Acts 15: Does Torah pertain to Christians?
Torah plainly states that there is ONE Torah for Israel and the Gentile who dwells with her - yet, many try to use Acts 15 as "proof" that Christians don't have to keep Torah. That is because they don't realize that Acts 15 is referring to Gentiles coming to Torah - not "reducing" the obligations of Torah itself...
The "million dollar question" that has successfully split the Messianic Faith today is: Are Gentiles required to obey Torah? And the answer is a resounding, "YES!" Why? Well, once you have accepted the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and His Divine Son, you are no longer considered a "Gentile"'; you are a "Hebrew" (which means, "to cross over!")....
Acts 15: 19 "Therefore, my opinion is that we should not put obstacles in the way of the Goyim who are turning to God. 20 Instead, we should write them a letter telling them to abstain from things polluted by [sacrificed to] idols, from fornication, from what is strangled and from blood. 21 For from the earliest times, Moshe has had in every city those who proclaim him, with his words being read in the synagogues every Shabbat."
Note verse 19 which says: "Therefore, my opinion is that we should not put obstacles in the way of the Goyim who are turning to God"! Read in context, Acts 15 plainly states that the expectation of the non-Jewish believers was that they would learn Moshe (Torah) as they grew in their relationship with Mashiyach and his people. Read in context, Acts 15:20-21 demonstrates there is one Torah for Israel and the Gentile who dwells with her - yet, many try to use it as "proof" that Christians don't have to keep Torah. That is because they don't realize that Acts 15 is referring to Gentiles coming to Torah - not "reducing" the obligations of Torah itself for Gentiles...
Aside: A footnote from the AENT clarifies: That which is "sacrificed" unto other gods according to YHWH's Word in D'varim/Deuteronomy 32:17 is sacrificed unto devils. Vayikra/Leviticus 17:12-16 commands that Jew and Ger (foreigner) NOT eat blood, or any animals that die of themselves. The prohibition against fornication is wide spectrum, against all manner of physical perversion and spiritual whoredom. These Torah directives are eternally binding on all who follow Y'shua Mashiyach and who seek the Malchut (Kingdom) of Elohim.
It's a very clear fulfillment of Isaiah 56:1-9. Gentile converts are observing Shabbat and learning Torah as one body along with Jews. Shortly thereafter, Marcion, whom Polycarp referred to as "the firstborn of the devil" built the first all-Gentile church to promote Christo-Paganism. Marcion held his services on Sunday which blended with Zeus (the sun god) culture and projected a hybrid Je-Zeus identity in opposition to the Jewish Mashiyach.
The modern theologies of "Jesus Christ" are based more on Hellenism than on original fundamental Hebraic values. Marcion coined the words "Old - New Testament" and did his very best to warn Gentiles away from Torah and "the God of the Old Testament." Marcion invented theologies known as replacement, dispensational, supercessionism, etc., which are very popular among Christianity today.
Yes: Read in context Acts 15 plainly states that the expectation of the non-Jewish believers was that they would learn Torah as they grew in their relationship with Mashiyach and his people.
Please think about this as well:
- When Avraham was called out of Ur of the Chaldees (Genesis 12), there were no "Jews"; there were no "rabbis"; there was only one man who listened to and obeyed YHWH. Avraham, who both left his homeland and came out of paganism by accepting YHWH became a "Hebrew" which means "to cross over."
- When Moshe led the people put of Egypt, he was accompanied by a "mixed multitude" (Exodus 12:38) and he shared "the Law" with ALL when he came down from the mountain. He did not send the "foreigners" away to have their own rules!
- While Joseph lived in Egypt (Genesis 30-50), born to him from an Egyptian wife were Efrayim and Mannasheh who were given tribes within the nation of Israel. Though half Egyptian (pagan) they were given equal status with the sons of Israel.
YHWH made it perfectly clear that ALL who accepted Him were to OBEY Him:
Exodus 12: 48 If a foreigner staying with you wants to observe ADONAI's Pesach, all his males must be circumcised. Then he may take part and observe it; he will be like a citizen of the land. But no uncircumcised person is to eat it. 49 The same teaching is to apply equally to the citizen and to the foreigner living among you."
Leviticus 17: 8 "Then you shall say to them, 'Any man from the house of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice, 9 and does not bring it to the doorway of the tent of meeting to offer it to the LORD, that man also shall be cut off from his people.
Leviticus 24: 22 You are to apply the same standard of judgment to the foreigner as to the citizen, because I am ADONAI your God."
Numbers 9: 14 If a foreigner is staying with you and wants to observe Pesach for ADONAI, he is to do it according to the regulations and rules of Pesach- you are to have the same law for the foreigner as for the citizen of the land.'"
Numbers 15: 13 "'Everyone who is native-born must do these things in this way when he brings an offering made by fire as an aroma pleasing to the LORD. 14 For the generations to come, whenever an alien or anyone else living among you presents an offering made by fire as an aroma pleasing to the LORD, he must do exactly as you do. 15 The community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the alien shall be the same before the LORD: 16 The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the alien living among you.'"
Deuteronomy 31: 11 when all Isra'el have come to appear in the presence of ADONAI at the place he will choose, you are to read this Torah before all Isra'el, so that they can hear it. 12 Assemble the people-the men, the women, the little ones and the foreigners you have in your towns -so that they can hear, learn, fear ADONAI your God and take care to obey all the words of this Torah;
We are told in Exodus 22: 21 "You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt". In other words: As believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, we are one in God's eyes, and are therefore required to act accordingly.
