“God knows people’s hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith” (Acts 15:8-9, NLT).
The first-century Church was at first mainly comprised of Jews and Christianity was, in many respects, a sect of Judaism. So it was not surprising that when Gentiles began to believe the gospel, the Jewish leaders in the Church wanted the Gentile converts to be circumcised.
“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no greater burden on you than these few requirements: You must abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. If you do this, you will do well…” At the Council of Jerusalem the apostles and other church leaders determined that Gentile converts did not need to be circumcised or keep other ceremonial elements of the Mosaic law. They recommended that Gentile believers refrain from eating food that a person knew was offered as a sacrifice to an idol. (Just as we don’t know from where meat or other fresh foods in the grocery store may originate, food could be purchased in ancient marketplaces that was used in pagan religious rituals and the buyer was not aware of its origin.). Additionally, the Gentile believers should not eat meat that has blood in it or eat or drink blood. This prohibition was first given to Noah, the ancestor of Gentiles as well as Jews (Gen 9:4). Furthermore, sexual immorality, which was common in the Greek world, was always sinful whether Jew or Gentile. These prohibitions were not requirements for salvation, but rather necessary behaviors for reducing cultural tensions and sustaining fellowship between Jewish and Gentile believers. The decision of the Jerusalem Council was that salvation for both Jew and Gentile was a gift of God’s grace through faith in the person and work of Jesus. Thus, there are no membership requirements for us to be admitted into the Kingdom of God because Jesus has fulfilled all the requirements for us!