Was the Jerusalem Council Deceitful; or did Paul Keep the Commandments?

“Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law”

Act 21:24b

The Apostle Paul has been used to justify Christian lawlessness since his conversion. When it comes to the way Christians are to live their life or explain the new covenant, Paul’s letters are usually the only reference anyone will use. I have witnessed people become very angry when other scripture is mentioned that may contradict their belief system they have built around Paul’s letters, isolated from the rest of scripture. This an an old heresy called Marcionism.

It is said that Marcion, a second century heretic, coined the terms “old” and “new” testament. Much of what is believed today comes from this twisted belief system that started with Marcion; however, Marcion had to develop this belief system from somewhere. One of the best scriptures to start the conversation is Peter’s warning to everyone not to twist the words of Paul to justify iniquity, or in other words, breaking the commandments of God.

2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
2Pe 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
2Pe 3:11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness,
2Pe 3:12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!
2Pe 3:13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
2Pe 3:14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
2Pe 3:15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,
2Pe 3:16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

2Pe 3:17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.
2Pe 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

It is hard to imagine that from the beginning, people were using Paul’s letters to promote sin, lawlessness and iniquity so much, that Peter had to address the problem in a general letter to believers in the first century. Something to think about: when was the last time you have heard a sermon or read a devotional concerning this warning of destruction, new earth, how to live, and not to misinterpret Paul leading to your own destruction? I never have.

This group of people Peter tells to “be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace”, can also be found in the book of second Esdras. Unfortunately, this book was removed from most Bibles around 1647.

2Es 16:70 For there shall be in every place, and in the next cities, a great insurrection upon those that fear the Lord.
2Es 16:71 They shall be like mad men, sparing none, but still spoiling and destroying those that fear the Lord.
2Es 16:72 For they shall waste and take away their goods, and cast them out of their houses.
2Es 16:73 Then shall they be known, who are my chosen; and they shall be tried as the gold in the fire.
2Es 16:74 Hear, O ye my beloved, saith the Lord: behold, the days of trouble are at hand, but I will deliver you from the same.
2Es 16:75 Be ye not afraid neither doubt; for God is your guide,
2Es 16:76 And the guide of them who keep my commandments and precepts, saith the Lord God: let not your sins weigh you down, and let not your iniquities lift up themselves.

“Gold in the fire” are words similarly found in the book of Revelation.

Rev 3:18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.
Rev 3:19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

The verses from Peter, Esdras (Ezra from the “Old” Testament), and Jesus are all speaking about a time in new covenant times. Why do so many Christians believe that both Jesus and Paul disregarded the commandments of God? I had a person comment on a Twitter post of mine that Jesus made a point to break the Sabbath several times. They do not understand scripture and the difference between the commandments of God and the commandments of men. This subject is something Paul was trying to convey. The word “law” is overused in the Greek and English, so a lot of study is needed to determine which law is spoken of when reading Paul. Hence, “the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures”.

Next to Peter’s warning about misunderstanding Paul, there is the dialogue that transpires when Paul comes to Jerusalem, and the leaders, such as James, have to deal with this issue where people think Paul is trashing the law of God.

Act 21:18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.
Act 21:19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
Act 21:20 And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law,
Act 21:21 and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs.
Act 21:22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come.

Act 21:23 Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow;
Act 21:24 take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law.

Are the elders and James lying and being deceitful to make it appear Paul kept Yahweh’s commandments, while all along he was telling everyone to disregard those same instructions? Do Paul and the Jewish believers “zealous for the law” have to keep the commandments and everyone else from the nations, or the capital “G” Gentiles, do not have to? Gentile is a made up Latin-English word meaning people from the nations. During the first century, this included those from the ten tribes, or Northern kingdom whom Yahweh divorced.

The council went on to tell Paul about the letter they sent to the Gentiles coming into the faith. This letter told them where to start living a set apart life from the culture they came from.

Act 21:25 But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.”

Earlier in Acts, this letter they are speaking of was drafted. I am using the Modern King James translation just to show what it looks like without the capital “G” gentile rendition of the Greek word ethnos.