How much clearer could it be? The "foreigner" (anyone who is not a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who has decided they want YHWH as their God MUST obey His Divine Instructions in Righteousness! Remember, YHWH did NOT make His New Covenant with Gentiles; He made it with the Torah observant Houses of Israel and Judah (Jeremiah 31:32). As "grafted in" Christians are part of Israel - which means they must do EXACTLY the same as YHWH's "natural children."
Nowhere in the "New Testament" are we ever told that "Jesus" abolished the need for Torah! Anyone who says otherwise is a liar and does not know their Bible! Anyone who attempts to refer you to the much-misunderstood writings of Paul (who, incidentally was Torah observant and NEVER spoke against Torah!) needs to be reminded that YESHUA, not Paul, was DIVINE, and that we are to obey GOD!
So, what's the deal with Acts 15?
Acts 15 is referring to Gentiles just coming to Torah and not to any change to Torah itself!
Many Christian leaders attempt to cite Acts 15:24, for example, as proof that circumcision is only for the Jews since the letter penned by the Apostles to the gentiles in the Roman-held lands cited the issue of circumcision as the primary example of the confused teachings the gentiles were receiving. These Christian leaders need to re-read the words of YAHWEH in Genesis 17, addressing the descendants (Jewish and gentile), which clearly command non-Jews who are part of Isra'el to be circumcised:
Genesis 17: 11. And you will be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin. And it shall be a token of a covenant between me and you. 12. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every male throughout your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any foreigner that is not of your seed. 13. He that is born in your house, and he that is bought with your money, must be circumcised. And my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14. And the uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that soul shall be cut off from his people. He has broken my covenant.
The Apostles would never have changed or negated a commandment! The point in the letter was to ease the mind of the new gentile believer that all the demands of Judaism would not be levied on them at one time. Rather, in the beginning, the gentile should leave behind the pagan ways of accepting as food, animals sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from fornication. (Acts 15:29).
A footnote in the Aramaic English New Testament explains that in Acts 15:28-29 we can see an example of binding and loosing: "The matter of circumcision was being applied commensurate to immediate need, as directed by the Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit). Instead of performing the act of circumcision before learning Torah [empahsis added], new converts are required to learn and apply Torah first, and then, when they have a good understanding, they are circumcised, but not the other way around. The keys of the Kingdom are wisdom and discernment given by the Ruach haKodesh to apply the Word of YAHWEH."
Yeshua, the Torah observant Jew who came to teach the world about YAHWEH and His Commandments, "bought and paid" for everyone including Gentiles with His own precious blood. Yeshua Himself was circumcised, and only taught and advocated Torah; therefore it stands to reason that anyone who believes in Him must also (eventually) be circumcised.
The reality in Acts 15 is that the meeting of the emissaries and elders which became known as the "Jerusalem Council" 15 was dealing with a specific issue: Was it necessary for Gentiles as new converts to immediately take on the full weight of the Torah and the man-made laws and traditions of the Sages in order to be accepted within the Jewish community? The Council voiced a unified "no" to this question. Using "circumcision" as a shorthand designation for "the ritual of becoming a proselyte," the Council determined that the Gentile converts would not need to be immediately circumcised in order to be received into the Torah community. (The issue of circumcision as a requirement was the central issue which brought the Apostles to Jerusalem in the first place! (Acts 15:1).
There was, however, the need to assure the Jewish community coming to the Messiah that those Gentiles who had also confessed Yeshua as Messiah had genuinely forsaken any form of idolatry - perhaps the greatest of the prohibitions. (Remember, the term "Gentiles" equated with "pagans" in those days.) Since the Greek and Roman cultures were centered around idol worship with local pagan temples, it was important the Jewish community be able to receive the Gentile believers without any suspicion of remaining idolatry. The apostles, therefore, required the Gentiles to accept only the commandments of YHWH regarding idolatry. These were:
- They should not participate in any meal that was even remotely connected to idol worship.
- They should not participate in any gathering or ceremony that involved the misuse of blood as a sacrificial element.
- They should not involve themselves in any ritual or ceremony that involved the strangulation of animals, and they should be careful not to eat meat from animals killed through strangulation (something common in the pagan sacrificial rituals).
- They should distance themselves from any contact with or support of the temple prostitutes and the fornication they represented in the pagan temple precincts.
While the Torah certainly prohibited any worship of the idols, the gentiles were raised in such practices and abandoning such practices was considered essential in showing the clear break the Gentile believers had made with idolatry so as to become true followers of YHWH.
But since many rules levied on Torah were man-made and not directly from Scripture, they became part of the "yoke" of oral Torah, the burden that the Sages had laid upon the written Scriptures. While the apostles were unwilling to put the Gentiles under the full weight of the traditions - something not even the Jewish people had been able to bear (Acts 15:10) - they did see the need to require the Gentiles to begin their journey in Torah with the essential items selected for their letter to the gentiles. Only such a requirement could have fully satisfied the Jewish community that the Gentile believers had made a radical break from their former ways.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: If Acts 15:19-21 constitutes an exhaustive list of forbidden behavior, then Christians can have "other gods", lie, steal, commit murder, ignore the widow and the orphan and the Seventh Day Sabbath and the Feasts. They can use imbalanced scales when selling produce and provoke their children to wrath, pray to the dead, consult wizards and soothsayers, and commit a whole host of other abominations....