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Looking For Balance



What is the obligation we Gentile believers have, if any, to become part of these Jewish roots?

 

Paul tells Timothy that in the last days, perilous times shall come, and then he lists things for us to look out for.  The enemy is about to twist and pervert many of the things we are discussing today in order to divide the body, but because many will swallow false doctrines at an alarming rate, they will separate themselves from the true church.  However, at the same time, an abundance of revelation shall be flowing into the body, according to Peter, making us partakers of the divine nature, and the Sons of light shall emerge.

 

Acts 15:1-19

1 And certain men which came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, "Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved." 


2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.


3 And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.  


4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. 


5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, that it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the Law of Moses. 


6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.


7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.  


8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;  


9And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.  


10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?  


11 But we believe that through the grace of the LORD Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.  


12 Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. 


13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:  


14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 


15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,  


16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:  


17 That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.  


18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.  


19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:

 

Old Argument


This question has come up before. In Acts 13-15 Paul and Barnabas had been ministering to the Gentiles throughout the Roman Empire, teaching them of Jesus, the Jewish law, and how he fulfilled Jewish prophecy, but not requiring them to adhere to Jewish law.


But some questioned this practice. "...there arose a certain sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying that it was needful to circumcise them and to command them to keep the Law of Moses." (v5)

 

Writing about that experience in Galatians 2:1-4, Paul said he went up to meet with

the leaders in Jerusalem "...privately, lest I was in error". He wanted to make sure the

freedom he taught was truly the Holy Spirit, and in agreement with the Word of God.

They all met to get the mind of the Lord on the matter.

 

The Pharisees (which means "separated"), you may recall, began as a (separatist)

holiness movement about 150 BC over concerns that they couldn't tell a Jew from a Greek. The Jews at that time went to the gym like the Greeks, to the spas like the Greeks, to sporting events like the Greeks, to the theaters like the Greeks, and talked like the Greeks. So, neighborhood synagogues were created as schools to train the Jewish children in the faith and for the adults to meet and learn the Word. By the time Jesus came,  their man-made laws and traditions had become more important to them than Moses' Law, thus the conflicts with Jesus.

 

These Pharisee believers in Acts 15 believed Gentile believers should separate themselves (to be more holy) and follow the laws of Moses. Paul, Barnabas, and Peter argued that God himself had chosen to give Gentiles the Holy Spirit and there were no indications from God that he expected them to obey Moses (in our day we'd say 'no prophetic words'), so they should not be made to do something God had not commanded. (7-10)

 

James, the brother of Jesus, stood up after hearing what the Holy Spirit was doing among the Gentiles and said "...to this the words of the prophets agree. Therefore my decision is that we trouble them not, who from the Gentiles have turned to God." v19)

 

 The Spirit and Word always agree, and his test of determining if a 'movement' is of God or not by comparing what people claim the Holy Spirit is doing against the Word remains THE way to make accurate spiritual judgments about a movement, minister, or 'outpouring'.


One might imagine that their decision caused great joy among the Gentile believers.

In short, if God gave Himself to them, what could the OT law add? (v15,19-31)

 

That Should Settle It


One would think that would be that. But the 'sect of the Pharisees' Paul dealt with in Acts 15.


Continued their way, to the point in Galatians 2 that Paul calls them "...false brethren, who came in privately to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage." (v1-4)

 

Notice he said their goal was to bring people from freedom in Christ into bondage to the Law of Moses. Yet, on the other hand, Paul arranged his travels at one point to be back in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost; so what gives? (Acts 18:21)

 

The fine line is this: If some wish to observe the Jewish customs from a position of freedom and grace, they are free to do so. But if they are compelled to obey those customs because they fear they are offending God, or think they will please him more, or are incomplete in their faith, or others compel them by condemnation or under the guise of having a higher revelation, they are in error.

 

Rabbit Trail


Paul also dealt with the Sabbath day issue in Romans 14:5-6, where he said, "One man esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regards the day, regards it to the Lord; and he that regards not the day, to the Lord he does not regard it."


And again in Colossians 2:16-17: "Let no man judge you in food, drink, in respect to a holy day, or of the new moon (Feast of Trumpets), or of the Sabbath days; which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ."


