UNDERSTANDING ACTS 15

What is expected of the elect of God today concerning  the laws that were given to national Israel through  Moses? Which  ones,  if any, must be practiced by the elect  of  God? Some people would answer that none of these laws need to be practiced. Some believe that all of these laws are still binding upon God's people and others believe that only some of these laws must still be practiced by God's elect today.

Are  there  any  solid  answers to  the  many  difficult questions  concerning the practice of God's law? Yes,  there  are easily understood answers to the questions about which of the laws of God must be practiced by the elect of God today. Those  who desire to live their lives after the ways of God  can easily find these answers, because the apostles recorded them  for all who are seeking to do the will of God.

In order to understand what God requires of his children today concerning the law of Moses, it is important to remember that the temple worship  system  existed for about 40 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Moreover, during  this time  many converted Jews still  worshiped  in local synagogues as well as at the Temple in Jerusalem and they continued  to observed certain aspects of the temple worship  system. It is during this  time  of transition  between  the  old and new agreements  with  national Israel  that we find a biblical record of much of the controversy about the law and  its observance.

A QUESTION CONCERNING CIRCUMCISION

In the Book of Acts, chapter 15, the apostles are gathered at Jerusalem  to consider the questions brought to  them  concerning circumcision,  the  Law  of Moses, and  salvation.  The  apostle's decision  concerning  these issues was for their day as  well  as ours.  Their decisions concerning this matter established a  concise  guideline as to what God expects of his elect children concerning the practice of his  law, which was given through Moses  to national Israel.

The Authority of the Eldership

It is important to understand that this meeting at Jerusalem  was a  formal  council of the apostles and elders  who  governed  the congregations of God. This was not just an informal gathering  of a  few of the elect; this was a meeting to resolve  major  issues that affected  the entire body of the elect and needed  to  be resolved by those who were in  authority.

The  authority to govern the church first resided with the  apostles and later with the apostles and the elders:

"I  tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be  bound in  heaven,  and whatever you loose on earth will  be  loosed  in heaven. Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything  you  ask for, it will be done for you by my  Father  in heaven" (Matt.18:18-19 NIV). See also Deut.chp.17 and our study concerning the governing of the church.

The First Question

"And certain men which came down from Judea taught the  brethren, and  said, Except you be circumcised after the manner  of  Moses, you  cannot  be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had  no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined  that Paul  and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go  up  to Jerusalem  to the apostles and elders about this question" (Acts 15:1-2 KJV).

Is circumcision required for  salvation? The reason this question is so important is that it has to do with  how  a person is supposed to obtain justification  and  be  declared righteous in God's eyes.

The Second Question

"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" (Acts 15:5 KJV).

The second question before the apostles and elders concerns obedience to  the laws God gave national Israel through Moses.

These men who believed in Jesus Christ thought that, in order for the Gentile converts to secure salvation, they had to  practice  all of  the laws that were a part of the first agreement between  God and Israel. This is exactly what many people today believe; they  feel that virtually everything in  the first covenant with national Israel applies to Christians (spiritual Israelites) today.

Basically the two questions that are answered in Acts 15 are the following:

PETER GIVES HIS OPINION

"And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and  said to them, Men and brethren, you know how that a good while ago God made a choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the  word  of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knows  the hearts,  bare them witness, giving them the holy spirit, even  as he did to us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith" (Acts 15:7-9 KJV).

Here,  Peter refers to the events recorded in Acts 10. Notice that the Gentiles were to "hear and believe." These are  very  important  scriptures because, Peter  was  inspired  to document that there is no difference between an Israelite and  Gentile concerning the call to salvation and the requirements for  justification before God.  Peter clearly shows that, concerning  salvation and justification, both the Gentile and the Jew are equal  in God's eyes. Therefore, they must have the same covenant relationship with God.

The Gentiles did receive justification, their sins were  forgiven,  and their hearts  were purified through their  faith  in the blood of Jesus Christ. Moreover, they did receive the holy spirit without being  circumcised. See Acts 5:32.

THE YOKE OF BONDAGE

"Therefore  why do you test God, by putting a yoke upon the  neck of  the  disciples,  which neither our fathers  nor  we  had  the strength to bear? But through the grace of the Lord Jesus  Christ we believe  in order to be saved, according to the  same  manner they also believed"  (Acts 15:10-11 Para.).

Peter felt that those who wanted the Gentiles to obey the law  of circumcision  and other laws given to Israel through  Moses  were trying  to  place an unbearable burden upon  them.  Again,  Peter points out the fact that  both  Jew  and Gentile  were  saved  by the same belief in  Jesus  Christ.  

But what is this yoke that is an impossible burden to carry?  Was this  yoke a part of the law  of Moses, which these men  felt  the Gentiles should practice? It seems reasonable to believe this  is what  Peter  was saying. The word, 'yoke' in verse 10 is from the  Greek word 'zugos', which means 'of bondage'. As we will  see,  this  bondage only refers  to  the laws concerning  justification (the sacrificial worship  system),  which Christ altered by  becoming  the  perfect sacrifice to take away sin?

When  one  studies the laws given to  ancient  Israel  concerning justification,  it  becomes evident that there was no way  for  a person to remain in a state of perpetual harmony with God   under the terms and conditions of that agreement. Each time  a  person  intentionally or unintentionally sinned they would cause a breach in their relationship with God, and this breach could only be repaired and a harmonious relationship with God could only be re-established when the   appropriate  sacrifice was offered.  And even then, the atoning  sacrifice could only provide a temporary repair of the breach between  God and  the  one guilty of violating his law. See  our  study  paper concerning the Day of Atonement.

Animal  sacrifices could only provide for the  temporary  setting aside  of sin. The sin and its penalty was not forgiven nor  forgotten; it still remained and awaited the perfect sacrifice of Christ to remove it forever:

"For  it is impossible that the blood of bulls and  goats  should take away sins"  (Heb.10:4 Para.).

