In Acts 15 is the tale of how the newly formed church had a problem. Not only were the Jews turning to Christ for salvation in droves, the non-Jews (Gentiles) were also being drawn to believe! What to do with these believers who were not Jewish converts?
I was delighted to see in verse 5 that some of the Pharisees who fought Jesus for so long had actually become believers. However, after a lifetime of strict adherence to the law of Moses, they were having a hard time envisioning salvation without it. “It is needful to circumcise these pagan believers,” they insisted. “They must also follow all the commands of the law of Moses.”
There was fierce debate regarding this matter. (Verses 2 and 7, if you’re interested.) Then Peter stood up and said, “God himself has bore witness on behalf of non-Jews who believe, by giving them the same gift of his Spirit which he gave to us.”
Neither their hearts nor ours are purified by the keeping of the law, but rather by faith. (vs.9 and 11)
Peter even points to the Old Testament, the words of the prophets. There was to come a day, and now was, when Gentiles also were called out to be God’s people.
Having agreed that salvation is rooted not in circumcision, but rather in faith, the leaders of the church did not throw out the law entirely. Instead, they drew upon their understanding of its teachings for that which would best help these new converts keep themselves pure for God. And it was these basic tenets that they declared to the Gentiles of the church.
Stay away from the things of idols: they pollute your spirit. Stay away from fornication: it pollutes your body. Stay away from things strangled (killed yet leaving the blood within the carcass) and from otherwise the ingesting of blood. God has put the life of a creature in its blood. “If you keep yourselves from these things, you will do well. We will not burden you with any more commands of the law.”
The strength of our salvation is rooted in faith, not rules. But for the sake of our spiritual health and growth, we must also keep ourselves protected from that in the world which pollutes.