ACTS 15 UNVEILED
There are many Christians today zealous of keeping the law of Moses, who contend that God’s NC will is that Christians keep/observe the Mosaic law. This was the belief of thousands in the first century Church. (Acts 21:20)
PREACHING THE NEW COVENANT GOSPEL
Galatians 2&3 reveals that the Words of Moses and the Prophets were shared with the Gentiles. It is first in the OC inspired writings that they see all men are condemned because of Adam’s sin, and then are taught the good news of God’s intention to bless/redeem the Gentiles, and that being through His servant and friend Abraham, that is to say, through his Seed. This, in hearing leads us to Christ and the power of the Spirit, who being born as the Son of man as that Seed and thereby was uniquely subject to the law of Moses, then as subject to the law brought us through the law to see that all men are under the curse (ill-favor with threat of ruin) of the law. Christ then having unjustly suffered death under the law, in that the law declares; to be hung on a tree is to be cursed…. Then Christ being sinless, God justified and raised Him from among the dead (the curse of the law) thereby redeeming all men from the curse of the law, (eternal death.… with promise of resurrection in eternal life) upon receiving Christ Jesus as the Atonement for their sin by faith. This was the Gospel the Galatians heard.
The first Century Jew who became a Believer in Jesus Christ, was at first ignorant of justification by faith, (first introduced by John the Baptist) and then some were apprehensive and often reluctant for one reason or another to forego their pursuit of right standing with God through the law of Moses. The Book to the Hebrews is the tutorial for their transition.
The apologetics (the reasoned argument) on NC doctrine is not running contrary to OC doctrine, only filling it with meaning, as seen in the overriding theme of Galatians and Hebrews…. “Now the just shall live by faith…” That “faith” having been more rightly directed, has added benefit in its NC form, faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ with the provision of the Grace of the Holy Spirit, and keeping His Commandments only has promise of Glory and Brideship.
For a Believer in Jesus Christ to follow (follow not to be confused with a Godly pursuit of instructional understanding of) the laws of Moses or Jewish ritual and/or teach others that it is the Command or even mincing words by saying: It is not His Command but His Will, as it has so-called merits, is to be ignorant of the associated spiritual implications, that of unknowingly frustrating the Grace of God as Christ is then considered dead in vain and are therefore in danger of falling from that NC Grace, by which we may finally be sanctified unto Him, both as it relates to themselves and in those they so influence. Again, this is not to state that the law of Moses is irrelevant, which is clearly stated by Paul in Galatians 3&4, nor to say Believers should not diligently seek to understand the law of Moses, for the understanding of the Old Testament is essential to the spiritual growth of Christians, as the overall theme is The Messiah, Jesus Christ, and therefore how Christ fills it with meaning in His First and Second Comings, including meaningful spiritual and historical facts, the prophetic truths, customs, types and shadows. But this and more should be from the NC understanding that the Spirit in justification and sanctification came and continues to come by faith in Jesus Christ and keeping His Commandments exclusively.
THE FIRST SIGNS OF LEAVEN…… seen in the the 15th chapter of Acts
So many Jewish Believers had mixed the Covenants, thinking they did God a service, in that they are certain God is pleased with their efforts to keep the law of Moses even after having received Jesus Christ by faith.
The answer of the Apostles to those who went out from their ranks unto the Gentile converts scattered abroad, that taught “Except you be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved,” is forthcoming.
Paul preached pure or undefiled Christianity free from all mixtures of Judaism. As we note first that Paul and Barnabas “…had no small dissension and disputation with them…” about this matter, and determined “they should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.”
THE IMPLICATION…..is that the NC is not complete without the OC keeping of ALL the law of Moses. THE DOCTRINE OF MOSES, CIRCUMCISION, IS “A LITTLE LEAVEN LEAVENETH THE WHOLE LUMP,” Paul says in GALATIANS 5:9.
So it was Paul, himself a circumcised Jew, the Apostle to the Gentiles, knowing the gravity of the implication, who resisted them fervently.
We note secondly that it was Paul and others who appealed unto the Apostles (as the leaders in the Church), to whom Christ had given both the directive and authority to legislate and administrate in the Church.
We pause here in the commentary on Acts 15 and go to the Gospels to establish the relevance of that authority and how it has been overlooked in the very critical exegesis of this chapter. And then shortly see the practical applications applied.
CHRIST HAD BEEN THE DELEGATE OF THE FATHER
Now at the re-gathering of His Church, after His Resurrection when
ALL authority, both in heaven and in the earth had been given Him, now He addresses His followers at His reappearing. (John 20:21) “As the Father has sent Me (in the past, as His mission was complete) even so send I you (in the constant present till He comes again).”