In other words, if you esteem Saturday or a Jewish holy day above the rest, then what you do is unto the Lord and that is fine. The line not to be crossed is compelling another or weakening another's faith to make it a law. In this passage in Romans, he dealt with vegetarians, the Sabbath, and eating meat sacrificed to idols.

 

To those who ate only veggies, believed one day was above the rest, or had conscience issues eating meat that had earlier been offered in sacrifice at the (pagan) temple, Paul said they were "weak in the faith" (v1)... He said to receive them, but not to the point of doubtful arguments. "Let everyone be fully persuaded in his own mind", (but don't force it on others).

 

Here is a problem that many Seventh Day Adventists run into: they have the right, if they so desire, to adhere to some Jewish laws, which is what they do.  But they do not have a right to force on someone else or to tell others they are not right with God if they do it, yet this is what many do.  Another big thing they hop on is the day you worship.  Again, that is under the law and is a Jewish custom.  Paul plainly says whatever day you esteem, do it unto the Lord.  Additionally, the Lord changed the day of worship for Christians to Sunday, but he did not change it for the Jew who is not born again.  It was God who incorporated Sabbath day worship into Jewish law, but the scriptures below show that as far as Christians are concerned, it was changed.

 

1 Corinthians 16:2

2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

 

Acts 20:7

And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

 

End of Rabbit Trail - Back on Path


Here are a few things Paul taught in Galatians about going back under the law:

 

"I do not frustrate the grace of God: if righteousness comes by the Law then Christ

has died in vain." (2:21)

 

Why do something that frustrates the Father and Jesus?

 

"Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now made mature and complete by the flesh?" (3:3)

 

 Foolish? Yikes! That hurts believers, but choosing a foolish path in their faith.

Consider the logic: If you have the Holy Spirit within, how can you be perfected by (external) laws? Doesn't it stand to reason that if you have the Holy Spirit within, maturity comes by walking with Him, living from the spirit man outward?

 

Not many miracles are seen among those in bondage to the Law and religious constraints:

 

"He that ministers to you the Spirit and does miracles, is it by they Law or the hearing

of faith?" (3:5)

 

Paul says that we are not servants who have to obey the master's law, but rather children of God, and our spirit calls out to Him: "Abba (daddy) Father" (4:6).


The law is not of faith (it's works), and

 

"...a man is not justified by the works of the Law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ,

even we who believe in Jesus Christ..." (3:12, 2:16)

 

 He says that the law was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, but once we have Christ, we are no longer under the schoolmaster, for we are all children of God now. (3:23-26)

  The Obligation and Hypocrisy


Paul goes on to say that those who willingly place themselves under the Law have "fallen from grace" (5:4), and if someone is under the law, if they break just one law, they are guilty of all. (5:3)

 

For example, in Matthew 23:23, Jesus told the leaders who were so concerned with the details of doing the Law that they missed the weightier matters like right judgment, mercy, and faith, to concentrate on being sure people tithed on their mind, anise, and cumin.

 

 Paul says if believers choose to go under the Law, they must, therefore, obey all the

law. In this example, if they tithe, then they must tithe down to their spice rack.

Otherwise, they are guilty of all the laws and have become hypocrites. But if you choose to tithe and/or have a regular discipline of giving, there are benefits released (II Cor 9:6-11; Lk 6:38), but it's done from a position of freedom and grace, not legalism.

 

If you place yourself under the law, then you can't mix clothing fibers (goodbye cotton/polyester shirts), eat fish that don't have both fins and scales (goodbye shrimp/lobster/crabs/catfish), can't have cheese on that cheeseburger, tithe down to

your spice rack, and a host of other laws - (613 laws in the laws of Moses).  To violate

one violates all.

 

Paul applauded their zeal but sought to balance them, for if they were to continue in

this bondage, they could end up becoming inclusive, or worse, taking a stand against

or persecuting those who walk in freedom in Christ. (4:18-31)


He goes on to say that in their zeal to be more Christ-like, the answer is to live by their spirit and Holy Spirit rather than by the Law:

 

"If you are led by the Spirit you are not under the Law." (5:13-26)

 

"You are called to liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (5:13-14)

 

 And that sums it up. We Gentiles, or like-minded Jews like Paul, may celebrate Jewish culture and festivals from a position of freedom as oft as we wish and to the depth we wish, but we shouldn't turn that freedom into a license for leaving grace to go (back) into bondage. This grace is given that we might serve one another in love.

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