The Jerusalem Council and the Sabbath

Does the New Testament tell us we don’t have to keep the “Jewish” Sabbath?.

Jesus never said the law would be abolished nor the Sabbath. Actually, none of the New Testament writers say it either, and many think they do because that’s what they have been told. So, we are going to look at the verses many interpret to say we no longer are obligated to keep the Sabbath. The first argument often used against the Bible-sabbath, is the Jerusalem council. They list some of the things they think the converted heathen should keep:

«For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, 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: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.» (Acts.15,28-29)

Since the Sabbath is not mentioned in this list, it is interpreted to mean the same as the Sabbath isn’t required to keep for the heathens. This raises several questions if interpreted that way. One is if the Jerusalem Council had the authority to abolish God’s law as valid for the heathens. The second is if these are the only things the pagans were to keep from God’s law, then what happened to «thou shalt not steal, thou shall not covert, thou shall not have any other gods beside Me, thou shalt not kill, honor thy mother and thy father” and so on? Was not mentioning the Sabbath, the fourth commandment of the dialogue, the same as saying it is lawful to break the sabbath? And if so, none of the other commandments were mentioned unless we think of the «fornication» to be synonym with the seventh commandment against adultery. However, often the word fornication was used also to describe when a believer took part in rituals and feasts with idol-worshippers. It could be a pagan interpretation of what was legal sexually that contradicted the morals of the Bible. Different people had different ideas of what fornication was. When Jesus tells a young man to keep the commandments, He lists several of the ten commandments and when He says: «do not commit adultery» an entirely different Greek word (moicheuo) is used to describe this commandment. (Mar 10:19) The word used by the Jerusalem council is “porneia” which means harlotry. It could be referring to the seventh commandment, or it could refer to an interpretation of sexual morality or even fornication with pagan gods.
But wasn’t that a given thought to not have any other gods once converted? It wasn’t. In Roman times it was custom to welcome new gods into their mythology. In fact, as the territory widened the Roman government respected the gods of that new place rather than competing with it. This is why the Roman government also cooperated with the Jewish religious leaders and allowed them to practice their religion. The Romans had an ecumenical sort of religion, and most pagans weren’t used to a monotheistic religion. Hearing about the Father and the Son would for many be considered an addition to other gods rather than a replacement of it. They too had Father gods with a divine son who worked to save someone or mankind. These are part of the battles the apostles faced when converting pagans into a Jewish-biblical God-view that forbade other gods, an unusual concept for most heathens. And so, among the first converted followers, there were many who were receiving and didn’t reject the other customs that made them part of the larger society.

In the Bible and old testament, God’s people were called a harlot when they engaged in religious rituals tied to idol worship. God was repeatedly upset with them because they didn’t leave their traditions from Egypt behind and easily adopted traditions from other religions. (Esek.23,8, Acts.7,42-43)
It’s hard for us today to understand the worry Jesus-believing Jews felt, who were customed to it being wrong just to dine with an uncircumcised, and now the converted heathen with their ignorance in biblical practices wanted to worship together with them. Would their gatherings become unclean? They knew the past and they were rightfully worried. But even if this wasn’t the harlotry they were speaking of, and they were mentioning the seventh commandment, and we found one of the ten commandments in the Jerusalem council, we have to question what happened to the other nine commandments? For instance, they said to«abstain from meat offered to idols», but did not say anything about any other ritual tied to idol worship. Or to not have any other god than the God of the Bible, just to not eat what was sacrificed to them? This isn’t a command from the ten commandments. This is at best an explanatory to a commandment, but not itself the commandment. The many making the assumptions that the only thing a pagan Christian have to keep, is those listed by the Jerusalem council, may have misunderstood something very important. At this time of the council, the Jewish rituals were still practiced. The Jewish temple still stood and continued as before. This is made evident when Paul later returns to Jerusalem and the Christian Jews tell him to take part in a ritual cleansing in the temple. (Acts. 21,20–21) They were eager to prove to their Jewish brethren and family that they continued all the Jewish practices even though they believed in Jesus. It’s understandable considering Jesus never told them not to, and instead, Jesus showed great respect for the Jewish system even asking people He had healed to show themselves to the priest with the accompanying sacrifice:

«And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.» (Mat.8,4)