The yoke that neither the fathers nor the apostles could bear was the sacrificial system of justification that was not able to  remove sin and its penalty;  therefore, it left the  worshiper subject to eternal death.  If Christ had not accepted the penalty for the sins of humanity,  all humanity would still be in bondage to sin and the penalty of death. But he did die in the place  of humanity;   thus, he set the fathers (the ones who  followed  the sacrificial  system), the  apostles, the elders,  and  all of humanity free from the yoke of sin and death.

The  second reason the law of sacrifice was considered a yoke  is that  it was very difficult for a person to  continually  come before God with the proper sacrifice each time they knew they had sinned. Under the new agreement, both Jew and Gentile remain in a constant  state  of justification, and upon recognition  of  sin, they only need to ask forgiveness through the sacrifice  of  Christ; hence, they are no longer in bondage to sin.

THE APOSTLE PAUL EXPLAINS THE YOKE OF BONDAGE

In order to more fully understand the yoke of bondage, it is necessary to  review  some of the teachings of Paul after the decision  of  the Jerusalem Council.

Galatians 4:21-31 Paraphrased

"Tell me, those desiring to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written: Abraham had two sons, one out of a slave-woman, and one out of the free woman. But indeed he of the slave-woman  has been born according to the flesh; and he of  the  free woman through the promise" (vs.21-23).

Here,  Paul begins to explain the difference between the  sacrificial  system  of justification that the patriarchs  and  national Israel  were under and being justified through  the  sacrificial blood of Christ under the new agreement.

"Which things are being allegorized; for these are two covenants, one  indeed from Mount Sinai bringing forth slavery—which  is Hagar, for Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to the present  Jerusalem,  and  she is in slavery  with  her  children" (vs.24-25).

Paul uses Ishmael's mother, Hagar, as an allegory for the Mount Sinai covenant. And depicts those who look to the temple system in  Jerusalem  for their  justification as being in slavery (i.e., in bondage  to the sacrificial system).

"But  Jerusalem from above is free, who is the mother of us  all. For  it has been  written, be glad barren one not  baring:  break forth  and shout, the one not travailing, for more are the children of the desolate rather than she having the  husband" (vs.26-27). Quoted from Isa.54:1-6.

Those  who  have accepted the freedom offered by God  the  Father from  heavenly  Jerusalem are totally free because they  have come under the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ and are free of sin—justified before God continually. They are no longer slaves to the sacrificial system of justification but they are partakers of a new agreement and freed from the bondage of the former.

"But brothers we are children of promise according to Isaac.  But then  even as he born according to flesh persecuted the  one  according  to the spirit, so is it now. But what do the scriptures say? Cast out the slave-woman and her son, for in no  way  shall the son of the slave-woman inherit with the son of the free. Then brothers  we are not children of a slave-woman, but of  the  free woman" (vs.28-31).

Paul  continues to make an analogy of  the bondage  of  the former agreement and the freedom of the new. Only the free  could legally  have an inheritance in Israel under the law of God. Moreover, those under the old sacrificial system of  justification  do  not  have an inheritance, but those  under the new system  through the blood of Jesus Christ do have an  inheritance because they are truly free.

BARNABAS AND PAUL

It is important to note that, after Paul's conversion, he continued to observe  many of the laws God gave to Israel through  Moses  (see Acts 17:2; 20:6,16; Col. 2:16). However, neither Barnabas nor Paul taught circumcision or obedience to the law of God for the purpose  of being justified to the Father.

Barnabas and Paul relate their experiences with the Gentiles and tell of the miracles and wonders that were being done among them by God:

"Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them" (Acts 15:12 KJV).

JAMES: HIS ASSESSMENT, AND JUDGMENT

After all the apostles and elders had given their opinions about the questions concerning circumcision and the law of Moses, the apostle James who was the president of the Jerusalem council gives his assessment and judgement concerning these questions before the council:

Acts 15:13-18 NIV

"When  they  finished, James spoke up: "Brothers, listen  to  me. Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern  by taking  from the Gentiles a people for himself. The words of  the prophets  are in agreement with this, as it is written: After  this I will return and rebuild David's fallen  tent.  Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant  of men  may  seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear  my  name, says  the  Lord, who does these things that have been known  for ages" (vs.13-18). Quoted from Amos 9:11-12.

Through their writings the prophets agreed  with what had been said so far, because they had foretold that  God  would  call individuals from among  other  nations  to receive his spirit.

By quoting the prophets, James begins to lay the foundation for his decision concerning circumcision and the law of Moses and the edict, which the council wrote that was to be sent to the churches.

Verse 16 holds the key to understanding the edict of Acts 15:

"After  this I will return and rebuild David's fallen  tent.  Its ruins  I will rebuild, and I will restore it" (v16).

After what  events will  David's  tent  be rebuilt?:

It  is  apparent from the Bible that God is  concerned with  national Israel before the return of his Son to rule  the earth. See Jer.31:31-33; Hos.2:16,19; Heb.8:8-13. However, during this  age before Christ's return, God the Father  is  choosing people out of all nations to partake of salvation with the Patriarchs  and the Israelites. See Acts 10; Rom.2:9-15, 28-29; Heb.3:1-19.

Versus 17 and 18

Verses 17 and 18 reveal that,  after Christ returns, God  the  Father will  call other nations in a systematic way and have them  participate  in  the re-established sacrificial  worship  system  at Jerusalem and live in obedience to all his laws until, eventually,  all nations on earth come under his rule and  authority. See  the  prophecies in the Book of Ezekiel that  show  the  new temple worship system, which will be administered by the  descendants of Zadok.

