Acts 15:28-29 - 'The Gentile Shortlist'

Acts 15: 28 and 29: "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication. If ye keep yourselves from these things, ye shall do well. Fare ye well!"

The above text which we will refer to as ‘The Gentile Shortlist’ is often quoted as ‘evidence’ that the Old Testament laws of Moses including the Feasts and Sabbaths, are not to be applied to ‘Gentile believers’. However, by just reading the whole chapter we find that ‘The Gentile Shortlist’ is expanded by verse 21 to include the whole law!

The dispute in Acts 15 was over whether the Gentiles could be saved by mere human effort in being circumcised and keeping the law (verse 24), without purifying their hearts by faith (verse 9) through the grace of  Yahushua (verse 11).

The council decided not "to put a yoke upon the necks of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear". (Acts 15:10)  

See Romans 4:11.  The yoke was the faulty concept that through works we can be saved.  Any attempt to teach that we need to do certain works to be saved, is placing a yoke on His people.  And this is what the apostles meant in what they declared in their first council.  They denounced the false teaching which placed a yoke on new converts in thinking that they could be saved by merely becoming circumcised.  Paul was adamant in teaching that we are only saved by faith in Yahushua's merits and sacrifice, and that circumcision by itself (without faith) will never bring us justification.  But Abraham's faith was confirmed by his act of circumcision.  Our obedience is the fruit of our salvation by faith.  It is never the means of salvation, but the obedient result of it, as James says – ‘Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.’ (James 2:17)

The full discussion and decision arrived at in Jerusalem, before the letter was written, is not limited to verse 20, but must also include verse 21 which VERBALLY incorporated the continued preaching of ALL the laws of Moses – [of course with the exception of the sacrifices and oblations as prophesied in Daniel 9:27]

The Jerusalem council SAID VERBALLY -
"But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day." (Acts 15:20,21) 

The instructions by the WRITTEN letter recorded in verses 28 and 29 must therefore be considered in addition to the SPOKEN/ VERBAL statement of verse 21 above.

Acts 15:18 -“Known to Elohim from eternity are all His works.

19 – “Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to Elohim,

So, don’t cause them to be discouraged and say, “Well, we don’t accept you until you do these things.” But the key here is new converts, Gentiles who are turning to Elohim. Key thing here because what he is about to say is not for someone who has been in the faith fifty years. It is someone who is newly turning to Elohim.

The study of the Greek here, saying that it does mean those who are turning to Elohim, those who are being converted, means… yeah, one who is being converted.

So, the same word is used in James 5:19 where it says:

James 5:19 -Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back,

That “turning him back”– turning a sinner from the error of his way– is talking about one who is undergoing conversion. And so, he is going to give them four things to get them started. And these four things to get them started are to do just that - get them started.

He did not include circumcision in those four things. He had a biblical basis for doing so, because if you look in Joshua chapter 5, we see, here:

Joshua 5:2 -At that time YAHWEH said to Joshua, “Make flint knives for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time.”

3 – So Joshua made flint knives for himself, and circumcised the sons of Israel at the hill of the foreskins.

Joshua 5:4 -And this [is] the reason why Joshua circumcised them: All the people who came out of Egypt [who were] males, all the men of war, had died in the wilderness on the way, after they had come out of Egypt.

5 – For all the people who came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the wilderness, on the way as they came out of Egypt, had not been circumcised.

That is a very curious thing. Why weren’t they circumcising their children? Why didn’t Yahuwah send fiery serpents, plagues… something? Here they were. They had already crossed the Jordan, and they were not even circumcised yet. Yahuwah let them in even though they were not circumcised.

Now, He did expect them to be circumcised, as we will see. But apparently, in the mind of Yahuwah, circumcision really wasn’t the very first thing on His agenda. No brimstone. No plagues.

What did He judge them for? He judged them for idolatry. They ate food offered to idols. He judged them for eating blood. He judged them for sexual immorality. Those are the things He judged Israel in the wilderness for.

He never sent any fiery serpent down because they were not circumcised. He never sent any plagues or anything.

In the record of the first circumcision we find the same thing with Abraham. Yahuwah didn’t say, “Cut your foreskin off, and then go to the place I will show you.”

No, Abraham entered the land, walked around it for a while, demonstrated faithfulness to Yahuwah, and then Yahuwah gave him the circumcision covenant.

So, you are not going to get many converts with a Bible in one hand and a scalpel in the next, but that is what the Jews were doing in Acts 15. That is not Yahuwah’s main priority. His main priority is that we purify our hearts and that we make the weightier things a priority at first. Then down the road, if you feel Yahuwah’s Spirit leading you, then get circumcised.

But it wasn’t Yahuwah’s first item on His agenda for Abraham or for the children of Israel as they came out of the land of the wilderness.

So, on the basis of what James himself saw in the Torah, he says this:

Acts 15:19 -“Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to Elohim,

20 – “but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, [from] sexual immorality, [from] things strangled, and [from] blood.

If there is any doubt left in your mind, just look at the expanded list of other things prohibited by the law in Rev. 21:8 & 27,  which were not mentioned in the above 'shortlist' of Acts 15:20, but those [additional] transgressions of the law will also exclude anyone including Gentiles, from entry into New Jerusalem.

"But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." (Revelation 21:8) 

"And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life." (Revelation 21:27)            

ALSO, look carefully below on the required continued practice of the law by ALL who will gain entry into eternal life and eventually into New Jerusalem.

Yahushua requires it - "And He said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, Yahuwah: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." (Matthew 19:17)

Even under persecution, they patiently keep it - "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of Yahuwah, and the faith of Yahushua." (Revelation 14:12)

They will gain right of entry because they do it - "Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." (Revelation 22:14)

For further study: