Q. I am been doing a lot of thinking in regards to Grace, the Mosaic Law, the feasts and other things the Messianic movement thinks should apply to the Christians and wanted your opinion on my thoughts.
The central passages I am looking at are found in Acts 15. Paul has returned from his trip to the Gentiles and an issue had arisen specifically in regards to circumcision. Peter, Paul, James and those apostles still alive and in Jerusalem held a council and from that came four requirements for Gentile believers: They were to not engage in sexual immorality, not eat meat given to idols or from an animal that was strangled nor were they to eat or drink blood. Nothing was said about Gentile believers being required to observe any of the Jewish festivals, which fall under the Mosaic covenant nor any of the other Mosaic laws. Further; the act of circumcision was not required of Gentile believers as this was part of the Abrahamic covenant.
My thoughts are this: Peter was given authority by Jesus to bind or loose on earth and in heaven. God did not change but gave Peter the authority to make changes, not to the covenant it self but to how it would be implemented. Notice the changes in Acts 15 apply only to the Gentile believers, not the Jewish believers. I believe Gentile believers were given an exemption from the feasts and ceremonial laws by Peter.
Where does this leave Jewish believers in Christ then? They are covered by Christ of course and some of the feasts and ritual celebrations have to change a bit but I believe God still requires them to be held to them. This is a higher standard situation: God chose the Hebrew people for himself and he has always held them to a higher level of behavior before all men. Like the Gentile believers they are no longer bound to the Mosaic law, but a life truly lived in Christ will cause us to voluntarily obey them as more of a side effect rather than requirement. That is where my thinking is going anyway. Could you comment on it please?
A. As I read Acts 15, it appears that James was the one who settled the issue of gentile believers, not Peter. And it was James who after listening to the others made the judgment about what would or would not be required of Gentile believers.
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” (Acts 15:19-20)
Paul, who was there when James announced his decision, answered your question about Jewish believers in Galatians 3:26-28.
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Whether previously Jew or Gentile, once people accept the Lord as their savior they join a new race of humanity, called the Church. They are no longer viewed by God according to their origin, but according to their faith. (2 Cor. 5:17) All those in the Church are held to the same standard, “Believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)