The Lifting of the Veil is a biblically solid book that reveals the New Testament’s position on the Law of Moses. The Church, interpreting the four rules of James as table fellowship (Acts 15:20), completely misses God’s point. Understood from its Hebraic perspective the four rules are the theological pillars that establish the Law for every believer.
Once the four rules of James are seen as a conceptual unit on sacrificial-sexual idolatry (the satanic scourge of the ancient world) the smoke screen of traditional anti-Law theology is blown away. James’ admonition to the new Gentile believer was very simple. He declared what would sever them from Yeshua (Jesus; the four rules of Acts 15:20) and encouraged them to learn the Law in order to know their new God and His ways (Acts 15:21). In a very real sense the ruling of James took care of ‘the two pluses.’ He said that ‘Jesus plus the Law’ couldn’t earn salvation and that ‘Jesus plus Zeus’ wouldn’t be tolerated.
The Lifting of the Veil is truly a biblical gem. It’s a book that Yeshua will use to remove the veil from the eyes of His Bride so that she will see her Bridegroom clearer than ever before.
Perfect bound softcover 296 pages. You can order The Lifting of the Veil at Amazon.com by clicking here.
The book of Acts forms an indispensable bridge between the Gospels and the letters of Peter, Paul, James and John. Without Acts we’d be at a great loss as to what happened in Jerusalem after the Resurrection, with the subsequent giving of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. We wouldn’t know of the many thousands of Jewish people that came to believe in Messiah Yeshua (the Hebrew name for Jesus).1 We also wouldn’t realize what Peter, Stephen and Philip did, or how Paul came to believe in Yeshua. Also of utmost importance, we wouldn’t have any idea how the question of Gentile salvation and the Law of Moses was settled in Acts 15.
Salvation is based on faith in Jesus plus nothing else. There’s no law or good deed that anyone can do that will transform his nature into the nature of Yeshua. That’s why the keeping of the Law can never give anyone eternal life. Justification is the gracious work of God the Father through His Son for forgiveness, transformation and glorification.
For 1,900 years the Church (collectively consisting of all organized churches) has taught that the Law of Moses was nullified by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. The Feasts of Israel, the dietary laws and the seventh day Sabbath are only for the Jews who rejected Jesus and are still ‘under the Law.’ Christians are ‘under Grace’ and free from the Law, or as F. F. Bruce writes, Christianity is a ‘law-free gospel.’2 Acts 15 is one of the major places in Scripture that the Church points to in order to prove its position. The chapter deals with the issue of whether Gentile believers needed to be circumcised and keep the Law in order to be saved.
The Church lays the groundwork for a major heresy by misinterpreting the four rules of James (Acts 15:20). Theologians teach that the rules apply to table fellowship and that these are the only rules or laws for Christians. Their anti-Law theology3 supports this false perception. This in turn sets up their inability to understand the meaning of the next verse, where James speaks of the Law of Moses being taught on every Sabbath day.
F. F. Bruce speaks of the Council of Acts 15 as ‘epoch-making.’4 Howard Marshall also believes it to be monumental. He writes,
‘Luke’s account of the discussion regarding the relation of the Gentiles to the law (sic) of Moses forms the center of Acts both structurally and theologically.’5
Marshall and Bruce are right about the importance of Acts 15, but they don’t fully understand its implications. Acts 15 is actually the fulcrum point where the Law is declared valid for all believers, since this chapter officially authorizes the Law—but it’s at this crucial point that the Church has failed by creating a dark theological veil that has kept Christians from seeing their ancient Hebraic heritage. This in turn has led the Church into anti-Semitism and pagan celebrations in the Name of Jesus, neither of which He or Paul ever intended.
Almost two thousand years ago all the believing Jewish Elders and Apostles of Jerusalem assembled to debate the matter of Gentile conversion to the Jewish Messiah (Acts 15:6). They needed to know exactly what constituted salvation for the Gentile. Paul, Barnabas and others from the congregation of Antioch were also there that day. The Jewish leadership in faraway Antioch had requested a ruling. Acts 15:1-2 states,
‘Some men came down from Judah and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the Apostles and Elders concerning this issue.’6
The men from Judah wanted the Gentiles to be circumcised, which meant becoming a Jew. They would then be part of the people that God was redeeming (Israel), and they would be told to keep the Law to ensure their eternal life.
God’s intent, though, was that both Gentile and Jew would be justified the same way—by their faith in Yeshua as the Redeemer of Mankind, or, in other words, by God’s gracious action toward Man in Messiah (Acts 2:37-40; 15:11). In the aftermath of this, four rules were issued (v. 20). Proper interpretation of them is vital in determining what James and the Council, and therefore what the Messiah through them, intended for the Gentile believers after they had entered into the Kingdom of Jesus.
