Acts 15 Explained—It’s not what you’ve been taught!

Acts 15:1, Custom of Moses. This “custom of Moses” is based on Exodus 12:48, where the law required that all males to be circumcised before being allowed to partake of Passover. In other words, be part of Israel, one had to become circumcised and observe the Passover and all Israel was required to do so (Exod 12:47). Foreigners were forbidden from keeping the Passover (Exod 12:43) until they were circumcised. From this, the Pharisees of the first century got the idea that circumcision is a prerequisite for salvation. In opposition to this false concept, Paul points out in Romans chapter four that Abraham was justified by faith, not by the rite of circumcision. After all, Abraham come into a relationship with YHVH 24 years before being circumcised. Therefore, the custom of circumcision as a prerequisite for inclusion within the nation of Israel was merely a physical requirement to be part of a physical nation. It is, however, not a requirement to be part of the spiritual nation of redeemed Israel or, as Paul calls it, the Israel of God (or Elohim, Gal 6:16), of which the saints are a part. Circumcision wasn’t a requirement for Abraham to be saved, and it isn’t a requirement for us to be saved either, again, as Paul points out in Romans chapter four. The custom of Moses requiring Israelite men to be circumcised was necessary in order to protect the sanctity and integrity of the physical nation of Israel from foreign and pagan influences and was not prior to or subsequent to the physical nation of Israel intended to be a prerequisite for eternal salvation as Paul, again, makes clear in Romans chapter four.

Acts 15:10, Yoke on the neck. Many Christian commentators teach that Peter is making a reference to the Torah when he speaks of a yoke being put around the neck of the people of Israel meaning that Torah-observance was an impossibility. Yet, Moses told the Israelites that Torah-obedience wasn’t impossible (Deut 30:11–14), and that it would be a source of life to them (v. 19), and would be a source of wisdom and Continue reading

 

Did the Torah-law end with Yeshua?

Luke 16:16, The Torah and the Prophets. Many people in the mainstream church view this passage as drawing a defining line between the so-called age or dispensations of law (in the Old Testament or Tanakh) and the age or dispensation of grace (in the New Testament or the Testimony of Yeshua). This in turn, in their minds, sets the Tanakh (which reveals the law or Torah) and Testimony of Yeshua (which supposedly reveals the concept of grace) at odds with each other. Is this a correct interpretation of this passage?

The evidence within the Testimony of Yeshua itself doesn’t support this common Christian interpretation, however. In no way is Yeshua annulling the Torah here, or else he would be contradicting what he clearly taught in Matthew 5:17–19.

Furthermore, Yeshua’s statement here can’t possibly mean that the Torah was now obsolete in the Testimony of Yeshua, since the apostles and early believers adhered to the Torah long after the passing of John the Baptist (Yeshua, p. 41, by Ron Mosely). Additionally, Paul’s statement in Romans 3:31 that the Torah is not voided by grace should dispel any notions that Luke 16:16 implies that the Torah would pass from the scene in the life of believers.

There are a couple of ways to understand this passage without doing violence to the Torah. First, it could be understood that Yeshua is saying that the Law and the Prophets were the only Scriptures in existence up to the time that John came on the scene. The implication is that more would soon come (ibid.).

A second way to view this passage is that Yeshua is stating that the Torah and the Prophets prophesied or pointed to the time when John would come thus ushering in the Messiah at which time there would be a change in the focus of the message of YHVH’s servants. Instead of just preaching about the Torah or that the Messiah is coming, now the message of “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (see Matt 3:2; 4:17) would be preached. This is a more expansive message that focuses now more on the salvation message centered on the death, burial and resurrection of Yeshua. This message also includes obedience to the Torah (e.g. Yeshua said, “If you love me, keep my Torah commandments” in John 14:15, also 1 John 2:2–6). Moreover, Paul clearly affirms the validity of the Torah for the New Testament believer in his forceful declarative statement in Romans 3:31,

Do we then make void the law through faith? Elohim forbid: yea, we establish the law.

The data found in the actual writings of the apostles confirms what Yeshua predicted in this verse. Of the some 8,000 verses in the Testimony of Yeshua, well over one-fourth of those verses contain direct references to the Person of Yeshua, while there are only about 260 direct references to the Torah. Yeshua himself confirms his own words as recorded by the Gospel writers. In the Gospels of Matthew and John, Yeshua spoke on 136 different subjects. The number one subject he talked about was himself (316 references), followed by his Father (184 references), then hypocritical leaders (177 references). The kingdom of Elohim comes in fourth place (77 references) and the Torah is in seventh place with 44 references. 

