About eating blood, I recently read an answer by you on whether it is wrong to eat blood (Acts 15:28-29).  You said that it is not wrong, but  I found some of your answer to be very confusing. You have said that “it is not sinful for a Christian to eat blood”  From what you said, I think I understand you to be saying that to obey God’s law depends on our culture.  Are you saying that obeying God depends on what country we live and its culture? Is that Biblical?    For example: In America, divorce is legal, in Australia prostitution is legal, in Muslim countries having four wives is legal, etc.  Do you mean if the culture of a country is to eat blood, then it is legal in the eyes of God? It does not make sense to me.   My question is:  Did God say literally that we can eat blood?   Paul seems to disagree [editor’s note, it was not Paul but the Jerusalem Council at which Paul was a guest]  Act 15:29 “As for the Gentile believers, they should do what we already told them in a letter: They should abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality.”   Paul said in 1 Cor 14: 37-38  “If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. 38 But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.”    As I understand it, Paul’s writing is the Lord’s command.  You may or may not answer my questions, and it’s up to, but I beg to disagree with the answer you gave.  Thanks!


Some issues are “black and white” because God has spoken clearly on such issues.  For example, although divorce may be legal in the US and prostitution is legal in Australia, the New Testament clearly tells us that these practices are sinful (Matthew 19:1-11, and I assume we do not need a scripture on prostitution!).   In this case, the fact that this is legal does not change that it is sinful.  Lying is legal in every country, as are pride and selfishness, and these are always sinful, all the time, without exception, and the culture does not change this!

Having said this, there are issues to which the Bible does not give an absolute hard-and-fast answer.  Here God has left us with principles rather than laws.  God gives us direction in passages such as Romans 14 where he gives us advice about dealing with those whose faith is “weak.”  If a practice is not sinful per se, it may still be wrong to do it because it would violate the conscience of another person—whether they are Christians or not.  Paul advises not to eat meat sacrificed to idols if it will cause another to stumble, even though he clearly says that an idol is nothing and, technically, it is not sinful to eat meat sacrificed to something that is not even real.   This principle is also found in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13.

Interestingly, the Church leaders in Jerusalem appear to apply this principle in their decision from the Council in Jerusalem in Acts 15.   Although the eating of blood or of animals which have been strangled is not sinful, in that it is not condemned anywhere in the New Testament (Mark 7:14-19 applies here), these wise leaders felt that these practices were so offensive to the Jews in the Church that, for the sake of conscience and sensitivity, it was best for the Gentile converts to voluntarily refrain from these practices altogether in order to make the Jewish disciples more comfortable in the presence of their Gentile brothers and sisters.   If the Gentile Christians had ignored the decision of the Jewish Council, would that have been sinful?  This is debatable, but I say yes, this would be sinful because it would amount to stubbornness, lack of submission to leadership, possibly rebelliousness, and disregarding of the principles laid out on Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8.    Is the eating of blood sinful in all possible situations?  No.   Jesus did declare all foods clean (Mark 7:14-19), but, as Paul said, “anything that does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).   The decision in Acts 15:29 is not binding on all Christians but it would have been sinful for Gentile Christians in the first century, in cities where there were Jewish disciples, to ignore this request of the Jerusalem Council, as these were the people to whom the decision was addressed.

The question of polygamy is an interesting one.   This practice is legal in many Muslim countries and even in some countries, such as India, where Islam is not the dominant religion.  So, is it sinful for a Christian male to take a plural wife?  The New Testament does not specifically condemn the practice.  But then again it does not specifically outlaw the owning of a slave.  However, the tenor and tone of the New Testament makes it extremely obvious that in virtually every conceivable culture, to buy another human being or to take on a second wife violates love of the first wife or of the person to be owned and would be offensive to other Christians and even many or most non-Christians.  The principles in 1 Corinthians 8 and in Romans 14 make this rather obviously a sinful thing to do.  The admonition of Jesus to do to others what you would have them do to you in Luke 6:31 clearly makes these practices sinful as well.  We do not have to have a specific statement in the Bible that a specific action is sinful for us to decide, based on biblical statement that the practice is nevertheless sinful.

But there might be an extremely rare exception to this.  For example if a person were to come to Christ and he already had more than one wife, would it be preferable for him to dump one of the wives, especially in a culture in which that wife would be an outcast and would have no economic protection?  I say that this extremely rare situation might be an exception.   In fact, I know of one situation where this was exactly what happened.  The decision in this fantastically rare situation was to allow the brother to keep his plural wives.  Even with slavery, in a society in which slavery was the rule, not the exception, Paul suggests to Philemon to free Onesimus, but he does not demand it (Philemon 8-11).

Most of us prefer black and white issues.  This is especially true for younger Christians, but the fact is that there are decisions which are culture- and situation-dependent.   This is not some sort of slippery slope.  The things that are clearly sinful by biblical standards are and always will be absolutely sinful and there are no exceptions to this.   Your example of prostitution and divorce are appropriate here.   You do not need to fear that if we allow that eating blood is a grey area that, therefore everything is a grey area.   This is simply not the case.  However, we need to learn to apply biblical principles, such as those in 1 Cor 8 and Romans 14 for questions for which there is not an absolute statement in the scriptures.  This takes experience and it takes wisdom. God suggests that if we lack wisdom we should pray for it (James 1:5).   I suggest you offer up this prayer for your own wisdom.

John Oakes

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