THE PASSAGE: "Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the pollutions of idols and from unchastity and from what is strangled and from blood" (Acts 15:19-20).
COMMENT: The speaker in this passage is James, the brother of Jesus, speaking to the church council in Jerusalem. The issue was the first great divisive controversy of the fledgling movement. Was it necessary to first convert to Judaism before being baptized as a follower of Jesus? The Church centered in Jerusalem insisted that it was. Paul, who was attracting converts among the Gentiles, felt that it was not—that the ministry and demonstration of Jesus Christ had fulfilled the requirements of the Jewish law, and that faith in Jesus was the only requirement.
James basically agrees with Paul, but recognizes at the same time that there are standards from the old law that are still important. Gentiles must "abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity." But they don't have to become Jews, obey the intricate dietary laws and be circumcised.
Metaphysically, we cannot fully embrace the Christ within so long as we are distracted by other priorities (idols) or human appetites (blood and unchastity). The Christ must become our only priority if we are to fully experience it and express it in our lives.