He also said:

“Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. (Mat 23:1-3)

The logic was not far off, considering that they had sacrificed for hundreds of years now knowing it had all been a symbol of Christ pointing to His death, and now taking part was a remembrance of that same event. And so, they did not see it contradicting, whether performed before the cross or after, they both were to point to Christ and the only real way to salvation. However, in the letters to the Hebrew, they are told that these sacrifices are no longer needed after Christ died on the cross, rather they would take away the focus of salvation through Christ, giving many Jews a false sense of security. The ritual laws were therefore now hindering Jews from feeling the need for atonement through the blood of Christ, thinking their sacrificial system was good enough for salvation. Some tried to combine them, thinking salvation was in both. When the heathen was converting some even tried to make them adopt all these practices as they thought they were still needed. And so many of Pauls’s letters address this problem. Paul went before the others, him being a Pharisee by education, to teach them in several of his letters, that these laws in many ways ended up competing with the cross. In the end, the Jewish Christians stopped sacrificing and doing the rituals tied to the temple service. However, at the time of the Jerusalem council, they still partook in many of the rituals. These rituals seemed as an unnecessary burden to place upon the heathen. The heathen had to focus on ridding themselves of idol practices and thinking. The apostles still kept many of the rituals in order to reach their Jewish brethren, not to be saved by them. Those who traveled around to the new Christians, saying they had to keep the ritual laws in order to be part of the congregation, were considered to be mistaken. Peter addressed this in the council argument that God sent him to the house of a converted and they got the Holy Spirit even though they were not circumcised. So, therefore, they concluded, if God didn’t hold back His Spirit to them when they were uncircumcised, it meant there was no need for pagans with a different background to start keeping ritual laws. It’s important to understand that circumcision, which was debated, was what any pagan had to do in order to be part of the Jewish ritual system. Even the Passover, no uncircumcised could join in that meal together with the Jew, and Jesus was the fulfillment of the Passover lamb. So some thought in order to take part in Jesus, God’s lamb, circumcision was needed.

“And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof” (Exo.12,48).

And so, this is why some claim the converted pagans had to be circumcised in order to be part of the “family”, as the stranger always had to be in the past. That this is what the Jerusalem council was about is evident. When the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, long after the council, tells Paul to partake in a cleansing ritual they say:

“As touching the Gentiles which belief, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication” (Acts.21,25)

Here it becomes clear that the matter was tied to the Jewish ritual services. However, as the council had concluded, if they followed the above requirements that involved cleansing themselves from the specific pagan customs, they could take part in the Jewish-Christian worship gatherings, although not in the Jewish. Even though Peter had been in the Jerusalem council, and part of them deciding the pagan-Jesus believers didn’t have to be circumcised to take part in the Christian congregation, he still struggled with his decision later. Paul is very upset with Peter when he writes:

“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him (Peter) to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation” (Gal 2:11-13).

The reason the Jerusalem council is so misunderstood is that we have little concept today of their struggle. Even when it came to food, many feared to eat that which was made by the pagan-Christians as they were not learned in all the rules and regulations that the Jews had added to God’s law. Paul also addressed this in his letters (Rom 14:2).
Peter was given a vision by God with a cloth with all kinds of animals and told to help himself and eat of it. Many think Peter, in the vision given him, was told to eat unclean animals because the laws regarding clean and unclean food were abolished. But the cloth with animals contained both clean and unclean beasts and Peter regarded the clean as unclean because of contamination. He wouldn’t even touch what he could eat, he rejected it all as a whole.

It was a metaphor of then Jewish thinking. It’s in Peters response: “But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean” (Act 10:14) The word unclean means it’s against the laws but the word “common” is the Greek “koinos” which means: “common, that is, (literally) shared by all or several, or (ceremonially) profane”. Peter would not even eat the meat that he could eat because it was lying together with the unclean and therefore had been contaminated. The Jews had this understanding about themselves as well, that they would be unclean by being in the company of pagans. God replies to Peter: “And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Acts.10,15)
Peter knew this wasn’t about food when he explained the meaning of the vision:

“And he said unto them, 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” (Act 10:28)

Peter doesn’t say he learned from the vision that he could now eat pork, but he said God had shown him he would not be unclean by visiting these converted heathens and that he should not view them which has turned to God as unclean or himself as “common” by his association with them. But today, taken entirely out of context, Christians think God gave Peter the vision so he would no longer follow the health laws of the Bible. Cornelius was a heathen, but followed the religion of the Jews:
“A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house” (Act.10,2) He was clean, and Peter was not allowed to call either him or himself unclean by the union. Those who had turned to God, was to be considered clean even though they were not Jewish by flesh and by circumcision.

