15 - Gentiles Enter the
In the first part of the book, we
discussed the congregation and assembly of Israel in the First
Covenant. In chapter nine we discussed how the words congregation and
assembly have been carried into the New Testament as the synagogue and
Church. What is Israel's relationship to the "church" in the New
Covenant? How do the Gentiles fit into this "church"?
As discussed earlier, the word "church" is a
translation of the Greek word "ekklesia" that means "assembly". This
word is a translation of the Hebrew word "qahal" also meaning
"assembly". I will be using the word assembly rather than church so
that there will be no confusion that the assembly of the New Covenant
is only a continuation of the assembly which began in Exodus.
Before we look at the Gentiles role in the
assembly in the New Covenant, we need to see Israel's relationship to
the assembly in the New Covenant. Many believe that Israel as a nation
did not believe in Yeshua and that they crucified him. Because of this,
God rejected Israel and removed them as his chosen people and in turn
chose the Gentiles to build a new "assembly". This view is not
supported in the scriptures.
The Ruling Jews
Within Judaism of the first century,
there were many different groups of Jews; there were Common Jews and
the Ruling Jews. The rulers would include the Sadducees, Pharisees,
Lawyers (Teachers of the Torah), Chief Priests and the temple
officials. The Common Jew would then be those who were being led or
taught by the rulers.
Within the group of rulers there were those who
disagreed with the teachings of Yeshua and those who agreed. The
Pharisees and lawyers (Teachers of the Torah) are always thought of as
those who opposed Yeshua, but this was not always the case.
When Yeshua saw the crowd around him, he gave
orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the
Torah came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you
go." (Matthew 8:18,19)
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named
Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Yeshua at
night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from
God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God
were not with him." (John 3:1,2)
Then some of the believers who belonged to the
party of the Pharisees stood up and said... (Acts 15:5)
Later we will look at the role of some of these
leaders and teachers in the arrest and conviction of Yeshua. But let us
first look at the common Jews response to Yeshua and his teachings
using the gospel of Matthew.
The Common Jew
And when the demon was driven out, the man
who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, "Nothing like
this has ever been seen in Israel." (Matthew 9:33)
Such large crowds gathered around him that he got
into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore.
When Yeshua heard what had happened, he withdrew
by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds
followed him on foot from the towns. When Yeshua landed and saw a large
crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening
approached, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a remote
place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can
go to the villages and buy themselves some food." Yeshua replied, "They
do not need to go away. You give them something to eat." "We have here
only five loaves of bread and two fish, they answered." "Bring them
here to me," he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the
grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to
heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the
disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and
were satisfied and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken
pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five
thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 14:13-21)
In this last passage, notice the determination
of the people to listen to Yeshua. Yeshua left in a boat and the crowds
followed him on foot. They stayed with him to the evening and had no
food with them and knew that food was no where near by as they had
traveled a great distance from the towns. These people who were very
determined, to hear the messages of Yeshua were five thousand men, not
including the women and children.
Yeshua left there and went along the Sea of
Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds
came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and
many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people
were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well,
the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of
Israel. Yeshua called his disciples to him and said, "I have compassion
for these people; they have already been with me three days and have
nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may
collapse on the way." His disciples answered, "Where could we get
enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?" "How many
loaves do you have?" Yeshua asked. "Seven," they replied, "and a few
small fish." He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took
the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke
them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people.
They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up
seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of
those who ate was four thousand, besides women and children. (Matthew
Here again we see the determination of the
people. For three days, four thousand men, not including women and
children followed him. They did not even have any food with them.
Yeshua was afraid that they would collapse from a lack of food. This
could not have just been a large crowd of people who were only curious;
these people were willing to go hungry just to hear more of what Yeshua
had to teach.
As Yeshua and his disciples were leaving Jericho,
a large crowd followed him. (Matthew 20:29)
The disciples went and did as Yeshua had
instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their
cloaks on them, and Yeshua sat on them. A very large crowd spread their
cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread
them on the road. (Matthew 21:6-8)
Why were there so many people gathered in this
area? Did they not have jobs to go to? Who were these people? These
people were Jews! They were gathering for the Passover celebration.