What the Holy Spirit issued through James for the Gentile was conceptually no different from what God did for Israel through Moses when He brought Israel out of Egyptian slavery. The Hebrews were not saved by circumcision or the Law but by the blood of the lamb (Ex. 12).7
It follows that the Gentile wouldn’t be saved by circumcision or the Law, either. After Hebrew deliverance (salvation) from Egypt, Yahveh brought Israel to Mt. Sinai to learn of His ways: Who was this God that had just brought Egypt, the mightiest nation in the world at that time, to its knees? What was pleasing and right in His eyes? What did He consider wrong or sin, and what sins would cost them their life if they disobeyed Him?
Yahveh didn’t set Israel free to do her own thing, willing to accept whatever any Hebrew thought was right in his own heart. He gave Israel His holy Law (Dt. 4:5-8; Rom. 7:12) so she would know right from wrong and He would be able to dwell within Israel. Why would it be different in Christ? Why would His holy Ways be invalid for the Gentile?
Some might say, ‘But the only thing we need to do is to love God and our neighbor.’ This is the heart of the Law (Dt. 4:5-6; Lev. 19:18), and this is how Yeshua spoke of summing up the Law, but He didn’t do away with the other commandments and statutes (Mt. 22:36-40).
Others might say, ‘But we have the Spirit to guide us in God’s will,’ yet it’s the express purpose of the Spirit to write the Law of God upon the heart of every believer (Jer. 31:33; Ezk. 36:26-27; Heb. 8:10). How is it that many who have this Spirit balk at the very Law the Spirit desires to place upon their heart? If the Law of God was truly written on the heart, wouldn’t believers want to keep Passover and God’s Sabbath day holy?
The Gentile who was saved by the Blood of the Lamb was to learn about God’s holy ways and his new Family (Israel), of which he was now a part (John 10:16; Rom. 11:24; Eph. 2:13). He would do this by going to the synagogue on the Sabbath and learning about Yeshua and the Law of God (Acts 15:21). The Law would teach the Gentile Who the God of Israel was, his new Family history, and what God required of him that he might walk in those ways in the power and love of the Spirit, just as Yeshua did. After all, if Jesus kept the Sabbath, dietary laws and Passover, and we want to be like Him, shouldn’t we also be keeping those same things?
It’s not without a compelling truth that the Lord uses the expression Born from Above (or Born Again, Jn. 3:3, 7) to indicate one’s birth or entry into His Kingdom by His Spirit. An infant is born into a family, without keeping any of the family rules, ‘by the grace of the parents.’ Does this mean that the child will not be required to keep the family rules when it comes of age? Does it matter if the child obeys the father and does the father’s will? Or should the will of the child overrule the will of the father? Would the father be pleased if the child brought in rules that contradicted his own values? Knowing the will of the Father and doing it are central to being a son or daughter of God. Yeshua said,
‘Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven but he who does the will of My Father who is in Heaven will enter’ (Matt. 7:21, see also 12:50).
What is the will of God in relation to the Law? Many in the Church say, ‘The Law has been done away with,’ yet Marshall, before he theologizes the Law away, says the Law of Moses is the will of God our Father.8 God gave those rules and laws to Israel after they were saved from Egyptian slavery. The same concept holds true for the believer today.
Jesus says that love is the basis for all the laws of Moses (Mt. 22:36-40), so Christians are keeping the essence of the will of God. Unfortunately, the organized churches teach against everything in the Law except for what they perceive to be the moral laws; therefore, many believers are ignorant of the specifics of God’s Law and horrified to even consider them.
The mere mention of ‘the Law’ as part of God’s will brings puzzled looks, fear or contempt to the faces of many, who, in their pride and ignorance, think they rightly understand Law and Grace. Unfortunately, those same facial expressions could be seen on the Pharisees, who boasted of their own righteousness (Lk. 18:9-14) and proper interpretation of the Word of God (Mt. 15:1-20) while rejecting the understanding of God the Son, who stood before them.
On the other hand, some extremists in the Law Camp say that Christians who don’t keep Sabbath and Passover, etc., are going to Hell. This is totally wrong. Anyone who loves Jesus and his neighbor is keeping the heart of the Law (Dt. 4:5-6; Lev. 19:18; Lk. 10:25-28). These extremists fail to realize that even if someone is keeping Sunday and eating ham, if he has a living relationship with Jesus he will be forgiven of those sins (1st Pet. 4:8). Yeshua’s sacrifice is that great (Acts 13:38-39), but a believer walking in those sins is not what the Holy Spirit wants for the Bride of Messiah today. Committing those sins has its negative effect upon the believer as well as on others. Striving to reflect Yeshua’s pure and undefiled Truth and be an example to others is a divine goal.