THE PROPHECY OF AMOS

Amos 9:9-15

The prophecy of Amos verifies the assessment and decision of James concerning circumcision and the law of Moses and the meaning of  Peter's experiences while proclaiming the gospel message to the Gentiles:

"For,  lo,  I will command, and I will sift the house  of  Israel among all nations,  like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet  shall not  the least grain fall upon the earth. All the sinners  of  my people shall  die by the sword, which say, The  evil  shall  not overtake nor prevent us. In that day will I raise up the tabernacle  of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches  thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old" (vs.9-11 KJV).  

Amos also speaks of salvation being offered to all nations  after the  return  of Christ:

"That  they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the  heathen, which are called by my name, says the Lord that does this" (v12 KJV).

The  Authorized King James translation of Amos 9:12 is a  corruption  of  the original scripture. The Scofield  Bible  notes  the following:  The ancient Greek translation rendered this verse  as follows:

"That  the rest of mankind may seek [the Lord], and all  the  nations  upon whom my name is called, says the Lord, who  does  all these things."

The  corruption of this verse must have occurred after the  time of the apostles, because James quoted the verse as in the Scofield Bible at the Jerusalem Council  and based his decision upon it (Acts  15:14-17).   There were  learned men present at the Jerusalem council, and some of them were hostile to James'  view on God's calling of the Gentiles. These men would  certainly have shouted him down if he had based his  decision upon a reading that was different from that which existed in Hebrew manuscripts. See Scofield Bible quote.

"Behold,  the days comes, says the Lord, that the plowman  shall overtake  the  reaper,  and the treader of grapes him  that  sows seed;  and the mountains shall drop with wine, and all the  hills shall melt. And I will bring again the captivity of my people  of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit  them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof;  they shall  also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And  I  will plant  them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled  up out of their land which I have given them, says the Lord your God" (vs.13-15).

James quoted the  prophecy  of Amos, which can  be  summarized  as follows:

The prophesies of Isaiah and Micah both lend support to what James had to say concerning the salvation of  Gentiles:

"And  in  that day there shall be a root of  Jesse,  which  shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek:  and  his  rest  shall be glorious" (Isa.11:10  KJV).  Please read verses 1-16 for the  context of Isa.chp.11.

"But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the  house  of the Lord shall be established in the  top  of  the mountains,  and it shall be exalted above the hills;  and people shall flow to it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will  walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the  Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among  many  people, and  rebuke  strong nations afar off; and they shall  beat  their swords into  plowshares,  and their  spears  into  pruninghooks: nation  shall not lift up a sword against nation,  neither  shall they learn war any more" (Mic.4:1-3 KJV).

Without doubt, James is referring to the return of  Christ  as King  of kings when he quotes the prophet Amos:  

"After  this  I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David. . ."  (Acts 15:16).

THE JUDGMENT OF JAMES

Acts 15:19-21 NIV

"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. For Moses  has been preached in every city  from  the  earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath."

The  Living  Bible Paraphrased translates verse 21,

"For  these things  have been preached against in Jewish synagogues in  every city on every Sabbath for many generations."

The things taught in the synagogues that are referred to in verse 21  were the laws concerning idolatry, sexual immorality, improper slaughter of animals, eating blood, and diet.

The analysis and conclusion of James was correct and supported by all those at the Council. Therefore, the Council wrote a   letter to  be  distributed as a confirmation to the  Gentile  and  other converts. Some men who could  further explain the Council's decision were sent to deliver the letter.

Acts 15:22-24

"Then  it  seemed good to the apostles and elders, with  all  the church,  to send chosen men from them to Antioch  with Paul  and Barnabas:  Judas  being called Barnabas  and Silas, leading  men among  the brothers" (v22 Para.).

"And they wrote letters  by  them after  this  manner; The apostles and elders  and  brethren send greeting to the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia. Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went  out from us have troubled you with words,  subverting  your souls,  saying,  You must be circumcised, and keep the  law:   to whom we gave no such commandment" (vs.23-24 KJV).

The Council  felt that those who taught justification  by  works were  subverting  the flock. It seems that  these  heretical teachings not only included circumcision but also other  aspects of  the  law of Moses that the  Jerusalem Council knew to be unnecessary for justification and salvation.

Acts 15:25-28

"It seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to send  chosen men to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul. Men who have forsaken  their own pursuits  on behalf of the name of our  Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore, Judas and Silas, they  also through word announcing the same things. For it seemed  good  to the  holy spirit and to us to put not one greater burden  on  you than these necessary things" (Para.).

THE LOGIC OF THE DECISION

The majority of the converted Gentiles were not  living  in Judea, so they were subject to the civil laws of the  nations where  they  lived. Because these Gentile converts  were  scattered throughout the world and the Jews had a hostile attitude  toward them, it was impossible for  most of the Gentiles  to worship  at the temple in Jerusalem.

It  was obviously impossible for most Gentile converts to  follow all of the laws God gave to national Israel, because of who  they were and where they lived.  In light of this and other  considerations, the apostles and elders made their decision  concerning circumcision and the law of Moses.

THE ELECT OF GOD

Today, the elect of God, whether Jew or Gentile, are living  under the  same  conditions concerning the worship of God, because there is no longer a temple worship system. The  temple worship system at Jerusalem  ceased being practiced in 70  A.D.. Therefore, the elect are now in the same situation as the early Gentile  converts.

The  edict  of Acts 15 will continue to  apply to all of the elect everywhere on earth even after the temple system  is re-established before the return of Christ.

THE EDICT OF ACTS 15

After investigation of the rationale behind the decision that the  apostles and  elders  made, it is possible to understand the details of the four major points of the   edict.

Acts 15:29-33

"That you abstain from meats offered to idols and from blood, and from  things strangled, and from fornication: from which  if  you keep yourselves, you shall do well. Fare you well" (v29 KJV).

"To  hold back from idol sacrifices, and blood, and  that  strangled, and from fornication; from which continually keeping  yourselves you do well. Be prospered" (v29 Para.).