Act 15:19 Therefore my judgment is that we do not trouble those who have turned to God from among the nations,
Act 15:20 but that we write to them that they should abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
Act 15:21 For Moses from ages past has those in every city proclaiming him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

With this letter, are we to assume the Jerusalem council is implying that believers from the nations do not need to concern themselves with murder, being a false witness, coveting, honouring parents and Sabbath keeping? Or are they just focusing on the practices that new believers were entangled with coming out from the pagan religions? I say the latter, and that the council was implying the new converts from the nations (Gentiles) “would learn what Moses said every Sabbath”, as stated in verse 21.

The concept that Paul was teaching something different than Jesus, and after the cross we no longer concern ourselves with the commandments of Yahweh, is exactly what Peter warned us about. It was also in line with what Marcion taught. Marcion taught that the Old Testament God, Yahweh, was an evil demiurge and that Jesus was the saviour who came from a different god than Yahweh. Seemingly, this belief system is predominant in the church today, No one will say they are worshipping a different God than Yahweh, it is simply implied by ignoring everything Yahweh commands and stating that believers in the “new covenant” are free from the rules of Yahweh, as if His rules are cruel and unusual, or different from the teachings of Jesus. The result is the same as Marcionism. The believer that thinks this is correct theology should obtain a Marcion Bible, with only the edited Gospel of Luke and letters of Paul, because the rest of the Bible is just unnecessary weight to carry, or extra memory on a phone or tablet that could be used for something else.

Who is the real Paul and what did he believe and teach? We already quoted Acts 21:24. It seems Paul was often having to explain that he was not teaching against the instructions or Torah of Yahweh. Here Paul speaks in his defence before Felix. Was Paul lying to the governor, or telling the truth?

Act 24:13 Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me.
Act 24:14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets,
Act 24:15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.

Another place we get Paul’s view of Yahweh’s instruction:

1Co 7:19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.

Torah is Strong’s H8451, and usually translated as law, but also means instruction and direction.

H8451
תּרה / תּורה
tôrâh
BDB Definition:
1) law, direction, instruction
1a) instruction, direction (human or divine)
1a1) body of prophetic teaching
1a2) instruction in Messianic age
1a3) body of priestly direction or instruction
1a4) body of legal directives
1b) law
1b1) law of the burnt offering
1b2) of special law, codes of law
1c) custom, manner
1d) the Deuteronomic or Mosaic Law

Is the Torah law handed down by a mean demiurge that kept His followers under His thumb smiting anyone that stepped out of line, or is it life giving instructions on how His people are to navigate successfully on planet Earth from a loving creator? My conclusion is again the latter. Paul also knew this and was constantly trying to explain how one cannot be saved or justified by keeping law, but doing the things that pleased the Father is the result of being saved and justified. Once walking in the Spirit, a person would want to be obedient to the wishes of the Spirit, the same that Jesus did and Yahweh commanded. They would have no desire to rebel against the Father, which is rebelling against Jesus. Jesus gives us the Spirit of Grace to walk in His ways, and when we follow the Spirit, He gives us another comforter, the Spirit of Truth. I am not making this up, even if you have never heard about it before. These are subjects and Bible verses that don’t make it into devotionals and sermons.

Joh 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Joh 1:15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”)
Joh 1:16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
Joh 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Joh 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known
.

Grace is defined as divine influence on the heart and it is what enables us to please Yahweh through walking in the Spirit. It is the voice that convicts us of sin. The voice becomes louder when you begin to understand what sin is. Once the believer has yielded to the Spirit, then Jesus promises a second comforter, the Spirit of Truth. Grace is Strong’s G5485. From the Thayer Greek lexicon:

G5485
χάρις
charis
Thayer Definition:
1) grace
1a) that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech
2) good will, loving-kindness, favour
2a) of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues
3) what is due to grace
3a) the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace
3b) the token or proof of grace, benefit
3b1) a gift of grace
3b2) benefit, bounty
4) thanks, (for benefits, services, favours), recompense, reward

From Strong’s:

G5485
χάρις
charis
khar’-ece
From G5463; graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act (abstract or concrete; literal, figurative or spiritual; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude): – acceptable, benefit, favour, gift, grace (-ious), joy liberality, pleasure, thank (-s, -worthy).

