James and the Jerusalem leaders...
- DID NOT intend to abandon the Torah,
Rather, James and the Jerusalem leaders...
- completely affirmed the Torah.
So what was the the Jerusalem Council really about then?
Paul had a disagreement with fellow Jewish Believers who were teaching that Gentile Believers had to be circumcised. During a meeting in Jerusalem (called the Jerusalem Council), some of the Pharisees who believed said that it was necessary to circumcise Gentile Believers, AND to command them to keep the law of Moses.
(Acts 15:1-2 and Acts 15:5 5)
During the Jerusalem Council it was decided that a letter would be sent to the Assemblies, stating that Gentile Believers do not need to be troubled by those claiming that they need to be circumcised. However, they do need to abstain from things sacrificed to idols, from sexual immorality, from what is strangled, and from blood. They stated that it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to them, to lay no greater burden on Gentile Believers than these necessary things.
(Acts 15:19-21 19 and Acts 15:28-29)
It was never argued that Jewish Believers did not need to obey the Ten Commandments.
It was never argued that Gentile Believers did not need to obey the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments have always been Yahweh's Covenant with mankind.
The Ten Commandments have always been applicable and have never been questioned,
It was never argued that Jewish Believers do not need to obey the Mosaic Law.
Jewish Believers understood that the WHOLE Law is a Covenant with Yahweh FOREVER.
All of Israel agreed to the terms of the Covenant when they were in the desert of Sinai.
They agreed to obey ALL the words which Yahweh had commanded Moses to teach them.
That included all of the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic Law.
It was never argued that Jewish Believers did not need to circumcise.
They were only debating whether or not Gentile Believers needed to circumcise.
Yahweh does not change His mind!
He said that every male who is born in your house, and he who is bought with money from a foreigner, must be circumcised. The male who is not circumcised, shall be cut off from his people. Yahweh said that the Covenant of circumcision will be in your flesh for an EVERLASTING Covenant.
EVERLASTING means that the Covenant of circumcision will last FOREVER.
Later, when Paul returned to Jerusalem, he was accused by Jewish Believers, who were all zealous for the law, of teaching other Jewish Believers who lived among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children neither to walk after the customs (Acts 21:17-21)
At the time of this second meeting in Jerusalem, Paul went through a purification ceremony (which was the conclusion of a Nazarite Vow that he had taken as recorded in Acts 18:18)
to prove that there was no truth in these accusations, and to prove that he walked keeping the Law (obeying the whole Law).
When a person took a Nazarite Vow, he would shave his head. During the remainder of the time that he was under the vow, no razor was to come to his head, and he was to refrain from wine or any other grape products. At the conclusion of the vow, he was to shave the hair that had grown during the time of the vow; and offer it, along with specified animal, bread, and drink sacrifices.
(Numbers Chapter 6)
The sacrifices required by Law to conclude a Nazarite Vow would have been a large expense. To prove that he was keeping the Law, Paul paid for the animals, cakes of bread, and drink offerings that were required for the conclusion of his own vow; and he also paid the expenses (for the animals, cakes of bread, and drink offerings) for four other men who were also concluding their Nazarite Vows.
The Jewish Believers were ALL zealous for the Law.
They understood the teaching of Yeshua; that no part of the Law had been abolished.
It was stated that the Elders had already written their decision concerning the Gentiles who believe, that they do not need to circumcise; but they do need to keep themselves from food offered to idols, from blood, from strangled things, and from sexual immorality.
There is no logical reason that some of the Jewish Believers would insist that Gentile Believers had to be circumcised AND keep the Law of Moses if the Jewish Believers themselves were not circumcising AND keeping the Law of Moses.
Why would Jewish Believers require others to keep laws and ordinances that they themselves were not keeping? Why would they even have that discussion?
Because Jews are obligated to obey the ordinances of the Mosaic Law.
They were only arguing whether or not Gentile Believers needed to be circumcised.
The Elders never disagreed with the Jewish Believers who were all zealous for the law. Instead, they had Paul participate in a Nazarite Vow to prove that he was keeping the Law.
The entire ministry of Yeshua was centered around teaching the importance of obeying the Law; both the letter of the Law and the spirit of the Law (Matthew 5:17-37). During His ministry, Yeshua restated most of the Ten Commandments and parts of the Levitical Law (Mosaic Law). He never said that the Law was repealed or replaced. He taught that the Law should be kept fully; in spirit and in truth; from the heart, and not in the letter of the Law only.
The conclusion of the Jerusalem Council was that Gentile Believers should not be required to be circumcised. The Council NEVER concluded that Gentile Believers are not required to keep the Law of Moses.
The Elders of the Council sent out a message to the Assemblies, stating that Gentile Believers only needed to abstain from these four things: (Acts 15:29)
- From things sacrificed to idols
- From sexual immorality
- From things that had been strangled
- From blood
Acts 15 & 21 in no way imply that the Law was nailed to the cross or was in any way abolished.
Remember, sin is defined as transgressing the Law. (1 John 3:4)
Sin is not charged when there is no law. (Romans 5:13)
We are all under the Law, so that all the world may be brought under the judgement of Yahweh. (Romans 3:19)
Why these four things? (Acts 15:29, 21:25)
Notice that all four of the prohibitions included by the Jerusalem Council that Gentile Believers are to observe are associated with pagan idolatry. Gentile Believers are to abstain from food offered to idols, from blood, from strangled things, and from sexual immorality.
