Torah Restoration Ministries

Evangelist Daniel John Lee

And to the angel of the congregation in Philadelphia write -- These things says He that is holy, He that is true, He that has the Key of David, He that opens, and no man shuts, and shuts, and no man opens.  I know your works: behold, I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it: for you have a little strength, and have kept My Word, and have not denied My Name . . ."


Acts 15 Explained

Before we deal with the text in Acts 15, it's helpful to remember what Paul said a little later in the same book.

After being charged incessantly with teaching against the Torah, Paul says, "Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me. But this I confess to thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the Elohim of my fathers, believing ALL things which are WRITTEN IN THE TORAH and in the prophets. . ."

Believe comes from the word, be liefen, which means 'to live in accordance with'. In other words, Paul clearly says that he lives in accordance WITH the Torah and prophets, while believing in the Elohim of his fathers, who is now revealed as YahShua the Messiah. (Acts 24:13-14).

A little later, responding to the same charges that he was teaching against Torah, Paul says, "Neither against the Torah of the Jews, neither against the Temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all."

Paul certainly did not offend against the Temple, as he actually offered an animal sacrifice in Acts 21:26 when he took a Nazarite vow.

Paul claims he did not offend against Caesar, or that he did not violate any laws pertaining to Rome (unless those laws commanded him to sin).

So, too, he does not offend against the Torah of the Jews or he did not violate any laws in or pertaining to Torah (unless those laws were invented by Pharisees and also commanded him to sin -- ie Jewish Talmud, man made traditions that nullify Written Torah).

Paul, over and over again, claims he does not OFFEND against Torah at all. In other words, he does not violate it, teach against it, or urge others to forsake it.

This is exactly the charge the Pharisees were bringing against Paul, but it was a baseless charge. The Christian church also lays the same charge to Paul, that he taught men to forsake the Torah. Paul's response is clear.

With that in mind, let's take a look at Acts 15.

15:1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.

Several things are often over looked in this topic sentence of the chapter.

A. circumcised "after the manner of Moses" in no way referred to circumcision done in Torah. Torah is the first 5 books of the Bible and Moses did not invent circumcision. YHVH gave this commandment to Avraham some 430 years earlier.

The "circumcision after the manner of Moses" was a phrase referring to a complex, rabbinical, Talmud operation in which a cutting was done on the foreskin, and various rites and rituals were done, invented by Jews, and was the gateway into become a full fledged orthodox Jew.

Some over zealous Pharisees were requiring the early Gentile converts to become full fledged orthodox Jews, laden down with a man made Jewish Talmud (as opposed to the Yah made Torah). Though they called it the "manner of Moses", it had nothing to do with the Biblical Moses. The "manner of Moses" was merely the oral traditions the Pharisees supposed came from Moses.

So, at the outset, the issue is simple:

Jewish Pharisees who have believed on YahShua are requiring new Gentile converts to take on the whole man made Jewish Talmud and traditions -- the circumcision which is after their version of the "manner of Moses".

A few verses later, the topic sentence is repeated as follows:

15:5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.

This is a rather poor translation. This is merely a repeat of what verse 1 says, yet it reads as if it is a totally new problem. If the verse really meant that Pharisees were requiring people to actually keep the Torah - the real Law of Moses -- then one might suppose:

"But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That is was needful to circumcise them, and to command them ***not to murder and not to cover their bodies with tattoos***."

Those are two laws in Torah and yet what Christian congregation would have a problem with Pharisees requiring that? Of course a believer must abide by those two commandments in Torah. In fact, because we dare not cut and paste and pick and choose, a believer needs to keep Torah period.

So verse 5 really merely repeats verse 1. The "circumcise and keeping the law of Moses" is not the actual Torah given by YHVH to Moses, it is the manner and customs that the Pharisees supposed came from Moses. This not only makes more sense of the text in terms of harmonizing with the first verse, but also shows us that there is nothing wrong with keeping the Torah of YHVH.

Remember, Paul in no way offended against Torah -- so certainly he would not claim new believers could ignore Torah -- that would be a great offence indeed!

Especially since Torah itself says that the SAME LAW is to be given to both a Hebrew and a foreigner (or Gentile) -- Exodus 12:19.

In the first 5 verses, then, we have a double witness as to the controversy: Pharisees were requiring new believers to conform to the "manner and customs" of Moses which was a term for the Talmudic, Jewish orthodox invention of complex rules.

Next we read:

15:7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
15:8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;

Did you catch that? Peter says YHVH gave the Holy Spirit to Gentiles EVEN AS YHVH GAVE THE HOLY SPIRIT TO ISRAEL OF OLD UNDER TORAH!!! This includes this Israel Peter was currently a part of -- still an Israel that kept every jot and tittle of Torah but also believed in YahShua the Messiah.