 

The Torah of YHVH Vs. the Law of Moses

Luke 2:24, Law of the Lord/YHVH. This phrase is found only three times in the NT—here and in vv. 24 and 39. The same phrase is additionally found 18 times in the Tanakh and obviously refers to the Torah (e.g. Pss 1:1; 19:7; 119:1). Is the law of YHVH the same as the law of Moses?

The phrase the law of Moses is found a similar number of times in the Bible: 15 times in the Tanakh and seven times in the NT. Obviously the phrases the law of YHVH and the law of Moses are synonymous terms in that they refer to the same thing: the Written Torah. From the obvious meanings of these two terms, we learn that YHVH Elohim is the divine source or origination of the Torah, while Moses was merely the one who first wrote it down or codified it, and as the leader of the nation of Israel, he administered it.

It is interesting, if not ironic, how the mainstream church chronically refers to the Torah as “the law of Moses,” when Scripture refers to the Torah as “the Torah of YHVH” the same number of times less one. The mainstream church’s choice of one term over the other seems to reveal, sadly, its apathy, if not, at times, its outright antipathy, toward YHVH’s Torah. To justify this ungodly attitude, it has chosen to use the term that casts the Torah-law of Elohim in the most negative light possible by inferring that its source is man and not Elohim. This furthermore underscores the truth of Paul’s words in Rom 8:7 about the carnal mind of man being at enmity with the laws of Elohim in that it refuses to be subject to them.

 

What is the difference between the Torah and the law of Moses, if any?

This question from on of our loyal readers just came in about my recent post on Acts 15.

Great teaching Natan, but one question…I never thought of there being both a Torah law and a law of Moses that was custom rather than law. So circumcision isn’t a Torah Law but Law of Moses that is a custom rather than law. How does one tell the difference between what Moses commanded that is a Torah law and what he commanded as his customary law? Referring to this: ” Rather, what he was referring to was the customs Moses established (which become known as the law of Moses), which exceed the basic requirements of the Torah. In this case, it was the custom the circumcision as a requirement for inclusion in the nation of Israel and is based on the Passover requirements found in Exod 12:43–49. “

Here is my response—

What is the difference between the Torah and the Law of Moses?

Is there a difference between the Torah and the law of Moses? Technically, no, since the Scriptures use the terms law of Moses and the law (i.e. Torah) interchangeably in many places.

However, many people think that the law of Moses or the Torah originated with Moses. I have emphatically taught over the years, and the Scripture is clear on the fact, that the Torah didn’t originate with Moses, but from eternity or from heaven where Elohim exists. How can we assert this? This is because the Torah is a reflection of the heart, mind, will and righteous character of Elohim. It is spiritual and is thus eternal as Paul states in Romans 7:14.

At the same time, and in a sense, Moses is the originator (by the hand of Elohim) of the law of Moses as a opposed to the eternal principles of the Torah, which, again, are a reflection of the heart, will, character, holiness and righteousness of Elohim. What do I mean? Moses is the first person to have written the Torah down (perhaps that’s one reason he needed to be educated in Egypt, so he was capable of such a task). He put the Torah into a form that had not existed before: a national constitution for a physical nation state. For the first time, he codified the Torah or turned it into a written legal code. This was necessary because Israel was now a nation with physical borders and not just a large nomadic family or tribe. As such, Israel needed a system of written laws by which to govern their nation. Therefore, Torah had to be expanded and more clearly defined, if you will, to meet those requirements. The laws of Elohim had to be specifically spelled out and put into a written form. In this form, political leaders, judges, priests and people would know what the law was, so that could be studied, obeyed and adjudicated. Furthermore, the nation could pass no new laws that in any way would contradict the Written Torah, which was the supreme law of the land.  

Consider this. The principles of the Torah are eternal, spiritual and endless because Torah Continue reading

 

Acts 15 Explained (The mainstream church has lied to you!)

Is YHVH Elohim’s instructions in righteousness or Torah an unbearable yoke that Christian are free from making it now alright to murder, steal, lie, commit adultery and break the Sabbath? That’s what some misguided people want you to believe!

Oy vey! There is so much confusion, misunderstanding and false teaching out there in the church world. For example, the mainstream church has taught (or brainwashed) its constituents into believing that according to Acts 15, Gentiles are free from all of the requirements of the Torah-law of Moses, except for the four things mentioned in Acts 15:20.

What this means is that I guess it’s now all right for Gentiles to murder, steal, lie, worship idols, violate the Sabbath and you don’t have to tithe either (oops, there goes the pastor’s salary, retirement and building fund down the drain, and denominations are a thing of the past, as well, with their financial base gone), as long as we do the four requirements stipulated by the apostles in Acts 15:20. That means we have to do kosher slaughter of clean animals and make sure we get the blood out of the meat. Oh, I just remembered, the church doesn’t even teach these basic things, much less practice them. Now I’m really confused…so what’s really going on here? Well, it’s a heart of man thing! Paul summed it up in Romans 8:7,

Because the carnal mind is enmity against Elohim: for it is not subject to the law of Elohim, neither indeed can be.

