by Russell Earl Kelly, PHD

Acts 15 – Does the Law (Torah) apply to Gentiles?
by Dave Wilber MAJOR ERRORS OF


BY Russell Kelly

1) That the Torah is the moral code for all people. In reality the Torah itself absolutely disproves this argument. It is the Torah itself with teaches Old Covenant Israelites not to live with Gentiles, not to allow Gentiles to worship with them, to kill Gentiles who attempt to enter their sanctuary and that they are God’s chosen nation above all other nations. The moral code for Israel was the Torah; the moral code for Gentiles was nature and conscience.

2) That the Sabbath was commanded to all people. In reality the 7th-day weekly sabbath, the new moon monthly Sabbath, the seasonal festival Sabbath and the yearly and Jubilee sabbaths were only commanded Old Covenant Israel as its unique covenant sign only between Israel and YHWH. The weekly Sabbath was less important than the other sabbaths as signified by the fact that it required less sacrificial animals. The weekly sabbath points back to the creation sabbath which was a type of every day sinless communion with God as seen in Christ’s every day imputed righteousness of every believer. In comparing Galatians 4:10 with Colossians 2:16 it is clear that the weekly sabbath was abolished as the sequence is from weekly to monthly to seasonal to yearly. 3) The Torah is God’s standard for sanctification for all people but many pars of it are no longer relevant to Christians. In reality the Torah (law) is an indivisible whole which cannot be broken. One must either obey all of it or be cursed. If the Church is obligated to keep any part of the Torah it must be obligated to obey all of it – which is impossible and nobody does – not even Messianic Christians. Ex 19:5; 23:22; 24:3, 7; Lev 19:37; 20:22; 26:14-15; Num 15:40; Deu 5:1, 29, 31; 6:2, 24-25; 8:1; 11:8, 22, 32; 12:14, 28; 13:18; 15:5; 17:19; 19:9; 26:16-19; 27:1; 28:1, 15, 45, 58; 29:29; 30:2, 8; 31:12; 32:46; Josh 1:7-8; 22:5; 23:6; 1 Kg 2:3; 6:12; 8:58; 9:4; Jer 7:23; 1:4; 2 Chron 33:8; Matt 5:19; 22:40; Gal 5:3; James 2:10.


Wilber: In this article, I hope to address a popular argument against a Torah Pursuant belief system. That argument is that the Torah (specifically the Sabbath, Feasts and dietary instructions) was given only to the Nation of Israel, or the Jews, and not to non-Jewish Christians. However, if we examine the scriptures, we find that those very commandments were given to mankind before the nation of Israel even existed. The most obvious example is the Sabbath, which was established at the very beginning of creation before there ever were any Jewish people:

Genesis 2:2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.

Gen 2:3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

Russell E Kelly: For two reasons, the creation Sabbath of Genesis 2:2-3 was not a 24 hour day of the week and not the same as the 7th day sabbath. While the first six days are bordered by “and the evening and the morning were the first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth day,” for some very obvious reason God did not border the creation Sabbath with “and the evening and morning were.”  One reason relates to creation. While speciation (changes within a species) continues today, creation of new kinds, or phyla, ended when man was created. There are no new kinds, or phyla, being created since Eden. God rested then and is still resting from His creation. In other words, the creation Sabbath of Genesis 2:2-3 is still continuing today and is not the same as the 7th day sabbath. A second reason that the creation sabbath was not a literal 24 hour-day relates to sinlessness and imputed righteousness. We are not told how long Adam and Eve walked in sinless perfection with God before they sinned. However long that period was – it was their creation Sabbath rest! They did not work or sweat; they rested every day in God’s perfect sinless rest and presence.

Hebrews 4:2 reads “we who have believed do enter into his rest.” When a person believes in Christ, that person receives the Presence of God through the indwelling Holy Spirit. That person is declared to be legally “justified” (holy, perfect, sinless) through the imputed righteousness of Christ. That person’s legal standing (position) before God is exactly the same as Adam and Eve before sin – the perfect sinless rest of the creation sabbath!

Wilber: In fact, one of the main reasons God created the sun and the moon was for His people to determine the times of His Feasts (appointed times):

·        And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years
-Genesis 1:14The word “seasons” in Genesis 1:14 is translated from the Hebrew word “moed” which is Strongs: H4150, and it means “an appointment, that is, a fixed time or season; specifically a festival.”  

Kelly: While the Hebrew word in Genesis 1:14 may also be interpreted as “seasons” (Hebrew is very flexible and non-exact), there is no indication from the context of Genesis 1:14 that “holy festivals” is meant there. The seasons of Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter are sufficient.

