Contrasts Between the Synagogue and the Church in Acts 15

Also contrasted are issues of the works of the law and the work of faith.

An Issue Raised

[See notes of reply toward the bottom and intermixed in the discussion]

[Name Omitted 1]: [Name Omitted 2], in all sincerity, do you really think you can keep the law when the very apostles of the Lord admitted that neither they nor their fathers were able to keep it? I hear the words of the apostle Paul echoing..."ye have fallen from grace..." Speaking to a non-jewish church which had begun to embrace the law and customs of the jews. If keeping the law was so vital as many suggest, wouldn't the apostolic council we read of in Acts have stressed its importance and observance? Yet they did not. I wonder why?
about an hour ago · Like · 1

[Name Omitted 3] Oh [Name Omitted 1], but they did stress it. We in Christianity have just conveniently passed over it for centuries.

19 "Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. 21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues." --Acts 15:19-21

Act 15:19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
Act 15:20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
Act 15:21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

May the concepts be emphasized by quoting further from the same chapter.

Act 15:23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:
Act 15:24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:
Act 15:25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
Act 15:26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Act 15:27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.
Act 15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
Act 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.


Look especially at v. 21 where James states that they will be learning about Torah (Moses) [See Torah use below] and to apply it to their lives every Sabbath as they met in the synagogues. This did not change [See "did not change"] until Paul and those who believed in Jesus were kicked out of the synagogue in Corinth (Acts 18) where they went next door and started another synagogue/ekklesia for those of "The Way" (synagogue is pretty much synonymous with ekklesia in meaning, both are called out assemblies). They continued to be taught in the Apostles' doctrine which was established in Acts 15. We do not see a divergence in history until 2 things happened: 1. Gentiles became the larger group in the church, and 2. they no longer had access to the Tanakh to study. [No access to Tanakh] As Jason said above, look at 2 Tim. 3:15-17. There is no Bible scholar alive who would say that Timothy had even parts of the Apostolic Scriptures for which to grow sound in doctrine and godly living. [Letters of Apostles not widely available] The only [Not supportable in that the words of Paul were equal to Scriptures. That was the point of him being an Apostle.] "Scriptures" Paul was speaking about was the Tanakh (Old Testament) which btw made Timothy noticed as a godly young man by those in the churches of Lystra and Derbe. What made him considered by Paul a godly young man? It certainly wasn't his knowledge of Paul's letters. [He was personally discipled by Paul which can hardly be dismissed.]

Just something to think about. BTW, [Name Omitted 1], we are not what Galatians is speaking about. The Galatians were being convinced that they need to go through the process of Circumsicion to be saved. [ While the implication is "saved" it goes further to the wider concept of "justified" which indicates condinued purity. It also contrasts works with faith.] This, if you do much research into Judaism, is an extensive process of between 1-7 years [Scriptures does not reference this process and so while may have been a practice at that time, there is no indication this was in use in the time of Moses.] where a proselyte (see Ethiopian Eunuch-Acts 8) steadily indoctrinates themselves into the views of Judaism (especially the teaching of the Rabbis in the Oral Torah) and culminates in circumcision and being baptized or immersed into Judaism. [This is different from being immersed into Christ and is not comparable.] This person is then considered a full-fledged Jew with all the rights and responsibilities of a Jew. Paul writes Galatians to deny this is ever a need for Gentiles, nor is it a necessity for anyone, Jew or the Nations (Gentile), to be saved and join The Way. [Name Omitted 1], we believe that disciples of Jesus should live like Jesus.Because we are saved, we desire to live Torah in our lives as our savior and master His disicples Paul his disicple did. [invalid assumption unless it speaks of the "promise and law of Christ" which is different from the Law of Moses.] We are not doing it TO be saved. We are doing it BECAUSE we are saved and we want to be "zealous of good works." [Galatians says that we do not live by works after justification and compares it to living by faith even as we received the Holy Spirit by faith and not by works. Works does not impart righteousness. As "zealous of good works is in the context of Titus 2:14, it is also in the context of Titus 3:9 as it admonishes against "strivings about the law:.." {see right sidebar for strivings commentary} The issue of doing good works is defined in Scriptures as being either the works of the law, which are unapproved, or the works of faith which is according to the provision of justification, which are approved.]

A Reply

Comment on Torah use in Synagogues in first century.

The quote by Tim Hegg to the right suggest that it was not only the Five Books of Moses but they also included the Prophets.







Did not see change

Change began from the very beginning of the Book of Acts. The change began in Jerusalem following chapter two. The people separated from temple worship. This is distinguished by baptism in Christ. It was distinguished by the practice of the Lord's Table. This was distinguished by the preaching of the Apostles regarding who Jesus was. (All of this preaching was referenced to the Old Testament as it pointed to Jesus. But there is no indication that they were to continue in the works of the law. This was emphasized by the meeting of Paul with church leaders whereby they required of him a short list of specific matters. Acts 15:20. Then they warned him regarding mis-use of the scriptures in vs 21. Verse 21 was not a commendation of action but it was a negative in that it spoke concerning those who contradicted rightousness as it was attempted to be applied to the church. Note the context.

As a side comment, it was not that the scriptures of Moses were not to be read, but that the words of the Apostles were considered equal to scriptures and to be used to explain their context and importance.

No Access to Tanakh

To say that there was no access to Tanakh in the early churches is hardly supportable. Acts 15 suggests that the Tanakh was available widely. The discussion regarding the Bereans might support this. It is not to say that there were not exceptions.

To also say that the letters of the Apostles were not widely available is not a good arguement point to maintain. During this time, they had the Apostles themselves who spent adequate time in personal and group training in an intensive format. They knew the will of God. They were discipled. The letters themselves were also distributed effictively for the next generation who knew not the Apostles.