Jeremiah had something to say about this as well,

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jer 17:9)

Human nature hasn’t changed much from the time these words were penned until now. To wit, someone just wrote the following in the comments section of this blog:

I heartily disagree. One need only look to what the Jewish apostles taught their goyim charges (from the Council at Jerusalem – Acts15, specifically verses 28 & 29));

It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond these essential requirements: You must abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.

Not a word about the “Law”. Rather listen to what Jesus’ closest friend had to say, “Now then, why do you test God by placing on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?”

Evidently, some feel that they know more than the Holy Spirit, and Peter.

I responded as follows:

Yes, yes, yes, those of us who’ve been around the block a time or two over the past few decades have heard this argument more than a few times. It’s not that someone is claiming to know more than Peter or the Holy Spirit, as you suggest. Rather, it’s that someone is failing to understand the Acts 15 passage in its full context and has defaulted to believing the traditions of men by which the Word of Elohim has been made of non-effect. Please allow me to explain.

First, let me thank you for allowing me to address this sadly misunderstood passage of Scripture that has confused many people and led many folks, such as yourself, to come to a totally wrong and unscriptural conclusion. To take the position you are positing totally contradicts hundreds of other verses in both the OT and NT. Yeshua himself said that the scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35). To say that Scripture contradicts itself is, honestly, to call the Bible a lie and the Author of it a liar. Hard words, but the truth. Sadly, this is the majority position of the mainstream church. YHVH Elohim will straighten out this mess in due time. Many Christian teachers who have taught this and who have led YHVH’s people astray will be proven to be false and will have to answer before Elohim’s throne of judgment for it.

I will post the counter argument to your position on my blog. Those who are not afraid of the truth can read the truth here:

Now here’s my commentary on Acts 15.

Acts 15:1–29, See notes at Matt 11:29. (Posted below)

Acts 15:1, Custom of Moses. This is based on Exodus 12:48 which requires all males to be circumcised before being allowed to partake of Passover. To be part of Israel, one had to become circumcised and observe the Passover and all Israel was required to do so (Exod 12:47). Foreigners were forbidden from keeping the Passover (Exod 12:43) until they were circumcised. From this, the Pharisees got the idea that circumcision is a prerequisite for salvation—or inclusion in spiritual family of redeemed Israel. As Paul points out in Romans chapter four, Abraham was justified by faith, not by the rite of circumcision. Therefore, the custom of circumcision as a prerequisite for inclusion within the nation of Israel (a metaphor for salvation) is unique to the law of Moses, and not to the over-arching and eternal principles of the Torah (as demonstrated by the fact that Abraham come into a relationship with YHVH 24 years before being circumcised) to which the law of Moses is subservient. This custom was necessary in order to protect the sanctity and integrity of the physical nation of Israel from foreign and pagan influences and was not prior to or subsequent to the physical nation of Israel intended to be a prerequisite for eternal salvation as Paul, again, makes clear in Romans chapter four.

Acts 15:10, Yoke on the neck. Many Christian commentators teach that Peter is making a reference to the Torah when he speaks of a yoke being put around the neck of the people of Israel meaning that Torah-observance was an impossibility. Yet, Moses told the Israelites that Torah-obedience wasn’t impossible (Deut 30:11–14), and that it would be a source of life to them (v. 19), and would be a source of wisdom and understanding for them, thus eliciting the curiosity of the surrounding nations (Deut 4:6–8). Were Moses and Peter at odds with each other thus violating the unity of Elohim’s Word (John 10:35)? Or Continue reading

 

Torah Central—A New Paradigm From Which to View the Bible

The Living and the Written Torah Is the Central Theme of the Bible

The Living and Written Torah is the dominant theme of the Bible. They are one in the same thing—totally unified and absolutely indivisible, which is why I used the singular verb is and not the plural are in the previous sentence. Another way to say this is that whole Bible is about Yeshua the Torah-Word of Elohim who was made flesh (John 1:1, 14). 

To illustrate this point, as we shall discuss later, we find this dominant theme prominently highlighted at the beginning, middle and end of the Scriptures. 

In this study, we will focus more heavily on the Written Torah, as opposed to Yeshua the Living Torah, although in our minds, without Yeshua, it’s impossible to fully understand, much less obey the Written Torah. Furthermore, it is only Yeshua, the Living Torah and not the Written Torah who is capable of saving us from our sins and giving us eternal life.

The Written Torah Defined

Let’s first define our terms. What does the word Torah mean as defined in the Bible? The primary meaning of the Hebrew word Torah, VRU< (Strong’s H8451, TWOT 910b) is “teaching, precept, instruction” and not law, although it is translated as such some 219 times in the Tanakh (Old Testament). What is the fuller meaning of the word Torah?