Wilber: Not only that, but Noah was also commanded to discern between clean and unclean animals long before the nation of Israel was given those commandments: ·        Then the LORD said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. 2 Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate-Genesis 7:1-2

Kelly: At the time of Noah there was a very distinct difference between “clean and unclean” men and nations. That is why the “unclean” were not taken onto the ark! Even then God was using animals to remind Noah why he was spared and everybody else died! God used the animals to teach His people that the pre-flood Gentiles were unclean. That has all changed. Acts 10:28 And he [Peter] said unto them [those of Gentile Cornelius’ household], Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. [Do you still observe that part of the law?]

Acts 10:34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:Acts 15:35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

Wilber: Not only was God’s moral code for His people established long before YHWH delivered the people of Israel out of Egypt,

Kelly: God’s moral code before Sinai was not the 600 commands of the Ten Commandments, civil judgments and worship ordinances. The word “moral” does not occur in the Bible. The Law was an indivisible whole of over 600 commands – many of which were clearly cultic and only for Israel. When Moses asked to see God’s glory in Exodus 33:18, God answered by NOT quoting the Ten Commandments.

Ex 34:6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,

Ex 34:7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.It is unbiblical to call the Ten Commandments the “moral law” because God’s true moral law is found in nature and conscience by every man and woman.

Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

Rom 1:19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

Rom 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:…

Rom 2:14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:

Rom 2:15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

Rom 2:16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. It is highly unlikely that God had a copy of the Ten Commandments hanging on the wall of the Most Holy Place from eternity past which read “Thou shalt not have any other god before me” and “Thou shalt not kill.”

Wilber: .. but we also see Paul, in post-Resurrection times, encouraging his Gentile converts to keep the Feast of Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)…

1 Cor 5:7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:

1 Cor 5:8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Kelly: This is terrible application of God’s Word. Read the context. In 5:1-3 Paul pointed out that the church in Corinth was openly allowing a church member to marry his father’s wife. Failure to discipline this church member adversely affected the entire body of Christ, the lump (5:3-6). Verses 7-8 are not a command for the Gentiles in Corinth to observe the Law and the Passover; they are a challenge to apply sincerity and truth and discipline the sinner because Christ did not die in order for believers to live in sin.

Rom 6:15 “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”

Wilber: … Gentile Christians keeping the Sabbath with the Jews (Acts 18:4) …

Kelly: The only Gentile Christians who were observing the Sabbath in Acts 18:4 were proselytes who had already been observing the Sabbath and wanted to be circumcised and identify with Jews. When that same group of Jews and Gentile proselyte “god-fearers” “opposed” and “blasphemed” Paul in 18:6a, Paul “went unto the Gentiles” (18:6b) for “a year and six months” (18:11) and the Sabbath was not mentioned again.  This sequence is common in Acts. First, Paul took advantage of an open pulpit and preached in the synagogues. Second, Paul was cast out of the synagogues by both Jews and proselyte Gentiles. Third, Paul went to the Gentiles. And, fifth, Paul preached and taught every day of the week with no further mention of the Sabbath. Antioch in Pisidia: compare Acts 13:13-43 with 13:46. Derbe. Lystra, Iconium: compare Acts 16:4 with 16:5; Philippi: compare 16:13 with 16:17-18; Berea: compare 17:10 with 17:11; Athens: compare 17:17a with 17:17b; Ephesus: compare 19:8 with 19:9; 2nd Jerusalem: compare Acts 21:21 with 21:20.

Wilber: … and, of course, “all mankind” (specifically mentioning Egyptians) will be keeping the Sabbath and the Feast of Tabernacles after Yeshua returns (Isaiah 66, Zechariah 14).