Although these Gentile converts lived during a time when pagan religions  impacted  almost  every aspect of daily  life, these people were neither given a special  dispensation nor exempted from practicing the laws of God that were  necessary for salvation, because this would have been inconsistent with the  teachings of the apostles and scripture:

"Then  they indeed being released went to Antioch.  And  gathered the  multitude,  and delivered the letter. And  reading  it  they rejoiced  at the comfort in it. And Judas and  Silas, themselves also being prophets, exhorted the brothers through  much  speech and confirmed what was in the letter. And continuing for a  time, they were sent away with peace from the brothers to the apostles" (vs.30-33 Para.).

THE FOUR THINGS THE GENTILES HAD TO AVOID

The following are the four specific things listed in the letter from which the Gentiles had to abstain:

In order to understand why these were the only things listed for the Gentiles to abstain from, it must first be discovered what God finds wrong with each of these things. A good  place  to begin the search is to review the events that occurred while the Israelites were camped at Mount Sinai and Peor.

WORSHIPING THE GOLDEN CALF

At  the foot of Mount Sinai, the Israelites  broke  the agreement that they had made with God. Notice that God became  so angry that he  would have destroyed the entire nation if it  had  not been for the pleadings of Moses.

Exodus 32: 1-10 (LBP)

"When  Moses didn't come back down the mountain right  away,  the people  went to Aaron. "Look," they said, "make us a god to  lead us,  for  this fellow Moses who brought us here from  Egypt  has disappeared; something must have happened to him."  "Give me your golden earrings, Aaron replied. So they all did—men and women, boys and girls. Aaron melted the gold, then molded and tooled  it into the form of a calf. The people exclaimed, "O Israel, this is the god that brought you out of Egypt!" (vs.1-4).

"When  Aaron saw how happy the people were about it, he built  an altar  before the calf and announced, "Tomorrow there will  be  a feast  to  Jehovah!" So they went up early the next morning and began  offering burnt offerings and peace offerings to the  calf-idol;  afterwards they  sat down to feast and drink  at  a  wild party, followed by sexual immorality" (vs.5-6).

"Then  the Lord told Moses, "Quick! Go on down , for your  people that  you  brought from Egypt have defiled themselves,  and  have quickly  abandoned my laws. They have molded themselves  a calf, and  worshiped it, and sacrificed to it, and said, `This is  your god,  O Israel, that brought you out of Egypt.'  "Then  the  Lord said,  "I  have seen what a stubborn, rebellious  lot  these people are. Now let me alone and my anger shall blaze out against them and  destroy them all; and I will make you, Moses,  into  a great nation instead of them" (vs.7-10).

ISRAEL WORSHIPS BAAL-PEOR

While  the  Israelites were camped east of the  Jordan  river  at Peor, they repeated many of the same mistakes they  made at  Mount Sinai: they were having wrongful  sexual  relations with the Moabite women and participating in the worship  of the Moabite god, Peor. See Acts 15:19-20,29.  

It is useful to read both the KJV and LBP translations of Numbers 25:1-5 in order to clearly understand what Israel had done in worshiping Peor.

"And  Israel abode in Shittim [Acacia], and the people  began  to commit  whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called  the people  to the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself to  Baal-peor: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel" (Num. 25:1-3 KJV).

"While  Israel was camped at Acacia [Shittim], some of the  young men  began  going to wild parties with the local  Moabite  girls. These  girls also invited them to attend the sacrifices to their gods, and soon the men were not only attending the  feasts,  but also bowing down and worshiping the idols. Before long all Israel was  joining freely in the worship of Baal, the god of Moab;  and the anger  of the Lord was hot against his  people"  (Num.25:1-3 LBP).

"And the Lord said to Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang  them  up before the Lord against the sun, that  the  fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel. And Moses  said to  the  judges of Israel, Slay you every one his men  that  were joined to Baal-peor" (Num.25:4-5 KJV).

"He  issued  the  following command to Moses:  "Execute  all  the tribal  leaders of Israel. Hang them up before the Lord in  broad daylight,  so that his fierce anger will turn away from his people."  So  Moses ordered the judges to execute all who  had  worshiped Baal" (Num.25:4-5 LBP).

"They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods; they provoked the Lord to anger by  their wicked  deeds. . ." (Psa.106:28-29 NIV). See also Num.25:6-18; 31:1-17; Deut.4:1-4; Jos. 22:1-17; Hos.9:8-10; 1.Jn.5:21; Rev.2:14, 20-23.  

IDOLATRY

The Israelite's behavior at Mount Sinai and Peor showed their disregard for the very  foundation  of God's laws, principals and  precepts;  to  worship another  god and to commit sexual immorality are abominations  in God's  sight. Both of these actions by the Israelites violated God's law  and displayed a great contempt and lack of respect for their Creator and the  agreement they had made with him at Mount Sinai. In  Revelation 2:24, Jesus says that these types of sins are the deep things of Satan.

The incident in the wilderness in which the Israelites worshiped the golden calf shows how abhorrent idolatry is to God. But does  idolatry  affect  a person's relationship with God? The first four of the Ten Commandments give instruction on how one must relate to God. Three of these laws are as follows:

1. You shall not have any other gods beside me.

2. You shall not make a carved image for yourself of any  likeness, which  is in the heavens above, or which is  in  the  earth beneath, or which is in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them and you shall not serve them, for I am God your God, a jealous God, visiting the lawlessness of  fathers on their children, to the third and on the fourth generations of them that hate  me;  and doing kindness to thousands who love me,  and  to those who keep my commandments.

3. You shall not take the name of God in vain; for God will  not leave unpunished the one who takes his name in vain.  

These  three laws define the respect a person must have for  God, and if  a  person violates these laws, the relationship  between  the person and God is severely damaged. Moreover, if the violations are not repented of,  they will lead to the severing of the relationship between God and the violator of the law.