According to Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Torah, as already noted, signifies primarily direction, teaching, instruction (Prov 13:14). It is derived from the verb yarah/VRh meaning “to project, point out” (Strong’s H3384) and hence to point out or teach. The law of Elohim is that which points out or indicates His will to man…Seen against its background of the verb yarah, it becomes clear that Torah is much more than law or a set of rules. Torah is not restriction or hindrance, but instead the means whereby one can reach a goal or ideal.

Similarly, The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament states that the word Torah means “teaching” whether it is the wise man instructing his son or Elohim instructing Israel. The wise give insight into all aspects of life so that the young may know how to conduct themselves and to live a long blessed life (Prov 3:1f). So too Elohim, motivated by love, reveals to man basic insights into how to live with each other and how to approach Elohim. Through the Torah, Elohim, shows his interest in all aspects of man’s life which is to be lived under his direction and care. The Torah of Elohim stands parallel to the word of YHVH. 

As already noted, the word Torah originates from the root word yarah vRH (Strong’s H3384), which also means “to flow as water, to lay or throw as in shooting an arrow; to point out as if aiming the finger to make a point, to teach.” Another cognate (related word) of the word Torah is the Hebrew word moreh (Strong’s H4175) which means “teacher or archer (as in one who shoots at a target).” Moreh vRun derives from the same Hebrew root word, yarah, as does the word Torah and signifies that law is the revelation of Elohim’s will (e.g. Isa 1:10). Therefore, when one is walking according to the Torah of YHVH Elohim, one is walking in the light of YHVH’s truth, which is hitting the mark of righteousness. Likewise, YHVH’s teachings or instructions are a river of life flowing from his throne aimed at hitting the mark of truth and righteousness. By contrast, the Hebrew word for sin is chata (Strong’s H2298) which means “to miss the mark,” i.e. transgressing the Torah as 1 John 3:4 states, Sin is the transgression of the Torah.

The meaning of word Torah when analyzed through its Paleo-Hebrew pictographic letters yields some interesting insights from yet another perspective that are worth noting. The definition of the word Torah VRu< from the Paleo-Hebrew is as follows:

  • Tav means “sign, seal, covenant.”
  • Vav means “nail, peg, secure, add.” 
  • Resh means “head, person, highest.” 
  • Hey means “behold, reveal.”

The meanings of the individual picture-letters when combined give us the following expanded understanding: 

  • The Torah is “the highest secure covenant revealed.”
  • The Torah is “the covenant or sign that reveals the secure head or highest person” (i.e. YHVH-Yeshua).

The Origin of Torah and Its Introduction into the World

The Torah predates Moses who gave the law to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai. There are many examples in both the books of Genesis and Exodus before Mount Sinai that YHVH’s servants both knew of and followed the Torah. That is another study and beyond Continue reading

 

Is Torah obedience too difficult?

Deuteronomy 30:11–14, Is the Torah too difficult to obey? Does YHVH’s Torah set an impossible standard by which we are to live?

If so, we are logically compelled to ask ourselves this question: Would a righteous and just Creator who is a loving Heavenly Father give to his chosen people and children a set of standards that were humanly impossible to perform, then curse them for their inability to meet these standards?

If so, then we must face the fact that Elohim is an unjust and a wicked tyrant! If Torah isn’t an impossible standard to follow, then what is the Torah’s purpose in our lives, and why does the Creator impose the Torah upon his people?

We believe that the Torah sets a standard of faith, trusting in Elohim, and that if followed it provides a system of repentance and sacrifice for obtaining forgiveness from Elohim and restoring a condition of being considered righteous in his sight. The Torah also teaches man how to achieve peace on earth and good will toward men by showing humans how to love Elohim with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and their neighbor as themselves.

Paul quotes this same Deuteronomy passage in Romans 10:6–8 where he relates the Written Torah to Yeshua, the Living Torah or Word of Elohim incarnate (in the flesh). (Compare with John 1:1, 14.) He shows that they are one in the same and that Messiah Yeshua, through his life, came to reveal to man the righteousness of the Torah-law. This righteousness is available to us if we will but have a heartfelt faith in him (Rom 10:4, 9–10) and allow him to live out his righteousness in us through the empowering work of the Spirit of Elohim.

In verses 11 through 21, Paul goes on to relate this very truth to being the central message of the gospel that Isaiah prophesied (Isa 52:7) would be preached to redeem both houses of Israel to Yeshua their Messiah.

Furthermore, in Romans 10:4 Paul reveals that Yeshua is the end goal, target of or the full flowering or embodiment of the Written Torah in human form.