People from outlying areas flocked to the Temple to celebrate the feast
that commemorated the deliverance from Egypt. All of these Torah
keeping Jews were following Yeshua and witnessing his miracles. They
knew of a coming Messiah and eagerly listened to every word he spoke.
These people knew the scripture and would not be easily deceived.
Are these crowds of people who followed Yeshua
throughout the land of Israel the same people who were yelling crucify
him and mocking him at his trial? Let us look at the scriptures and
and Crucifixion of Yeshua
Yeshua' Last Supper with his disciples,
his arrest, trial, execution and death on the cross all occurred on the
day of Passover. The Passover day began at sundown and continued until
sundown the following day. The Jewish Passover consisted of a religious
service during a meal in the home that is headed by the father or
Rabbi. After Yeshua and his disciples finished the Passover meal, they
went to the Garden of Gethsemane. It was here that a crowd came up to
Yeshua (Luke 22:47) consisting of the Chief Priests, officers of the
temple guards and the Elders (Luke 22:52). This crowd, comprised of the
rulers arrested Yeshua. Yeshua is then taken to Pontius Pilate by the
Chief Priests, Elders and the Teachers of the Torah for his trial (Luke
22:66,23:1). When Pilate asks "the crowd" what he should do with
Yeshua, we can see that it was the rulers and not the common Jews who
shouted "Crucify, Crucify" (John 19:6). When Pilate asked, "shall I
crucify your King?" It was the Chief Priests who answered "We have no
king but Caesar". Pilate then handed Yeshua over to the Chief Priests
to be crucified (John 19:15-16).
All of this had taken place throughout the night
and into the early morning hours. The general population of Jerusalem
would not even be aware of all that had transpired. It was still early
in the morning when Yeshua was being taken to the site of the
crucifixion. By this time some of the common Jews began to realize what
was happening. Since the Passover meal the previous evening would last
late into the night, most of the people would still be sleeping at the
time that Yeshua was being led to the cross. There is only one
scripture reference of people witnessing Yeshua's march to the cross,
Luke 23:27 says, "A large number of people followed him, including
women who mourned and wailed for him." Yeshua was put on the cross at
the third hour (Mark 15:25) which is nine o'clock in the morning.
It is the chief priests and their officials who
through the night and early morning hours brought Yeshua to trial and
the cross even before the majority of the people knew what happened.
People were in their homes completely unaware of the events that had
transpired through the night. It was not until Yeshua was on the road
to the site of his crucifixion that some people began to realize what
had happened to their teacher.
After realizing what had happened, the Common
Jew mourned over Yeshua' crucifixion. After Yeshua rose from the dead
he met with two people on the road to Emmaus who expressed their
feelings about the death of Yeshua.
Now that same day two of them were going to a
village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were
talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they
talked and discussed these things with each other, Yeshua himself came
up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.
He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?"
They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas,
asked him, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the
things that have happened there in these days?" "What things?" He
asked. "About Yeshua of Nazareth," they replied. "He was a prophet,
powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief
priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and
they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going
to redeem Israel. (Luke 24:13-21)
The sadness that was felt by these two
individuals would probably be similar to most of the common Jews.
Reject His People?
The question that we must ask then: Did
God reject his people Israel because of the actions of the chief
priests? Paul answers this question.
I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no
means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the
tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he forknew.
Even the First Covenant shows that God has not
rejected his people.
I took you from the ends of the earth, from its
farthest corners I called you. I said, "You are my servant"; I have
chosen you and have not rejected you. (Isaiah 41:9)
The book of Acts also supports the view that God
had not rejected them for as we will see, thousands of Jews entered
into the New Covenant which God promised to Israel in Jeremiah 31.
When the twelve Apostles began to teach the good
news about Yeshua around Israel, thousands of Jews accepted and
believed that Yeshua was indeed the promised Messiah and did rise from
the dead. During the feast of Weeks (Pentecost), Peter preaches to a
large crowd and says; "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in
Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say"
(Acts 2:14). He then proceeds to explain the truth about Yeshua. At the
end of his message we read,
Those who accepted his message were baptized, and
about three thousand were added to their number that day. (Acts
As we continue through the book of Acts we see
more and more Jews believing that Yeshua truly was the Messiah and that
he rose from the dead.