NOW THE CHURCH OF THE RISEN, in the same manner, for the same purpose, and, so far as possible, with the same qualification and the same authority as the Father had sent Jesus, now does Christ commission His Church.
And so it was made a very real commission when He spoke “Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them RECEIVE (take) YE THE HOLY GHOST: Whose soever sins you remit, they are remitted unto them: and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” The Holy Spirit being the link to his mission past and the present commission…. that link with authority being received/taken corporately as an assembly, requires being vitally connected with the Holy Spirit. (This is not the individual infilling as the Holy Spirit had not yet been given) This receiving referring to legislative authority, administrative, and disciplinary power, with the ones so enlightened and directed by the Spirit…. “the power of the keys”, “the binding and loosing”, “the remitting and retaining sins” of Matthew 16:15-19; 18:15-20; John 20:22,23.
(This principle being no new one, as ancient Rabbinic Colleges applied their claimed legislative authority and applied their judicial power, in that they would pronounce a person “Zakkai” innocent or free; absolved, or else “Chayyabh”, liable, guilty, subject to punishment or in need of sacrifice. What the Rabbis claimed in virtue of their office, the Lord bestowed upon His Church by the virtue of the Holy Spirit’s received presence.)
This is administrative or disciplinary power such as Paul exercised in the Church of Corinthians, in the power of admission and exclusion 1Corinthians 5:5,6 with 2Corinthians 2:7-11.
Although the “keys to the kingdom” and the power of “binding and loosing” and the “remitting and retaining sins” are given to the Church, the Apostles alone could legislate, that is to say make NC policy. All based upon the warrant of their new commission… “All power (based upon the Resurrection) has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go ye, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you….”
Returning to Acts 15, we then understand from the NC perspective why the legislative matter was brought before the Apostles and elders of the Church. And why it was after counsel, James the Apostle who finally made the legislative decision. (Note that the basis for that judgment was not so much the declared fact that the OC Word declared that the Gentiles would have a part in the restored kingdom….but “And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did us; And put no difference between us (NC saints) and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt (test) ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?”)
“Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that WE WRITE (not reluctantly to establish temporary guidelines until they could better acquaint themselves with the law of Moses and then keep it, but because of the necessity of the critical situation and that they had the Apostolic power of legislation afforded in the NC) unto them (NC Believers to clearly and forever define NC law as it relates to OC pressure to comply), that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. FOR MOSES of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day.”
James says; We write, that is to confirm and establish the Truth here before preached unto you by our beloved Barnabas and Paul that you are not subject to circumcision nor any other law of Moses as you will certainly be constantly confronted with what Moses wrote… seeing it has been around so long and is established as the accepted means unto holiness and as Moses has those who preach him in every city by way of what he wrote…. We send preachers to preach and establish the written Words of the NC….. that is to say the Apostle James refers to Moses by way of contrast/comparison implying their NC authority and the means by which to establish NC Truth in like authoritative manner….and too the necessity to write the NC Truth in Scriptural terms, inspired by the Holy Spirit, so as NC Believers may refute all future confrontations….as is anticipated in the abundance of the possibilities since, “Moses is preached in synagogues every Sabbath.” (This is not, as some have tried to explain, an encouraging Word from The Spirit for Gentile Believers to attend synagogues on the Sabbath to finish their Christian education in instruction in how to keep the law of Moses. This would be nonsense to so instruct Gentiles and certainly no cause for rejoicing or comforting! (Verse 31)
So in like manner and authority, WE WRITE under the directive of the counsel of the Holy Spirit, this instructive Word, “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no more burden, than these necessary things….” and send OUR REPRESENTATIVES (verses 22,23) to deliver the WRITTEN WORD of the NC into your hands. Making the point of right authority, directed towards those who would circumvent the Holy Spirit , who “…went out from us (without authority not as Jews but NC Believers) have troubled you with words (subversive), subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law (of Moses): TO WHOM WE (the Apostles-the established authority in the NC Church) gave no such commandment.” (verse 24)
They are not denying these who have come out from among them, as NC converts, but are declaring in the power of the Holy Spirit that the message of mixing the Covenants with keeping the law of Moses is a message subverting their souls. WE, as representatives in authority of Jesus Christ, make no such command….. but…. “That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, YE SHALL DO WELL. FARE YE WELL.” There is no further mention of Moses’ law.
There is no sign of acquiescence from the law of Moses, that is to say that the Apostles recognized the Gentiles were just pushing back at the legitimate requirements of the law of Moses, and in sympathetic understanding of their unfamiliarity with Moses law allowed or accepted that for the time being, until they got to speed, since Moses is preached everywhere, they will learn and then wholly comply at some point to the legitimate demands of Moses in the NC. On the contrary, as time passes, and we hear further from the Apostles of the NC, more bold and clear are they as to rightly dividing the Word.
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