Does God forbid consumption of blood (Acts 15:20)?

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By BibleAsk Team


The question of whether God forbids the consumption of blood is a topic that arises from Acts 15:20, where the apostles and elders of the early Christian church issued guidelines for Gentile believers. This directive, along with its context and implications, has been a subject of study to Christians throughout history. In this exploration, we will delve into the biblical references regarding the consumption of blood, particularly Acts 15:20, and consider the broader theological significance of this prohibition.

Dietary Laws in the Old Testament

The prohibition against consuming blood has its roots in the Old Testament dietary laws given to the Israelites by God. Leviticus 17:10-12 (NKJV) outlines God’s commandment regarding the consumption of blood:

“And whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among you, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul. Therefore I said to the children of Israel, ‘No one among you shall eat blood, nor shall any stranger who dwells among you eat blood.'”

“This shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings: you shall eat neither fat nor blood” (Leviticus 3:17); “Moreover you shall not eat any blood in any of your dwellings, whether of bird or beast” (Leviticus 7:26 also Leviticus 17:10; 19:26). The reason for this prohibition is that “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11).

The people of Israel understood this prohibition and considered it a sin to eat blood. For example, on one of the battles that King Saul led out in, he prohibited his army from eating anything until the battle was over. By the time the battle was won, his army were so hungry that they started to eat meat before it had time to be drained of all the blood. “Then they told Saul, saying, “Look, the people are sinning against the Lord by eating with the blood!” So he said, “You have dealt treacherously” (1 Samuel 14:33).

These verses emphasize the sanctity of blood as representing the life of the creature and its significance in atoning for sin. God’s commandment to abstain from consuming blood was intended to reinforce the reverence for life and the sacrificial system established for the forgiveness of sins.

Spiritual Significance

The prohibition against consuming blood also carries spiritual significance within the context of biblical theology. Blood is often associated with life, vitality, and atonement for sin in the Bible. In Genesis 9:4 (NKJV), God instructs Noah and his descendants regarding the sanctity of blood:

“But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.”

This commandment underscores the reverence for life and the responsibility to respect God’s creation by abstaining from the consumption of blood.

Acts 15:20 and the Council of Jerusalem

In Acts 15, we find the account of the Council of Jerusalem, where the apostles and elders of the early church convened to address the question of whether Gentile believers should be required to adhere to Jewish customs, including circumcision and dietary laws. Acts 15:20 (NKJV) records the decision reached by the council:

“But that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.”

This directive reflects the council’s concern for maintaining unity and fellowship among Jewish and Gentile believers and avoiding practices that could cause offense or division within the church.

New Testament Application

The prohibition against consuming blood is reaffirmed in the New Testament, including the directive issued by the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15:20. This directive reflects the apostles’ recognition of the ongoing relevance of the health laws of the Old Testament principles, including the sanctity of blood and the avoidance of practices associated with idolatry and immorality.

The prohibition against consuming blood is a universal principle reflecting God’s concern for the sanctity of life and the avoidance of practices that defile the body and soul. For Christians today, the prohibition against consuming blood serves as a reminder of the reverence for life and the responsibility to honor God’s creation.

At the time of the early Christian church, the practice of eating blood was common among both Greeks and Romans. In addition, the heathen were accustomed to drinking blood mixed with wine at their religious festivals. The early church had to therefore reiterate God’s original instruction regarding consuming blood to the Gentile converts.

The Jews apparently still adhered to this principle as Josephus, speaking of the 1st century A.D., wrote that “blood of any description he [Moses] has forbidden to be used for food, regarding it as the soul and spirit” (Antiquities iii. 11. 2 [260]; Loeb ed., vol. 4, p. 443).

Conclusion

In conclusion, the prohibition against consuming blood, as reflected in Acts 15:20 and rooted in the Old Testament dietary laws, underscores God’s concern for the sanctity of life and the avoidance of practices that defile the body and soul. The dietary laws of the Old Testament are still binding on Gentile believers under the New Covenant and thus the principles underlying these laws continue to hold spiritual significance and moral relevance for Christians today. As such, believers are called to honor God’s commandments and live according to His will, including abstaining from practices that dishonor His creation and compromise their faith.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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