Thursday, August 11, 2016
“Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: ‘Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.’ . . . 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 obey the law of Moses.’ ” (Acts 15:1, 5).
Some wanted to bind circumcision upon Gentile believers. This produced sharp disputes between those teachers and Paul and Barnabas. When the matter was taken up in a conference on correct doctrine in Jerusalem, the Pharisee saints made it a salvation requirement.
We often think that Corinth was guilty of creating the first “party spirit” with their assemblies of Paul, of Apollos, of Cephas, and of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). Actually the Jerusalem church was the first by allowing the Pharisee party to flourish within its membership! That Party’s specialty was circumcision, which was based upon keeping the Law! Keep in mind that one could not keep part of the Law and ignore other sections (James 2:10). This was a movement to force Gentile believers to keep the Law of Moses as the Jewish membership and proselytes did (Acts 21:20, 24). We usually pass over this chapter without understanding that some Jewish saints were creating a false doctrine built from a scriptural foundation! We fail to notice how those patrons of the Law continued to fester as Gentiles were added, without being circumcised, to the “JEWISH body of Christ.”
Several made reports at this Acts 15 conclave, including the Pharisee Clique. Although inspired apostles and prophets were present, the solution was introduced by Jesus’ brother rather than from multiple inspired sources. Luke records it in Acts 15:19 with James saying, “Therefore in my judgment. . .” Although his judgment was accepted without debate, the fall-out continued. The apostle Peter was overcome by its influence while at Antioch, motivating other Jewish saints to partake of his racist attitude (Galatians 2:11-14). Paul was forced to write the letter to the Galatians concerning this “other gospel” (Galatians 1:6-9). The Hebrew letter covers it. Paul takes it up again discussing it with the Ephesian assembly as well as those in Rome (Ephesians 2:11-22; Romans 14). The problem continued until 70 A.D. or shortly thereafter with the destruction of the Temple.
Gentiles created a problem for Jews. What the Jews had held sacred for over 1,600 years, Gentiles were not required to observe. How can one be released from observing what is sacred? Can you imagine how we would feel if someone entered our assembly and told us we could no longer partake of the Lord’s supper? Gentiles did not have to worship at the Temple or in their synagogues. They did not have to observance the Jewish special days like the Day of Atonement. They observed Roman time rather than the Jewish one. They did the same with the calendar! They didn’t have to be circumcised, yet Abraham and Moses were! They didn’t have to observe the Sabbath which was unimaginable to a Jew!
On the other side of the coin, Jews presented a problem to Gentiles. They believed that through Abraham and Moses, they had a special standing with God. They believed this relationship was greatly enhanced because of their zeal for His Law and faithfulness in keeping it. After all, they were THE chosen! Abraham was their father and these uncircumcised barbarians were latecomers! All Gentiles, before Peter’s visit to Cornelius’ home, became proselytes by being circumcised and keeping the Law! So why does this Roman soldier and others get a free pass by NOT keeping it? Can you imagine an assembly being filled with those who did and who did not keep the Law of Moses? As the apostles began dying off, and the Gentile membership outgrowing the Jewish one, wouldn’t there be some emotions among Jewish saints when they saw they were “losing control”? Paul gave an insight into this Jewish/Gentile clash in Romans 14. This collision would be the Jewish way of doing things “at church” as opposed to the Gentile way!
When such problems take place, wouldn’t that be a good time for Jesus’ statement in John 13:34-35 to kick in. But, did it?