The Israelites had an agreement with God and they were accountable to him under its terms and conditions. By making the golden calf  at Mount  Sinai, the Israelites broke the first two laws governing their relationship with God. Therefore, they  showed their  contempt for  the one who had saved them from the Egyptians  and made an agreement with them to bless them above all  the nations of the earth:

"They made a calf in Horeb, and worshiped the molten image.  They changed  their  glory into the similitude [image] of an  ox  that eats  grass. They forgot God their savior, which had done  great things in Egypt" (Psa.106:19-21 KJV).

SEXUAL IMMORALITY

At  Sinai,  sexual immorality followed the making of  the  golden calf  and was a part of their drunken feast to their new god.  At Peor,  sexual immorality preceded the Israelite's worship  of  the god  of Peor. Both of these events demonstrate  the  destructive effects  that sexual immorality has on the character of an  individual  and a nation. Both are examples of the flesh  and  spirit being  defiled by unholy relationships with false gods.

There can be no doubt that sexual immorality is in direct opposition to God's instructions for human behavior and his desire and purpose for humans to become a part of his family.

The law of God prohibits sexual promiscuity, deviance, and  adultery. The immoral sexual acts of the Israelites at Sinai and Peor were  considered by God as spiritual infidelity (i.e., spiritual adultery), because they were committed as a part of worshiping  a false  god. Thereby, the Israelites broke the Sinai agreement, and  the  law concerning idolatry. The following are a few of the many scriptures that tell of God's great  concern for the Israelites and his judgment upon them  because of their infidelity.

Exodus 34:10-17: God warns the Israelites not to give  themselves to other gods or make molten images.

Jeremiah  3:1-25: God tells of his divorce from Israel because of their spiritual  adultery.  He also foretells the time  when  he  will again try to save them.

Ezekiel  16:1-63: God tells of his blessings to Israel,  Israel's infidelity  by worshiping other gods, his punishment upon  them, and his promise to save them out of their wickedness.

Hosea  2:11-17; 4:1-19; 9:1-17: These scriptures reveal Israel's physical  and  spiritual infidelity and God's punishment upon them for their infidelity.

See  also Ex.3:2-11; Lev.17:7; Deut.31:15-20 and Ezk.6:1-14, which all warn of a loss of blessings for committing idolatry.

PAUL INSTRUCTS THE CORINTHIANS

Before the formation of the early church, the Jewish world  had been taught for centuries that sexual immorality and idolatry were wrong. However, this was not generally true with the Gentile world; many  of the Gentile nations still practiced basically  the  same satanic  worship system that had ensnared the Israelites  of  Moses' time.  This is why Paul instructed the elect (both Jew and  Gentile) at Corinth to avoid sexual and spiritual  immorality. Moreover, this is why  he gave them guidance about   when it was acceptable and when it was not acceptable to eat meat that had been sacrificed to an idol.

1.Corinthians 6:9-20 (NIV)

"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom  of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor  idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some  of you  were.  But you were washed , you were sanctified,  you  were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of  our God. Everything is permissible for me—but not  everything  is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me—but  I will not be mastered by anything. Food for the stomach  and  the stomach for food—but God will destroy them both. The body  is not  meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the  Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also" (vs.9-14).

It is important to understand that Paul taught from the law of God, and he said that, although he had the right to do everything that God permits, he  would still maintain control of his actions. He did not say that he was allowed to do anything he wanted to in opposition to the law of God.

"Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ  himself? Shall  I  then take the members of Christ and unite them  with  a prostitute?  Never!  Do you not know that he who unites  himself with  a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said,  "The two  will become one flesh." But he who unites himself  with  the Lord is one with him in spirit" (vs.15-17).

The critical point Paul made is that, if a person does something in  opposition  to  God's rules of behavior, this  person  is  in danger of being united with evil spirits.

"Flee  from sexual immorality. All other sins a man  commits  are outside  his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his  own body.  Do  you not know that your body is a temple  of the  holy spirit,  who is in you, whom you have received from God? You  are not  your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor  God with your body" (vs.18-20).

Paul  instructed  the Corinthians to flee from sexual  immorality   and he explained that the physical body of a child of God is in fact  the dwelling  place of the holy spirit. If a child of God commits immoral acts, they violate the temple of God (the physical  body) where the holy spirit dwells. See also 1.Cor.3:16-17; 2.Cor.6:14-18.

Paul's  message to the Corinthians was not for them  alone, because many of the problems they experienced were common to the other early Christian communities that lived within  Gentile nations. Notice Paul's admonition and warning to those at Thessalonica about unrighteous behavior that leads to destruction:

"It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you  should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in  this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of  him. The  Lord  will punish men for all such sins, as we  have  already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to  be  impure, but  to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this  instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his holy  spirit" (1.Thes.4:3-8 NIV). See also Rom.1:21-32.

Understanding Rebellion

1.Corinthians 10:1-32

"Moreover, brethren, I would not that you should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were baptized to Moses in the cloud and in the  sea; And  did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all  drink  the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock  that followed  them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many  of  them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not  lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be  you idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day  three and twenty thousand" (vs.1-8 KJV).

Here, Paul uses the example of the Israelites when they worshiped the  false  god at Peor and committed sexual immorality  to  show that  these  same acts and attitudes were a  violation  of God's laws, precepts, and principles.

The NIV translates these verses as follows:

"For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through  the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the  cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food  and  drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual  rock that  accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.  Nevertheless, God  was not pleased with most of them; their bodies  were  scattered over the desert. Now these things occurred as examples  to keep  us from setting our hearts on evil things as they  did.  Do not  be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is  written:  The people  sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in  pagan revelry. We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of  them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died" (vs.1-8 NIV).

