Acts 15 - The Jerusalem Apostolic Council About Gentile non-Circumcision
Let's take a look at Acts 15.
Some Say Acts 15: Is About Being "Circumcised of the Heart"
For any descendent of Abraham, being "circumcised of the heart" is NOT a substitute for being physically circumcised . There is nothing in the New Testament which supercedes Genesis 17. For Israelites, to be physically circumcised is an everlasting obligation. However, the baptism of Cornelius in Acts 10 shows that God had changed the commandment in Exodus 12:48 that all gentile proselytes must be circumcised to participate in Passover, for very good reason.
Acts 15 The Validation of Non-Gentile Circumcision Under The New Covenant
As we'll see, Acts 15 shows how a council of elders resolved the question of whether devout gentile proselytes should be circumcised or not, following God's revelation to Peter in Acts 10 that he should not circumcise Cornelius' household and following Paul and Barnabus' experience in working with newly converted uncircumcised gentiles, who like Cornelius, were also exhibiting the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22) and had demonstrably been given gifts of the spirit (like speaking in tongues) by God Himself.
Acts 15:1 ¶ And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, (of the gentiles) Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, (i.e. Exodus 12:48) ye cannot be saved.
Very similar to the Galatian heresy don't you think?
2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.
Dropping down to:5
5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them (i.e. the gentiles) and to command them to keep the law of Moses (i.e. Exodus 12:48).
6 ¶ And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
7 And when there had been MUCH DISPUTING, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
Arguably if the Israelites had been able to bear the yoke of circumcision (as Peter referred to it), the (so called) "lost ten tribes" wouldn't be "lost".
11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
12 Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.
As Peter had seen God’s Spirit affecting Cornelius and his household and had been compelled to baptize them uncircumcised, Paul and Barnabus had seen similarly miraculous callings amongst other uncircumcised gentiles.
13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:
14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.
Notice that: “a people for HIS NAME”. Not “to take out of them a people for Abraham’s name” James is saying. Devout gentile proselytes aren’t Abraham’s descendents, they are the children of GOD HIMSELF. This is in complete accord with what Paul writes in Romans 8:14.
Rom 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (i.e. irrespective of whether we're children of Abraham or not), 17 and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,...(i.e. again irrespective of whether we're heirs of Abraham or not ).
Back to Acts 15:
15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,
16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:
17 That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, AND ALL THE GENTILES, UPON WHOM MY NAME IS CALLED (emphasis ours), saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.
18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
The next two verses add to some of the confusion on this subject:
19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
When James says "my sentence is, that we trouble not them" he's referring to the circumcision of devout gentile proselytes, as the context of this chapter and subsequent disputes in Romans and Galatians shows.
Some say that verse 20 means that gentile converts were only required to "abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood", and that therefore the obligations of the written Torah-law are not binding on gentiles.
James is quoting from the written Torah-law which placed these sorts of requirements on gentile proselytes as a minimum, as Unger shows:
"There were at all times strangers living in Israel to whom the Mosaic law did not grant the rights of citizenship, but to whom it did extend toleration and certain privileges, for which it obliged them to comply with certain of the religious enactments prescribed to Israel. They were required not to blaspheme the name of Jehovah (Leviticus 24:16), not to indulge in idolatrous worship (Leviticus 20:2), not to commit acts of indecency (Leviticus 18:26), not to work on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:10), not to eat leavened bread during the celebration of the Passover (Exodus 12:19), and not to eat blood or the flesh of animals that had died a natural death or had been torn by wild beasts (Leviticus 17:10,15)". (From "Proselytes" in The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)
So, what James is in fact saying is, "Since the experience of Peter at Cornelius' conversion in Acts 10: and since Paul and Barnabus' experience with uncircumcised Galatian gentile proselytes it is clear that God has shown that for for gentiles to be circumcised because of (Exodus 12:48) is no longer a pre-requisite for baptism. However, there are obligations on gentile proselytes in the written Torah-law which are entirely unaffected by this doctrinal change, and therefore remain valid.
So instead of "doing away with" the written Torah-law, James is actually emphasising the unchanged aspects of it. This is confirmed in the next verse.
21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being READ in the synagogues every sabbath day.
James is NOT saying the written Torah-law in the first five books of our Bibles is "done away". James is actually saying: gentile proselytes are completely aware of their remaining obligations because they hear the written Torah-law when they go to synagogue every Sabbath day. The fact that gentile proselytes attended synagogue services on the Sabbath is made clear in Acts 13:42-46.
Instead of abrogating the written Torah-law James, like Christ, is advocating it.
Malachi 3:6 "For I am the LORD, I do not change...NKJV
Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. NKJV
Next: Those "Of The Circumcision"
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© www.gentiles-and-circumcision.info Jan 2006.
Paul kept Nazirite vows & offered sacrifices at the temple many christian theologians believe, even after the crucifixion, so is the written Torah law really " done away" in Galatians ?