The other day, I was having a conversation with a man confessing to being a Christian. He was a firm believer in grace, rejecting Moses. In his opinion, John 3:16 proved his point on how Christians are not at all expected to obey Moses. Christians are only required to have faith in Jesus. When questioned what we should do with all those verses in the Bible, telling us to obey Moses if we are genuinely saved, he suggested we should rip them out from the Bible. In his opinion, they should not have been included in God’s word. Marcion of Synope would have agreed with him.
Marcion of Synope lived from 85 AD- 160 AD. In his opinion, Jesus was the Savior sent by God, and Paul was His chief apostle. According to the church father Tertullian, Marcion was the first to separate the Old from the New Testament when Marcion chose to reject the Old as being not relevant for Christians. In Marcion’s opinion, everything in the New Testament and Pauls’s writings instructing believers to obey Moses was to be removed from the Bible.
Polycarp was a 2-century bishop in Smyrna and one of the church fathers. In the book Adversus Haereses, written by the church father Irenaeus, he writes what happened when Polycarp had an encounter with Marcion: And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion and said, “Dost thou know me?” “I do know thee, the first-born of Satan.”
Marcion of Synope would fully have supported the idea we should rip out of the Bible everything telling us to obey Moses. Marcion was declared a heretic by the early church, and his teachings rejected.
I am having a hard time understanding why anyone would want to agree with Marcion and, at the same call themselves a Christian. Polycarp would agree, someone who agrees with Marcion is not a Christian.
So what does it mean to be a Christian?
And how do you become one?
Even though Marcion has been dead for centuries, it is evident his spirit lives on in teachings, sermons, Bible commentaries among so-called Christians today. So if men like Polycarp and Tertullian labeled Marcion and his teachings as heresy, and the spirit of Marcion lives on today, it is crucial we as Christians can answer this on what it means to be a Christian and how you become one with the truth.
So what is the truth?
The Bible is the truth. If we cant answer this question using the Bible, we are only voicing our opinions. If we are merely expressing our views, we are no better than Marcion.
So how do you become a Christian, according to the Bible?
Most Christians today would agree with the heretic Marcion, and my friend, that Christians are not under the law of Moses. According to them, this is proven by Acts 15. In Acts 15, the Apostles gathered in Jerusalem to discuss what gentile believers need to do when they are saved by faith.
Most Christians today would argue Acts 15 says Gentile believers dont have to do anything. Still, they are advised to stay away from food polluted by idols, sexual immorality, meat from strangled animals, and blood.
We often hear mainstream Christians say things like “it is not a salvation issue, but it is beneficial to stay away from these things mentioned in Acts 15.”
We know the Bible was not written in English, and words have different meanings in different cultures. So what happens if we read Acts 15:20 in its original Greek? The Greek word used for “to abstain from” is apechestai, and it comes from the word apecho, which means to separate from. When we read it in Greek, we understand this is not just a piece of advice the Apostles are giving the gentiles; they are telling them to repent from food polluted by idols, sexual immorality, meat from strangled animals and blood.
So if salvation is by grace and faith alone and not by us doing anything, and if these things mentioned in Acts 15 is “not a salvation issue,” why are the Apostles ordering the Gentiles to repent from these things?
By now, it should be evident to us the common mainstream Christian understanding of Acts 15:21 is unbiblical.
So what is happening in Acts 15:21?
To understand Acts 15, we first have to remember the Apostles were not Gentiles; they were Jews, and they never stopped being Jews. Back then, and to some extent today, the requirement for conversion to Judaism is circumcision. If you were circumcised, you became a Jew.
In Acts 15, we have two groups of Jews who both have faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. One of them says faith in Jesus makes you a Jew, but to become a Jew, you first have to be circumcised. The other group says, faith in Jesus makes you a Jew, but you dont have to be circumcised to become one. Apostles and Paul belonged to the last group.
So the question that is being debated in Acts 15 is this, do Gentile believers in Jesus have to show their faith in Jesus by being circumcised? To this, the Apostles say a definite no. A gentile believer in Jesus is not required to show their saving faith by being circumcised. But they are needed to do something; they are required to immediately repent from sexual immorality, from blood, food polluted by idols and meat from strangled animals. If they repent from these things, their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior is real and able to save them.
So, according to the Apostles, you become a Christian by believing Jesus died for your sins AND repent from sexual immorality, from blood, food polluted by idols, and meat from strangled animals.
How does this affect us today in 2020?
