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Saturday, August 12, 2017

David Hocking, Gentiles, and Acts 15 Council at Jerusalem

The Acts 15 Mini-Law and the Present Age

I have been thoroughly enjoying David Hocking's series (July and August 2017) in Genesis 1 (I highly recommend). He's pulled out some things I had not seen or considered before. That's not to say I agree with everything. The Berean spirit (Acts 17:11) reminds me that I am responsible for my own theology.
David didn't make a big point of it, but while going over dietary guidelines in scripture separating what man is to eat and what animals can eat, he referenced the four commands given to Gentile believers in Acts 15. To his credit, staying consistent with the "today's church started at Acts 2" position, he holds that those laws are still binding... on gentiles.
I admire David for not doing what many do and dismiss the Holy Spirit-approved mini-law for Gentiles by claiming that everybody was so prejudiced that God had to add to grace just to placate the racists. That's an unfair accusation and it unwittingly opens the door to all kinds of doctrinal compromise and nicolaitanism.

You Can't Have It Both Ways

So how do we reconcile the mini-law, given to gentile believers only, with the Acts 2 position that "the middle wall of partition" between Jews and Gentiles came down at Pentecost? Putting it simply, you can't. Well, not without assuming things in scripture which are not there.
If Pentecost is the beginning of the age we are in, Acts 15 (repeated in Acts 21) is binding on gentiles to this day (and Jews and gentiles are still separate).
The answer goes back to what we've looked at in previous blog entries: the Body of Christ of this age did not begin at Pentecost. The removal of the middle wall of partition was taught in Ephesians and Paul tells us that this was a truth never before revealed to the prophets.
All through the Acts age (in Acts and in the Acts epistles), Paul tells us that he never teaches anything that was not spoken by Moses and the prophets (See: Acts 26; Gal 3; Rom 15; etc.). So, Jews keeping the laws of cleansing and Gentiles being given a mini-law of purity, is consistent with the Acts age (and its hope), but not applicable to this current age (or to our hope).

Jewish and Gentiles Believers Acts and Post-Acts

The Book of Romans clearly recognizes two groups of believers: Jewish and Gentile believers. There is no difference in the gift of eternal life (because that has been the same since Adam), but in function, the two groups are distinct in the Acts church.
"It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality."
-Acts 15:28-29
These are given to gentile believers only. But what of Jewish believers in that age (note the distinction still evident)?
In Acts 21, James tells Paul of an accusation against him, that he is teaching Jews to forsake Moses and not to circumcise. Paul was not guilty! It was a false accusation. Paul himself circumcised Timothy (Acts 16). I've covered that elsewhere, but suffice it to say, in the Acts age and in the Acts epistles of Paul, God still recognizes a distinction between Jewish and Gentile believers. It is in Acts 21 that the mini-law for gentile believers is repeated.
The middle wall of partition coming down and the mystery of the "one new man" which was kept secret from "BEFORE the foundation of the world, unknown by the prophets... was not revealed unto the Book of Ephesians, after the end of the Acts age (Acts 28:28-31, Paul turns to the Gentles, and no man can forbid him).

Acts Age (7)
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
1 Thessalonioans
2 Thessalonians
Post-Acts (7)
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
Apostles to the Jews/Dispersion (7)
1 Peter
2 Peter
1 John
2 John
3 John
We must remember to "rightly divide the word of truth" (2 Tim)