And the Lord added to their number daily those
who were being saved. (Acts 2:47)
But many who heard the message believed, and the
number of men grew to about five thousand. (Acts 4:4)
Nevertheless, more and more men and women
believed in the Lord and were added to their number. (Acts 5:14)
The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased
rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
[The assembly] was strengthened; and encouraged
by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.
All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him
and turned to the Lord. (Acts 9:35)
Many people believed in the Lord. (Acts 9:42)
Up to this point all of the thousands who have
accepted the Lord Yeshua were only Jews. I will clarify this in a
moment, but first lets recognize that we are not speaking about a few
Jews who believed but a very large number. In Acts 2 we saw 3,000 and
in Acts 4 we see this grow to 5,000 men. Since women and children are
not numbered, we could easily be talking about 20,000 to 30,000 Jews,
men women and children, accepting Yeshua as the Lord.
Gentiles Enter the Assembly
So how do we know that all of these
numbers are only Jews and not Gentiles?
Acts chapters 10 and 11 explain the process by
which God used to begin bringing Gentiles into the assembly. Going back
to the book of Genesis, one of the promises that God gave Abraham was
that "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Genesis 12:3).
It was God's plan, from the beginning, to bless all the nations
(Gentiles) through Abraham. The promise that said "through" Abraham,
meaning his seed, all the nations will be blessed. The Jews, the
descendants of Abraham, will be the vessel used by God to bring them
into the assembly and into the covenant with him. In Acts 10 we see the
beginning of the fulfillment of this prophecy.
We also need to understand the Jews attitude
toward Gentiles up to this point. Peter explains the Jews view of
association with Gentiles in Acts 10:28; "You are well aware that it is
against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him". No
Jew could witness to a Gentile to bring him into the assembly because
it was against their law. The Greek word here for law is not
"nomos" but the word "athemitos" meaning "against
the law". This is not the Torah (nomos) law but the oral law or also
called "the traditions of the elders". This concept came into Judaism
from the belief that anyone who ate from the list of unclean animals
listed in Leviticus 11, as the Gentiles do, was unclean. Since the Jews
believed that Gentiles were unclean, they believed that they could not
associate with them. It is with this issue that God teaches Peter his
truth concerning clean and unclean foods.
Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became
hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being
prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something
like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It
contained all kinds of four- footed animals, as well as reptiles of the
earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter, Kill
and eat." Surely not Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything
impure or unclean." The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call
anything impure that God has made clean." This happened three times,
and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. (Acts 10:9-16)
This vision is not removing the dietary commands
of the Torah; it is to teach the Jews what is really meant by clean and
unclean. If we go back to the command forbidding the eating of certain
animals we see something very interesting.
You may eat any animal that has a split hoof
completely divided and that chews the cud. There are some that only
chew the cud or only have a split hoof, but you must not eat them. The
camel, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is
ceremonially unclean for you. (Leviticus 11:3,4)
This command does not say that the animal in and
of its self is unclean. It says that it is ceremonially unclean for one
who is in the covenant with God to eat of it. In Acts 10, God is
telling the Jews that the animals were created as clean animals.
Therefore, if a Gentile eats of the "unclean" animals, he is not
unclean because the animal is not "unclean" to him, only to those who
are in the covenant with God. Peter confirms this when he said,
[Peter] said to them: "You are well aware that it
is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him.
But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.
The issue in Acts 10 is not a change in the diet
commands of the Torah, but a change in a Jews relationship with
Gentiles. Because of the "tradition" that Jews could not associate with
a Gentile, the Jews could not go to the Gentiles to teach them about
the covenant with the one true God. So God uses this vision to teach
Peter that their law of non-association was wrong. Now a Jew is free to
enter a Gentiles home to teach. This is exactly what happens next.
While God was giving this vision to Peter, God
told Cornelius, a Gentile, to send men to bring back Peter. If the men
had come to Peter requesting him to go to a Gentiles house, Peter would
have refused because of their law forbidding association with Gentiles.
Peter learned that no man is unclean because of what he eats. So when
the men came to take Peter to Cornelius, he "came without raising any
objection" (Acts 10:29).
Peter proceeded to teach the good news about
Yeshua Christ to Cornelius and the large gathering of people in his
home and the Holy Spirit came upon all of them that heard the message
and they began to speak in tongues. When this happened Peter and the
other Jews who came with him "were astonished that the gift of the Holy
Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles" (Acts 10:45).
When Peter returned to Jerusalem the believing
Jews "criticized him and said, 'You went into the house of
uncircumcised men and ate with them.'" (Acts 11:2,3). Peter then
explained the vision from God and his meeting with Cornelius and said;
"So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us (the Jews), who
believed in the Lord Yeshua Christ, who was I to think that I could
oppose God?" (Acts 11:17). Then the believing Jews said, "So then, God
has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life" (Acts 11:18).
This event occurred approximately five to ten
years after Yeshua ascended into heaven. Since the believing Jews were
amazed that even the Gentiles were receiving the Holy Spirit, we are
lead to believe that this was the first time that Gentiles had come
into the assembly of believers.
In the First Covenant, God said,
"I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." (Isaiah
Paul quotes this passage in Acts 13:47 and
explains that it was God's plan that the Jews are to be the light to
the Gentiles. Beginning with Acts 10, this light is now going out to
the Gentiles. From this point on we see the assembly growing in great
numbers with both Jews and Gentiles alike. A key point that we must
recognize that in the book of Acts, it was the Jew who brought the
gospel to the Gentiles and not the other way around as some are
The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number
of people believed. (Acts 11:21)
A great number of people were brought to the
Lord. (Acts 11:24)
At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into
the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great
number of Jews and Gentiles believed. (Acts 14:1)
They preached the good news in that city and won
a large number of disciples. (Acts 14:21)
So the assemblies were strengthened in the faith
and grew daily in numbers. (Acts 16:5)
Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number
of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. (Acts 17:12)
[The believing Jews] said to Paul: "You see,
brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are
zealous for the Torah". (Acts 21:20)
In this last passage we see that there were a
very large number of Jews who believe and are also zealous for the
Torah. The Greek word which is translated "thousands" in this passage
is the Greek word "myrias" which means "thousands upon thousands" or a
very large unidentifiable number.
In chapter two, we looked at the various
names and titles of God's people in the First Covenant. In Chapter
nine, we looked at the various names and titles of God's people in the
New Covenant. We saw that they were the same. Israel was chosen by God
in the First Covenant to be his people and provisions were made within
the Torah to allow aliens (Gentiles) into the assembly. We have now
seen that Israel is still God's chosen people and are still the
assembly of Israel. Provisions have also been made to allow the
Gentiles to enter the assembly in the New Covenant. The Old and New
Covenants are not divided into Jew and Gentile covenants or Jew and
Gentile Assemblies. Instead the Old and New Covenants are the
continuing story of God's covenant with his people, Israel and those
Gentiles who join with them.
Long ago God prophesied that the Gentiles would
be entering the assembly with Israel in great numbers. This began with
Abraham as I mentioned. God promised Abraham that all the nations would
be blessed through him. God's plan for the future included a time when
the Gentile nations would enter into his covenant.
All the nations you have made will come and
worship before you, O LORD; they will bring glory to your name. (Psalms
"Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am
coming, and I will live among you." Declares the LORD. "Many nations
will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people.
"And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD
to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who
keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my
covenant - these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in
my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be
accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for
all nations." (Isaiah 56:6,7)
Even Yeshua recognized that the message of
salvation to the nations of the earth would come through Israel, the
Jews, as the light to the Gentiles.
For salvation is from the Jews. (John 4:22)
Grafting in Of the Gentiles
You who are Gentiles by birth....you were
separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and
foreigners to the covenants of the promise... You have been brought
near through the blood of Christ... Consequently, you are no longer
foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and
members of God's household... (Eph 2:11-22)
Although Gentiles are not born in the line of
Jacob (Israel) Gentiles who accept Christ become fellow citizens with
Israel in God's Household.