The word used for sexual immorality is porneias. Porneias in Greek means fornication, idolatry, and whoredom. How would this apply to us in 2020? Fornication is sexual intercourse between people not married to each other. So if you are a believer in Jesus, you have to repent from having sex before marriage. It also means idolatry; idolatry is the worship of other gods. If you are a believer in Jesus, you have to repent from worshiping other gods. And this is where it gets tricky for some of us. Most Christians worship Jesus, but in the Bible, Jesus never told anyone to worship Him. He told us to worship His Father Yehovah. So if you are a believer in Jesus, you can not worship Jesus, you have to worship Yehovah. Does this mean Jesus is not God? No, Jesus is still God, He is Yehovah, but we have to obey Him. He told us to worship Yehovah, not Him.
The word used for “food polluted” is alisgematon, and the word used for “by idols” is eidolon. When we read food polluted by idols in Greek, it changes its meaning from only being about food to being about everything polluted by idols. Alisgematon is pollution and eidolon us by idols. So what it is saying is this, if you are a believer in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you have to repent of everything polluted by idols. Everything means food, but also everything else used in the worship of idols (conscious and unconscious worship).
The rest of Acts 15:20 reads the same way in Greek as in English; we are to repent of meat from strangled animals and blood.
So what do we know so far?
By reading Acts 15:20 in Greek, we know a gentile Christian has to repent from meat from strangled animals, from blood, from everything polluted by idols and from sexual intercourse before marriage and idol worship. According to Acts 15:20, if they dont repent of these things, they are not saved.
So from this verse alone, we see salvation is not passive faith in Jesus. True salvation is faith in Jesus + repentance of these things.
But what about Moses?
In Acts 15:21, the Apostles gives the reason why the gentiles only need to repent of the things mentioned above immediately. They only need to repent of these things, because Moses is preached in the synagogue every Shabbat. When your Bible uses the word preached/proclaimed in Acts 15:21, it uses the Greek word kerrysontas. Kerrysontas comes from the word kerysso, which means to proclaim accountable divine truth. So because this one word is used in Acts 15:21, we know the Apostles viewed Moses and the law of Moses, as divine truth that was still applicable to gentile believers.
So what is happening here in Acts 15:20-21?
We have two groups of Jews who both have faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. One group says gentile believers in Jesus have to become Jews by circumcision to be saved. This group believes if gentiles are genuinely saved, they have to show their faith by being circumcised. Then we have the second group; they say Gentile believers in Jesus have to become Jews to be saved, but not by circumcision. They say gentile believers in Jesus have to first show their faith by repenting from idol worship, sex before marriage, everything polluted by idols, meat from strangled animals, and blood. If they repent of these things, their faith in Jesus is genuine, and they are saved. But then they have to go the synagogue and learn how to live as saved people of Yehovah by learning how to obey Moses.
This last group was the group Paul belonged to with the rest of the Apostles.
So we know from Acts 15:21 the Apostles and Paul considered Moses law to be a divine truth, something we will be held accountable to.
This is how you become a Christian, according to the Bible. You believe Jesus died for your sins, and because of your faith, you choose by your own free will to repent of eating meat from strangled animals. You repent of everything that has to do with blood; everything polluted by idols has to go whatever that might be, and you worship only Yehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You choose to stop having sex before marriage. By doing these things, AND believing in Jesus dying for your sins, you can know for sure you are genuinely saved.
What does it mean to be a Christian? Acts 15:21 gives us the answer. When you have become a Christian the way Acts 15:20 describes it, you choose to learn the law of Moses and how to obey it. Why do you have to learn the law of Moses? Because the Apostles, and Paul, says in Acts 15:21, it is divine truth, and we will all be held accountable to it.
Now we can agree with Polycarp, Marcion was not a Christian. And according to the Apostles, my friend, who advocated we remove everything with Moses from the Bible, is not a Christian.
Now we understand what is happening in Matt 7:21-23, where a large group of Christians has just died, but Jesus rejects them. The text says in Greek He rejects them because they are without Torah. What is the Torah? The Torah is another word for the law of Moses.
According to the Bible, most Christians today would end up in this group. Most Christians believe more in their pastor, then they believe in the Bible. So if their pastor says the law of Moses does not apply anymore, because “we are not Jews/it cant be kept/it is a burden/it is sinful/Christ came to free us from it/our Bible is John 3:16/we are under grace and not law” they believe him or her instead of the Bible.
The Bible is the truth; the Bible says if we reject Moses and we dont repent of these things in Acts 15:20, we are not saved.
Do not find yourself in this group, repent while it is still time, and become a genuine born again believe, a real Jew and a real genuine Christian. (Isiah 56:3, Rom 2)