one to confess one's sin, and thence to be forgiven.

- As idolatry and fornication are unacceptable for christians, some believe that this is the case for eating blood, too. Since God had told Noah not to eat blood, they think this applies to all humans, Jews and Gentiles alike. But God explains this command to Noah (and to Moses) as a symbol for the Old Testament sacrifices, which were fulfilled in Jesus' atoning sacrifice, and then put away.
- The import of Noah is misunderstood by young earth creationism. Noah wasn't the progenitor of all of today's humanity (not even Adam was), and meat had always been eaten (certainly by Abel). It was proper that neither the Law of Moses was found binding upon christians, nor circumcision (which had been given to Abraham already).

- Food statutes (like the command not to eat blood) wer part of the Old Testament sacrificial rites. But all of these pointed to Christ. They were preliminaries to God's salvation offer to all humans. After the fulfillment of their symbolism on the cross of Christ, they were done away with. Understood as mere ceremonies, God abhorred them under the old covenant already.

- Jesus declared all foods clean, as only that which comes out of a person (namely sin out of the heart), can defile one before God. After Jesus' resurrection God very clearly demonstrated this to Peter when he was to evangelize Gentiles in the house of Cornelius, where he witnessed that God no longer makes a difference between Gentiles and Jews, as all are in need of atonement.
- Paul, as well, indicates that all food statutes are outdated, including the commandment not to eat blood. But he subjects the practical christian attitude under the primary commandment of love.

You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.
For on the one hand,
a former commandment
is set aside because of its
weakness and uselessness
(for the law
made nothing perfect);
but on the other hand,
a better hope is introduced,
through which
we draw near to God

- The letter to the Hebrews explicitely emphasizes that with Christ now being high priest the law of the old covenant is abolished. The new covenant requires a new law.

- Jesus shocked the unbelieving Jews by calling himself the bread that came down from heaven and saying that they had to eat his flesh and blood, by accepting his coming atoning sacrifice for themselves personally. After the cross, this symbolism of eating his flesh and blood became a new symbol of the believers in him eating his body and blood. "Flesh" points to the low estate of human existence, while "body" stands for the eternal glory of resurrection life.

Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you have no life in you...
This is my body which is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me...
This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.

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