April 19, 2023 – Wednesday
Acts 15:1 NIV
1 Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.
Paul and Barnabas had by the end of chapter 14 sailed back to Antioch with their work (travels) completed. Then27 On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they stayed there a long time with the disciples. Here disciples simply means believers or followers of Jesus the Christ.
It was while there doing more teaching and strengthening of the faithful that 1 Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved. Judea included the area containing Jerusalem which is approximately 300 miles south of Antioch. So, it would take those Certain people 15 or more days of walking to get to Antioch. And they were not just about circumcision that they made this trek.
These men, Jewish Christians, also known as Judaizers, taught that Gentiles had to become Jews before they could become Christians. They would have to submit to all the Jewish rituals including that of circumcision. Such men had a difficult time accepting Gentiles as equals within the church as they often knew little or nothing of the Law of Moses. They were fearful of losing their identity as Jews. As a result, they felt compelled to persuade other Christians, Jew and Gentiles alike of this.
How did Paul and Barnabas respond to this? 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. 3 The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them. To no one’s surprise, 5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”
A debate ensured after which Peter again told his story of how uncircumcised Gentiles believed and received the Holy Spirit by faith. Then he asked, 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” After this, 12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.
Finally James spoke up and after quoting the prophets said, 19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 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. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” When the elders and apostles came into agreement with James, circumcision was not to be required of Gentiles to become Christians, followers of Jesus.
Bottom Line: Jesus did not require circumcision, so the church did not. Beware of letting church doctrines become as if Jesus had declared them.
Prayer: Almighty God, Thank you for men like Paul and Barnabas along with Simon Peter and James when it came to implementing Your word. – In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Riley D. Driver – Pastor
Calvary Chapel of Dayton