Kelly: Isaiah 66 and Zechariah 14 describe events during the 1000 year (millennial) reign of Messiah on earth when the Church Age is over in fulfillment of promises made by almost all prophets for Israel. There is not a single word to the Church during the Church Age of Grace (Acts through Revelation 3) to observe the Sabbath or the Old Covenant Law.  Exactly how does God describe the feasts and Sabbath in Isaiah 66? He says He will not honor sacrifices, obleations and incense (66:3). God tells Gentiles who love Jerusalem to rejoice with her (66:10). The “glory of the Gentiles” (66:12) will be that 1) all nations attack Jerusalem (66:18), 2) God will reveal His glory by destroying most Gentiles (66:18,19), 3) those Gentiles who remain will be impressed by God’s deliverance of Israel and will gather Hebrews from all nations (66:19), 4) the “offering” brought by Gentiles to the LORD consists of returned Hebrews (66:20), 5) Notice that only Hebrews bring real offerings (66:20), 6) Notice only real Hebrews become Levites and priests (66:21). 7) We simply cannot live as if the New Covenant does not exist, 8) verse 22 appears to Hebrews from 66:21, 9) notice “new moon” in 66:22. Do Messianic Sabbath-keepers observe the “new moon” Sabbath as much as they observe the 7th-day Sabbath? It required more sacrifices. Some commentators believe that the combination of “from one new moon to another and from one sabbath to another” was a way of saying “every day.”  Visitors from all nations will come to Jerusalem during the Messianic Millennium to worship in Jerusalem. Finally, 66:24 reminds us that all of this will end after the Millennium in Revelation 21 and 22 where there will be no night in the city of New Jerusalem. It is wrong to ignore the New Covenant which supersedes the Old (Jer 31:31-36; Heb 7:18; 8:13).

Wilber: Let’s also not forget what Paul said in regards to this very topic: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.-Galatians 3:28

Kelly: What are you attempting to make Galatians 3:28 say? It does not say that now every believer is an Old Covenant Hebrew. The remainder of Galatians tells a far different story. The law ended at Calvary (3:19). Believers are no longer under law (3:25). Believers are saved because of God’s promises made to Abraham, not Moses (Gal 3:29).

Gal 3:25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster [the law].

Gal 3:29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Wilber: The bottom line is that the definition of sin is transgression of the Torah (Romans 3:20; 7:7; 1 John 3:4)

Kelly: Since you used the word Torah, I ask you to first define how you interpret it and then to use it that way consistently. Wikipedia defines Torah as “it can most specifically mean the first five books of the Tanakh, it can mean this, plus the rabbinic commentaries on it, it can mean the continued narrative from Genesis to the end of the Tanakh, it can even mean the totality of Jewish teaching and practice.” I suggest that “Torah” refers to “the revealed will of God.” To a Hebrew that meant the entire Old Testament (Rom 3:1-18), but to a Gentile it refers to nature and conscience.

You referred to Romans 3:20. Have you even read Romans 3? Verses 1-18 quote Isaieh and Psalms and calls them “the law” in 3:19. In 3:20 the article “the is missing in Greek” which makes “law” refer to both the Hebrew and Gentile concept of God’s revealed will. Next you referred to Romans 7:7. You must interpret this in the context of 7:4 where Paul said that believers are “dead to the law.” That makes 7:7 a description of Paul before he was converted and died to the law. As a Hebrew, the least of the Ten Commandments convicted him. And even the law of conscience within Gentiles teaches that it is wrong to covet. Then you referred to 1 John 3:4. Since 1 John 3:4 is post-Calvary, it must be interpreted according to Jeremiah 31:31-38/Hebrews 8:8-13 and Romans 8:2 where “law” is the “revealed will of God” through Jesus Christ in what the Spirit teaches believers after Calvary. If “law” in 1 John 3:4 refers to the Old Covenant law, then it must refer to the WHOLE law of commandments, civil judgments and ceremonial ordinances because neither “law” nor “Torah” refer only to the Ten Commandments. This is a major flaw in your arguments.

Wilber: … which includes commandments like “keep the Sabbath,” “observe the feasts,” and “don’t eat pork and lobster.”

Kelly: Again you have given examples from two of three indivisible sections of the law: commandments and ordinances/statutes. If the statutes of unclean food and festivals remain, so also must remain the scores of laws you have discarded as irrelevant. These were all addressed only to Old Covenant Israel (Ex 19:5-6). You act as if the New Covenant does not exist. I am curious as to how you define “New Covenant.”

Wilber: It’s simply illogical to say that God has a different standard of sin for certain people depending on their race.

Kelly:  There is nothing illogical about the idea. If you adopted a Chinese child, would you treat every other Chinese child the same way you treated your adopted child? Why would God tell an “unclean” Gentile not to eat “unclean” foods? Merely touching a Gentile would render a Hebrew unclean (Lev 5:2; 7:19-21). Gentiles were unclean (Isa 52:1; Acts 10:14, 28; 11:28). Why would God command Israel not to make covenants with Gentiles if He wanted them to observe the same covenant? Why would God tell Israel that the Sabbath was its unique SIGN of the Old Covenant if He wanted the Gentiles to observe the Sabbath also?

Wilber: Can Jews “sin” in a way that Gentiles can’t? Of course not!