Meat that has been sacrificed to an idol is obviously associated with pagan idolatry.
Strangling animals and drinking blood are also associated with paganism.
Sexual immorality that is associated with pagan temple prostitution, sometimes called harlotry, is also pagan idolatry.
The Hebrew word, qĕdeshah, which is translated in most English translations as harlot, means temple prostitute.
The Greek word, Strong's G4202, means any type of sexual perversion; including adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.
The Greek word, Strong's G4202, can also metaphorically refer to the worship of idols.
The meaning of the word, Strong's G4202, includes sexual perversion and defilement associated with idolatry. Temple prostitution is also sexual perversion associated with idolatry.
The Greek word, Strong's G4202, translated as sexual immorality in Acts Chapters 15 & 21, could carry a similar connotation to the Hebrew word, qĕdeshah (a woman devoted to temple prostitution in connection to the worship of pagan deities)
The emphasis of the message sent out by the Jerusalem Council was to avoid ALL paganism.
All four of these things are prohibited by the Second Commandment (or by the First and Second Commandments, depending on how the Commandments are counted).
Two statements in Acts 21 stand out...
Paul walked keeping the Law. (Acts 21:24)
Gentile Believers should observe no such thing (circumcision); BUT they must keep themselves from food offered to idols, from blood, from strangled things, and from sexual immorality. (Acts 21:25)
It would be easy to interpret these two statements as meaning that Gentile Believers only need to observe these four things; and are not required to keep the rest of the Law.
But is that the correct interpretation?
It has already been established that ALL of mankind is (and always has been) under the obligation to obey the Ten Commandments.
All four of the prohibitions of Acts 15 & 21 are covered under the Ten Commandments.
There were certain things that first-century Gentile Believers would not have been able to observe, even when the Temple was still standing in Jerusalem.
Gentiles were never allowed in the Temple. They would not have been able to observe the Feast Days, the sacred assemblies, or the sacrificial offerings prescribed by the Law, unless they became a Proselyte (which was never required of Gentile Believers).
There are many sacrificial offerings prescribed in the Mosaic Law which have nothing to do with the annual sin sacrifice; and which Gentile Believers would have been unable to perform at that time.
Remember, all of the events recorded in the Book of Acts occurred before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Ever since the destruction of the Temple, there has been no Temple in Jerusalem for the Jews to be able to properly observe the Feast Days, sacred assemblies, and offerings specific to the Temple.
Neither Jewish Believers nor Gentile Believers can properly observe anything associated with the Temple when there is no Temple.
Does that mean that Gentile Believers are only obligated to obey the Ten Commandments?
Does that mean we can eat anything we want to and marry our own mother or sister?
Is it legal anywhere in the world to marry your own mother or sister?
Such an idea would be detestable! It would be abominable!
It is also detestable and abominable to Yahweh.
Should we use cloth or a food storage container that is contaminated with mold?
Should we allow a diseased person to contaminate others with his illness?
This would be discouraged in any society. People would become sick and die.
According to Yahweh, these things should never be done.
According to Yahweh, eating pig's flesh is comparable to eating a mouse. (Isaiah 66:17)
That would be disgusting! Yahweh called it detestable! (Leviticus 11)
Why would we want to eat anything that our Creator said is not food?
Yahweh created us. He knows what is best for us. Why would we ignore His instructions?
- The decision of the Jerusalem Council was focused on admonishing
Gentile Believers to avoid any and ALL pagan idolatry.
In Jewish culture, paganism was associated with the uncircumcised.
Gentiles were thought of as unclean, uncircumcised pagans.
- The decision of the Jerusalem Council (guided by the Holy Spirit) was
a means of separating the uncircumcised Gentile Believer from the
It was meant to remind Gentile Believers that, although they were not required to circumcise, they should avoid ALL paganism.
- The decision was also meant to remind Jewish Believers that, even
though Gentile Believers are not circumcised, they are NOT to be
thought of as uncircumcised pagans.
Just as Peter had learned from his vision of the unclean animals, Gentile Believers are NOT to be treated as unclean.
- The Jerusalem Council's admonishment to Gentile Believers was focused on abstaining any form of idolatry.
- They were not focused on the Ten Commandments, which were never
- They were not focused on Laws relating to basic cleanliness,
which are common sense to obey.
- They were not focused on Laws relating to who a person cannot
- They were not focused on telling people not to eat something that
is not food.
We don't need to be told not to eat feces. That is common sense.
We don't need to be told not to eat cockroaches or worms or other detestable insects.
Why do we need to be told not to eat rodents, pigs, frogs, crabs, squid, and snails?
We should not really need to be told that either.
According to Yahweh, those things are detestable!
They are not food!
To avoid any confusion, Yahweh listed out criteria by which we can judge something to be food or not food. He created us. He knows what we should eat and what we should not eat.
Why do we resist the Laws of Yahweh?
Yeshua said that NONE of the Law would pass until heaven and Earth pass away.
That includes the Law of Moses! The Torah!