Back to the Council: Right after the original Jerusalem Council, Paul went to Antioch where he informed everyone of the verdict of the council, that the new believers had to stay away from the practices of the heathen. Actually, all the things listed in the council’s letter, was tied to pagan practices that they wished they would abstain from. As they felt the union with such believers defiled the new Christian congregation. Besides that, they said, they would place on them no burden. Meaning no additional requirements from them personally, in order to take part in the new family gatherings/meetings/breaking bread. In the Jerusalem Council they had concluded after listing all the things tied to pagan practices:

«For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.» (Acts.15,21)

That is right. The Sabbath IS mentioned in the Jerusalem Council as the day they can grow in further knowledge, and that there were preachers of the law in every city available to share the truth on that day. In other words, they the council, were not writing a new law, just giving some complementary word of advice to the teaching they were already receiving and would receive in the congregation on the Sabbath. But did the converted heathen go to the synagogue? In the beginning, some actually did. The proper converts went inside and some waited outside so it could be preached to them as well. There were no churches in the beginning, only synagogues and private Christian gatherings. Some accepted the faith, some didn’t. And we can see it in the book of Acts chapter 13:

“But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on. Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience…. And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and RELIGIOUS PROSELYTES [converts] followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God” (Acts.13,14-16 & 42-43)

“And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God” (Acts 13,44) In harmony with the Jerusalem council, Paul preached to the gentiles on the Sabbath:

“And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a riverside, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither” (Act 16:13).

“And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures” (Act 17:2)
“And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks” (Act 18:4)

The pagan worshipping with the Jews is in this one verse called «religious proselytes», meaning converts. In order for a convert to be accepted as part of the Jewish congregation, they had to be circumcised and follow all the customs. Or else they would still be considered “unclean” and had to wait outside. This was the controversy that caused the Jerusalem council in the first place. Many of the gatherings happened in Jewish homes and they did not want to have “unclean” pagans in their homes during worship if they had not taken a stand against pagan practices. It sounds strange today, but it was a real question back then. That is why Peter would be reluctant to go dine with Cornelius without the vision and why he was so surprised they got the Holy Spirit even though they were not circumcised. And God had to teach Peter through the vision that he could gather and dine with Christ followers who weren’t circumcised. Now, in the Jerusalem council, the idea of separation of worshippers was rejected. It had been practiced in the temple and during holidays and in their congregations. Converted pagans had to worship in one section and Jews by the flesh in another. But now, in the Christian gatherings, the wall between them was torn, and both circumcised and uncircumcised could dine and worship together in the name of Christ. No one was to be superior to the other if they were converted to God, but all were to be regarded one in Christ. The wor-shippers were to be regarded as equals in Christ:

“Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Col 3:11).

The problem back then is misinterpreted because modern and middle age scholars compared it to a different time period and conflict than the one the first believers had actually faced. The later Christian misinterpretation of the Council was about power and position, and the need to separate from the Jews. In a way, many Christians turned it all upside down. The council which was meant to unite the converts with the Jewish-Christian congregation was suddenly used to call Jews and their traditions unclean instead. The church council in Laodicea in the 300s actually forbade Christians from feasting with Jews or from taking part in any of their traditions(1). The original meaning of the council was ruined, as these verses were used to create separation rather than uniting the converts to “Israel”. Now they claimed, Jews who believed in Jesus, had to convert to pagan customs in order to be part of their congregation. Those who kept God’s law was considered “unclean” or “heretics,” which was the word used then. The more modern interpretation of the Jerusalem council is in many ways built on the old Catholic ideas and laws and is the main reason it’s misunderstood even by protestants today who look upon Christians keeping the original Sabbath as “not real Christians” or “unclean Christians”. Everything had been turned upside down. How did it really happen?

“And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2Co 11:14-15).

