Apostolic Christianity: The Halacha of Jesus

Halacha - this Hebrew word means "the guidelines" for living a godly lifestyle - for us it is how to live "The Way" of the Jesus-taught lifestyle. Bookmark this blog and learn what He taught His Apostles - Learn about the Jesus-taught Way of Godly living as the Apostles taught others - the true Christianity learned directly from living with Jesus. This is His Halacha - the rules for living holy and understanding the Word of God.

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Location: Pensacola, Florida, United States

Kenneth E. Lamb has written for first-tier information organizations of excellence such as the New York Times, the Miami Herald, the St. Petersburg Times, and the Jewish Information Network. His research, studies, and articles have appeared in 127 countries.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Jews, the Gentiles, and the Noahchide Laws

But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the Law of Moses." Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.
(Acts 15:5-6, NKJV)

The Christian world was in crisis.

It had been nearly 20 years since Jesus was crucified and 10 since the first Gentile received the Holy Ghost at Caesara and was baptized in Jesus’ Name.

God was fulfilling his promise that Amos pronounced, and James repeated in Acts 15:16-17, “After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up; so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord who does all these things.”

While the Church rejoiced at another fulfilled prophecy, conflict raged between Christian Pharisees.

Some thought baptized Gentiles left their Gentile identity buried beneath the water along with their sins; now full-fledged Jews, they must keep all 613 commandments (in Hebrew, mitzvahs) found in the first five books of the Bible known as the Torah.

Other Pharisees, including the apostle Paul, said in effect, “No;” the 613 mitzvahs apply only to the Jews, a different set of mitzvahs apply to the Gentiles.

Authority to settle the dispute rested with apostles and elders in Jerusalem. Only God could give them the answer: “What is the Law for Gentile Believers?”

We know what the Holy Spirit told them.

Speaking through James in Acts 15:19-20, “Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.”

Why did the Apostles and elders of the church immediately accept one set of laws for Jews and another for Gentiles? Is there any other Scripture that proves they clearly meant to define each group differently?

And if so, what are those laws and how do they affect us as Gentile Believers?

Since the beginning of time, Judaism has asserted it is a “universal “ religion, that is, it’s theological concepts of right and wrong are applicable to believers and non-believers alike.

To cite every verse that explicitly says God will judge all humanity -- and not just those who make themselves acceptable to Him -- by the standards of His revealed Word would take nearly a complete reproduction of the Bible.

But Judaism also asserts there is a difference between Gentile and Jew. Beyond their status as bondservants to the Lord, this difference is spelled out by the concept that Jews have 613 commandments to follow; the Gentiles have 7.

These 7 are called “The Noahchide (no-ah-khide) Laws.”

How can we say that the Apostles taught that Jews should keep one set of laws, and Gentiles another? We look to God’s Word -- of course!

Step back in time; it is now 30 years after the crucifixion. Paul reenters Jerusalem where the elders tell him he has to destroy false rumors that he is teaching against the Mosaic Law.

Turning to Acts 21:20-21, they first tell Paul, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law.”

Note that the tens of thousands of Jewish Believers in Jerusalem have not turned away from the law, but are zealous for it!

Since it has been at least 3 decades since Pentecost, we must conclude Apostolic teaching is that the Law is still valid for Jews -- why else would the Jewish Believers be “zealous” for it? It’s tough to argue those “zealous for the law” have been taught to reject it!

But the Jewish non-Christians say of Paul, “that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.”

The Jerusalem elders need to set the city straight about what Paul teaches. They devise a plan to publicly show the world their doctrine.

In Acts 21:23-24 they instruct Paul, “Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads . . .”

Why? So “. . . that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law.”

Just like other Jews, Paul is expected to -- and does -- keep the Mosaic Law.

And not just keep it, but practice it publicly. We know he did everything the Jerusalem elders instructed him to do, in accordance with the Mosaic Law.

But Paul’s public practice of Mosaic Law causes all sorts of problems for those who teach the Law died at Calvary. He’s publicly practicing a doctrine they say Paul says no longer exists! If they are right, then Paul is an incredible hypocrite.

But Paul is not a hypocrite.

It is the Trinitarians who are missing the mark. Just as they don’t understand the true nature of God, they don’t understand the Noahchide Laws for Gentiles.

The Noahchide Laws lead the elders to say in Acts 21:25 the Gentiles are exempt from the Mosaic Law: "But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing . . .”

Thus we can conclude the rules for Jews and Gentiles are different, “that they” -- the Gentiles -- “should observe no such thing” -- the Mosaic Law Paul is observing in the rites of cleansing before entering the Temple.

Taken from the Noahchide Laws, Luke repeats in Acts 21 from Acts 15 concerning Gentiles, “. . . except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.”