Grace is defined as the influence Yahweh puts on our hearts and comes from the Spirit of Grace. Grace is not a license to break the commandments of Yahweh as it is often implied. The writer of Hebrews knew the difference between what would happen when someone was caught breaking the law of Moses by two-three witnesses verses trampling the Spirit of Grace. Keeping the law through the sacrificial system could be compared to punching a time clock at work, where Jesus, taking care of the sacrifice for sin, is more like the honour system. Both require a person to do their work.

Heb 10:26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
Heb 10:27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
Heb 10:28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.
Heb 10:29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?
Heb 10:30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.”
Heb 10:31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Once we yield ourselves to the Spirit of Grace through obedience, Jesus tells us He will send us the Spirit of Truth. Again, I am not making this up.

Joh 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
Joh 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,
Joh 14:17 even the Spirit of truth,
whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
Joh 14:18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
Joh 14:19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.
Joh 14:20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
Joh 14:21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

Are the commandments of Jesus different than the Father? Nope.

Joh 14:23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
Joh 14:24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.
Joh 14:25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.
Joh 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

The Spirit of Grace influences our heart to walk in the Spirit. Once we are obedient, the second helper, the Spirit of Truth, is sent to us to bring to remembrance all that Jesus taught. This is a pipeline from the the Father to understand the teachings of Jesus.

Paul understood this, and without this progression, it is really hard to understand what Paul is talking about. In Christianity, we often hear about a trinity where there is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So where does Jesus get seemingly two Holy Spirits, truth and Grace? Actually the Bible speaks of seven spirits of Yahweh.

Isa 11:1 And a shoot will come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from its roots will bear fruit.
Isa 11:2 And the spirit of Yahweh shall rest on him—a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and might, a spirit of knowledge and the fear of Yahweh.
Isa 11:3 And his breath is in the fear of Yahweh.
And he shall judge not by his eyesight, and he shall rebuke not by what he hears with his ears.
Isa 11:4 But he shall judge the poor with righteousness, and he shall decide for the needy of the earth with rectitude. And he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and he shall kill the wicked person with the breath of his lips.
Isa 11:5 And righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

Again we find the seven spirits spoken about in the book of Revelation.

Rev 5:5 And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Rev 5:6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.

These verses are not speaking about an “anything goes” Jesus. I am suggesting the Spirit of the fear of Yahweh is the Spirit of Grace. This is what convicts a person to follow His ways. The Hebrew word for spirit is Strong’s H7307.

H7307
רוּחַ
rûach
roo’-akh
From H7306; wind; by resemblance breath, that is, a sensible (or even violent) exhalation; figuratively life, anger, unsubstantiality; by extension a region of the sky; by resemblance spirit, but only of a rational being (including its expression and functions): – air, anger, blast, breath, X cool, courage, mind, X quarter, X side, spirit ([-ual]), tempest, X vain, ([whirl-]) wind (-y).

All the places translated to spirit could be translated breath. In Isaiah 11:2 and 11:3, one place it is translated breath and in the others it is translated spirit. In the New Testament, the Greek word for breath is also translated as ghost and spirit. Anytime a spirit of God is mentioned, it could be translated as breath of God, or God’s holy breath. Picture His spirits as Him blowing his breath on you. You are empowered by the breath of God. Also this: “and he shall kill the wicked person with the breath of his lips”. Scripture clearly tells us there is a spirit or breath of grace that divinely influences our heart, and a spirit or breath of truth that will bring us to remembrance of what Jesus said if we are obedient and yield to the Spirit of Grace.

Paul brilliantly explains to us that through Yeshua’s sacrifice the penalty of the law, which is death, was removed as a free gift. If we submit to Yahweh, we can be grafted into the cultivated olive tree, with the saints, joining the commonwealth of Israel. Anyone who wants to justify sin can use Paul, either by ignorance or twisting his words, just as Peter warned. Paul’s own words and actions indicate he followed the commandments of Yahweh. Don’t bring destruction upon yourself by failing to heed Peter’s warning.

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