Kelly: Yes, they can. Can your adopted Chines child sin against you in ways other Chinese children cannot sin? Of course! Jews were given much more special revelation and were accountable for that extra special revelation. You act as if God saw no difference between the Hebrews and Gentiles – have you not read Deuteronomy? Ex 19:5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine.Deut 7:6 For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.Deut 10:15 Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day.Deut 28:1 And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth.

Rom 3:1 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?

Rom 3:2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.

Wilber: Just as Salvation is not exclusive or conditional upon race, neither is God’s standard of living for all of His people.

Kelly: This is the most ridiculous statement in this entire article. The Law was an insulating hedge and wall between Israel and the rest of the world.

Ex 23:32 Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods.

Ex 23:33 They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee.

Deut 7:2 And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them:

Isa 5:5 5 And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down.

Mark 12:1 And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it …

Eph 2:14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

Eph 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.

Wilber: One of the scriptures used as a “proof-text” to support the doctrine that God has a different standard of sin for Gentiles as He does for Jews is

Acts 15:18-20. Let’s examine these verses in context and determine if such a doctrine holds water:

Acts 15:1 AND certain men who had come down from Judea taught the brethren, Unless you are circumcised in accordance with the custom of the law you cannot be saved. We see here in verse one that the topic of the debate was not over whether or not the Gentiles should keep the Torah/Law for daily living, but rather, it was over whether or not they are required to get circumcised in accordance with the custom of the Torah/Law for salvation. Therefore, the context of this chapter must be interpreted from the issue that was put before Judge James: Do believers need to keep the Torah in order to be saved? If we start this chapter by assuming that the debate is over whether or not Gentiles should keep the Torah for daily living, then we will likely draw an inaccurate conclusion of what this chapter is teaching us.

Kelly: You begin by deceitfully changing God’s Word. You changed “after the manner of MOSES” to “in accordance with the custom of the law” so you can change it to “all these extra prerequisites associated with Torah Observance” in your discussion of verse 10. If you had left it as “Moses” your charade would not be possible. This is really twisting the literal scripture. To a Jewish Pharisee circumcision clearly symbolized the entire law. However one can replace the word “circumcision” with “keep the Sabbath,” “only eat clean foods,” or “tithe” and the result will be the same. The Judaizing Pharisee Christians taught that one must obey the whole law in order to be saved. You cannot ignore the force of the word ALL and understand this concept. Gal 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

Deut 27:26  Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen. Wilber: With that in mind, let’s continue:

Acts 15:2 And there was great dissension and controversy between them and Paul and Barnabas, and it reached such a point that it was necessary for Paul and Barnabas and others with them to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this question. This was such a dispute between believers that even Paul and Barnabas had to go to Jerusalem to address this issue of whether or not the Gentile converts had to keep the Torah/Law to be saved.

Kelly: The issue between Gentile Christians in Antioch and Jewish Christians in Jerusalem was over whether Gentile Christians were expected to keep the whole law  – the Law, the whole law, all 600 plus commands – not merely part of it.

Wilber: Acts 15:3 They were given an escort and sent on their way by the church, and they traveled through all Phoenicia and the territory of the Samaritans, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren. 4 On their arrival at Jerusalem, they were received by the church, and by the apostles and elders; and they reported everything that God had done with them. 5 But some of the men who had been converted from the sect of the Pharisees rose up and said, You must circumcise them and command them to keep the law of Moses. From the Pharisees’ perspective, no one could be saved unless they converted to Judaism. The Pharisees didn’t have a reference point for being “instantly saved,” so-to-speak, and it apparently really bothered them that Paul was not putting more emphasis on the “conversion process” (the process Cornelius was going through at the time), which was such a huge part of Pharisaic tradition. Therefore, the Pharisees are questioning whether or not the Gentiles are even saved.

Kelly: Yes, being saved without keeping the whole law. You are teaching that the Christian Pharisees were correct by insisting that law-keeping must be added to grace and faith after justification by faith alone. The text says they were commanding Gentile Christians to keep the law Moses – that meant the whole law of over 600 commandments, judgments and statutes – not simply circumcision, unclean foods, and Sabbath-keeping.

Wilber: Acts 15:6 Then the apostles and elders assembled to consider this matter. 7 And after much controversy, Simon Peter rose up and said to them, Men and brethren, you know that from the early days God chose that from my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the Gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows what is in the heart, has testified concerning them and has given them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us.

Kelly: Yes, the Holy Spirit fell upon Gentile believers who had not observed the law. This was a radical revelation to Hebrew Christians.