Paul reminds the Corinthians of God's punishment on the Israelites for their idolatrous and immoral conduct. It is important to note  that eating things sacrificed to idols, sexual  immorality, and idol worship are mentioned together many times throughout the Bible,  because it is through these three methods that evil spirits repeatedly teach people to disobey God.

"We  should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and  were killed  by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them  did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them  as examples and were written down as  warnings for  us,  on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come" (vs.9-11 NIV).

MEATS SACRIFICED TO IDOLS

In verses 14-17, Paul admonishes the elect at Corinth to feast and eat  at God's table because they are the body of Christ. Then,  in verses 18-21,  he speaks very bluntly about  the  consumption  of meats sacrificed to idols and he leaves no doubt as to the seriousness of such an act and its end result:

"Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible  people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the  cup  of thanksgiving  for  which we give thanks a participation  in  the blood of Christ? And is not the bread we break  a  participation in  the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we,  who  are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf" (vs.14-17 NIV). See also  Col.3:5; 1.Sam.15:23.

For clarity of verses 18-21, both the NIV and LBP translations are quoted below.

"Consider  the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the  sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a  sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but  the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to  God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You  cannot drink  the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you  cannot have a  part in both the Lord's table and the table  of  demons" (vs.18-21 NIV).

"And the Jewish people, all who eat the sacrifices, are united by that act. What am I trying to say? Am I saying that the idols  to whom  the heathen bring sacrifices are really alive and are real gods, and  that these sacrifices are of some value? No,  not  at all. What I am saying is that those who offer food to these idols are  united together in sacrificing to demons, certainly not  to God. And I don't want any of you to be partners with demons  when you  eat  the same food, along with the heathen,  that  has  been offered  to  these idols. You cannot drink from the  cup  of  the Lord's  Table and at Satan's table, too. You cannot eat bread both  at the Lord's Table and at Satan's table" (vs.18-21 LBP).

EAT EVERYTHING?

Paul restates what he said earlier in 1.Corinthians 6:12 about the eating of food:

"Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible—but not everything is constructive. Nobody  should  seek  his  own good,  but  the  good  of others" (1.Cor.10:23-24 NIV).

"Eat  anything sold in the meat market without raising  questions of conscience, for, "The earth is the Lord's and everything in it. "If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go,  eat whatever  is  put before you without raising  questions  of  conscience.  But if anyone says to you, "This has been  offered   in sacrifice,"  then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man  who told you and for conscience sake—the other man's conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another's conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why  am I denounced because of something I thank God for?" (vs.25-30 NIV).

Some people interpret these verses to mean that it is lawful to eat meat that  has been contaminated by idol worship. Some also feel that  verses 25-30  and 1.Timothy 4:3-4 give the elect of God the freedom  to eat any kind of meat desired. However, this is absolutely not true. God's law prohibits the slaughtering of animals to idols and forbids eating of such sacrifices.

In  context,  1.Corinthians 10:25-26 clearly refers to  a  person's attitude  about  what is eaten and not the type  of  meat  eaten. However, God's law only permits the eating of meats that are fit for human consumption. It is lawful to eat only  those  species that God has designated as fit for human consumption  and that have been slaughtered according to his directions (See our study paper concerning  the kinds of flesh that God permits to be  eaten.)  A good guideline to remember is that something can only be lawful if it is in harmony with God's law:

"So  whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it  all  for the  glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether  Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so  that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I  follow  the example of Christ" (vs.31-32 NIV). See also 1.Cor.11:1.

Paul  was not only concerned about what was lawful, he  was  also concerned about what brings a person to spiritual  maturity.  Paul says that mature Christians should carefully  consider their actions when they are in the presence of other people to ensure that what is done or said will not give the wrong impression to others or a brother in Christ. A legal act according to the law of God would be unprofitable to a weaker brother if he is led astray by a misconception of what the brother who was acting legally had done.

If a brother is  offended  or his relationship with God is adversely impacted  by a particular  action of another brother, it is wise for the offending brother to  refrain  from the offending behavior in his presence. This advice is transferable  to several subjects that are in question among believers today. And, if this advise is followed, it will help maintain the strength of maturity and  purpose within the body of Christ.

ANIMALS STRANGLED AND BLOOD

There  are  many reasons why the edict of Acts 15 included  prohibitions against eating animals strangled and consuming  blood. The following are two of these reasons:

Therefore,  the  instruction against eating strangled animals and their blood  was  a reminder  that this law was still in force and was a part of  the terms and conditions of God's agreement with his elect children. A  clear understanding of "things strangled and blood" must  also include an understanding of the significance of blood in relation to God's law and the sacrificial worship system.

THE LAW

The  penalty for violating the law of God is the  death  of the violator. In order to satisfy the law, God allowed an  animal life to be a temporary substitute, under certain circumstances, for the life of the law breaker.

In  order to form a new and better agreement with  humanity,  God the Father sent the Creator God (Jesus Christ) to sacrifice  his own life  as  a permanent substitute for the life of all  humans  who violate his law.

With  this understanding, it is possible to see the  sacredness of blood from the aspect of the edict in Acts 15.

The Blood of Atonement

In the Book of Leviticus, there is a clear statement that the  life-blood of an animal is given to make atonement for a human life:

"Any Israelite or any alien living among them who eats any  blood—I  will set my face against that person who eats  blood  and will  cut him off from his people. For the life of a creature  is in  the blood, and I have given it to you to make  atonement  for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's  life. Therefore I say to the Israelites, "None of you may eat  blood,  nor may an alien living among you  eat  blood.  Any Israelite  or any alien living among you who hunts any animal  or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth,  because the life of every creature is [in] its blood.  That is why I have said to the Israelites, "You must not eat the blood of  any  creature, because the life of every creature is  [in]  its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off" (Lev.17:10-14 NIV).

Life is in the Blood

"Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as  I gave  you  the green plants, I now give you everything.  But  you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it" (Gen. 9:3-4 NIV).

