“But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.”
King James Version (KJV)
15:20 To abstain from fornication - Which even the philosophers among the heathens did not account any fault. It was particularly frequent in the worship of their idols, on which account they are here named together. And from things strangled - That is, from whatever had been killed, without pouring out the blood. When God first permitted man to eat flesh, he commanded Noah, and in him all his posterity, whenever they killed any creature for food, to abstain from the blood thereof. It was to be poured upon the ground as water: doubtless in honour of that blood which was in due time poured out for the sin of the world.
Ac 15:20 That they abstain. Four items are mentioned, which are all embraced in the apostolic letter as things forbidden. They were four common customs of the Gentile world, and matters on which there should be a clear understanding. From the pollutions of idols. The first does not mean only to refrain from worshiping idols, or eating meat offered in idol sacrifice, but from all the pollutions of the system of idolatry. Licentiousness and drunkenness received a sanction from religion. See Lecky's "European Morals", chap. V., and Conybeare and Howson's "Paul", chap. IV. [From] fornication. Chastity was the exception instead of the rule among Gentiles at this period. [From] things strangled. Because in strangling the blood was retained in the flesh. [From] blood. The use of blood was prohibited by the Mosaic law (Le 17:14 De 12:16,23), and for wise reasons this prohibition was extended to Gentiles. The Roman epicures were wont to drown fowls in wine and then use the flesh. It was a common thing to drink wine mingled with blood. The only way to strike at these savage practices was to prohibit its use.