Wilber: Acts 15:9 And he did not discriminate between us and them, because he purified their hearts by faith.Right here, we see Peter establishing the fact that the Gentiles are saved the same way Jews are – by faith.

Kelly: Yes. Neither group is saved, justified or even sanctified by works of the law.

Gal 3:1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

Gal 3:2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Gal 3:3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

Gal 3:4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.Gal 3:5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Wilber: Acts 15:10 Now therefore why do you tempt God by putting a yoke upon the necks of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? This is a key verse. Some Christians might read into this verse and assume that Peter is referring to the Torah/Law itself as a burdensome yoke.

Kelly: Some Christians? How about almost all Christians? That is the obvious plain literal interpretation according to the immediate context! Wilber: He just stated that the Gentiles are saved by faith in the same way that Jews are – the moment that they heard the Word and believed. Therefore, in keeping with his argument that all men are only saved by faith – not by works – he asks the obvious question (My paraphrase): “How can you be saved by faith, but then add all these extra prerequisites associated with Torah Observance to the Gospel presented to the Gentiles, especially when we Jews couldn’t keep the Law to be saved in the first place?”

Kelly: Your paraphrase just added to and changed the obvious literal meaning of the context! Your paraphrase just changed the issue from the Law itself (commandments, judgments, ordinances) to something added to the law as if it is O.K. to teach observance of the 600 plus commands of the law itself. That is gross misapplication of God’s Word.

Wilber: Such a works-based Salvation doctrine is a “yoke that no one could bear”.

Kelly: You are being deceitful. You interpret “such works-based salvation doctrine” to mean only “extra prerequisites associated with Torah Observance to the Gospel.” In doing so you still include obedience to the whole law as part of the Gospel!!!

Wilber: The Torah/Law was never designed to save anyone.

Kelly: True. It was given after Passover to keep only Israel on the right road until Messiah should appear (Gal 3:19-26).

Wilber: It’s simply God’s standard of daily living for His people.

Kelly: NO. That part of the Old Covenant law which is currently God’s standard for holy living has been REPEATED after Calvary by the Holy Spirit to the Church in terms of the New Covenant – grace and faith. “His people” before Calvary only referred to Old Covenant Israel.

Matt 10:5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:

Mt 10:6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. If the whole law is the standard of living for the Church, then …1) Obey it and kill disobedient children per Ex 21:15, 17.2) Obey it and kill Sabbath-breakers who cause others to work on the Sabbath (Ex 31:13-17).3) Obey it and do not allow those with birth defects or disabilities to enter your sanctuary and worship with you (Num 18:7, 11. 22).4) Obey it and tell the Church to kill you when you break the Sabbath.5) There are scores more of these which you ignore.

Wilber: Salvation is by Grace through Faith alone. This verse can’t be in reference to the Torah/Law itself, because all throughout scripture God’s commandments are called “liberty,” “life,” and a “delight” (e.g. Psalm 119; Romans 7:22).

Kelly: You miss the context. God’s commandments (whole law) would only produce liberty, life and delight IF (yes, IF) they were ALL kept perfectly. The “righteousness of the law” demanded perfect holy sinless living (Deut 27:26; Gal 3:10). Why do you keep ignoring this? When you fail to kill your disobedient children per Exodus 21:15,17, you have broken the whole law and are cursed.

Wilber: John says that God’s commands are “not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). So there’s either a contradiction in scripture, or, keeping with the context of the chapter, Peter is not referring to the Law itself in verse 10, but rather, a works-based Salvation doctrine that was being pushed upon the Gentiles.

Kelly: No. John’s use of “commandments” and “commands” is not the Torah, or whole law. Peter was referring to the whole law in Acts 15:10; John was not in 1 John 3:23-24. 1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment , That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment .

1 John 3:24 And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. Wilber:

Acts 15:11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved even as they.

This verse is more confirmation that this dispute in Acts 15 is over salvation, not whether or not the Gentiles should observe Torah for daily living.  Kelly: How does it confirm this? “They,” the Gentiles, had been saved apart from works of the law as Peter clearly pointed out. Rom 3:21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

Rom 3:22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference.

Gal 3:12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.

Wilber: Acts 15:12 Then the whole congregation was silent and listened to Paul and Barnabas, who were declaring the miracles and signs among the Gentiles and everything which God had wrought by their hands. 13 And when they had ceased speaking, James rose up and said, Men and brethren, hear me: 14 Simon Peter has told you how God from the beginning chose a people from the Gentiles for his name 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, as it is written, 16 After this I will return, and I will set up again the tabernacle of David which has fallen down; and I will repair what has fallen from it, and I will set it up, 17 So that the men who remain may seek after the Lord, and also all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called; so said the Lord who does all these things. After Paul and Barnabas declare all the amazing things God has been doing among the Gentiles, James rises up and proves through the prophets that the mind of God was always to save the Gentiles as well as the Jews.