The idea that The Jerusalem Council rejected God’s moral laws, even His ten commandments, for these four commandments mentioned in the council, is in a way an absurd interpretation of the council. And if they had done this, they would have acted contrary to Christ own words and the entire law and prophets. All accusations against them back then, would have been correct indeed. Jesus was taking away the separation, not creating one. If indeed pagans and Jews were from this moment to keep two different laws in order to be right with God, then a separation was created at this council, not a union. What remained for a complete union was for the Jews to realize they didn’t have to continue the sacrificial laws, and they did once the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and they were prevented from continuing. Jesus warned ahead to the same apostles who were later sitting in that Council:

«Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least com-mandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.» (Mat 5:19)

Jesus also showed no respect for the idea that the Sabbath was no longer valid from the time of the council that took place around 48 AD. For when Jesus spoke of 70 AD, He said for them to pray that they don’t end up in a situation that causes them to break the Sabbath (Mat.24:20).

If it was nailed to the cross, why would Jesus say this about the future? Would the council make Christ’s word about the future of no effect? Of course not. Was the Sabbath nailed to the cross for pagans but not for jews? How would that work? Jesus said that His blood was the blood of the covenant and that it was confirmed on the cross. Anything added to the covenant or removed, had to be proclaimed by Christ Himself before His death. If the moral law was no longer required to keep after the cross, Jesus would have told them. God always let people know throughout Bible history, He never leaves them to guess His requirements or expectations. It was never given to man to make laws or abolish them. Those who did were in the Bible considered rebels. The leaders in Jeremiah’s day did, God said they were false prophets. Kings did, God said He would take from their descendants their throne. No man could remove God’s requirements but God Himself. That is why the law was placed inside God’s throne here on earth and no one was allowed to touch His throne. It’s not something that is a matter of interpretation or guesswork based on a letter someone sends someone that can mean one thing or another. If there were no longer requirements to keep God’s law, God would have directly through Christ informed them beforehand and there would be no cause to doubt. The New Testament tries to break down the idea that there is one salvation for Jews and another for Christians. Paul tries to explain this over and over again in his letters. That there is only one name to save us for all. Peter too proclaimed it so bravely:

«Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.» (Act.4:12)

All Jewish traditions and laws could not change that. Without Christ, it was all in vain. Together with Christ, it was educational, without Him pointless. Paul uses the image of a tree in his letter to the Romans. The tree is Christ and the root is the law and the prophets, and the branches on this tree were both Jews and pagans. After Christ, Jews that would not believe were cut off and heathen was grafted in with the believing Jews. However, it was the same tree, same conditions, and the same requirements and not two separate trees (Rom.11,11-24).

Paul said everyone is one in Christ. «There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus» (Gal.3:28) It was always supposed to be this way. When known Biblical heathen people such as Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth converted they became part of the Jewish line, the family tree leading to both David and Christ. In fact, God Himself said that any stranger who would keep the Sabbath and honor Him as God were to be welcome to His mountain and His house of prayer:

«Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.» (Isa 56:6-7)

No separation, not two different religious practices, just one, and that one holy convocation that united them were the Sabbath and the covenant. Not one covenant for converted pagans and one for Jews, not one sabbath for converted pagans and one for Jews. But all the converted would become one in God’s family, by adopting God’s Sabbath and the covenant. Through Christ’s blood, they would be granted access. The Sabbath was in the old testament a sign they had turned to the only true God and it would make them part of God’s family. Choosing another “sabbath” than the one God sanctified, means Christians are excluding themselves from the real congregation of God. That the Sabbath in the New Testament would be a wall separating the Jews and converted heathens are therefore not in harmony with the God of the Bible and His wishes to unite them. Through Christ, they became part of Israel and the laws and blessings given to them (Rom.9,6; Luk.3,8, Joh.8,39). They were not meant to create a new religion. Lastly, another argument against the disciples omitting the Sabbath (even though they didn’t as they mentioned it as a day of learning) in the Jerusalem council is the words they used: «to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things…» Notice the word BURDON. Would keeping the Sabbath holy be a burden if it was kept according to God’s requirements? According to the laws tied to the Sabbath, they could not call the sabbath day a burden without dishonoring it. Calling the Sabbath a burden was tied to sin and disobedience. God says through the prophet Isaiah:

«If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour Him …» (Isa.58,13)

The Sabbath was to be called a delight, a happy day of communion. A spiritual feast with the Lord. Those who claimed otherwise were in disfavor with God.

«Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? ….Shall not the land tremble for this, and every one mourn that dwelleth therein? and it shall rise up wholly as a flood; and it shall be cast out and drowned, as by the flood of Egypt.» (Amos. 8,5 & 8)

God said: «And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the LORD, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein…» (Jer 17:24)

Everything that was a burden had to be laid down on the Sabbath, so that the Sabbath would NOT be a burden. God says it’s sacrilegious and blasphemous to disregard the Sabbath. God even said that Israel had fallen away when they polluted the Sabbath:

«they polluted [to profane/wound] my sabbaths: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them …withdrew Mine hand, and wrought for my name’s sake, that it should not be polluted [to pro-fane/wound] in the sight of the heathen…» (Ezek.20,22)

God didn’t want His sabbath to be profaned in the sight of the heathen. The Sabbath was a witness to them of God’s identity, and that witness was ruined if they made the sabbath a burden. The Sabbath was to be a blessing, not a burden. No Jew with respect for himself in the time of the Jerusalem Council would call the Sabbath “a burden” they didn’t want to place upon the heathen. It’s clear from the setting of the meeting that they are just giving additional advice on how to handle the union of heathen converts and Jews worshipping together. No Jews, even those converted to Jesus, would want to dine with a heathen who still ate of a sacrifice that had been made to idols, or animals that had not been slaughtered in a kosher way. Many of the converted still had families they dined with who did this. And in order to bring the two together, the heathen had to at least consider doing these requirements, although they did not have to be circumcised to dine or even worship on the Sabbath with their fellow Jewish believer. But to go from pagan rituals to the Christian gathering was not to be endured and this is what the laws from the Jerusalem council were about. They could worship together, but then they had to consider these conditions for the religious union. Those who have deceived millions abolishing God’s law using the Jerusalem council as their defense, lack evidence and knowledge of Christ’s mission and His identity, but also about the controversies of the first Christian assembly. When the idea that God’s law was no longer valid was first presented, new scriptural verses were used to confirm this, dragging even more verses out of its context. When you start interpreting “evidence” wrongly, every new evidence will be interpreted to fit with the already chosen understanding. That is how we got the evolution theory and all our different churches. We will look at two such places in the Bible misinterpreted. And please remember that the Bible warns us that Satan would use scripture and even Christ’s name to deceive people, and so part of his mission is to distort the meaning of the Bible so that people will stay in opposition to the truth. (2.Cor.11,14-15) Peter even said especially Paul’s letters are being twisted already in their day.

“As also in all his [Pauls] epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (2.Pet.3,16)

This can explain why a first-century church would not even receive John, Christ’s beloved apostle, who had known Jesus personally, into their congregation. The controversy started early. The apostle John writes:

“I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. …neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.” (3.Joh.1,9-10)

Not only would he not receive the apostle himself, but cast out anyone who did. What was so provoking about the apostle Jesus even entrusted his mother to, that he would not be received in an early Christian congregation? Pagan converts had already started to reject God’s law. John said:

“He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1.Joh.2,4)

John was rebuking people who claimed the name of “Christ” while rejecting God’s law. And this church mentioned in his third letter, would not even receive him or his brethren. Did not John know the true gospel? Did not John know Christ? Peter knew Paul was a devoted believer respecting God’s law but he saw how his words were misinterpreted even then, which is why he made the warning concerning Paul’s letters.

Misinterpreted Paul

One of the things misinterpreted is found in Pauls’s letters to the Galatians.