Don't believe me? Read the rest of Peter's thought:

15:9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
15:10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
15:11 But we believe that through the grace of the LORD Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

Look, there!!! The Jews who kept Torah and were filled with the Holy Spirit were saved BY GRACE just like the Gentiles were!!! Grace was what operated and worked through the Torah, for YHVH changes not.

Now, notice, Peter says:

15:10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

Most Christians say this yoke is "obeying the Torah". But this is impossible.

In Luke 1:6, we read about two human beings who kept, at that particular point in their lives, every jot and tittle of the Torah blamelessly.

In Psalm 119, David affirms several times that at the time of his writing, he is keeping all of Torah blamelessly.

Peter says this yoke CANNOT BE CARRIED and HAS NEVER BEEN CARRIED by any of their fathers or they themselves.

If David and Elizabeth and Zachariah could all keep Torah blamelessly, could Peter be referring to the Torah as the "unbearable yoke"? Of course not.

Now, we have the THIRD indicator as to what the problem is: the yoke WHICH IS IMPOSSIBLE TO BEAR is the complex system of man made regulations the Pharisees imposed upon others. It was so complex, so burdensome, so wicked, no one could bear up under it. Even the Pharisees themselves violated parts of the written Torah through their vain traditions!

Verse 1, 5 and now 10 all say the SAME THING: the yoke is the Talmudic, rabbinical traditions of the orthodox Jews.

James then declares his decision, birthed from the Holy Spirit:

15:19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
15:20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.

Now, again, if the controversy were that Pharisees were forcing Gentiles to keep Torah, look how ludicrous these past two verses would sound:

"Hey guys -- you don't have to bear the burden of Torah --- but, oh wait, here are some burdensome laws from Torah that you need to keep!"

I don't think so.

James doesn't contradict himself. He means what he says. James commands the Pharisees to stop troubling the new Gentile converts with the orthodox, Talmudic traditions but TO INSTEAD BEGIN KEEPING TORAH!.

James gives them 4 commands, 3 of which are DIETARY TORAH COMMANDS, and the 4th is a sexual cleanness Torah law.

The final conclusion of the decision is:

15:21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

The word "for" is a conjunctive word, meaning "because".

Since, because, the new Gentile converts are attending synagogue every Sabbath, hearing Torah read to them, these 4 laws will help them begin.

The 4 commands were given as a basic beginning point, a prerequisite to start on the journey of learning Torah. The Gentiles were so pagan and wicked, that once they had converted, these 4 commands would keep them spiritually clean so that they could continue to learn more of Torah.

A few verses later, the decision is again repeated:

15:24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:

Again, troubled them with the orthodox, Talmudic traditions invented by the Jews. Do you think Torah troubled them?

Paul certainly stated he never offended against Torah, so would Paul claim Torah subverted souls?

Paul stated in Romans 7 that Torah is "holy, just and good". Doesn't sound like Paul thinks Torah subverts souls. Romans 3:31 says the faith Paul teaches establishes Torah.

But what has been established that subverts souls? Why the very traditions which made VOID the Torah: the Talmudic, orthodox Jewish laws.

How sad that the Pharisees who made void the Torah and yet are so hated by the Christian world, are no different from that very Christian world who makes void the Torah by totally taking scriptures out of context.

The Pharisees have their vain traditions, and now Christians have their vain traditions. Whatever nullifies Torah, whatever OFFENDS Torah, is vain. Period.

The next few verses read:

15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
15:29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

Again, the Holy Spirit's decision was to throw off the burden of Talmud and OBEY TORAH. Yes, the Holy Spirit commanded Gentile brand new believers to keep FOUR Torah commandments. And, as we just read in verse 21, this would be the beginning as they continued to attend synagogue every sabbath and hear Torah.

Now, as we conclude, an often ignored verse appears near the end of Acts 15.

It says simply:

15:35 Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

You see this? Paul and Barnabas taught the WORD OF THE LORD. What was this word? Was it Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? Was it Acts? Of course not. These books had not yet been written at the time these events took place.

The Word of the Lord was the Torah and the Prophets -- the very books YahShua quoted from and used to teach. The very books YahShua said he DID NOT come to void in Matthew 5:17-21.

Paul and Barnabas continue to go forth, teaching Torah, the fullness of the Torah and Spirit, renewed by the blood of YahShua, right in step with the Holy Spirit's decision in Acts 15.

The problem today is too many Christians read the Bible with a very "modern, western, American (Greco-Roman) mindset". We need to read the Bible with an understanding of the Hebrew controversy that was being waged amongst Hebrews! Once we do so, everything opens up and makes sense. This is not difficult, even a child can do it.

The question is, are you a little child of YahShua (Jesus) or are you secretly a rebel looking for a way to justify your transgression of YHVH's Torah?