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​The Decrees

Acts 16:4

When we considered Acts 15 one area we did not look at was the statements by James, the main leader in Jerusalem. We need to consider those statements now.

Acts 16:4
And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.

The decrees spoken of in this verse are the letters being sent out from the Jerusalem Council.

The first question to be asked is this, how could the apostles and elders in Jerusalem give binding “decrees” to Gentiles when they did not know, nor accept, the doctrine given to Paul for the Administration of Grace? What authority do the Judeans in Jerusalem have to give “decrees” to Gentiles following the Gospel of Grace preached by Paul?

These men were not leaders of the Administration of Grace, they were leaders of the Revealing Administration.

Acts 15:19-21
Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

This is what James said while addressing the Council.

Acts 15:29
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 21:24-25
Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. As touching the Gentiles which believe, 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.

This is what James had written in the letter, the decrees, along with no circumcision and not following the Law given to Moses.

The word “abstain” in Acts 15:29 is in the present tense and therefore, it refers to a continuing state, a continual abstaining. Can the Jerusalem leadership give doctrine to the Administration of Grace? 

The answer to that, is No! 

Of these four points, one is a point of fellowship and three are commands of God. This is why Paul agreed in Acts 15.

Until the flood in the days of Noah, men standing with God, Seth, Enoch, and so on, were vegetarians. But God’s abundance of vegetation was overwhelmingly destroyed in the flood. So, when the flood was ended God told man to begin to eat meat.

Genesis 9:2-3
 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.

But there was a stipulation to eating meat.

Genesis 9:4
But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.

Some European cultures, and some Native American cultures, have within their customs eating an organ immediately upon killing an animal or drinking the blood of an animal that they have killed. The purpose is twofold: one, to honor the animal and two, to have the animal’s vitality. Some have even viewed the blood of babies or of young children as a source of vitality. However, you do not receive the animal’s vitality or a human’s vitality by drinking or eating its blood. What you do is break a command of God.

The same stipulation is also found in the Law given to Moses.

Deuteronomy 12:16
Only ye shall not eat the blood; ye shall pour it upon the earth as water.

Why the stipulation about eating the blood? Because the blood is the life of the flesh, both for human and animal. When an animal is killed and the blood is not drained, the blood remains in the meat, by way of the veins.

Deuteronomy 12:23
Only be sure that thou eat not the blood: for the blood is the life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh. 

Any animal whose blood is not drained, its blood will coagulate in the veins and therefore, stay in the meat. I handled these two together because they are so closely related. So, strangled and blood are commands of God since man began eating meat in Genesis chapter 9. They were not doctrine from leaders of another administration.

What happens if a believer in the Administration of Grace eats or drinks blood? 
Nothing. We are under grace.

As to the fornication, Paul also spoke on this subject.

1 Corinthians 5:1
It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife.

Sex in the fellowships, or groups of believers, is not a form of worship.

This is reminiscent of Noah and the curse on Canaan.

Genesis 9:22
And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.

Most assume Ham saw he father naked. But that is not the case.

Leviticus 18:8
The nakedness of thy father's wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father's nakedness.

The word “uncovered” can also be translated removed. Ham undressed his mother.

Leviticus 20:11
And the man that lieth with his father's wife hath uncovered his father's nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Leviticus is addressed to Israel under the Mosaic Law. This verse does not apply to 1 Corinthians chapter 5 nor to Noah in the book of Genesis, for they are in different administrations. But God still makes His point about this being wrong.

After raping his mother, Ham told his brothers and they acted godly.

Genesis 9:23
And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness.

Notice Shem and Japheth had their backs turned to their mother’s nakedness.

Genesis 9:24
And Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his younger son had done unto him.

Noah awoke and knew what had been done. For those who think Ham simply saw his father naked, you do not recognize that someone saw you naked upon awaking, Ham did much more than see his father naked. Ham raped his mother.

Genesis 9:25
And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.

Canaan is cursed because he is the result of Ham’s act on his mother. Then, at the end of Noah’s life Shem and Japheth are blessed, but Ham is not.

Again, in Corinth someone had sex with his father’s wife, in the fellowship. God declared His anger with this back in Genesis 9. The response in Corinth should have been strong.  

1 Corinthians 5:2
And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.

Paul had taught God’s Word in Corinth for a year and a half; they should have known better.

Corinth, as pagans, worshipped Aphrodite who was the goddess of love, and beauty, and pleasure, and procreation. To worship at her temple was to have sex.

Some carried the sexual worship practices they had as pagans into the fellowship. Others took advantage of grace. To every situation along these lines, God is opposed. The logic with God is quite simple, people are to be loved, agape, not used. Eros love is only to be between a husband and a wife.

The final statement from James, “meats offered to idols” deals with being able to fellowship with the Judeans.

1 Corinthians 8:4-8
As concerning therefore, the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.

1 Corinthians 10:25
Whatsoever is sold in the shambles [meat market], that eat, asking no question for conscience sake.

Romans 14:17
For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

Meat and where it came from meant a great deal to the Judeans because they were still holding onto a mind set towards the Law. They were not seeing the fulness of what Christ had accomplished.

There is still another area that may have been included in the decrees, a request from Peter, John, and James.

Galatians 2:9-10
And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.

Paul did not meet John when he was in Jerusalem upon his return from Damascus. Paul’s first time meeting John is at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. This is when James, Peter, and John asked him to remember the poor. Paul said remembering the poor was already a part of his thinking.

1 Corinthians 16:1-3
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.

It was in bringing this shared abundance to Jerusalem when Paul was arrested.

Acts 24:17
Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings. 

Notice Paul says he came to bring alms to his nation, not the head or leader of his church. As Jerusalem drew further and further into the Judean religion formed out of the Law given to Moses, Paul was trying to care for the nation he still loved.

Romans 10:1-4
Brethren, my heart's desire, and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.

While the Judeans sought to make themselves righteous before God, Paul strove to live and teach the Gospel of Grace which included salvation by grace and walking in love toward all men. The walk in the love of God is in all that the Apostle Paul communicated in his epistles. It is of the utmost importance.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

In all three verses the word “charity” is the Greek word agape, the love of God. If we do not walk with the love of God in our steps, our actions are useless. If anyone is unsure of how to walk in the love of God, read verses 4 through 8.

© Auxano Ministry 2022

A Journey through the Book of Acts