My Scripture Studies
Seek God. Engage with His voice in the Bible and start in the beginning.

October 18, 2020

What's the Fuss in Acts Chapter 15 ?

If you want to stop traditional Bible verse skimming and dig deep into the context of the background story in Acts 15, you may be at the right place. 

There's been a lot written about Paul and much written about Acts 15 that attempts to do away with the front of the Bible, but here we'll explore some some Bible basics. 

We'll also look into a Greco-Roman pagan problem to unwind Acts 15 from some verse snippet disinformation you may have heard.

We'll use Bible context from the Torah's written instruction that can be stymied by religion. 

The reason is that some say God's voice the mountain Torah is old and amounts to a “heavy burden” of legalism in Acts 15. I know I once did thinking that the Torah voice of God written by Moses was wiped away, hung on the cross and replaced by grace. 

Yet, if you keep reading you may see that the written Torah documenting what was said at the top of the mountain is a Bible basic foundation stone of the Jerusalem decision.

First things first. 

Who was Paul and why was he out and about in Jerusalem?

He was there because he met Yeshua on the road to Damascus and three days later was given an assignment to engage the covenant made with Abraham regarding the promise that all nations would be blessed. 

Yeshua used a man named Ananias in Damascus to give Paul, the Israelite of the tribe of Benjamite his blessed assignment to declare Yeshua as the promised Messiah before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. 

As I written before, Paul, aka Saul of Tarsus had been yeshiva trained in Jerusalem by Gamaliel, a prominent and respected teacher of the Torah and rest of the Hebrew Scriptures now known as the Tanach. Gamaliel was well qualified, after all he was a grandson of the famous Rabbi Hillel of the School of Hillel. 

In God’s sovereign gospel plan, Paul was raised studying and memorizing the Hebrew Scriptures.

Like Paul's life coach, his teacher Gamaliel was also a Pharisee and a Jewish rabbi. Back in the day, he preserved the witness of Paul to the Gentiles when the Sadducees sought to take him out before he could finish spreading the word about the promised Messiah found in the Hebrew Scriptures across synagogues around the Mediterranean and beyond.

One thing that Paul had come to understand is that the written Torah has no instruction for becoming a proselyte or a requirement for conversion to hear God's voice and follow along. Not only that, he knew there's no ceremonial knife ritual in the Torah for securing eternal life salvation and we'll delve into that as well.

Secondly, to set the scene like the golden calf incident at Sinai, a pagan problem remained alive and well in Pauls' day. The pagan problem was infused in the Greco-Roman culture. It geared up society as a hedonistic anything goes, do as you want attitude that remains in so-called modern society. 

Today, it has morphed like a virus, yet the conflict with God's voice is the same today as it was in Babylon, Egypt and Persia. Only the names had changed in the Greco-Roman pagan world outside Jerusalem. Its twisted DNA was embedded in Eden with an ongoing conflict with God's instruction.

At Sinai, the words of Almighty God were penned by Moses as the constitution manual for life in the Kingdom of God whether native born or sojourner. 

Back in the days of Paul of Tarsus, the ancient pagan problem was infused in virtually every city whether Roman or Greek. The world remained in spiritual oppressive war with God and the first of the Ten Commandments recorded at Mount Sinai was front and center: 
“You shall have no other gods before Me." 
Society in that day had man gods. That spiritual virus is gaining a lot of momentum once again. If you hang around long enough to look at the context of the Acts chapter 15 big picture, you will find a hidden treasure or two that can help you do something about it. 

Before we dig in, I don't want to be irreverent in any way with a golf analogy, but if you ask me, the game of golf can provide a pretty descent parable-like picture perspective on Acts 15 you may never considered. 

Many people enjoy the game of a lifetime, I know I do, so think about this even if you're not a golfer: 

It would be unfair to ask any rank beginner with no instruction, no teaching or coaching to start playing from the championship tees the first day out, much less in front of the big crowds at a one of golf's four "Major" championships.

For any beginner without a golf lesson, it would be extremely disheartening if not excruciating to ask them to step up and start on the first tee in front of tens of thousands in the gallery and millions watching on TV.

Whether at the back tee or the first tee at Augusta National, any raw, untrained beginner would not make it through the first round of a major. They'd likely quit in frustration and embarrassment long before reaching the 18th hole. They'd like quit in embarrassment and humiliation on the first hole or two.

One huge problem for the first time golfer would include the standard of play that applies to everyone.

It's known as the Rules of Golf. 

Without an understanding of the basic rules of play, a beginner would be demoralized and penalized several times and likely would get disqualified, tossed out by the rules of the game before the first round was completed or the scorecard signed but despite that...

Belief it or not, the rules of golf aren't really designed to punish a golfer. 

Their purpose is to do the right thing, to guide and help every golfer play the game as it is meant to be and allow everyone to play by the same rules. 

No golfer, beginner or champion pro is ever above the rules, it's really simple: they apply to everyone and you can't make you own rules up as you go. 

The rules of golf are pretty basic, but at times they can seem complex to decipher. 

For that reason, every tournament has a rules committee. The purpose of the committee is to assist with the right decision on how to apply them in unusual competitive situations. 

For that reason, to help the rules committee do the right thing, both the Royal and Ancient (R&A) and the United States Golf Association (USGA) have compiled their rulings to clarify ambiguities that can arise without a proper understanding and application of the rules of the game.

The committee meetings are important and the ultimate purpose is simply to allow every player to play by the rules.

Beginners don't know the basics of a good swing or the rules for playing the game, much less the big book committee decisions. 

Yet, every competitor should know the rule book basics and play by them. 

Yet every amateur golfer or elite tour pro knows that in golf, a proper round not only starts with rulebook basics, but with sound advice and lessons on a few swing basics. No matter how your swing looks or feels, coaching every beginner starts with just four basics

Grip, stance, posture and alignment.

In the beginning, beyond that the really important thing about golf is to fall in love with the game, but that hard to do without learning the four basics. Otherwise, golf can and will become frustrating and seemingly impossible. That's why after one or two rounds, some beginners feel defeated and quit trying. 

Golf is called the game of a lifetime, but for many it can have a very short fuse. 

For those that persevere after the four swing basics are learned, those fundamentals become good habits with practice and improvement. Soon, what seems very awkward at first feels natural. Ignore the basics though and every golfer on the planet will eventually find themselves consistently off the fairway in rough, the woods, in hazards or with penalties from boundaries with white out-of-bounds markers.

After learning the four basics, the next improvement step is to move on to some advanced training to learn how the game should be played so that your performance is at its best. 

