The Acts 15:1 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.
The Acts 15:2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.
Paul and Barnabas, separated by the Holy Spirit to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, had been preaching about salvation through faith in Christ. And God had been blessing their efforts with massive conversion of the Gentiles.
Suddenly, some men came from Jerusalem, the headquarters of the Jewish Church, and started insisting that the Gentiles could not be saved by having faith in Christ alone. That to be fully and completely saved, Gentile believers must believe in Christ and also keep the Mosaic Law. What they meant was that, salvation for the Gentiles must be by grace plus observance of the Mosaic Law.
I want us to understand the fundamental issue here. Paul and Barnabas preached salvation by faith in Christ alone. By their preaching, you don’t need to observe the Mosaic Law to be saved. By grace you are saved, through faith in Christ alone.
Some men from Jerusalem who were also believers in Christ (Jewish believers) came from Jerusalem and countered the teachings of Paul and Barnabas on this issue. They told the Gentiles that faith in Christ alone was not sufficient for salvation. They taught that, to be fully saved, the Gentiles had to get circumcised (an entry point into the Mosaic covenant) and keep the law of Moses, in addition to having faith in Christ. In effect, those Judaisers preached that Gentiles had to become converts to Judaism first, before they could become born again.
As a result, a great dispute ensued. Paul and Barnabas argued fiercely with these Judaisers from Jerusalem. The contention on this issue was so hot that the Church in Antioch resolved the matter needed to be settled by the council of apostles and elders in Jerusalem. It was a big enough issue to call for the first church council. It’s still a big enough issue in our day because the confusion still lingers.
So, Paul and Barnabas and other appointed members of the church in Antioch went up to Jerusalem to meet the apostles and elders there to resolve this issue. Let’s hear what the first church council had to say about this matter.
The Acts 15:4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them.
The Acts 15:5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.
The Acts 15:6 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter.
The Acts 15:7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.
The Acts 15:8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us,
The Acts 15:9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.
The Acts 15:10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?
The Acts 15:11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.
Above was Peter’s response to the debate. The Apostle Peter saw the compelling of the Gentiles to keep the Law of Moses as an unnecessary yoke which even they themselves being Jews couldn’t observe faithfully. Let us also carefully consider James’ response, one of the pillars of the Jewish Church, and the head of the Apostolic council in Jerusalem at the time. Isn’t it interesting that James (the half-brother of Jesus) was the head of the Church in Jerusalem at this time, and not Peter, whom the Roman Catholics consider the first Pope? Let’s look at James’ response carefully and digest it before we move on. Very important!
The Acts 15:12 And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.
The Acts 15:13 After they finished speaking, James replied, Brothers, listen to me.
The Acts 15:14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name.
The Acts 15:15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,
The Acts 15:16 After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it,
The Acts 15:17 that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things
The Acts 15:18 known from of old.
The Acts 15:19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God,
The Acts 15:20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.
The Acts 15:21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.
James too, like Peter, did not see any reason why the Gentiles should keep the law of Moses, other than the universal law God gave to mankind through Noah, to avoid eating blood, strangled animals and food offered to idols, and to abstain from sexual immorality. Out of the entire Mosaic Law, these were the things singled out for the Gentiles to observe!
The Acts 15:22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers,
The Acts 15:23 with the following letter: The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings.
The Acts 15:24 Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions,
The Acts 15:25 it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
The Acts 15:26 men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Acts 15:27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth.
The Acts 15:28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements:
The Acts 15:29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.
That was the conclusion of the Apostolic Council at Jerusalem on the issue of whether or not Gentile believers should obey and keep Law of Moses, in addition to having faith in Christ Jesus, before they could be saved. Please, digest it carefully and let it sink in. This is potentially revolutionary!!!
The Acts 15:30 So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter.
The Acts 15:31 And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement.
See the effect of this liberating truth on the Gentile believers!!!
Brothers and sisters, the solution to that seemingly irrelevant question was the defining point of the Gospel. It was what saved the Gospel of grace and preserved the purity of the Gospel. It was the greatest battle Paul fought throughout his ministry, the battle to keep grace from being corrupted and made of non-effect by the Law. It was the crux of the Epistle to the Galatians, who had been seduced by the grace plus Law theology and had fallen from grace thereby.
To begin with, the Old Testament was a covenant between God and the Israelites. The Gentiles were not a part of that covenant, although God had in mind to bring them into His blessings later. But, the Gentiles were not a part of that Covenant on Mount Sinai that God made with Israel. A few Gentiles like Ruth had to renounce their gods and nationalities and become proselyted to the Jewish religion to enjoy the benefits of the Covenant. But, basically, it was a contractual agreement between God and Israel. If you’re not a party to a contract, you will neither benefit from, nor suffer from the contract. True or false?