Of course there are Christians who hear that eating pig won’t send them to Hell, so they’re not concerned about the Law, but sinning against God is no light matter: building a theological house on sand is much more disastrous than building a real house on it (Mt. 7:24-27). Reading into Acts 15 (and other passages of Scripture) that the Law has been done away with is a false interpretation of the text, and false theology leads to false and sinful lifestyles. This distorts the picture of the true Jesus that godly believers want to emulate and present to others.
This false picture also offends many Jews who understand, and correctly so, that the Messiah wouldn’t do away with the Law of Moses. Jews know that the only true God is the God of Israel and that He gave the Law to Moses. Yahveh Himself warns them in the Law that if anyone entices them to follow something else, they’re to be stoned (Dt. 13:1-5; 17:2-13). At this point a ‘Jesus who has done away with the Law’ becomes a salvation issue for the entire Jewish community. Placing this major stumbling block in the way of the Jewish people is nothing less than satanic.
Most Israelis are taught in grade school that Jesus started another religion: Christianity. It hates the Law of Moses and the Jewish people. Is that really what Jesus did? It certainly can’t be found in the Book of Acts, but the last 1,900 years of Church history confirm this sinister attitude toward the Jewish people. At the foundation of this attitude is how the Church views the Law of Moses, the last fifty years of some Christians loving some Jews not making a dent in the mind of the average Jew.
In the New Covenant, whenever salvation is pitted against the Law (or circumcision, which implied that the Gentile was to become a Jew9 and keep the Law for salvation), the Law is rightly rejected as a means of obtaining and maintaining the new birth and the new life. Paul’s emphasis of non-circumcision for the Gentile (1st Cor. 7:17-19) was always against the keeping of the Law for salvation, which circumcision implied (e.g. Gal. 2:16, 19, 21; 5:3, 6).
One cannot add anything to the finished Work of Messiah Yeshua, but once that is established, the Law rightfully comes to the forefront in the New Testament for how one should live out this new life. It’s the guideline for what is right and wrong in God’s eyes. In other words, Sabbath, Passover and dietary laws, etc., are still in effect for the believer today.
Christian scholar David Williams writes, ‘for Paul, the law (sic) remained the authoritative guide to Christian living.’10 All the Jewish believers kept the Law (Acts 21:20), including Paul (Acts 21:23-24, 26; 23:1-5; 25:8), who commanded his followers to keep it also (Rom. 3:31; 7:7, 12, 14; 1st Cor. 7:19). If Paul then wrote to Gentile believers ‘to follow him as he followed Christ’ (1st Cor. 4:14-17; 11:1; Phil. 3:15-17; 4:9; 1st Thess. 1:6-7; 2nd Thess. 3:7, 9), shouldn’t the Gentile believer be keeping the laws that pertain to him from just this perspective?
How can it be that the ancient faith community of believers loved the Law and adhered to it while the modern faith community teaches against it? Are there two different faith communities in the one Flock of Jesus (Jn. 10:16)?
The Church is adamant, though, the Law doesn’t pertain to Christians. Even within the so-called Messianic Jewish community today there’s division over the observance of the Law of Moses (Torah) for the Jewish and Gentile believer. Very few Jewish believers think that they or the Gentile must keep Torah, even though Messianics assemble on the Sabbath and do Passover ceremonies, etc. Unfortunately the celebrating of Sabbath and Feasts are often only ‘window dressing’ to impress the unbelieving Jewish community that Messianic Jews are ‘still Jewish.’11 These Messianics allow themselves to meet on the Sabbath, etc., because they’re ‘under Grace,’ so they can also meet on Saturday, etc. Sadly, they don’t teach the Law as the holy commandments of God that everyone should observe.
This theology also allows them to maintain their relationship with the ‘Law-free’ Church, but this is extremely confusing to many Gentiles that come to them desiring to learn about the Law. Why would any Gentile raised and nurtured in the Church want to keep the Law of Moses?
While the Church and most in the Messianic community steer away from the Law, the Spirit of Jesus is leading many Gentile and Jewish believers all over the world into observing the Law of Moses. In these last days, the Holy Spirit is using the Law as a filter to see who will walk where Jesus is leading him, even if it goes against 1,900 years of staunch Church opposition. In this it’s not unlike the controversy that surrounded Yeshua as He confronted some of the Synagogue teachings of His day (Mt. 15:1-20, etc.), or the religious opposition that has met any new teaching of the Spirit of God since the days of Paul. Resisting the Work of the Holy Spirit is all too common among God’s people (Ps. 95:6-11; 2nd Cor. 1:23; 12:21; 13:2, 10), but those who realize that the oasis they’re at is not the final one will be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit to the next oasis, even if the path appears dangerous.