Yet no matter how hard you try or how good you become, everyone makes mistakes. Everyone. Bogies, double bogies or worse show up on the scorecard. 

Just look at any scoreboard, they are full of good times and bad.

The joy in the improvement process can take many years for most people and when you toss in serious competitive tournament golf into the equation, pressure intensifies when the mind races unless the true heart of a golfer comes into play. 

It's as if the game changes, but it doesn't, just the circumstances.

Take a look at Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Bobby Jones. They all learned to play one step at a time.

Not only that, throughout their amazing competitive careers, they all had teachers, mentors and friends they could trust and rely on for guidance and to top it off they all excelled early on because of their determination to be the best they could be. 

Under competitive pressure, their incredible tournament successes were due in large part to those lessons but the key to success was an intangible belief and a determined heart to be their best. 

Unlike these men, Ben Hogan did not take the usual path with a swing coach, so success was elusive. 

Hogan's swing was dug out of the dirt. He was self-taught and because of that, unlike others it took him many years of trial and error and a lot of frustration before he finally became a "Major" champion, but he always had the intangible determination and belief in his heart. 

In 1929, after a difficult upbringing in which he witnessed his father's suicide, Mr. Hogan turned pro at the tender age of 17, but it wasn't until 1940, at age 28 that he started to win on the pro tour. 

He persevered and overcame personal and professional adversity when he finally broke through to the winner's circle. His first individual title came at the 1940 North & South Open after eleven years. 

It took six more years for his first victory in golf's big four "Major" championships. Hogan was 34 and he'd played professionally for 17 years when that first major came at the PGA Championship in 1946.

Then he won the US Open in 1948 and the PGA again. He won ten times that year and he led the season long money title and the Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average on tour for the 5th time. To date, he had won over 30 trophies since his military service during World War II.

Then at age 36, at the peak of his career, tragedy struck in 1949. He had won two tournaments by February, but while driving back home to Texas in the fog, a bus swerved into his lane, smashed into his car and crushed his ankle, cracked a few ribs and snapped a collarbone. During recovery, blood clots threatened his life, so life saving surgery followed. 

During his two month stay in the hospital, his doctor told him he was lucky to be alive, but that he may never walk. Hogan may have thought he would never play competitive golf again, but if he did, that concern did not last long.

The doctor knew his medical condition, but he did not know Ben Hogan's heart. 

Incredibly, a year later he returned to the tour as a part time professional golfer due to chronic leg problems. He limped his way to win a playoff at the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in 1950 and 1951. 
He followed that with Masters wins in 1951 and 1953 including another US victory at Oakmont. He finally decided to play the British Open in 1953 and Hogan topped off golf's grand slam and his major career at Carnoustie in Scotland. 

Hogan won all four major championships after 24 years with the never quit heart of a champion.

Like I said, this analogy is not supposed to be irreverent, but hopefully it will give you a parable-like perspective on the context of the coaching basics in Acts chapter 15. 

In my Scripture studies, believe it or not, I found that one way for me to understand the Jerusalem decision is a bit like those golf basics. After all, walking in God's way, in His image as we were made to do from the beginning takes devotion, daily practice and a heart. 

The transformation back to the image of God is what Paul wrote about when he penned this referencing the veil Moses wore only after he stood in the presence of The LORD. In the tent of meeting, in freedom from sin he never wore the veil:
But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:16-18
Except by a miracle, living life God's way is a process, whether body, mind or soul.

Almighty God's instruction at Mount Sinai 
started with Ten Basics

The Ten Commandments give everyone the outline for covenant relationship with our Creator and each other as it should be in the Kingdom of God. They describe how we can begin to build and mold our character and action into The Father's image. 

The order of the Ten Commandments point us back to Genesis 1:26-28. 

There we see mankind was made to be a reflection of God's image. Our Creator declared order: people were put over birds, fish and animals. Our Creator God never intended us to lower ourselves to worship them as image-idols. 

What is often labeled as the 4th commandment as the forever Sabbath zeros in on Genesis as well. Check out Genesis 2:2-4.

By what authority did the Greco-Roman church change that?

There's more in the Roman Empire context of the life and times of Acts 15 culture that’s credited with shaping the modern wild west. Few seem to know that Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus aka Nero was in charge at the time of Acts 15. Nero's reign was from AD 54 until his death in AD 68. 

Nero had a few wives, both women and men. Today, that is seen in the headlines.

Not only that, the ancient Romans had a goddess or a god for just about anything and Bible believers that made it to Rome were considered atheists since they didn't pay tribute to their pagan gods. 

Are you beginning to see a glimpse or two of the old pagan problem?

We are all born and gifted by our Creator with temperaments and personalities and Genesis reveals that our in His image character was sidelined a decision to not shema (hear and do) but to go our own way. 
God's way is an "I will do" covenant commitment if we seek to walk as a Godly person, it's been the Kingdom of God image way since the beginning.

When we turn the pages in the book of Acts to chapter 15, we see the decision made draws from Genesis 34. 

If you have not read Genesis 34, you should.

There you'll find that circumcision did not save Hamor nor Hamor's son Shechem. It did not save the Canaanites or the Perizzites either.

In Acts 15, we see conflict in the process of Godly character building mixed with religious tradition from a few men's rules on the proselyte requirements of the Pharisees. I think Ezekiel wrote this about that: 
"Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them."
It's noted in the very first verse that the Jerusalem rules committee gathered to deal with it...
"Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 

No need to read further, right there we see the issue at hand, it was a religious rule from shepherds that feed themselves and not the flock like those noted in the Ezekiel 34 prophecy. You should read it and... 

Ask yourself about salvation... 

Who defines it, who judges, who redeems one from death's snare, Almighty God or man?

King David wrote a song about the answer, it's Psalm 68. One stanza from that royal song reveals who bears our burden, who is our salvation, who delivers in His ways of escape from death:

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden,
Yehovah who is our salvation ישועתנו. Selah
God is to us a God of deliverance;
And to GOD the Lord belong ways of escape from death. Psalm 68:19-20

Those men described in Acts 15:1 were saying salvation is based on a theology of ethnic status, on what we do aka proselyte conversion to become a saved Jew by physical circumcision, not faith to be saved

Paul and Barnabas had a heated debate with those men and it led them to the trip to Jerusalem.

The men saying unless you are circumcised you cannot be saved forgot about David's Psalm. They forgot Hamor, they forgot about the Canaanites and the Perizzites too. They even forgot about God's friend Abraham and the 40 year exodus and the end of the Exodus journey. They forgot that salvation is not what you do in ritual, but what Almighty God does in His majesty and mystery way of providing One to bear our death sin burden in mercy and lovingkindness. 