«But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.» (Gal 4:9-11)

For those who are “unlearned”, as Peter puts it, in the law and the prophets and Christ’s own words regarding His mission, it seems at first glance that Paul is annoyed with anyone keeping Biblical holy days like the Sabbath. Which is odd considering the New Testament shows us that Paul keeps them himself and even gather the gentiles on that day. He is even carefully trying to keep track on all of God’s other times, so he can keep them. (See Act.18:21, Act.20:16, Act.20:6, 1Co.5:8) Some think he is saying to the Galatians that keeping God’s times lead to captivity, that it’s bad, and that we are free from such things now. It almost sounds like it leads to perdition to keep the Sabbath or any of the Lord’s feasts. However, when placing the verses in context, it reveals something different. The verse before the two just quoted, clears it up: «Howbeit then, when YE KNEW NOT GOD, ye did service UNTO THEM which by nature are NO GODS.» (Gal 4:8) The Galatians were of pagan origin and they had previously served other gods. In fact, they had not even known the God of the Bible before hearing the gospel according to Paul in this verse. He continues: «But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how TURN YE AGAIN to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be IN BONDAGE?» They cannot turn again to Biblical times and the Sabbath when they never observed them in the first place. Paul is here speaking of the customs of the pagans, their holy days and their practices. The same Greek and Roman holy days that were later Christianized by the Catholic Church (2: See footnote). The Galatians had, while still proclaiming Christ’s name, turned their back to pagan practices and mixed them with their newfound faith. Maybe feeling pressured by family and friends as not taking part in feasts often lead to rejection by their loved ones.
But why did they. The letter to the Galatians reveals to us that they had been told that only circumcised could take part in God’s system and so either they had to be circumcised and take part in all Jewish costumes including ceremonial or they had to believe in Jesus as pagans. This false teaching lead many to either circumcise and take part in the Jewish economy or to add Jesus to their pagan traditions. Among the Galatians, we see both fallouts. And Paul says they are in bondage when choosing to continue pagan customs but also if they think they can gain Christ by taking part in the Jewish ceremonial system.
This is what Paul is criticizing. We know historically this is what happened with the Christian church early on. Christians to this day still do what Paul called bondage, they keep previously pagan seasons and times and feasts with a good conscience, thinking Paul here spoke of God’s times.

They claim they are free when they do it, and that those who keep God’s sabbaths are the ones in bondage. The meaning has been turned around. That which is of God, is now considered a sin and bondage and that which is from the devil’s counterfeit religions, is now considered freedom – all in the name of Christ. However, God said it was pollution of His Sabbath to call it anything but holy and honorable. Anyone calling God’s sabbath bondage is profaning it like God previously said. But the verses in their context clearly shows Paul is talking about Christians keeping pagan “times”. And all because of the confusion regarding circumcisions and Jewish ceremonies.

Another misunderstood letter is in Paul’s letter to the Colossians:

«Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.»

Didn’t Paul just “judge” in respect of “moon” and “times” to the Galatians saying they were in bondage when they kept them? Is he nowcontradicting himself? No, this time he says “sabbath days”. He was judging them when he was talking about pagan times, but when he now speaks of God’s times he says: “Let no man therefore judge you”.

Judge: Return to old pagan times.
Not judge: God’s times.
Very simple.Those who twist the scripture against God’s laws, claim Paul says no one can judge you for BREAKING the Sabbath. But is that what Paul is saying? Continuing reading reveals the matter of conflict. The meaning appears to be the opposite. That those who DID keep God’s sabbath days were the ones who were unrightfully judged. Why? Because they didn’t keep it after the requirements of men, because they were considered unclean and not lawful to partake in them. Paul continues to speak of people worshiping angels, and «intruding into those things which he hath not seen» (verse 18). He then continues:

«Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordi-nances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satis-fying of the flesh.» (Col.2,20-23)

Paul here clears up his meaning perfectly when he says «after the commandments and doctrines of men», he is not speaking about the commandments of God, but that of men. He is not saying the Sabbath is a commandment of men, he knows it is not. He says the rules and regulations created around these times are commandments of men. Some converted heathens were refused to take part in the meals and were judged for keeping them. Some converted Jews were criticized for not following the Jewish rituals tied to these times. There were many “man-made” rules coming from different Jewish groups in those days and some of them converted to Christ and continued trying to make their ideas a law for the first Christians. Paul did not want a Christian “talmud“. We know Paul speaks of the additional laws and requirements attached to these holy days, how to keep them, what to do and not to do as he himself states what he criticizes is the part that is «after the commandments of men». They were not to let anyone judge them in questions that had no foundation in scripture. They could keep the times with good conscience without having the burden of the man-made additional laws. Many felt the heathen converts had no right to take part in any of the Jewish feasts, as they were not circumcised. They were severally judged if they did and this is part of the reason some of the Galatians decided to keep their own pagan traditions with their relief in Christ. But Paul ensured them that Chris had cleansed them, that they were clean and could partake. This thought was highly refuted by many Jewish groups at that time and even considered a blasphemy. Still, to this day, many Jewish rabbis claim heathen are not to keep the Sabbath, contrary to God’s own words, and they judge those who do. Still to this day many rules and regulations are added to God’s times regarding eating and drinking, that are not founded in the original law. Even Christians who keep pagan origin times judge those who keep the Biblical today claiming there is to be a separation of practice between circumcised and uncicumsized. That Christians is to keep their pagan originated practices with Christ unless they are a jew.