[Christ] redeemed us in order that the blessing
given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Yeshua, so
that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. ... The
promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not
say "and to seeds," meaning many people, but "and to your seed,"
meaning one person, who is Christ.... If you belong to Christ, then you
are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal
Let us look at a passage which shows how the
people of Israel (the Jews) and the Gentiles are joined together as
fellow citizens. A couple of phrases to be understood in the following
passages are the natural and wild branches of the olive tree. Yeshua is
the trunk, the natural branches are the Jews and the wild branches are
If some of the branches have been broken off, and
you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others
and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast
over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the
root, but the root supports you. You will say then, "Branches were
broken off so that I could be grafted in." Granted. But they were
broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be
arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural
branches, he will not spare you either. (Rom 11:17-24)
Consider therefore the kindness and sternness
of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that
you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And
if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is
able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive
tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a
cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural
branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!
The people of God are like a tree. Yeshua is the
trunk of the tree while his people are the branches coming out of the
tree. In the Old Testament, God chose the nation of Israel as his
people - the branches. Many times in the First Covenant, God said that
if someone did not follow his commands they would be "cut off from his
people". Those who had a disobedient heart and turned from God and did
not follow his commands, were "cut off from his people", his branch was
"cut off" from the trunk. When the Gentiles, the wild olive branches,
are grafted into the trunk, they are part of the tree. All of the
branches on the tree, the natural (Israel) and the wild (Gentiles), are
one body in the household of God and all are descendants of
For there is no difference between Jew and
Gentile - the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call
on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
There is neither Jew not Greek, slave nor free,
male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Yeshua. If you belong to
Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the
promise. (Galatians 3:28,29)
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many
parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. S it is
with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body -
whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free - and we were all given the one
Spirit to drink. (1 Corinthians 12:12,13)
At this point, I would like to look at one of
the arguments to support the view that the Gentiles do not need to keep
the Torah. We have looked at many passages where Paul is clearly
supporting the keeping of the Torah. Many claimed that he is speaking
to the Jews only and that as Jews they are required to continue in the
Torah. If we want to say that Jews must keep the Torah but the Gentiles
do not, then we are splitting the body of Christ into two groups. But
the above passages say that there will be no difference between the
Jews and Gentiles. Therefore, if the Jews must keep the Torah, then the
Gentiles must also. This is also supported by the passage in the First
Covenant, which we have looked at several times, that states that the
same Torah for Israel will also be for the aliens (Gentiles).
Gentiles and The Torah
In chapter 11 we discussed the validity
of the Torah in the New Covenant. Now if we go back to chapter 4 there
we looked at one of the everlasting ordinances within the Torah.
"The community is to have the same rules for you
and for the alien living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the
generations to come. You and the alien shall be the same before the
LORD: The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the
alien living among you." (Numbers 15:15,16)
Now if the Torah is everlasting, and the command
above is everlasting, then the Torah is not only for the Jew but also
for the alien (non- Jew). Let us remember that the Torah was given at
Mount Sinai to his people, and all who enter the covenant with God are
his people no matter from what nation they were born to.
One passage that is often used to show that the
Gentiles were not obligated to keep the Torah as the Jews were, is Acts
15. Let us look at this passage and see what it says.
Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were
teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the
custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." ... Paul and Barnabas
were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem
to see the apostles and elders about this question. ...When they came
to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the assembly and the apostles and
elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.
Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees
stood up and said, "Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey
the [Torah] of Moses." (Acts 15:1-5)
There are two issues that some of the Jews were
teaching to the new Gentiles entering into the covenant; The Gentiles
have to be circumcised to be saved, and; They must also keep the
Peter addresses the assembly and addresses the
The apostles and elders met to consider this
question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them:
"Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that
the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and
believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by
giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no
distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.
Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the
disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to
bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Yeshua that we
are saved, just as they are." (Acts 15:6-11)
In this passage, Peter is specifically
addressing the issue of salvation. Peter explains that it is only by
the grace of God that one can be saved and not by circumcision or the
keeping of the Torah. Does this mean that circumcision and Torah are
removed and no longer required to be kept? Let us first look at the
issue of circumcision.