The  blood that was shed in the sacrifices was sacred; it was the life  of the sacrificial victim. And because life is sacred, the blood that sustains it is also sacred and  symbolic of life.

In Deuteronomy 12:20-25 the Israelites were told:

"When  the Lord your God has enlarged your territory as he  promised  you, and you crave meat and say, "I would like some  meat," then  you may eat as much of it as you want . . .. But be  sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and  you must not eat the life with the meat. You must not eat the  blood; pour  it out on the ground like water. Do not eat it, so that  it may  go well with you and your children after you,  because  you  will  be doing what is right in the eyes of the  Lord"  (vs.20-25 NIV).

God  also  gave instructions that care must be taken  not  to  eat the  blood of an animal when partaking of a fellowship meal  with him:

Deuteronomy 15:19-23 NIV

"Set  apart  for the Lord your God every firstborn male  of  your herds and flocks. Do not put the firstborn of your oxen to  work, and  do not shear the firstborn of your sheep. Each year you  and your family are to eat them in the presence of the Lord your  God at  the place he will choose. If an animal has a defect, is  lame or  blind, or has any serious flaw, you must not sacrifice it  to the Lord your God. You are to eat it in your own towns. Both  the ceremonially unclean  and the clean may eat it, as  if  it  were  gazelle  or deer. But you must not eat the blood; pour it out  on the  ground like water."  See also Gen. 9:4; Lev.7:26-27;  Deut.12:15-16; 1.Sam.14:32-34.

TODAY'S WORLD

Today, many who profess to follow the teachings of the Bible believe that the things mentioned in Acts 15 do not apply; however, these things  are very relevant, because the same basic attitudes that existed during the time of the early church still exists today.

Do people of our day eat things sacrificed to idols, live  sexually immoral  lives,  eat blood and strangled animals? The  answer  is, Yes!

Do any of the things mentioned for the Gentiles to avoid  exist in today's societies? The answer is obviously that  they  do. They  all  exist in one form or another. Divorce, sexual  promiscuity, homosexuality, and  many  other types  of  sexual  immorality exist within  all  societies. Moreover, religious celebrations (e.g., Christmas and Easter) in every nation are  rooted in  the worship of idols and demons. The source of such  celebrations and their sacrifices has been very cleverly disguised over the  centuries to hide their true meaning. For example, during  the  Christmas and  Easter celebrations, millions of worshipers  eat  meals  in honor   of  the  false  gods  represented  by  these days.   See Deut.12:29-31; Ezk.8:16; Jer.10:1-5.

In  many nations, the eating of blood pudding, blood sausage, blood bread, and animals  which have been killed without draining the  blood  from them is still practiced.

The concepts Paul conveyed to the Corinthians about the  interaction among God's elect, immoral behavior, and  false  worship systems   are  just as valid today as they were  then;  the  only difference is that these practices are sometimes very cleverly disguised as something harmless.

Paul  instructed the elect at Corinth and others about the  law  so that  they would know what is pleasing to God. Today, true  servants of God also teach and proclaim God's law and way of life,  a way in which "the called out ones" may grow into spiritual  maturity.  

THE FOUNDATION

Without  the  foundation  of God's law, those who are called by  God  to become  perfect would not have a guide to help them achieve  perfection in the spirit. Those who do not teach God's commandments,  precepts, and principles,  which were not questioned by the  apostles  and prophets, are deceived by the lawless spirit  who  deceives the whole world (see 1.Thes.2:7-12). Those who teach  that the law of God has been done away with through  the sacrifice of Jesus have not heard the voice of God's spirit, because the holy spirit  upholds  the law of God and teaches the elect to do likewise.  See 1.Jn.2:1-6; 3:7-10; Rev.2:12-29.

The  law of God is not burdensome, it is the way of  love. Every  law is based on the principal of love—love for God  and love  for  one's neighbor. Without Godly love just  like  ancient Israel, we will also violate the law of God.

THE TRANSITION PERIOD

After  the  death  and resurrection of Jesus, there  was  a  short period  of time when both the old agreement with  ancient  Israel and  the new agreement existed together. This  situation  allowed the elect of God to participate in certain aspects of the  temple worship system. At the end of this time period, the old  agreement relationship with national Israel/Judah was suspended:

"In  the saying,  New, He has made the first old. And the  thing being  made old and growing aged will soon  disappear"  (Heb.8:13 Para.).

The following events in the transition from the temple worship system to the worship of God in spirit are listed in sequential order:

1. When Christ became the perfect sacrifice for the  forgiveness of sin, the need to sacrifice animals to atone for one's sin in order to become justified before God was abolished.

2. On  the Day of Pentecost in 30 A.D., the holy spirit  came  to dwell within  the elect of God. This demonstrated that  God  had moved  his dwelling place and that the new and  better  agreement that he had promised through the prophets was in effect.

The  indwelling  of  the holy spirit eliminated the  need  for  a physical priesthood to mediate between God and his elect children of  the gospel age of salvation, because Christ is now  the new High Priest who intercedes for the elect.  See  1.Cor.3:16; 6:19-20; Heb.4:14-16.

3. With the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., all laws that required the Levitical priesthood and sacrifices  for  their fulfillment were suspended until the return of the Messiah. After the return of Jesus Christ, animal sacrifices will again be instituted as noted in Ezekiel 45 and Zechariah 14:16-20. The Bible gives  very few details regarding these future sacrifices,  except that  they will be officiated over by the sons of Zadok and  that they  are  for the purification of the people.  See our study paper concerning the sacrificial system after the return of Christ.

AFTER THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE

In  the book of Lamentations, God inspired a prophecy of  the  destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem:

"And he has violently taken away his tabernacle, as if it were of a garden:  he has destroyed his places of the assembly:  the Lord has  caused  the solemn feasts and sabbaths to  be forgotten  in Zion,  and has despised in the indignation of his anger the  king and the priest. The Lord has cast off his altar, he has abhorred his  sanctuary,  he has given up into the hand of the  enemy  the walls of her palaces; they have made a noise in the house of  the Lord, as in the day of a solemn feast" (Lam.2:6-7 KJV).