No place in these verses does Paul say he speaks about those who judge them that DO NOT keep Gods sabbaths, more it seems like he is trying to separate what is of God and what is of men. And he is proclaiming that these things belong to Jesus as they testify of Him. They are not Jewish property, they belong to Christ as they all pointed to Him. If these times really belong to and points to Christ, and they are in Christ, are they not allowed to take part without being judged? Isn’t Christ one body? Christ isn’t divided, this was Paul’s argument. From the verses, before these mentioned, we can understand who is being judged for what.

“In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Col 2:11-13)

So those who are not to let themselves be judged are uncircumcised gentiles. And we know historically and through the conflict described other places in the Bible that the uncircumcised were judged when they kept God’s times without being circumcised. The jews attempt to exclude them from God’s convocations is disputed by Paul as he says that they shouldn’t let anyone judge them because they have “the circumcision of Christ”, and they should consider themselves clean and as circumcised and not let anyone judge them into thinking they are unclean and unallowed to take part in gatherings that are a symbol of Christ. As we saw earlier, God addressed the Jews coming up with the idea that the Sabbaths are only for them in Isaiah 56,2-5. Here He clearly said anyone who wants to keep Sabbath shall be a part of God’s family. God, therefore, has a dispute with those jews that hinders gentiles to take part and have a part in these divine appointments and blessings. And so, it was not the first time the Jews had attempted to isolate the Sabbath to themselves. Now Paul has to tell the believers, like God once did, to not let anyone judge them for keeping God’s times.

Jesus did the same regarding the Sabbath when He was here on earth. He provoked the Pharisees and all their man-made laws tied to for instance the weekly Sabbath. And he broke their additional laws to such a degree that He was condemned as a Sabbath-breaker:

«Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man [Jesus] is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day» (Joh 9:16 ). Jesus was judged as a sabbath breaker when He was in fact keeping itin harmony with God’s law (Joh.15,10).

Jesus met their accusations by saying He, the son of man, was the Lord of the Sabbath. It’s the same argument Paul makes in his letter when he says: «or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ». Paul ties the sabbaths to Christ and the rest that is to come. The laws he says to not be judged by, is according to himself: «after the commandments and doctrines of men» God’s sabbaths are not after the commandments and doctrines of men, and so, we need to separate the two, as probably was Paul’s intention with his words in the first place. The law of God strictly forbids the mixing of the commandments of God with the commandments of men:

«What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.» (Deu 12:32)

This struggle was so great Paul even warned his friend Titus about it:

“For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, especially they of the circumcision: ….Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth” (Tit.1 10& 13-14).

Paul is constantly criticizing the Jewish traditions that have no foundation in the Bible or the law. When it comes to the law and the prophets, (there was no new testament when Paul wrote this) Paul gives the opposite testimony:

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profit-able for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2Ti 3:16-17)