They forgot all about Numbers 15:16: The LORD spoke to Moses, saying... "One law [Torah] and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you."

By reading this anyone can see God's Torah does not require religious conversion. Torah is for everyone after redemption. In God's Word, order is important. First there was the Passover, then the Exodus followed by the instruction of Torah at Sinai.

The manmade religious context of Acts chapter 15 is that the rabbinic rulings (takkanot) were instituted as religious rules not based on the order in Almighty God's authority and one Torah written for all.

Instead, they were infused with pious priority from adds and deletes of God's written Word.

Read on to just the fifth verse in Acts chapter 15, there you'll find the religious argument, and take note those Pharisees believed Yeshua as the Messiah... 

"But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.”
First things first, we don't want to take this text out of context!

Some of the Pharisees, not all had doctrines, ordinances or religious rules that were not focused on God's character of grace despite their belief in Messiah. 

First things first includes the first circumcision that The Father seeks, it's the heart circumcision of repentance that Yeshua preached. His priority was that The Father first seeks a heart circumcision which starts with repentance.

That was part of the conflict religious people had with Yeshua about the Sabbath when He healed people in need. After all, in the end, the Sabbath is about all about healing, redemption and the bigger picture of the resurrection of the dead leads to the Olam HaBa, "the World to Come." 

The LORD's instruction on Shabbat it is you shall rest תשבת it's time to breathe, a time of refreshing וינפש (Exodus 23:12). Rest heals our bodies, any good doctor will tell you that rest allows your body to activate its God given inner healing cascade. Rest is a healing gift from God, it's been that way since creation. 

The Acts 15 debate points to a Galatian question. Paul raised the question about a takkanah rule he was very familiar with. After all he was a Pharisee.

The Galatian's letter mirrors Acts 15. In that letter, Paul wrote that the Pharisees were directing people to observe the law of Moses "only after" circumcision. That's not the order of Torah.

If we open the letters to Timothy, we find Paul instructed his understudy to observe the law of Moses. You can read about that in Paul's letter when he wrote these words:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2Timothy 3:16-17   
Today, some have taken the Paul's admonition to Timothy down to a lower level. Some preach a sermon that goes like this: no need to observe the Law written by Moses from God's voice, after all it's done away with. That's a new church elder rule with a tradition that conflicts with Paul's witness to the Jews in Caesarea. 

We can find that in Acts 24:14: “so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law [Torah] and in the Prophets.” But, I don't want to take the text out of context. the bigger is that Paul rejects the accusation that he turned against the Torah. 

His faith is in plain sight in Acts 24 when he spoke before Governor Felix at Caesarea. Most that read Act 15 forget it or they don't read on to chapter 24:
Paul replied... But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Torah and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. 
So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man. Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings. While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult.
In addition to seminary teachings that argue with Paul's confession, there's a rabbinic takkanah rule today called Ben Noah. Basically, it says that non-Jews only need to observe the “Noahide Laws.” 

That somewhat new takkanah opinion basically says if non-Jews want to honor Torah they only need to observe seven Noahide laws and can ignore God's other Torah instructions that some say are for Jews only, despite the fact Moses wrote that Almighty God said this:
There shall be one law [Torah] for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you. Exodus 12:49 
For the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you, a statute forever throughout your generations. You and the sojourner shall be alike before the LORD. One law and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you."  Numbers 15:15-16 
The same applies for offerings and vows
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to Aaron and his sons and all the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of the house of Israel or of the sojourners in Israel presents a burnt offering as his offering, for any of their vows or freewill offerings that they offer to the LORD... Leviticus 22:17-18  
Moses never wrote: there shall be one law for the native and a Noahide law for the stranger who sojourns among you. The so-called Noahide laws for non-Jews are not from Scripture, but they come from a Talmud oral law tradition including Sanhedrin 56a; cf. Tosefta Avodah Zarah 8:4 and Genesis Rabbah 34:8. The Noahide concept of a non-Jew forgets Almighty God's instruction and if you ask me its a big problem and mirrors the issue at hand in Acts 15 that deals with a religious Pharisee mandate inserted as a requirement for God's salvation. 

To understand what was really happening in Jerusalem, we just can't start with a verse snippet or two, and we can certainly can't unravel Acts 15 with that chapter standing alone as so many sermons insist on doing. 

In other words, we can't take the text out of its context. 

Come to think of it, there were no chapters when Acts 15 was written by Luke, so we need to step back and pay attention to the bigger picture.

Five years ago, a good friend pointed out the Acts 15 storyline began in Antioch. 

You can find that city in the prologue to the story that unfolds in Acts 14. My friend wisely noted the context of Antioch's culture and society was deeply steeped in mythology and idol worship. He wrote this:

"In order to understand this, you have to understand who and what the people of Antioch were and what activities they engaged in.  This area in Northern Syria, was under the control of the Seleucids.  

Seleucus was one of the four generals under Alexander the Great, who obtained this property after Alexander died.  He worshipped the sun god Zeus and dedicated the capital city of Antioch to Zeus.  These folks sacrificed to idols and engaged in all forms of sexual immorality and the elders of the early church knew this all too well.  They were simply saying, hey guys, these practices that you engaged in under the name of Zeus are not good for you, it would be best for you to stop it." 

So what is this yoke and burden that Peter and James are talking about?  Isn't that the law?  I don't think so.  Jesus clearly states in Matthew 11:30 that his yoke is easy and his burden is light and previously in Matthew 5:17-20, that he did not come to do away with the law, so this "law" that Jesus did not come to do away with could not be the burden and yoke that Peter or James don't want to lay on the shoulders of those at Antioch - or they would be in direct contradiction of their Lord Yeshua!"

His key point is a Bible basic. Don't take text out of context or out of order.

To understand Acts 15, we can't pluck out a verse or two and skip past the background of Antioch or the Greco Roman culture of the day that was interwoven with hedonistic paganism if we want to get a clear picture of the midrash moment in Jerusalem. 

Midrash is an old Jewish way of seeking the answers to questions by discussing the context and meaning behind the words of The LORD God and stories woven in the Bible. Simply put, it's about understanding what's in the Bible and what to do about it.

My friend's point is clear: if we are to understand what happened in Jerusalem, we have to start in Antioch. 

We can't ignore the facts on the ground as the men in Jerusalem were dealing with an immoral, brain washed idol infested, mythic multi-god culture. That was the context of the Antioch issues embedded in the Acts 15 decision. 

If we start in Antioch, we shouldn't get side-tracked. The Antioch issue will help us understand the common sense of the real world situation and the decision's Torah foundation. 