Let me draw a conclusion to what we’ve been saying: the Gentile believers do not need to keep the Law of Moses to be saved. We are not under the Law of Moses. Observance of the Law of Moses cannot save us. We are not under the Old Testament. The Old Testament is expired and has been replaced by the New. The Old Testament and the Mosaic Law that regulate it is an expired document that can only bring death, not life!!!
The Law is a prisoner! And we have allowed it to hold Grace captive and made it ineffectual.
Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.
Galatians 3:11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for The righteous shall live by faith.
Galatians 3:12 But the law is not of faith, rather The one who does them shall live by them.
Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.
Galatians 3:2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?
Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
Galatians 3:4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?
Galatians 3:5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s remind ourselves what the Law is, as used by Paul and other New Testament writers. By the Law, we mean the entire Mosaic Law! Yes, the entirety of the Mosaic Law! The moral law, the statutes, the judgments, the religious, the social, the economic laws governing the lives of God’s people in the Old Testament, the Israelites. This refers to the over 600 statutes and ordinances in the Mosaic Law, including the laws regulating the Tabernacle worship, the priesthood, tithes, etc.
Galatians 3:19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.
God’s gift of salvation does not depend on observance of the Mosaic Law. It’s predicated on the grace of God in his promise to Abraham. A promise made to Abraham not because he observed any works of the Law, but simply because he believed God.
Galatians 3:15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified.
Galatians 3:16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, And to offsprings, referring to many, but referring to one, And to your offspring, who is Christ.
Galatians 3:17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.
Galatians 3:18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
Friends, the Law is a cage, a prison house! It is a curse! If you live under the Mosaic Law and expect to be blessed thereby, you’re living a lie. The only way you can live under the Law is by unfailingly keeping every single law/ordinance contained in the Law. If you break one, you’re dead!!! The Law is a trap house that leads to death. It doesn’t have life or blessing in it and it wasn’t designed to, in the first place.
Galatians 4:21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?
Galatians 4:22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman.
Galatians 4:23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise.
Galatians 4:24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar.
Galatians 4:25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.
Galatians 4:26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.
Galatians 4:27 For it is written, Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.
Galatians 4:28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.
Galatians 4:29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now.
Galatians 4:30 But what does the Scripture say? Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.
Galatians 4:31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.
Somebody will go to Deuteronomy 22: 5 and say,‘ you see, a woman wearing a garment that belongs to a man is an abomination’, but Deuteronomy 22:9-12 also says, ‘Do not plant any crop in the same field as your grapevines; if you do , you’re forbidden to use either the grapes or the produce of the other crop. Do not hitch an ox or a donkey together in plowing. Do not wear cloth made by weaving wool and linen together’.
Why don’t they that desire to keep the Law, keep the whole Law? Why do they wear garments of mixed fibers, and sow different crops in their farms?
Grasp this! The Law was given to show man what sin is. And the Law was to be useful in that regard until the coming of Christ. After Christ has come, the Law, having fulfilled its purpose, becomes useless! Isn’t it distressing how ministers cage God’s people with the Law and make them live under a curse? Haven’t you heard people say ‘if you don’t pay your tithe, you’re under a curse’?, using Malachi 3:9, a scripture related to the support of the Levitical Priesthood under the Mosaic Law. Are these ministers of tithe and Malachi in the old or new covenant?
Those desiring to remain as part of the Old Covenant of Mount Sinai are children of Hagar. The Children of Promise, like Isaac, belong to the New Jerusalem. Hagar and her children are in bondage. All those under the Law are in bondage!!! And guess what? They will always be the ones to persecute the children of Promise. But, you know what? They will always be cast away, like Ishmael.
Galatians 3:21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.
Galatians 3:22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
Galatians 3:23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.
Galatians 3:24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.
Galatians 3:25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.
Galatians 5:7 You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?
Galatians 5:8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you.
Galatians 5:9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
It’s important we realize who Paul was addressing here- born again Christians in Galatia who once believed in salvation by faith in Christ alone, but had now been seduced to believe in salvation by Grace in Christ plus obedience to the Old Testament Mosaic Law. Think about it, friends. A born again Christian can start in the Spirit (justification and sanctification by faith through grace) and end up in the flesh (observance of the Law).
Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.
Galatians 5:3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.
Galatians 5:4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
If you insist on keeping the Law that has been abolished, you have fallen from grace. Christ is of no use to you! Did you get that? If you want to keep one part of the Law of Moses, then you must keep the entire Mosaic Law. And if you do that (if you can!), you’re a lost slave!
Whoever persuades a believer to go back to any portion of the Mosaic Law is not under the influence of the Holy Spirit. The person is working at cross purposes with God, whoever he is! I don’t care if he’s a Pope or an Archbishop or a General Overseer. He’s missed the mark of the Gospel!
Galatians 6:12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.
Galatians 6:13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.
Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
If you’re preaching grace alone minus the Law of Moses, you’ll get heavily persecuted. Religious people like to make a ritualistic, even if hypocritical, show of keeping some carnal ordinances, especially those make them self-righteous. They want to work for their salvation, and pay their way to heaven through tithe, etc. And the preachers who love the wages of unrighteousness, like Balaam, love to dwell on the Mosaic Law, because of tithes, first fruits and seeds!!!
Galatians 5:11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.
Galatians 5:12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!
The Mosaic Law and the Old Covenant it represents have been nullified and abolished, and have been replaced by the New Covenant ratified on Calvary by the blood Jesus. We are no longer under the Law, neither are we anymore under the Old Covenant!
Hebrews 8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
Hebrews 8:8 For he finds fault with them when he says: Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,
Hebrews 8:9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
Hebrews 8:10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Hebrews 8:11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
Hebrews 8:12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.
Hebrews 8:13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Romans 7:1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives?
Romans 7:2 Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.
Romans 7:3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.
Romans 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.
Romans 7:5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.
Romans 7:6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.
All believers in Christ died with him on the cross and thus became dead to the Law of Moses. The Law does not have jurisdiction over a dead man, does it? If you’re in Christ, you’re dead to the world and the Law of Moses.
The things that are expired and that we are no longer required to keep, are the 600 plus statutes, judgments, ordinances and precepts in the Mosaic Law that govern the religious, social and economic lives of Israelites, from Exodus to Malachi.
When we say the Old Testament is expired and abolished, we’re actually talking about the Covenant God had with Israel on Mount Sinai, given through Moses, and regulated by the Mosaic Law.
The Gospels, the book of Acts and the Epistles of the Apostles of Christ constitute the rule of faith for the New Testament believer.
What this means is that, you don’t have to go to the Mosaic Law to find out what God requires of you to do in matters of conduct, belief and practice. Also expired and no longer to be observed are the laws regarding the Levitical priesthood, the sacrifices of that priesthood and the laws that sustained that priesthood etc.
Now, that doesn’t mean the Old Testament portion of your Bible is useless and should be ripped off. The Old Testament portion of the Bible does not contain only the Mosaic Law.
In the Old Testament, we have accounts of the creation, the progressive revelation of God, God’s dealings with man, prophecies (some of which have been fulfilled, and some of which are yet to be fulfilled)
Even in the Mosaic Law and other portions of the Old Testament, we have types and shadows of Christ in the various events and processes that transpired in the lives of godly men and women.
Most importantly, we have examples of godly men and women, how they stood for righteousness and how they were blessed of God. That’s the purpose of the old testament– to act as examples for us to learn from, so that we don’t make the same mistakes some people made and lost favour with God.
1 Corinthians 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea,
1 Corinthians 10:2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,
1 Corinthians 10:3 all ate the same spiritual food,
1 Corinthians 10:4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:5 But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
1 Corinthians 10:6 now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.
1 Corinthians 10:7 and do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.”
1 Corinthians 10:8 nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell;
1 Corinthians 10:9 nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents;
1 Corinthians 10:10 nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.
1 Corinthians 10:11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
1 Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
The revelation of God in the Old Testament was in shadow and progressive, culminating in the full revelation of God in Christ.
The Old Testament is not only truly historical, it also reveals the plan of God and declares the future of mankind. But remember– Christ is the substance and the fulfillment of the types and shadows depicted in the Old Testament.
So, read and study the Old Testament, along with the new. Both make up the Bible! Hebrews 11 also chronicles some of the heroic deeds of some of the men and women of faith in the Old Testament. Their biographies are inspiring. If they accomplished what they did under the blood of bulls and goats which could only cover sin but not take it away, how much more should we accomplish under the blood of Christ which alone can take away sin.
But please, don’t forget the most important message of this teaching- the laws of Moses as contained in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are expired and abolished, and have no relevance in the conduct and practice of the New Testament church. What governs the New Testament churches is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, as contained in the Gospels, the book of Acts and the Epistles of the Apostles of Christ.
Read and study the Old Testament! Without a firm understanding of the Old Testament, you will not understand nor appreciate the new. But, don’t let any man bring you back to bondage by demanding obedience to any part of the expired and abolished Mosaic Laws, especially the laws of tithing, first fruits, etc,.
As we study about the heroes and heroines of faith in the Old Testament and learn from their examples, let us remember one thing- we have a better covenant than theirs, which is founded upon better promises.
Hebrews 11:39 and all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,
Hebrews 11:40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
Therefore let us not look back and yearn to be like them, rather let us look up and aspire to be better, because we have a better covenant founded upon better promises. Servants of God, fear not! The New Testament has better provisions for your welfare. Stop going back to the expired Mosaic Law to look for tithe and first fruits by fraudulent means. You’re not a Levitical priest!!!
Once you go back to keeping any part of the Mosaic Law, you place yourself under a curse and remove yourself from grace.