Kelly: Yes, but that does not equate to placing them under the Old Covenant Law or treating them the same as Israel. God joined Jew and Gentile, not by placing Gentiles under the law, but by breaking down the enmity of the law which commanded Hebrews not to touch unclean Gentiles. The New Covenant brings those who were “sometimes afar off” “now” “near by the blood of Christ.”

Eph 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.Eph 2:14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

Eph 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

Eph 2:16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

Eph 2:17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.

Col 2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday [seasonal], or of the new moon [monthly], or of the sabbath days [weekly]:

Col 2:17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

Wilber: Acts 15:18 The works of God are known from the very beginning. 19 Because of this I say, Do not trouble those who turn to God from among the Gentiles:

Kelly: This means “do not trouble the Gentiles placing them under the Old Covenant Law.”

Wilber: Acts 15:20 But let us send word to them that they abstain from defilement by sacrifices to idols and from fornication and from animals strangled and from blood. It is important to understand that many of these Gentiles in the first century were coming out of pagan religions, which had their own religious observances. All of the ancient cults had Sabbaths, new moons, feast days, and they sacrificed animals to their gods as well as had no problem with temple prostitution, drinking blood, and eating the flesh that was sacrificed to their gods. By default, some of the Gentiles were bringing their former backgrounds and practices into their new faith with the Messiah. The four commands listed here in verse 20 are related to their former way of worshiping other gods. So, although James sides with Peter and Paul that everyone is saved by faith, and nobody can earn their salvation by works, he is setting up some basic standards by which the Gentiles need to adhere if they wish to be part of the fellowship.

Kelly: The mostly-Jewish Church in Jerusalem did not command Gentiles to be under the Old Covenant Law. It ONLY asked them not to continue in 4 pagan practices which were especially offensive to Jews.

Wilber: Acts 15:21 For Moses, from the very early centuries, had preachers in the synagogues in every city to read his books on every Sabbath day. This is a key verse. James is making a wise judgment, which, by default, satisfies both sides of this debate.

Kelly: James was merely telling his church members that, if they wanted to hear the law taught, go to the synagogues. There was no “default.” There was divisive compromise. James commanded Paul to encourage Jewish Christians to stay under the law while allowing Gentile converts to be free from it. And Paul ignored the command. The history of the Jerusalem Church here reveals that it later rejected Paul as a false prophet, disassociated from Gentile Christians, and went into legalism before it disappeared from history. Research “Ebionites, and “Elkiasites.”

Wilber: His judgment is that the Gentiles are saved the same way that the Jews are saved (by grace through faith); that they are to start out with these four basic commands to be part of the fellowship; and that they will learn the rest of the Law of Moses (Torah) every Sabbath in the synagogue, as verse 21 points out.

Kelly: No. No. No. Again you are changing the clear literal meaning of God’s Word and twisting it to make it say what you want. The text says nothing about “starting out” with four prohibitions and “learning the Law of Moses later in the synagogues.”

Wilber: …questioning a former porn star convert … The pastor then responds with a wise judgment that the first thing this new convert needs to do if she wishes to be part of the congregation is quit the porn industry. The rest of the congregants who have known the Messiah for a long time need to slow down, relax, and consider where this brand new Christian has come from. Then, the Pastor reassures the other congregants that the new convert will learn the rest of the important parts of God’s Word every week as he preaches the Word.

Kelly: No. Paul assured his readers that he had preached the whole gospel to them. Yet there is not a word from Paul that he had commanded his Gentile converts to obey the whole Old Covenant law.

Gal 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

Your implication is absurd since it cannot be found in Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, Philemon or even Hebrews. If there were a plain text where Paul commanded believers to observe the whole law you would have quoted it.

Gal 1:9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Wilber: I think it’s interesting to note that the James making this judgment in Acts 15 is the same James who declares in his own book: “Show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18).

Kelly: That does not mean he obeys the whole Old Covenant Law and kills his disobedient children. James is called the “Catholic Epistle” by many because he appears to contradict Paul concerning righteousness by faith.

Wilber: Interestingly enough, he [James] makes that statement after he instructs his readers to be doers of the Word and not merely hearers only! The “Word” to which he is referring can only be what Christians call the Old Testament, because that was the only “Word” that existed in the first century!