So, it's time to take a look at the four fundamentals from the midrash in Jerusalem that never tossed Moses aside with a blank page or divided God's instruction manual with the labels old and new.

On one hand, we need to know that the sect of the Pharisees debated their own traditions. Not all, but some of them included doctrines not based on the heart of the written Word of God, but on opinions that added-in man made religious obligations. 

At the same time, we have to know believers in Antioch had made the choice to come out of an everyday pagan Greco-Roman lifestyle that included not only idol worship but lust-laden, sexual immorality in the name of Zeus.

The group of Pharisees that had showed up in Antioch were preaching takkanot. Their legislative rulings of tradition held that unless you were circumcised, you cannot become "a people for God's name."  It seems they'd forgotten some big time details about Abraham receiving the covenant as an uncircumcised man. Then there's the Exodus, only at the end of the 40-year journey with God after they crossed over the Jordan River were they circumcised at Gilgal (see Joshua 5). Yet the religious men thought they were doing the right thing, but they had missed the order of Torah. 

Read Acts 15:13-18 and as you do, don't forget about the real life details of Abraham, the friend of God and the recognized patriarch of Biblical faith. After all, Abraham is the first man in the Bible to be called God's friend, yet he was God's friend long before he met up with Hagar who birthed Ishmael and was then told to take out a sharp blade 13 years later. 

Abraham's blessing was not tied to a sharp flint, it was about his heart decision and action to follow and love Almighty God. 

Check the story, it's Genesis 12-25. 

We also need to remember the big Exodus crowd that left Egypt was a mixed multitude of people. There were strangers along with with Jacob's descendants, they all left the pagan ways of Egypt and together they followed Almighty God as He tabernacled among everyone. It's important to realize that the multitudes encamped around Almighty God's shechinah glory presence for 40 years prior to ever holding a knife of circumcision after they passed over the Jordan River into the Promised Land.

Think about that, forty years is half a lifetime or more for most people. During the entire time, Almighty God tabernacled among the uncircumcised! 

Check the story, it's in Joshua 1-5.

Now, fast forward through the centuries to James' voice in Acts 15:16-17. He was the leader in Jerusalem and if we read the account, we find he pointed everyone back to the prophetic words found in Amos.

Check the prophet's words in Amos 9:11-15. 

Don't be shocked, but James didn't own a New Testament, no one did at the time. Not only that, his real name wasn't James of King James Bible fame, his name was Jacob (Yacob). James aka Jacob relied on Amos the prophet as Amos shared just as it is written words from another prophet... Nathan. 

We all need to know about Nathan. 

He's the man king David sought counsel from about 250 years before Amos ever picked up his scroll and pen. By the way, you'll never find a book in the Bible named after Nathan, but you can find the reason for his fame embedded in 2 Samuel 7 and 2 Samuel 12. Also 1 Kings 1:8-45, 1 Chronicles 17:1, 1 Chronicles 29:29, 2 Chronicles 9:29, 2 Chronicles 29:25 as well as Psalm 51:1. 

Nathan the prophet does not have a book named after him in the Bible we have today. His writings have been lost to antiquity, but Nathan is a big time prophet in the books we have. 

The fact is a “book of Nathan the prophet” is mentioned in both 1 Chronicles 29:29 and 2 Chronicles 9:20 and Nathan left wisdom he undoubtedly heard from The LORD that has been lost. We know because King Hezekiah followed those instructions for The Temple music from Nathan's writings for the Levites as well as Gad and David. You can read about that in 2 Chronicles 29:25-27:
He then stationed the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, harps, and lyres, according to the command of David and of Gad, the king’s seer, and of Nathan the prophet; for the command was from the LORD through His prophets. The Levites stood with the musical instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets.
One reason we need to know all about Nathan is due to the fact he is the prophet that was chosen to reveal Almighty God's redemption plan to David to restore the blood covenant broken at Mount Sinai. 
That redemption is the gospel good news about the Messiah of God's Kingdom to come. That is a prophetic fact we can rely on as it is written for us whether born Jew of Gentile, native born or sojourner aka all that repent and follow The LORD.

Check out the backstory on Nathan.

After God corrected Nathan when he told David to go for it and build a Temple for God, the prophet to David was shown his advice to the king was wrong. Corrected, Nathan was given the big picture on God's promise given to Abraham. 

Nathan shared it with David, the prototype shepherd king of Israel. 

Nathan did not come up with the House of God gospel promise on his own, true prophets never preach their own ideas, traditions or decisions, they declare God's voice as it is written

Like Moses faithfully did, the scribes we call prophets wrote down Almighty God's messages as they heard them. 

Nothing added, nothing deleted.

Nathan was granted a great gift as Elohim God gave him a gospel picture of the future. That vision showed Nathan that a descendant of David would build a household, not just a house but the living family of God which tracks to the blessing given to Abraham. The citizens and family members in God's house would belong to an everlasting blood covenant kingdom under King Messiah.

The Son of God promise began to unfold a thousand years after David was long gone and in the grave.  

That is the gospel of the Kingdom promise woven into 1Chronicles 17:9-15 and its tied to the sermons that Jesus, aka Yeshua of Nazareth proclaimed over and again as He said: repent for the Kingdom is near. 

The books of the Chronicles are skipped over by some despite the fact that Matthew 1 takes off where the Chronicles end. That's a gospel mistake, and the words about the house Nathan declared are not about Solomon in the end:
"And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall waste them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. 
And I will subdue all your enemies. 
Moreover, I declare to you that the LORD will build you a house. When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 

He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son
I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.'" 
In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David." 2 Samuel 7:10-17
The disciple James understood Nathan's vision promise was from Almighty God. He also understood it was nothing new because it was declared at Mount Sinai. The proof is found in scroll written in the top of the mountain that ends with the prophetic promise found in Exodus 23:20-33.

James knew the Torah and he had heard Yeshua's sermons and saw what He did as he walked with his Master Rabbi and witnessed that what was said was what was done. James believed God's commitment to do everything that was filled up with meaning by Yeshua's words and faith in action. 

That's why James paraphrased the prophetic message from Amos. 

James whose real name was Jacob knew the Scriptures were true and unchanging. James the Jew had grown up reading and studying the Hebrew Bible and he knew Yeshua would keep the promise to restore the fallen tabernacle of David declared in Amos 9:11.

With that restoration promise, James tied Amos' vision directly to Nathan's prophetic words in 2 Samuel 7:8-17. The laser focus is this:
When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 
He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 2Samuel 7:12-13 
Nathan's prophecy repeats God's voice and it is supported by the witness of other promises found in Jeremiah 3:17-23, Isaiah 25:3 and Psalm 106:47. 