Paul addressed this problem in his letter to the
Again I declare to every man who lets himself be
circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole Torah. (Galatians
Looking back at Chapter 3, we looked at the
first covenant between God and Israel. In Genesis, chapter 17, we saw
that if anyone wanted to enter the covenant with God, they had to take
on the sign of the covenant, which is circumcision. Also, in the
covenant is the condition God put on Israel. Israel was required to
keep and obey all the commands of God.
Circumcision is not the sign of the new
covenant. Anyone who says that you need to be circumcised are still
living under the requirements of the first Covenant and under the first
covenant you received Gods promises only if you kept the whole Torah.
Under the New Covenant we receive God's promises because Yeshua kept
the Torah for us. This does not mean that the Torah has been taken
away, only curses of the covenant have been taken away by Yeshua'
Therefore, we can see that these Jews who are
teaching that circumcision is required of the Gentiles for salvation,
are teaching a bondage to the first covenant and its requirements for
the blessings. Paul is teaching that our salvation is in the faith of
Yeshua Christ and his sacrifice under the renewed covenant. Back in
chapter 11 we also saw that the Torah was never for salvation but to
point out sin so that we may know that we need salvation from God.
Going back to Acts 15, James then addresses the
relationship between the Gentiles and the Torah.
"It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not
make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we
should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by
idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and
from blood. (Acts 15:19-20)
Is James saying that these four commands are all
that the Gentiles are required to keep of the Torah? This cannot be a
complete list for there are many commands that we know that the
Gentiles must keep, such as; "You shall have no other god's before me"
and "You shall honor your father and mother" and "You shall not murder"
(Exodus 20:3,12,13). If James was giving a complete list, why weren't
these in the list? I believe that the Gentiles in Antioch (which is
where this problem originally arose) were already taught and were
keeping portions of the Torah, such as the Ten Commandments. I believe
that the four commands listed above addressed specific problems in
their particular assembly at Antioch.
Torah is meant to be an instruction guide to a
healthy and godly lifestyle and not a burden. Each believer is
responsible for keeping the Torah to the degree that God has called him
to. For example, a man who has been raised from childhood in the
commands of the Torah would be expected to have a greater understanding
and level of obedience then a gentile who has never heard of the Torah
before becoming saved. These four commands are a starting point for
these new Gentile believers. Once they controlled these four commands,
I believe that they would have moved on to more instruction. This is
the freedom we have in the Torah.
The freedom in the Torah gives the
Gentiles the chance to learn the Torah one step at a time and not
become overburdened. Remember that Yeshua took away the curses of the
Torah allowing for this freedom. Those who have been raised with a
Torah lifestyle his entire life, such as Paul, is held to a higher
accountability in the Torah. But a new believer, who has never heard of
the Torah, will need to make certain changes in his lifestyle in order
to meet the requirements of the Torah. The goal of course is to
continue to learn the Torah and as learning increases so does obedience
to the Torah. But this freedom is not a license to do evil.
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do
not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one
another in love. (Galatians 5:13)
In Acts 15, we have a group of new believers who
are being instructed to keep a degree of the Torah (Acts 15:20). But
this is not the end of their instruction for the next verse says.
For Moses has been preached in every city from
the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.
The apostles knew that these new believers would
be in the synagogues every Sabbath to hear Moses who is the teacher of
the Torah, to continue their education in the Torah.
- Many of the common Jews followed Yeshua and his
- Even some of the teachers and rulers followed
- The Chief Priests and temple officials arrested,
tried, condemned and executed Yeshua.
- Most of the common Jews had no idea what was
happening to their teacher. Those that did see him being led to the
- God did not reject his people.
- The Apostles preached the Good News about
Yeshua' resurrection and thousands upon thousands of Jews
- Cornelius was the first Gentile to
- Now Thousands of Jews and Gentiles entered the
- The Gentiles are expected to begin keeping the
Torah and increase as they mature and learn more about Torah from the