Kelly: Do you teach that “be doers of the Word” means “obey every command in the Old Testament? Does it authorize cutting anything out of the Old Covenant Torah? If the “word” in James 2:18 can only mean “Old Covenant Law” then animal sacrifices, temple worship and Israel’s separation from Gentiles are all still commanded. This is your weakest argument because you ignore huge portions of the Torah. If you want to use that argument, “Word” in the Old Testament refers to the Torah, all of it, the WHOLE LAW of commandments, judgments and statutes/ordinances – especially in Psalm 119. While in the Old Testament, “word, light, manna, water, and life” usually referred to the Torah, in the progressive greater revelation of the New Covenant they refer to Jesus.  Compare Ps 119:11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

With John 1:1-41:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.1:4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men. Jesus came as Torah fulfillment and replacement.

John 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Heb 1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,Heb 1:2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son …

John 1:1 opens with the new revelation that the “word” is now Jesus Christ Himself. And John 16:8-9 changes God’s standard of judgment to knowing Jesus. It would devastate your arguments if you ever grasp the fact that Torah, “law,” refers to ALL the law – commandments, judgments and statutes – many of which you have rejected as irrelevant. John 16:8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

John 16:9 Of sin, because they believe not on me.

Wilber: Now that we have established the context of this chapter, the rest of it is pretty easy to understand. The dispute was not in regards to daily living, but rather, it was about a difference of opinion in regards to how Gentiles are saved.

Kelly: No. It was a dispute about whether daily obedience to the whole Torah, Old Covenant law, was essential to remain saved.

Wilber: It is established that the only way anyone is saved – Jew or Gentile – is by Grace through Faith.

Kelly: By “saved” you are only referring to justification and not sanctification because you clearly think that Gentiles should obey all of the Torah, the Old Covenant law. Salvation is by grace through faith ALONE. When you add anything else it is no longer grace alone or faith alone.

Wilber: As far as the Law goes, the Gentiles learned the rest every Sabbath as they attended Synagogue with the Jews.

Kelly: This is insane reasoning. You act as if God intended for Gentiles to perpetually worship with Jews in synagogues so they could be taught to obey all the Torah. You have invented this approach by adding to God’s word.

Wilber: If you read through the entire book [of Galatians], in context, you see that Paul’s point in Galatians is that the Torah of God cannot save anyone, and if anyone is going to let these Judaizers convince them to get circumcised in order to be “saved”, then they are falling into the same religious bondage that they were in when they were in pagan idolatry.

Kelly: Be honest with us. By “saved” you only mean initial “justification” because you insist that one must keep the whole Torah after justification and that refers to daily “sanctification.” Stop playing word games. Look at your next statement which I underlined.

Wilber: The argument that is being made is that keeping the Law for justification (salvation) is baseless, man-made, and does not find itself in the heart of the Father. Thus, if anyone seeks to keep any part of the Law for Salvation, they are therefore required to keep the whole Law [Torah] perfectly, because the only way to have salvation outside of the Grace of Messiah is to be completely sinless (which is impossible).

Kelly: It seems that you have forgotten your own argument under comments at Acts 15:10 and 15:21. In 15:10 you stated that the dispute was over Pharisaic additions to the Torah. And in 15:21 you stated that the Gentiles would learn to obey the Torah in Jewish synagogues later. Read Galatians 3:1-5 again. Keeping the law for either justification or sanctification is baseless. You seem to teach that one is kept saved by works of the law. Galatians 3:3 is especially appropriate to this point.

Gal 3:1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

Gal 3:2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Gal 3:3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit [justification by faith], are ye now made perfect by the flesh [sanctification by obedience to the Torah]?

Gal 3:4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.

Gal 3:5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law [Torah], or by the hearing of faith?

Wilber: Paul never once speaks negatively about God’s Law in regards to daily living.

Kelly: Finally you admit that Torah-obedience is essential for sanctification. You want to place Gentiles under a standard other than Christ (John 16:8-9). You have the motive for obedience backwards. A born-again believer is a “new creation” in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). Unlike those under the law [Torah], he is now indwelt by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:17; 6:19). One who is truly saved and guided by the Holy Spirit has the “law” of the “spirit of life in Christ” compelling him to love and obey whatever the Holy Spirit commands the New Covenant believer after Calvary (Rom 8:2).

Wilber: In fact, he very unambiguously states in Romans 3:31 that although we are saved by faith, it does not make the Law void.

Kelly: Read the text.