With the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., it became impossible for anyone to take part in the temple worship system as required under  the  first agreement with national  Israel.  Therefore,  all temple  services were set aside. This also applies to all of  the laws  concerning the operation of a national Israel/Judah.  Without the  temple and the priesthood, neither converted Jew nor  Gentile can legally  observe any law that requires the temple  and  the priesthood for its practice.

The Future Temple:

The  prophetic writings show a restoration of the temple  worship system  will occur before the return of  Jesus Christ. Shortly after his return, he will establish  the Davidic  dynasty again (Acts 15:16), along with his  government through which he will rule the world. After these events, a new temple system will be instituted. See Ezk.chps.40-48.

GOD'S HOLY PLACE TODAY

God's  Holy Place (his earthly temple where his  spirit  resides)  was  transferred from the temple at Jerusalem in 30 A.D.  to  the physical  bodies of his elect children whom he calls  from  among all peoples during the gospel age of salvation.

"Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of  God dwells within you? If any man defile the temple of  God, him  shall  God  destroy; for the temple of God  is  holy, which temple you are" (1.Cor.3:16-17 KJV).

"What?  know  you not that your body is the temple  of  the  Holy Spirit  which is in you, which you have of God, and you  are  not your own?" (1.Cor.6:19 KJV).

THE SHADOW OF GOOD THINGS

Hebrews 10:1-15 Paraphrased

"For the law having a shadow of good things to come,  and not the very  image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they  offered year by year continually make the comers thereto perfect.  For  then  would they not have ceased  to  be  offered?  because  that the worshipers once purged should have had no  more conscience  of  sins. But in those sacrifices there is  a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (vs.1-4).

These scriptures prove that there was a need for a perfect sacrifice, which was the sacrifice of Christ that allowed for an individual to be totally justified to God the Father.

"Therefore when he comes into the world, he says, Sacrifice  and offering you do not want, but a body have you prepared me:  In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you have had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is  written of me,) to do your will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice  and offering  and burnt offerings and offering for sin you do not want, neither have pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then  said he, Lo, I come to do your will, O God.  He takes  away the first, that he may establish the second" (vs.5-9).

Christ's sacrifice provided total justification, canceled the old agreement  that required animal sacrifices for the atonement  for spiritual and moral sin, and established a new agreement between God the Father, Jesus Christ, and those called to salvation.

"By which will we are sanctified through the offering of  the body  of  Jesus Christ once for all. And every  priest  stands   daily  ministering and offering oftentimes the  same  sacrifices, which  can never take away sins: But this man, after he  had  offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of  God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.  For by one offering he has perfected for  ever  them that are sanctified. Whereof the holy spirit also is a witness to us:  for after that he had said before" (vs.10-15).

The New Agreement

"For  finding  fault with them, he says, Behold, the  days  come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house  of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they  continued  not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, says the  Lord. For this  is  the covenant that I will make with  the  house  of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws  into their  mind,  and write them in their hearts:  and I will  be  to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:" (Heb.8:8-10  KJV). See also Jer.31:30-33.

Hebrews 10:16-25 KJV

"This  is  the agreement that I will make with them  after  those days, says the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their  minds will I write them; And their sins and lawlessness I will not remember. Now where there is remission of sin, there  is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way,  which he has consecrated for us, through the veil, that  is to say, his [Christ's] flesh; And having an high priest over  the house of God;  Let us draw near with a true heart in full  assurance  of  faith, having our hearts sprinkled from  an  evil  conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that  promised;)  And let us consider one another to  provoke  to love  and  to good works:  Not forsaking the assembling  of ourselves  together,  as the manner of some is;  but  exhorting  one another:   and so much the more, as you see the day approaching."

This new agreement is a "new and living way"; it is totally different  in many ways from the old agreement in  terms, conditions,  and   performance. Remember, it is  called  a  better agreement not only because of better promises and  rewards  but also because of better terms, conditions, and performance  standards  between  God the Father, Jesus Christ, and  those  who  are called to salvation.

THE LAW WITHOUT AND WITHIN

The sacrificial system was used as a school  master to bring us to Christ. Therefore,  because this was  accomplished by the law, what particular law was the schoolmaster?

"Wherefore  the law was our schoolmaster to bring us  to  Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come,  we are no longer under a schoolmaster" (Gal.3:24-25 KJV).

Before the sacrifice of Christ, people stood outside the law  and tried  to  measure up to its standards, but they could  not  because people  are  physical  and the law of God is  both  physical and spiritual. It was only possible for a few individuals to  measure up to the physical side of the law temporarily, but it was impossible  to  totally   measure up to its  spiritual  aspects  until Christ came.

Those  who have the spirit of God become at one with the law  of God,  because the law resides within them. The law is a  part  of their thought process. Notice what is said about the law becoming a part of those whom God calls to salvation:

"For  this  is the agreement that I will make with the  house  of Israel  after those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws  into their  mind,  and write them in their hearts:  and I will  be  to them a  God, and they shall be to me a  people"  (Heb.8:10 Para.).

The elect  of  God are stewards of the law  because  it  resides within them. They are to be a representation of the law of God in action. No longer is the law to be symbolic, because a converted, spirit-filled, child of God is to be a reality of  the law just as Christ was.

HOW THE EDICT OF ACTS 15 APPLIES TODAY

The answers given to the questions asked of the Jerusalem council in  Acts 15 and the edict that was issued are still  valid. But now, the principles of their edict apply to all of God's  children,  whether they are Gentiles or Jews. Today, both converted Gentiles and Jews  are in the same situation in regard to the law of God.

By B.L. Cocherell, file b4w3