No doubt, Noah Webster of dictionary fame was familiar with Nathan. 

In Mr. Webster's 1828 Dictionary the scholar even sheds some light on Gentiles: 

"GEN'TILE, noun [Latin gentilis; from Latin gens, nation, race; applied to pagans.] In the scriptures, a pagan; a worshipper of false gods; any person not a Jew or a christian; a heathen."

Mr. Webster points to the old issue of idol worship as being a Gentile. This is a link to the heathens, the image-worshippers according to the 1880 McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia:

"As to the religion of heathenism, it is "a wild growth on the soil of fallen human nature, a darkening of the original consciousness of God's deification of the rational and irrational creature, and a corresponding corruption of the moral sense, giving the sanction of religion to natural and unnatural vices. Even the religion of Greece, which, as an artistic product of the imagination. has been justly styled the religion of beauty, is deformed by this moral distortion."

James' voice in Jerusalem reverberated with the gospel of God good news given to Abraham and to Nathan to pass on to David. It inspired song for king David for those that would turn to the Kingdom constitution and away from idol worship just like the Egyptian and other sojourners that had left town with Jacob's descendants during the exodus:
Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the Gentiles, His wonders among all peoples. 1Chronicles 16:1:23-24
Holy Bible, believe it or not, just when you thought salvation for Gentiles was new, the Kingdom gospel assignment that Jesus gave to His disciples to proclaim the good news to "all nations" comes right out of the book of Chronicles!! 
"And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations." Mark 13:10  
Thank The LORD, the foundation assignment to declare this kingdom good news to all nations was not old or done away with and the faith of the disciples or Paul was nothing new. It was and is firmly rooted the so-called Old Testament, and if you'll prayerfully study it, you'll see for yourself it's not old at all. 

It's God's life giving voice on how to follow Him in faith in His image so that He may tabernacle with you.

With that background, let's get back to the Jerusalem debate and the knife.

The doctrine of religious conversion was a manmade religious doctrine, a tradition of one sect of the Pharisees, not the Jewish disciples nor Paul who was a Pharisee. It was a tradition not found in the Hebrew Bible that never states... "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."

Do you see that requirement in 1Chronicles 17:9-15?

Was getting circumcised a requirement for Abraham to become a friend of God or for Israel and the sojourners with them to walk with God for 40 years in the wilderness journey?

Nope it's not there. 

The religion problem was the party circumcision forgot something that's BIG in the Torah. Paul explains that in Romans 4:1-12 like this:

"Our works or deeds never provide righteousness to earn redemption and salvation."

No doctrine from manmade conversion tradition ever saved anyone, only Almighty God's heart of mercy can save. Our Father's redemptive response to repentance is forgiveness. 

Bottomline, salvation starts with a faith heart of repentance, not a knife. 

Jesus never said,  get circumcised for the Kingdom of God is near. 

He said "repent" for the Kingdom of God is near.  

Repentant faith in Almighty God leads to God's righteousness. The Father responds to true repentance with forgiveness, that's the righteous blessing that counts in the end.

Paul proved he never forsake the Torah when he arrived in Jerusalem. Paul did not confuse works and obedience to The Lord's teaching and instruction with redemption and salvation, and Acts 21 shows Paul kept the Torah of circumcision. 

That fact had nothing to do with salvation. 

You might think of it this way: not eating unclean foods like bacon wrapped shrimp, crab and clams never redeemed a soul, but following God's instruction to not eat meat that God says is unclean (harmful) will keep you blessed and help keep you protected from nasty diseases caused by viruses, bacterium and toxins that infest those creatures that serve their God given creation purpose to clean up the environment.

When Paul returned from Macedonia and Greece he met with James and the elders in Jerusalem. You should read Paul's reaction when he heard that rumors were spreading fake news saying he taught Torah keeping Jews living among Gentiles to forget all about Moses:
When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 
After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 
And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, "You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law [Torah],  and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. 
What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow...  
Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. 
As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.
Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the Temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them. Acts 21:17-26
Luke does not give us the details of the vow, but it's easy to see those men were under a Nazirite vow as precisely outlined in Numbers 6 and they needed to fulfill God's instruction and Paul helped them do so. 

Yet, what Luke does do is repeat the big four from Acts 15 that ties directly to Leviticus: 1) abstain from food sacrificed to idols, 2) from blood, 3) from the meat of strangled animals and 4) from sexual immorality.

The good news of the Torah is that God's response in mercy and grace starts with what we choose to do in repentance to walk in His image. That's the sermon Jesus preached everywhere. He never said forsake the Torah teaching of The Father, in the Sermon on the Mount He made it clear, like heaven and earth it remains so do not think to do away with it. 

Yeshua compared the Torah walk to salt and light. Paul knew what this meant: 
"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. 
"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."  
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 
For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Matthew 5:13-18 
Do you believe what was said? 

Yeshua boldly refutes a replacement theology deception that the Torah can ever be done away with and replaced by grace as long as planet earth spins on its axis and orbits the sun.

The accomplishment He is referencing is the goal of Torah... final redemption!

What Yeshua of Nazareth describes is an ancient Jewish teaching that redemption is the process of restoring man from the bondage of sin described in the Torah to walk in the image of God out of love and response for what The Father has done. 

The final redemption, Geulah in Hebrew, comes in stages and involves Almighty God's blessing and man's response whether Jew or non-Jew as the children of God.

Paul understood earning salvation and eternal life in the Geulah is not found in God's plan nor His voice of instruction! The focal point particularly for the "Goyim" is in Ezekiel 37:28: 

"And the Goyim shall know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when My Sanctuary is in their midst forever."

With some help from the historic context of the infestation of paganism in Antioch, we can begin to understand the reason that Paul, argued against the Pharisee's ordinance that was not drawn from the written word of God's Torah. The issue at hand was a false claim that "earning" salvation by what we do aka circumcision was possible. 

God's mercy, forgiveness and grace are what the Pharisees forgot yet it's the heart of the Bible.

The background to this book of Acts 15 Midrash story is that Paul wanted to go to Jerusalem with Barnabas because he came to know the true Kingdom gospel. Paul and Barnabas were two witnesses to Torah treasures that are explained in Jeremiah 3:17-23, Isaiah 25:3 and Psalm 106:47. They declare God's great lovingkindness for everyone

So, the two men went to meet with the disciples of Yeshua in Jerusalem regarding the issue of whether circumcision was required for a non-Jews of the nations to become a member of God's household, aka citizens of the Kingdom of God.

In Jerusalems, they discussed the Pharisee's tradition with an eye on the written Scriptures, so take some notes about what the Acts 15 Midrash never mentioned...

