The division between Jewish and Gentile believers has been one of the most stubborn thorn’s in the foot of the church .The real issue or works was the issue of circumcision not the law as a whole .
The early church from its official inception since the day of Pentecost was made up of mainly Jews. This means that most of them still kept the law ,the ten commandments and the other obligations.
Since it was made up of Jews there was no need to delve into the issues of keeping the law .So the Apostles taught them the doctrine of Christ all that Jesus had taught them. However they knew that they were saved BY GRACE .
That is why the Jewish Non- believers hated them because they declared the name of Jesus when they, non believers wanted to declare the name, Moses. Yet Jesus did not destroy Moses and Moses prophesied about Jesus.
FYI, the word church IS NOT A NEW TESTAMENT TERM PER SE. The nation of Israel was the congregation, the church in the wilderness , just as we are also in the wilderness today .THAT IS WHY ALL BORN AGAIN PEOPLE BECOME PART OF ISRAEL AND BECOME JEWS.
This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and [with] our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:
So the Non believing Israelites were seen as lost as the New Testament called for belief in Jesus Christ to be saved and not circumcision.
Peter’s first sermon proves it all. He called people to repent and be baptized and believe in Jesus all as prerequisites to receive the Holy Spirit. He was preaching to Jews who had come from all over the world to celebrate Pentecost a Jewish Feast.
So the Jewish believers grew under the stewardship of the Apostles .However they had conflicts amongst the Diaspora Jews and the Home Bound Jews where widows of one group were being neglected .The Apostles in God’s wisdom chose administrators to deal with the house keeping issues as they remain focused on the word and prayer.
Now according to church historians the church was largely Jewish for 9 years until God visited Gentile believers at the house of Cornelius .
For this Dynamic change to happen God had to minster to Peter in a vision telling Peter to eat unclean animals .Peter, being a Jew ,knew that it was sin to eat unclean animals. Yet the issue was not to encourage him to eat the unclean animals but a parable of joining the Gentiles who will also believe in Jesus, the other sheep who were not of the fold.
So Peter did the daring and preached in the house of Gentile Cornelius and the Holy spirit fell on the Gentiles as the day of Pentecost. Those who accompanied Peter, Jews, were amazed that at what could have been to them de ja vu .
Peter ordered for their baptism and reported the matter to the church in Jerusalem.
THE ACCEPTANCE OF THE GENTILE BELIEVERS
This was a very significant event happening in the eyes of the leaders of the church .How could they handle it ?
Gentiles were ANTI-LAW . They did not circumcise, they ate anything , had no rules about sexual relations as such .They were “living life “..liberal.
Jews whether believer or non-believer were Conservative since they had the Torah that governed all aspects of Life. Of course they never followed it to the letter but they would fall back to it in case of a dispute.
So God raised up another Jew this time a hardliner and loyalist to the Law . Paul .
Paul ‘s ministry is so revolutionary because one cannot think that a strict conservative would drop his interpretation of faith .
Yet Paul was endowed by God with grace to explain to the church the reason why Gentile believers and Jewish believers are ONE.
After his conversion he preached in Gentile lands but did not go to Jerusalem where the Church leadership was based until the first general meeting.
THE ACTS 15 MEETING.—- THE GENTILE QUESTION
To dissect this chapter well let us determine;
WHAT WAS THE DISPUTE :
1.Whether Circumcision is necessary for Salvation
2.Whether Believers should keep the Law for Salvation
Acts 15: 1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
WHAT WAS THE EVIDENCE FOR CIRCUMCISION FOR SALVATION
1.The Law of Moses, The Law of God..it is clearly written in the Torah(the first five books of Moses) that the uncircumcised should be cut off and have no part in the covenant of Abraham.
WHAT WAS THE EVIDENCE AGAINST CIRCUMCISION FOR SALVATION
1.Witness no1 , Peter—- Testified that Gentiles received the Holy Ghost, the seal of salvation without Circumcision..if circumcision was the key to salvation, then the Gentiles should not have received the Holy Spirit.
2.That calling the Gentiles to be circumcised was putting a heavy yoke on them
3.That the act of Gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit clearly showed that God had put no difference amongst them, Jews and Gentile believers. Gentile believers, uncircumcised, became Legitimate children of Abraham.
4.That we shall be saved through the grace of God Jews and Gentiles .The Jews did not receive the Holy Spirit because they were circumcised , they received the Holy Spirit because of the grace of God which comes from faith in Jesus Christ .
Peter’s testimony silenced the church and gave room for Paul and Barnabas to give evidence of Gentile conversion.
James who happened to be like the judge of the whole dispute validated Peter’s testimony with the scriptures , the wrings of the prophets.
This means he accepted the fact that Gentiles , uncircumcised ,shall be saved because the holy prophets of old prophesied about it.
1.Do not trouble the Gentiles that have turned to God.
2.but that they the apostles and elders write unto them that they abstain that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood
REASONING OF THE JUDGMENT
The orders made to the Gentiles arose from the Law of Moses .This is because Moses was still the scriptures believers were reading (and should still be read today ).
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. Acts 15:19-21
Moreover Believers still heard Moses on Sabbath day NOT SUNDAY. (Let us smash that false history that the church made a New sabbath called Sunday because Jesus rose on that day.)
It is through the reading of the Torah the nations knew who Jews were as the laws define the people and so do customs.
This is why Israel is the nation of God because they were given God’s law. The physical temple is a replica of the heavenly temple.
However there are no writings of circumcision in heaven or different foods because heaven has EVERYTHING HOLY with the angels and the saints who are one in God but on earth ,we have diverse nations hence diverse gods and sin has corrupted the world that was once good.
That is why the Law came after sin. Sin caused all man to be separated from God and so God had to separate for himself a people and he did it by giving the laws which explained what God hates and loves and how men should live with one another.
ENFORCING THE JUDGMENT
The letters were written t the Gentile believers whose headquarter was Antioch; and not Rome as some false church historians want people to believe. Also to Christians in Syria and Cilicia where Paul had preached but the Circumcision Salvation preachers also preached and brought confusion in the church.
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:
It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.
For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
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.
So the issue was settled but this marked a great division in the church until today.
One of the reasons why the settlement still did not heal the rift in the church was because some believers were jealous of Paul . “Paul had just been a persecutor of the church and now he is coming to lecture the church ?”-they thought to themselves.
Thus Paul’s name was maligned and Paul’s epistles all deal with this issue of Circumcision and clearly disproving those who supported Circumcision for Salvation .
The end result of the meeting was that Paul was called the Apostle to the Gentiles(Uncircumcision) while Peter and James Apostles to the Jews (Circumcision).
Not that Paul had not tried to evangelize to his brothers. He did .With tears. He faced stiff opposition even though they respected his scholarship in Jewish Law.
DID THEY CREATE TWO LAWS FOR THE CHURCHES? JERUSALEM OR ANTIOCH
1.No. They actually told Gentiles not circumcise but keep the orders they had given them.
2.Those same orders already applied to Jewish believers as Moses was always read every sabbath to them
3.Salvation is by GRACE… NOT BY LAW…this was the most important statement that came from James and Peter considered the pillars of the Jewish church in Jerusalem.
1.The Apostles did not destroy the Law since they read from it every sabbath
2.The Apostles declared that Salvation is THROUGH GRACE
3.The Apostles declared that through the Holy Spirit,there is no difference between Jews and Gentile believers.
Next time we will see how the Law issue arose when Paul was called by the Apostles to keep a certain custom in the Law , yet we know that they were saved by grace.