In today's world, the Law of God has been diminished
tremendously. It is very common to hear today
that God's law has been abolished and we no longer
need to follow it. However, when one considers
a statement like this logically, it does not stand
up to scrutiny. The fact of the matter is that
the Apostles dealt with this question early on in
the life of the church. A meeting was held and
a decision was made. The end result of this
meeting was the upholding of God's Law.
Ironically, it is this very meeting that many today
use to endorse the philosophy that the Law of God
has been abolished. This couldn't be further
from the truth. In fact, this meeting
specifically upheld God's Law in light of Grace.
This article will attempt to explain the purpose of
this very important decision made in Acts chapter
In Acts chapter fifteen we read of a group of
Pharisees who are troubling Gentile believers to be
circumcised and practice the Mosaic Law. These
Pharisees are telling the Gentiles, "Except ye
be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot
be saved" (Acts 15:1). This was troubling
the Gentile believers. Since Paul and
Barnabas, "had no small dissension and
disputation" with the Gentiles, it was
determined that they should visit these Gentiles to
determine this matter (Acts 15:2). As Paul and
Barnabas traveled to Jerusalem their message of the
Gentile conversion was received with great joy in
all the cities they visited as they traveled,
including Jerusalem (Acts 15:3-4). When they
finally reached Jerusalem they encountered the
problem before them. "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). The Pharisees, who caused the Messiah
great trouble (Matt. 15:3-9), were doing the same to
the Gentile believers. Though these Pharisees
were believers, they still held some of their old
doctrines that caused division (Matt. 16:6).
This caused the Apostles and Elders of the church to
discuss the matter before them (Acts 15:6).
Peter's Speech - Proof of the Holy Spirit:
The Apostle Peter rose up to speak first on this
matter. "Men and brethren, ye know how
that a good while ago God made choice among us, that
the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the
gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth
the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy
Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference
between us and them, purifying their hearts by
faith" (Acts 15:7-9). Peter points out
the proof of their faith, that of the Holy Spirit.
After all, one of the purposes of the Holy Spirit
was to put the "seal" of proof on our
salvation (2 Cor. 1:22, Eph. 1:13). No one can
doubt that the Gentiles are saved, even though they
are not circumcised. Peter concluded with,
"Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon
the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers
nor we were able to bear?
But we believe that
through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall
be saved, even as they" (Acts 15:10-11).
The Pharisees are putting a burden on the Gentiles
that is impossible. In fact, they themselves
could not carry that same burden. This burden
was that of following God's law to earn salvation.
This is contrary to grace and contrary to the gospel
of the Messiah.
Keep in mind, this is not saying that practicing
God's law is not good. Remember, salvation
comes in three parts; Justification, Sanctification,
and Glorification. We cannot be justified by
the Law of God for we have already failed (James
2:10). This is what the Pharisees believed,
which lead to their downfall. Justification
can only be received by Grace in the death, burial,
and resurrection of the Messiah.
Sanctification is after Justification. Once we
are Justified and forgiven of our sins we now have a
whole life ahead of us of becoming the person God
wants us to be. This is where the Law of God
comes in. God's Law does not make us
righteous, but it does define righteousness.
Sanctification is where we work together with God to
learn His Law and apply it to our life. We
will see this more as we continue in this study.
For more on the process of salvation please read my
James's Speech - What to do:
After Peter spoke the crowd marveled at how the Holy
Spirit worked through Paul and Barnabas. The
crowd listened as Paul and Barnabas confirmed
Peter's statement (Acts 15:12). Then James
stood up to conclude the discussion and make a
judgment on the matter. James confirms the
words of Peter as well (Acts 15:14) and then points
to the prophets to confirm Peter's words.
"And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it
is written, After this I will return, and will build
again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down;
and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will
set it up: That the residue of men might seek after
the Lord, and all the
Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith
the Lord, who doeth all these things" (Acts
15:16-17). James shows how God's word declared
that the Gentiles would be part of salvation.
In fact, the law confirms this as well. God
has always allowed Gentiles to come into His people
and practice His Law (Ex. 12:49, Ex. 22:2, Ex.
23:9). This is nothing new and probably what
James meant in Acts 15:18. James then makes
his judgment on this matter.
"Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not
them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to
God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain
from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and
from things strangled, and from blood" (Acts
15:19-20). At first glance it sounds like
James is making light of the Mosaic Law. We
are not to bother the Gentiles with the Mosaic Law,
especially concerning circumcision. However,
he does mention some laws that the Gentiles should
follow. Apparently, idolatry, adultery
(fornication) and some of the dietary laws
(strangled and blood) are among the laws that
Gentiles should follow. This seems odd for
James does not appear to give any reason for why the
Gentiles should follow these laws but not others.
The question I have is this, why did James say the
Gentiles should follow dietary laws, but today the
church does not? It is interesting to note
that the modern church uses this very passage to
demonstrate that the Law of God is abolished.
This is unfortunate for this passage says no such
thing. In fact, when you read the very next
verse you find out why James required some laws, but
The next verse states, "For Moses of old time
hath in every city them that preach him, being read
in the synagogues every Sabbath day" (Acts
15:21). James is not saying that the Law of
God is abolished or that it should only be followed
in part. James is saying, let's only hold the
Gentiles to these laws (idolatry, adultery, and
dietary) for now, after all, they have every Sabbath
day to hear Moses preached in the Synagogue to learn
the rest of God's law. James is pointing out a
good starting point to practice God's Law. He
is emphasizing that God is not providing Grace to
break God's Law, but rather Grace to learn God's
Law. It is absurd to expect anyone to stop
practicing whatever they used to practice and start
practicing God's Law 100% the very next moment.
There is grace to learn God's Law and apply it to
our lives. However, as Hebrews 10:26 states,
"For if we sin wilfully after that we have
received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth
no more sacrifice for sins." Once we know
of a particular sin in our lives we need to make
every effort to stop that sin. As the Gentiles
started going to Synagogue on the Sabbath they are
to start applying more and more of God's Laws to
The Apostles agreed with James judgment and sent
letters to all the churches confirming this doctrine
(Acts 15:22-29). This doctrine is simple.
We do not have Grace to break God's Law, but rather
we have Grace to learn God's Law and apply it to our
lives. As we grow in the knowledge of God and
His Law, we are required to practice those laws.
This chapter in the book of Acts is a great
demonstration of how the Law of God and Grace fit
together. We need to remember that God looks
at the heart of man (1 Sam. 16:7). He knows if
our heart's desire is to follow Him. Those who
want to follow after God will seek His Law and
follow it to the best of their ability.