Do not blaspheme God's name, 
do not murder or make
idols to worship them, or don't
honor the Sabbath, don't steal or lie, 
honor parents, or covet 
covet another's wife and property.

As far as we know, none of the other Commandments was discussed that day in Jerusalem. 

Why not? 

The reason is a common sense Bible basic, but something has been lost in translation in a million sermons that call the Torah old, done away with and hung on the cross. 

Take note too, a careful reading of Acts 15 reveals that they did not agree that a person coming into the faith without circumcision "should not" be circumcised

The reason they did not is for another study.

The key issue at hand that the council dealt with were the big four "pagan problems" that God The Father is concerned about and how the written Torah of God deals with them. The reason: pagan life in Antioch was steeped in idol worship, fornication and blood lust much like a modern Halloween horror movie with a script right out of the crypts of Babylon and Egypt.

The disciples were dealing with the Bible basics, milk as Paul would call it in 1 Corinthians 3:2. 

Remember grip, stance, posture and alignment? Basics are important for every beginner like milk for a baby.

The men in Jerusalem concluded that the former Gentiles needed to turn away from their horror movie habits learned from years of practice in a Zeus temple if they ever expected to properly worship God in a synagogue each week as an adopted child of God. 

Zeus idol worship was bizarre, heathen and absolutely detestable to God. It's paganism was contaminated by sexual formication, eating strangled animals and raw meat, drinking blood and so on.  It even included a sine that continues to be a problem today with the horrors of child sex slavery in America.

The Jerusalem council knew the pagan problems from Babylon and Egypt were in direct opposition to God's Torah instruction manual that was given to unwind sin's slavery from idol plagued sins. 

They knew the basics of paganism were the reason God started His covenant at Sinai with: "you shall have no other gods before me."

 They also knew this too:
You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD. Leviticus 18:5
And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them. Leviticus 20:23 
The faithful men in that Midrash moment knew the covenant message: turn away (repent) from "idolatry" and its unholy abominations and detestable sin. 

They knew because they all believed what is written in Leviticus 17-10-16 and Leviticus 18.

Yes, you read that right, Acts 15 is a real world, real life Midrash with a decision on God's voice in Leviticus and Moses wrote every word. 

They believed Moses because they believed God and they were witnesses to the fact that Yeshua lived, breathed, taught and explained what Moses wrote and that Yeshua never added to or took away from the written word of God. 

For those that have assumed from an old pulpit sermon or two that Acts 15 does away with Leviticus, think again

Peter declares it remains!!

Take a moment to read 1 Peter 2. 

A big part of that short, to the point letter provides deep insight on the Acts 15 decision and it points to the entry door of Yeshua’s sermon's of God's gospel of the heavenly Kingdom on earth. Peter knew the path in response after forgiveness of sin is to choose a life walk in the clean and set apart ways according to God's written Word.

If you find this mind bending, don't give up, the truth of what we can do out of love is worth the journey! As my friend told me, it time to unwind the tangled wire of tradition from the axle of God's voice.

If you don't, your life journey will fall and stumble insisting on an old lie that God changes His mind. 

If you think the men in Acts 15 changes God's instruction, you'll think Paul was a madman or really confused about everything including the council's conclusion. He did not forsake Torah or forgot it when he penned Romans 3:1-12 and wrote this:
"Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect."
Think about that and stew on it for a while.

Did Paul break the so-called "new rules" of the council in the very next Acts chapter by circumcising Timothy and preaching that the decrees of Torah are to kept as plainly described in Acts 16?

Nope, he did not. Read Acts 16, skip the miss-guided sermons, re-read Acts 15-16 for yourself in one sitting. And as you study, don't forget the storyline behind the story. Timotheus (aka Timothy) was the son of a father that was a Greek Gentile of the nations. 

Timothy's upbringing was the reason he had not been circumcised, that is until he met Paul and learned that the ways of Torah are good and can be kept, not for salvation from death's sin penalty, but out of love, respect and giving honor back to Almighty God The Father. 

Like Paul, Timothy learned that The Lord's teaching and instruction (Torah) is the Kingdom constitution that Messiah Yeshua lived out and taught. Tim must have known Yeshua said this at the Sermon on the Mount: "do not think one jot or tittle is done away with."

Not a jot or tittle, so:
"And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem." Acts 16:4
With a perspective on the blatant idolatry embedded in the Greco-Roman lifestyle of Rome's Zeus worship, the Jerusalem council knew the Ten Commandments and the details that follow them in the scroll of Leviticus that provide the mountaintop teaching from Mount Sinai. 

They also knew first and foremost of God's forgiving lovingkindness, and that fact was understood in the council of those disciples. 

There's a hidden message if you will in Acts 15 and Acts 16. They all understood the meaning of "holy" and they knew this too:
The LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD. Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave [the guilty] unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations." Exodus 34:5-7 NASB
If you doubt the background story of that council meeting in Jerusalem, do something and grab a Bible and believe. Set aside 15 minutes and read the four short chapters found in Leviticus 17-20. 

You may not know it, but those four chapters are known as two Torah portions from Leviticus. They are called "Acharei Mot" which means "after the death" and "Kedoshim" which means "holiness" or set apart-ness. 

Pause and consider that order after the death - holiness set apart

After the death of the ways of sin we get to walk before God's holiness. 

Think about this too and remember, it took 40 years to learn to walk with God before Israel ever entered the Holy Land and the whole time those that entered were not circumcised until the end (more on that later).

The Jerusalem council of apostles and elders understood. 

After all, they had read and studied those Torah portions for years. Those two big time Torah portions provide the basic training the disciples declared for former Gentiles coming into a faith walk from the horrors and abominations of paganism?

The council understood the Bible basics of Acharei Mot Kedoshim. We must too if we want to properly understand Acts 15!

The council knew that new Gentile believers must be called to turn away from the ways of idol worship immediately because they reeked of the same Egyptian smell of the pagan life picture described to the world in Leviticus 17-20. 

The Hebrew name for the book of Leviticus is "Vayikra" it means "and He called."

What goes around comes around. Almighty God called out Israel from Egyptian slavery and the pagan ways they had adopted. We know of the pagan problem because the golden calf crime is the evidence.

The slavery was mixed with pagan-idol worship as the Egyptian society rubbed off like an infection of abomination. You can still find the false gods depicted on Egyptian hieroglyphs and there's a Elohim God reason they remain as a witness to the world. 