In other words: Jewish self-made commandments are bad, and God’s law and words to the prophets are good. It’s very simple if we do not distort the meaning. We can either interpret Paul to be in harmony with the law or to be in violation of it. If he is in violation, the rest of the Bible warns us against men such as Paul. But how we choose to read it, will reveal what we desire the truth to be. Would we rather, as the Galatians Paul gave a reproof, keep old gentile customs together with Christ’s name, or will we keep God’s times instead, without letting anyone judge us for it, saying it’s just for the Jews? Shall we be judged by the world «in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days»? In those days there were Jewish groups who were so strict at what they could and could not eat, far surpassing the laws in Leviticus, that they would rather eat grass than something that might have been in contact with something or someone unclean. Or that a pan had been used for unclean things so they could not accept anyone’s hospitality even if the host gave them “clean meat”. The exaggeration in the keeping of God’srequirements caused ridicule and fanatism and made evangelizing very difficult. Let’s look at these verses from the letter to the Colossians again: «Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordi-nances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?» (Col 2:20-22)
Paul isn’t even here speaking of the things the bible forbids to eat, but things that man themselves have commanded not to eat. We never find Paul criticizing God’s law, we can only find him criticizing the traditions and laws of man. Unfortunately, because the worker of Satan has «transformed as the ministers of righteousness», Satan has found a way to make the Bible seem to attack God’s laws. (2.Cor.11,14) He is still the serpent sitting in the tree convincing man that it’s harmless to eat, that it’s harmless to break God’s command. He has convinced hoards of Christians that they will be free if they break them, that they are elevated above God’s law and therefore need not to keep them. Just like he said to Eve, she would be as god herself if she ate. To be a god is to be your own judge rather than being under someone else’s laws. He preaches that freedom is to break God’s law or to eat that fruit in violation of God’s law. Satan has always tried to make the breaking of God’s law seem like freedom. Jesus however said the opposite. Satan uses these precious lessons of Paul to try to convince Christians they have a different meaning and that they prove God will be even happy if you now go against His laws. Not only happy but that we sin if we don’t. What a deception. Christ’s words in regards to the law were so clear that they cannot be used against Him, leaving the followers of this misinterpretation of Paul to reject even to follow in Christ’s footsteps in regards to respecting God’s law. They follow “Paul” not “Christ”. The whole point of being a Christian is to follow in the steps of Christ. Christianity today be compared to the actual life of Christ which was in harmony with all of God’s laws? Jesus and the majority of Christians today have two completely different customs and laws. Then there is no unity between Christ and them. If we fight against what Jesus was fighting for, we are not followers of Christ at all. You won’t find the Sabbath abolished any place in the Bible, no prophecy of it being abolished, nothing about it being abolished in the New Testament either. You won’t find a single place where it is changed to another day (Like Sunday) or called unholy. In fact, the two places that speak about God’s law or His times changed, God calls those who do it ungodly and deceivers (Isa.24: 5, Dan.7,25, Matt 5,17-19)
Yet many Christians all over the world think the Bible says the Sabbath is no longer valid, many even think the Bible says it’s now changed to Sunday. Not one verse calls God’s Sabbath abolished. And even if Paul had claimed so, the rest of the Bible would call him a liar. Paul was not a lawgiver and had no power to abolish or establish laws. Nor did the Jerusalem Council, neither did they claim to. They only tried to guide and unify the believers so that they could worship together – on the Sabbath! They wanted the Gentiles to be “clean” from idol practices before joining in the togetherness in order to not lose God’s blessing in their gathering. Paul agreed:

“I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extor-tioner; with such an one no not to eat. ( 1Co 5:9-11)

Did the Jerusalem council say heathens didn’t have to keep Sabbath? No. They didn’t address the ten commandments or the other laws, maybe because it hadn’t crossed their minds at the time that someone might think we now were free to break God’s moral law in Christ’s name. But it happened.

What about the term “Faith Alone”? Read this article for the origin of this term:

* * *1. (Note: Example of “touch not..” after “commandments of men” in regards to God’s feasts) in the Christian era: Early Catholic legislations:“It is not lawful to receive portions sent from the feasts of Jews or heretics, nor to feast together with them” (Canon 37)“It is not lawful to receive unleavened bread from the Jews, nor to be partakers of their impiety” (Canon 38) “Christians must not Judaize by resting on the [Jewish] Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honoring the Lord’s Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema (excommunicated) from Christ” (Canon 29) (Laodicean Council (363–364 AD)2. The Galatians lived in what today is known as Turkey, the central part of Anatolia. They became a part of Hellenistic Asia Minor. In ancient Greek one of the great feasts were called Dionysia which was centered around the winter solace at the same time as Saturna and what we today call Christmas. They also romanized their religion before the time they were Christianized:“The Celtic peoples of Gaul and Hispania under Roman rule fused Roman religious forms and modes of worship with indigenous traditions. In some cases, Gaulish deity names were used as epithets for Roman deities, as with Lenus Mars or Jupiter Poeninus”

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