Comment that synagogue and church were not the same though apparently similar.

I noticed that you made a reply to [Name Omitted] which raised questions in my mind. In that comment you suggested that synagogue/church were pretty much synonymous. Because the usage and context are very distinct, "pretty much" does not equal "sameness". Each word is tied to two different peoples.
I do not see anywhere that the term Synagogue was used synonomously with the church. They are two different Greek words. Their meaning and derivatives were different. It referred to those of Israel, once to the Libertines (different Greek word) and twice to Satan (Revelation)
I cannot find a reference to "synagogue" in the Old Testament Scriptures. Although it is clear it was a methodology in history, it was not a set up and operated by direction of specific passage(s), commandment or ordinance. To be plain, it would seem to be an extra-Scriptural operation.
It was not a stated objective by Jesus to form nor continue the synagogue. He stated his objective using a different word - the "church". Church was used only twice in the Gospel of Matthew, 18 times in Acts and the rest in the other epistles. Synagogue was not used after Acts except twice in Revelation. Both times in Revelation it was stated as being the Synagogue of Satan, which to me could hardly reference anything positive.
You used the reference of Acts 18, whereby they came out of the synagogue and entered into Justus' house. Then Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. It is the very act of this "were baptized" which separated them from the synagogue and made them distinct. Now they were dead to the law and the rules of the synagogue and alive unto the promise of Christ. They were dead to the world. This deadness meant that they entered into the death and resurrection of Christ and were now baptised by the Spirit (a key element of the promise) and to live by the Spirit. They were to now live by the "law of Christ". If they received the spirit by faith, they were to also live by faith for righteousness and not attempt to gain their rightousness by the works of the law. It was the baptism which separated them as being totally unique and different from the synagogue.


* All translations are referenced to the KJV because other English version usually reference other Greek or varient but supposed original texts. Sometimes these differences, while they appear to be synonyms, do make a difference in planned conduct and teaching. Some presenters use these differences to (in my opinion) justify their opinion and intended conduct. Keeping all references to the KJV and its source texts tends to provide an absolute point of reference and prevents opinionated juggling.

Side Observations


Research about the differences between Synagogue and Church

From G4862 and G71; to lead together, that is, collect or convene; specifically to entertain (hospitably):
A primary preposition denoting union; with or together (but much closer than G3326 or G3844), that is, by association, companionship, process, resemblance, possession, instrumentality, addition, etc.:
A primary verb; properly to lead; by implication to bring, drive, (reflexively) go, (specifically) pass (time), or (figuratively) induce:
From (the reduplicated form of) G4863; an assemblage of persons; specifically a Jewish “synagogue” (the meeting or the place); by analogy a Christian church:
From a compound of G1537 and a derivative of G2564; a calling out, that is, (concretely) a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation (Jewish synagogue, or Christian community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both):
ἐκ, ἐξ
ek ex
ek, ex
A primary preposition denoting origin (the point whence motion or action proceeds), from, out (of place, time or cause; literally or figuratively; direct or remote):
Akin to the base of G2753; to “call” (properly aloud, but used in a variety of applications, directly or otherwise):



































Contentions, and strivings about the law - Of legal contentions, and different and conflicting decisions about the meaning of particular rites and ceremonies, the Talmud is full.

- Adam Clark's Commentary of the Bible




What was read in the Synagogue?

The Public Reading of the Scriptures
in the 1st Century Synagogue
Tim Hegg • TorahResource • 2007
The title of this article seems quite simple and straightforward and you, as the reader, no doubt anticipate a survey of the relevant historical materials that will help paint the picture of a 1st Century synagogue service, and particularly the reading of the Torah and Prophets during that service. A notable problem exists, however, in this endeavor: most of the extant historical materials that describe synagogue practices were written in the 2nd Century and later. In great measure they reflect the halachot and traditions developed by the rabbis at Yavneh and in the later Babylonian academies, traditions that were necessary to maintain a vibrant diaspora Judaism without Temple or priesthood. In the rabbinic literature, it is difficult (some would say impossible) to decipher between descriptions of early practice and that of later rabbinic Judaism. (a snippet)   - Source











The Tanakh (Hebrew: תַּנַ"ךְ‎, pronounced [taˈnaχ] or [təˈnax]; also Tenakh, Tenak, Tanach) is the canon of the Hebrew Bible. It is also known as the Masoretic Text or Miqra.

The name Tanakh is an acronym of the first Hebrew letter of each of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: Torah ("Teaching", also known as the Five Books of Moses), Nevi'im ("Prophets") and Ketuvim ("Writings")—hence TaNaKh. The name "Miqra" (מקרא), meaning "that which is read", is another Hebrew word for the Tanakh. The books of the Tanakh were passed on by each generation with the accompanying oral tradition, called the Oral Torah.

- Wikipedia


The Torah (תּוֹרָה, literally "teaching") consists of five books, commonly referred to as the "Five Books of Moses". Printed versions of the Torah are often called Chamisha Chumshei Torah (חמישה חומשי תורה, literally the "five five-sections of the Torah"), and informally a Chumash.

In Hebrew, the five books of the Torah are identified by the first prominent word in each book. The English names are derived from their Greek names in the Septuagint, which in turn are based on their thematic content:

1. (בְּרֵאשִׁית / Bərē’shît) - Genesis
2. (שמות / Shemot) - Exodus
3. (ויקרא / Vayikra) - Leviticus
4. (במדבר / Bəmidbar) - Numbers
5. (דְּבָרִים / Dəvārîm) - Deuteronomy

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