The disciples knew God's voice recorded in "Vayikra" declared the Bible basics against pagan abominations:
For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people. So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 18:29-30  
The disciples knew the Gentiles were coming out of a Greco-Roman pagan culture infused with four idol worship traditions.  So, the disciples warned against the unholy abominations:
"...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." Acts 15:29 
These four guideposts against the abominable customs of pagan life summarized in Acts 15 were never intended to be the sum total of the ways of God to be learned any more than Leviticus 17-20 can be considered the sum of God's Kingdom instruction and teaching.

Bottom line, the former pagans were not ready to start at the first tee at Augusta, there was more to learn every Sabbath because it takes time to build God-like character, for some 40 years.

The men that met in Jerusalem knew what they were instructed to do from the Torah and they understood that the balance of God's holy ways would be learned in weekly synagogue Torah teachings as the Scriptures would be taught beyond Leviticus 17-20.

How can we know? Because they said so:
"For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.” Acts 15:21

Think about it this way... could a beginner start golf 
by teeing it up in The Masters, 
could a flag footballer start in the Super Bowl, 
could a first year med student perform a heart transplant? 

Since ancient generations, likely the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, the Hebrew Scriptures were systematically taught in public readings every Sabbath as the Torah scroll and the Prophets were unrolled for training in righteousness repeated in lessons over and again every year. 

That's the context of Acts 15.

Paul and the Jewish disciples in Jerusalem understood this because they lived it. They believed the Torah could mold a person's character, so much so, they took it for granted that others would follow the ages old Sabbath study and incorporating God's word into daily life decisions through the faith training we call discipleship. 

Being a disciple is not only about believing.

That's why Paul wrote these words to young Timothy long before the New Testament was ever compiled or known to exist:
"You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Messiah Yeshua. 
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:14-17
The only Scriptures Paul knew was the same Bible Jesus taught, the Hebrew Bible. 

I don't think Paul ever thought of his letters as Scripture, but he knew all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for training one week at a time, one Sabbath at a time. 

Reread the gospels, that is precisely how Yeshua taught every Sabbath and it's the way the disciples had all learned the Scriptures. This is proven in Luke 4:16:
And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read.
For the disciples, weekly Scripture study in a synagogue congregation was like eating bread on Shabbat, you never swallow the loaf all at once, you chew one portion at a time, one week at a time to grow in faith, equipped for every good work. We should all do the same.

Hebrews 5:12-14 provides more on this process:
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. 
You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
One big reason for gathering with others to hear the meat of the Word of Elohim God is that everyday, average people 2,000 years ago or even 500 years ago did not own a Bible, after all there were no printing presses for another 1,600 years.

So, the Jewish men that met in Jerusalem outlined four Bible basics God had set forth as principles for those that had not grown up hearing God's Word. 

Paul and the disciples were relying on the process of weekly study of God's written word for those Gentiles coming out of a hedonistic lifestyle that had required them to: 1) sacrifice to idols and 2) eat raw meat or blood, eat animals that were strangled while engaging in 3) illicit sexual immorality in heathen worship of false-gods and goddesses.

These faithful Jewish men we call apostles agreed to four Bible basics for beginners just as Acts 15:21 says, because they all knew the balance of the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings should be read and taught every Sabbath and they understood 2 Chronicles 7:14:
"My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin..."
The disciples knew believers must learn to act as the King acts, walk as the King walks, and talk as the King talks. The disciples knew the Biblical principles on how to do that would be taught in due course when the Scriptures were read, studied and experienced as God's instruction manual for walking in His image. 

The disciples also knew that even the least of the commandments should not be set aside. This was a teaching of Yeshua-Jesus. Don't set aside even the smallest instruction:
"Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:19
Today, the weekly Sabbath reading of Scripture portions for a remnant of people has become a BIG part of the restoration of the tabernacle of David.

The question we might ask is: what on earth happened? 

If God's word was "the way" of Sabbath study for the disciples of Yeshua 2,000 years ago to learn the ways of righteousness, why does the mainstream church not study in the same manner, meet on the Sabbath or teach from the Torah, The Prophets and the Writings like Jesus did?

Why aren't we walking in the King's custom, walking as the King walked, and teaching as the King taught?

Stop and think about that for awhile. 

It's time to challenge new church tradition, time study ancient Scripture.

It's time to uncover the "Constantine problem" of replacement theology tied to the church pew confusion about Acts 15. 

That a problem us Christians have stumbled over without knowing it. Some of us forgot the Torah Yeshua taught was given by God The Father as the relationship of righteousness and holiness after salvation.

Here's the thing, we forgot the Hebrew Bible of our Messiah:
“My teaching is not My own,” Jesus replied. 
“It comes from Him who sent Me. If anyone desires to do His will, he will know whether My teaching is from God or whether I speak on My own. 
He who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory, but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is a man of truth; in Him there is no falsehood." John 7: 16-19
We forgot the meaning Matthew 7:13-14 too: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it." 

We forgot about Luke 13:24 "Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

We forgot. We are in famine and don't even know it: “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord GOD/Adonai Elohim, “That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.” Amos 8:11 

In the true context of Acts 15, we see that Paul plays a big role. The reason, he reached out to the Gentiles, yet he said he remained a Pharisee, a Jew taught by Gamaliel and his ministry assignment from Yeshua was to be sent to the nations (aka Gentiles). 

Despite being a lifelong student of Scripture, he too had stumbled in some traditions, but his eyes were opened and he agreed with the disciples that learning about the Kingdom ways of life outlined by the teaching of Torah takes time and training in God's written word. 

It's time to ask yourself if the four guidelines of Acts 15 are the only rules for righteous living.

They are not, that's why we all agree to God's voice against murder, or do we? What about abortion for convenience, after all there's grace, right?

Why don't we just teach our children that theft or disobedience to a parent's instruction is fine and that lying, cheating, lust and adultery are good for the soul? 

We all know murder and mayhem are wrong.

Why do we ignore The Lord's Sabbath, His Feasts and the Torah -- calling it old and done away with at the cross?

On the road to Damascus, Paul experienced the new covenant "Torah of the heart" and his letters reflect that, but it took time, even for Paul. After that eye-opener, like Ben Hogan, it took Paul years before he was prepared and ready to lead the way. 

We know because he said so:
But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. 
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. Galatians 1:16-18 
Proper grip, stance, posture and alignment have to be re-learned. 

It took Paul three years. 

He knew all the manmade traditions of the Pharisees, he had to unlearn some of them but not all. 

That's not my opinion, Paul said so himself long after the bright light on the road to Damascus:
"Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!" Acts 23:6 
"My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. 
They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee." Acts 26:4-5 
The Pharisees rightfully trusted in the hope of resurrection. Paul did as well. 