With the writings of E. P. Sanders, James Dunn and N. T. Wright, the way is also being cleared at the scholarship level. Even though none of these men are advocating observance of the Law of Moses, within a generation, because of the new position concerning the Law (that it isn’t legalism but God’s will on how to live a righteous life),12 many believers will read past the findings of these men and walk into Torah, to the glory of God. The proper interpretation of Acts 15:20-21 will help lead the way.
Millions of believers love Jesus with all their heart but are enslaved, without ever realizing it, to Church theology and traditions that nullify the Word of God. Great is the power of Satan to deceive, even and especially the Bride of Christ (Dan. 7:25; Rev. 12:17).
In the days of Peter and Paul, when the Gentiles came into the Kingdom of Messiah by the Grace of God, they were expected to learn and follow all the commandments of Moses that applied to them.13 The Lifting of the Veil will reveal this, and the Bride will see her Bridegroom clearer than ever before.
ENDNOTES (The book has footnotes)
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1 Some places in Acts where Jews believed in Jesus include: Acts 2:41, 47; 4:14; 5:14; 6:1, 7; 9:31, 35, 42; 13:43; 14:1; 17:1-4, 11; 18:8, 17; 21:20.
2 F. F. Bruce, Author; Gordon D. Fee, General Editor, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Book of the Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), p. 285.
3 Church theology on the Law has been challenged in the last 30 years by E. P. Sanders (Paul and Palestinian Judaism; 1977), James Dunn (The Theology of Paul the Apostle; 1998) and N. T. Wright (Paul: In Fresh Perspective; 2005). Equating the Law of Moses with legalism is finally being seen as a caricature of God’s holy Law.
4 Bruce, The Book of Acts, p. 282.
5 I. Howard Marshall, M.A., B.D., Ph.D., Author; Professor R.V.G. Tasker, M.A., B.D., General Editor, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Acts (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2000), p. 242.
6 Bible Master 3.0: NAS Computer Bible (Anaheim, CA: Foundation Press Publications, 1992). Many Scripture quotes are taken from the New American Standard Bible. Changes have also been made to texts where the Hebraic perspective (translation) seems more suitable. Unless otherwise stated, italics are my way of emphasizing a word or phrase. Also, proper nouns are capitalized (e.g. Aaron the High Priest, the Law, the Temple, etc.), and the Name of the God of Israel (Yahveh) is written instead of the ubiquitous term ‘the Lord.’
7 Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), pp. 183-184. Edersheim writes that the sacrifice of the Passover lamb in Egypt was a picture of the sacrifice of Yeshua. No other sacrifice ‘could so suitably commemorate His death, nor yet the great deliverance connected with it, and the great union and fellowship from it.’ It ‘had been instituted and observed before Levitical sacrifices existed; before the Law was given; nay, before the Covenant was ratified by blood (Ex. 24). In a sense, it may be said to have been the cause of all the later sacrifices of the law (sic) and of the Covenant itself.’ The Jew was not saved from Egyptian slavery by either circumcision or the Law, but by the blood of the lamb, which was the Grace of Yahveh to Israel, the prototype of the Lamb.
8 Marshall, Acts, p. 242. What ‘evidence was there that the law (sic), which represented the will of God for his covenant people, had been repealed?’
9 E. P. Sanders, Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._P._Sanders), first raised Christian awareness that circumcision meant the Gentile was to become part of the (supposedly eternally saved) Chosen People, a Jew, who stayed ‘in the Covenant’ by keeping the Law. (See Scot McKnight, Jesus Creed at http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/2007/08/new-perspective-1.html.) David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1992), p. 273: Circumcision for the Gentile meant the circumcision party (Acts 15:1) was requiring the Gentile to become a proselyte (i.e. ‘in every sense’ a Jew). Stern adds that their becoming Jews is also clearly seen in Acts 15:5, where ‘to observe the Law of Moses’ meant that the Gentile was to keep the Law for salvation.
10 David J. Williams, Author; W. Ward Gasque, New Testament Editor, New International Biblical Commentary: Acts (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999), p. 261.
11 Please see Goodbye Messianic Judaism! at http://www.SeedofAbraham.net/gmesjud.html for why the Messianic Community has disappointed many believers and why many Messianics are leaving the ranks.
12 McKnight at http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/2007/08/new-perspective-3.html. Aug. 8th, 2007. McKnight sums up the position of Sanders, Dunn and Wright as agreeing on a number of things, one of which is that ‘God gave the Torah’ to the Jews to show them ‘how to live before God in righteousness.’
13 Not all the commandments of Moses apply to everyone, and many aren’t able to be done now. Some apply only to priests and aren’t done today because there is no Temple. Some commandments only apply to women and others only to farmers, etc. One must know the commandments in order to observe those that apply to him (e.g. Sabbath, Feast days and dietary laws).
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