Rom 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. From Romans 1:18 to 3:20 Paul has demonstrated that the Gentiles are guilty because they violated the law of nature and conscience (1:18-20; 2:14-16) and the Hebrews are guilty because they violated the Old Covenant law (3:1-18). Both are guilty for violating the PRINCICPLE of law, the revealed will of God as it pertained to each (3:19-20). “Law” as a principle of the revealed will of God condemns all unbelievers. There are no articles before “law” in Romans 3:20 to point out that both Jew and Gentile were guilty of law-breaking. Then 3:21 declares that justification comes apart from law because law can only condemn. “Law” in 3:20, 21, and 31 refers to “the revealed will of God” – the law of nature and conscience for Gentiles (1:18-20; 2:14-16) and the Old Covenant law for Jews (3:1-18).  When law convicted Paul of sin in Romans 7:7 Paul died (7:4). He was subsequently buried and resurrected by imputed righteousness in Christ. Afterwards Paul lived, not to serve the law, but to love God and man as he served Christ (Rom 8:2; Gal 5:1-23).

Wilber: In fact, we are to uphold the Law!

Kelly: No. Romans 3:31 is a concession that law, as a principle for both Jews and Gentiles (3:19-21) accomplished its mission in condemning all and spiritually killing everybody. After justification by faith alone believers are freed do obey the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ which has made us free from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2; 2 Cor 3:1-9).

Wilber: As one examines scripture in context, it becomes obvious that whenever it appears on the surface that Paul is referring to God’s Torah itself as bondage, he is always speaking within the context of it being misused and misunderstood by people as a means to earn salvation.

Kelly: No. Again you totally misunderstand the nature of the New Covenant. The law defined sin of unbelievers and killed them spiritually (Rom 7:4-7; 2 Cor 3:1-9). How do you explain 2 Cor 3:7-10? It clearly states that the Old Covenant now has “no glory” – zero glory – compared to the glory of the New Covenant. You are bogged down in a glory-less covenant! 2 Cor 3:7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:

2 Cor 3:8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?

2 Cor 3:9 For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.

2 Cor 3:10 For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.

Wilber: Praise YHWH that there is only one means of salvation for both Jews and Gentiles: by Grace through faith in Yeshua the Messiah, and not by our own works.

Kelly: Agreed, but you are only referring to justification and not sanctification.

Wilber: And praise YHWH that there is one moral code by which all of His people – Jew and Gentile – are to live: the Torah of God!

Kelly: No. This is ignorance of the Torah.Gal 4:21 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? Please, please, please read ALL of Exodus 16 through Deuteronomy before repeating this to another person. I dare say that your whole life will change. You will discover that your daily violate scores of commands in the whole law and have decided that scores of them are irrelevant. If the moral law consists of the whole Old Covenant law, then no church or no nation or no people even break the surface in keeping it today and all is futility.  Not one moral code for all:1) It is the Torah which commands Israel not to let an unholy stranger sacrifice with it (Ex 29:33; Lev 22:10).2) It is the Torah which commands Israel to put a difference between themselves and others (Lev 11:10).3) It is the Torah which commands Israel to kill strangers who attempt to enter their sanctuary (Num 18:4, 7).4) It is the Torah which defines non-Israelites as unclean and avoid touching them (Lev 7:21).5) It is the Torah which commands Israelites not to live among Gentiles strangers (Deut 19:1-2).6) It is the Torah which commands Israel not to set a non-blood stranger over it (Deut 19:17).7) The Torah IS Israel’s moral code and only Israel’s moral code. Gentiles were not “cut off” for not keeping the Sabbath and not attending the feasts of Israel. The Gentile moral code as nature and conscience.

I invite further open dialog on this important subject. You continually ignore the fact that the law [Torah] is an indivisible whole of over 600 commandments, judgments and statutes. There are 44 biblical texts which confirm this and Jesus confirmed it in Matthew 5:19-48 where he quoted commandments, judgments and statutes. To an O.T. Hebrew it was just as morally wrong to violate a judgment or statute as one of the Ten Commandments. Leviticus 19:10 and Deuteronomy 6:4 are not part of the Ten Commandments per se. You mentioned the Gentile holy days. Have you read Galatians 4:9-10. Paul said that the Gentiles had “turned again” “to be in bondage.” In context they had exchanged pagan holy days (weekly sabbaths), months (monthly new moon sabbaths) and years (yearly sabbaths) for Hebrew holy days. You have done the same thing. Gal 4:11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.

Russell Earl Kelly, PHD

316 Aonia Rd, Washington, Ga 30673