Unlike the explicitly stated Ten Commandments, the Noahchide Laws were deduced from the Torah, specifically from Genesis, hundreds of years before the time of Jesus. They were an accepted part of Jewish theology by the first century CE.

Judaism saw the world in terms of B’nai Israel, the Children of Israel, obligated to follow the 613 commandments, and B’nai Noah, the Children of Noah, or the Gentiles, obligated to follow the Noahchide Laws.

The Laws, followed with a short Scriptural reference, prohibit:

1) Idolatry: Idolatry is more than bowing to graven images; it is trusting anything other than God for salvation. In Genesis 11, the Tower of Babel shows what happens when we make ourselves “god” and try to ascend to heaven on our own.

2) Blasphemy: Incorrectly thought of as heresy, it is in fact the misuse of God’s name. Genesis 4:26 shows us, “Then men began to call on the name of the LORD.” They did so correctly in prayer, worship, and supplication; other uses are blasphemy.

3) Sexual Immorality: Genesis 2:24 defines marriage. Only the joining of man and woman into “one flesh” with God’s blessing is allowed. Any other physical union is a perversion of God’s plan.

4) Theft: In Genesis 3, the “crime” Adam and Eve committed when eating of the tree was not only disobedience, but theft. They stole God’s property that He hadn’t given them.

5) Eating Blood: Genesis 9:3-4, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.”

6) Homicide: Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God he made man.”

Unlike the other negative prohibitions, this is a positive instruction:

7) To set up courts of justice to enforce the laws: From Genesis 9:5, “Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man.”

How can the Noahchide Laws strengthen our witness against ungodly living?

Mockers and scoffers often try to rationalize homosexuality, adultery, and fornication by asking if we Gentile Christians are expected to also keep the rest of the Levitical Code, for example laws about the mixing of fibers in the cloth we wear.

This demonstrates their ignorance, not our incorrectness, in proclaiming sexual immorality in these areas. Gentiles, under the Noahchide Laws, were never expected to be concerned with the fibers in cloth. The proclamation of the Jerusalem elders proves it.

The scoffers’ argument is intellectual darkness. In fact, once this differentiation is understood, it explains many things about Christianity.

It explains why Peter understood the lowering of the cloth to represent that Gentiles were now acceptable to God for salvation through Jesus; it had nothing to do with food. Under the Noahchide Laws, Gentiles were from the beginning of time exempt from keeping kosher.

It explains why Paul, as a missionary to the Gentiles, could teach they had no need to keep the 613 commandments the Jews had to keep; as an educated Pharisee, he understood the Noahchide Laws exempted the Gentiles from those commandments.

It explains why we keep ourselves holy, but as Gentiles, not as Jews.

Today, the Noahchide Laws are fast becoming the focus of study for scholars seeking to understand the Bible from its first century origins. Orthodox Jews have blessed the Noahchide Movement, teaching the Torah applies to Jews and Gentiles alike.

The Noahchide Laws are accepted as valid by anyone who goes back to first century Jerusalem.

For Trinitarians, the Noahchide Laws are more nails in the coffin of their false theology.

Jews will never accept the idea that “the LORD is One” really means three. They won’t accept it today, and they would not have accepted it 2,000 years ago when, in Jerusalem alone, there were tens of thousands of Jewish Believers “zealous for the law.”

The Trinitarian concept of the nature of God, and the Law, are both invalid.

But for Apostolic Christianity, the Noahchide Laws prove that our belief that “Acts is Alive” is now more justified than ever before. The One-God view is totally compatible with Judaism; the concept that Gentiles were never expected to keep the 613 commandments given the Jews is also compatible with Judaism.

This shows again that it is Apostolic Christian theology that correctly defines the Bible.

In this end time, Apostolic Christianity is proving itself the bridge between Gentiles and Jews.

This bridge is “The Way” that will bring about God’s promise in Jeremiah 3:17, that in the end time, “At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.”

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Kenneth E. Lamb authored the monthly World News article for The Pentecostal Herald. In addition, he also wrote for the New York Times, the Miami Herald, and the Jewish Information Network among other publications of excellence.

He currently hosts the weekly news-interview show Sunday Morning with Kenneth E. Lamb, co-produced by the Pensacola News Journal and NewsTalk 1370 WCOA. His writing is published as a columnist for the Pensacola News Journal and its niche publication, the Pensacola Business Journal.

He attends First Pentecostal Church in Pensacola, FL: Senior Pastor, the Rev. Paul H. Welch; Pastor, the Rev. Brian Kinsey.

All Bible quotations are from the New King James Version, copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission; all rights reserved.

© Kenneth E. Lamb

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