The council at Jerusalem wasn't turning against the Biblical instruction on circumcision as Paul upheld just a page later in the next Acts chapter. The council did not do away with God's words, even the least of them recorded by Moses that Yeshua of Nazareth explained with authority including the amazing Sermon on the Mount as He held up the importance of every jot and tittle.

Paul upheld the Torah, we know because he put it in writing:
"Do we then overthrow the law (Torah) by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law (Torah)." Romans 3:31 
That's exactly what the Acts 15 council did. They upheld the Torah of lovingkindness and they relied on Leviticus trusting the written word would be taught each and every Sabbath.

Today, many claim Galatians and Acts 15 as a New Testament rule of law for the grace. 

The men that met in Jerusalem described in Acts 15 included Paul, Barnabas, Peter, James, Simeon and "the rest of the apostles and elders." They outlined some Bible milk basics straight from God's voice in Leviticus. They didn't think of Leviticus as old and done away with. Instead they assumed God's teaching and instruction, the Torah message to the world would be taught each and every Sabbath. 

It's worth repeating that we know because THEY SAID SO:
“For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.” Acts 15:21
What they didn't know is that within 300 years, a new religion claimed by Emperor Constantine would officially declare a Gentile opinion against Moses, the Sabbath and the synagogue. 

It's time to reconsider our Greco-Roman views that wear Scriptural blinders to Yeshua's Biblical obedience and life offering. Yes grace abounds and there's more to holiness.

New religion theories can crash headlong into Almighty God's thunderous voice that declares:
For the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you, a statute forever throughout your generations. You and the sojourner shall be alike before YHWH. One law and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you.” Exodus 15:15-16
The Jewish disciples and Paul all knew the instruction from God that was delivered to Moses was more than a condemnation of pagan 1) idol worship, 2) sexual immorality, 3) eating animals choked to death and 4) drinking blood. 

The bigger purpose of their message was that the former Gentiles must take the first steps to turn from paganism and return to the heart of Torah. 

It's a process, a lifestyle to be learned based in the written word not man-made rules like some of the Galatians had fallen for... thinking that circumcision was required for salvation.

Like the disciples, we should take Torah in steps each week. Its well worth repeating a third time...
"For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is [to be] read every Sabbath." Acts 15:21
It's time to study the Bible and the Torah portions that the men of the Jerusalem Counsel were talking about.

Let's start with portion Re'eh, it's the fourth portion of weekly Sabbath reading found in the Torah summary sermon of Moses we now know as the book of Deuteronomy. Turn to Deuteronomy 11:26–16:17. In this reading of the weekly parashah Moses' sermon declares God's choice between blessings and curses and it is repeated three times because it's very important like Yeshua said, it is an easy, light yoke when you think about it:
Deuteronomy 12:16 " shall not eat the blood; you are to pour it out on the ground like water." 
Deuteronomy 12:23:24 " sure not to eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh. You shall not eat it; you shall pour it out on the ground like water." 
Deuteronomy 15:23 "you shall not eat its blood; you are to pour it out on the ground like water." 
In the weekly portion Acharei Mot, Leviticus 17:10 tells us why the disciples chose their words carefully. Acharei Mot addresses the Bible basic against eating animals choked to death. Take note of the big difference: 
 Leviticus 17:15–16 “If any one of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people.” 
"And every person who eats what dies of itself or what is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or a sojourner, shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening; then he shall be clean. But if he does not wash them or bathe his flesh, he shall bear his iniquity."
I pray you can see the prohibitions of the Jerusalem Council are embedded in the Torah portions of Acharei Mot and Re'eh.

The anti-idol basic is found in the Ten Commandments. It is repeated in Leviticus 17:7-9.

Leviticus 18 and Leviticus 20 outline sexual immoralities.

The moral of the Acts 15 story is a proper Torah walk like Yeshua's is learned -- it's a grafting-in process.

Don't fall for a council theory from the dreamer of dreams called Constantine. If you have, then know The LORD is testing you to find out if you love El Shaddai Almighty God with all your heart and with all your soul. Instead, hold to the oracles of God's voice that a few new church fathers and an Emperor turned their backs on after the disciples had passed away.

Bottomline, Constantine forgot that Jesus is a Jew.

Jesus warned those that reject the Father's voice calling it old and done away with when He stressed that obedience is essential to true discipleship (see John 8:31).

As children of God we have to re-evaluate the will of The Father which is The Torah.

Is the will of The Father your goal? If so, how does it affect your witness of faith in the Jewish Messiah? 

Matthew 7:21 should be the scariest verse in the Bible for any one calling the Old Testament done away with, hung on a cross... 
"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."
Repent and be like Paul, open your eyes and you will see that an out of context short-sided view on Acts 15 is a misguided perception of Paul's statement that false brethren were attempting to turn believers from the truth of the gospel of the Kingdom that Yeshua taught long before His disciples ever knew about the Passover trial, the cross or the promise of salvation in resurrection.

Yeshua's gospel of the Kingdom message is still misunderstood, yet post-Holocaust eyes on Zion and the Jewish people are being opened today to restoration in relationship for both Jews and Christians as a community of faith comprised of native born and sojourner. 

It's time for any sojourner to understand that theMessiah is Jewish. 

Do you know what that means if you want to follow Him?

Many pulpits have mistakenly portrayed the Acts 15 decision as that of "former Jews" that turned their back on the Old Testament and started a new religion. They did not. Had they done that, the would have rejected the Sermon on the Mount. 

None of the disciples, apostles started a new religion. 

On the contrary, they upheld the law (Torah) focused on the faith, mercy and grace teaching of lovingkindness revealed on the mountaintop of Sinai according to the writing of Moses.

They never imagined we would would abandon Moses, the Sabbath or the will of The Father.

What does this all mean? 

Consider a prayer: Please, God, guide me by your Spirit as to what I should hear and do.

It's time to repent and return to God's voice, return to hear and do His words and walk in the faith of His Kingdom path so that you can ready your lamp for your assignment. 

Stretch out your hand, and take from the tree of life, and live forever.

Open a Bible, read it, listen to God's voice and do Yeshua's teaching about the forever jots and tittles. 

You can learn how the things which are written in the Torah, the Prophets, and the Psalms are concerning Messiah and you can teach others to live life like Jesus, it's love in God's way:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." John 3:16-17

Today is the time, open your eyes if you're dead in your own valley of dry bones. Look up and you'll recognize Messiah from Abraham's promise passed on to Isaac and Jacob as written by Moses in the Torah. You can see Him too in the Prophets and the Writings.

Repent and walk your Emmaus Road with Messiah. Study the Scriptures He taught every Sabbath that are filled with doing life God's way in the Kingdom.