Jerusalem Council–Divisions Re: Circumcision

Time has no divisions to mark its passage; there is never a thunderstorm to announce the beginning of a new year. It is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols. (Source Unknown). … More

Divisions

It is difficult for many people to be convinced that salvation through faith in Christ alone is enough.  Our temptation is to establish standards, practices, and regulations in addition to faith. This is what Paul and his co-workers faced at this Jerusalem conference, which was about 20 years after Pentecost. This division started when some legalistic Jewish teachers came to Antioch and taught, that in order to be saved, a person had to be circumcised and obey the law (v. 1). In other words, you must first become Jews in order to become Christians. Paul and Barnabas knew that this was not simply an issue of fellowship, but was one of the fundamental doctrines of salvation by grace versus salvation by works. It was decided to send Paul and Barnabas and a few others to Jerusalem to discuss this problem with the apostles and the church leaders (v. 2).

These men told how many Gentiles had turned to the Lord (v. 3). When the men arrived in Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church, including the apostles and the leaders (v. 4). At this point some Pharisees who had become followers of the Lord stood up and said, “Gentiles who have faith in the Lord must be circumcised and told to obey the Law of Moses” (v. 5). We must realize that the Jews in the Old Testament lived under the law. This law affected every part of their lives from the time they rose in the morning until they went to bed at night. It consisted not only of the Ten Commandments, but also of laws concerning the kind of clothing they wore, and dietary laws concerning foods.

This problem may not meet us today in precisely the same way; but we can still find divisions between classes of people, between nationalities, and between color of skin. We can only realize the true meaning of Christianity when all middle walls of partition are broken down. More than one Spirit-filled servant of God has had to enter open doors of opportunity without the support of churches and religious leaders.

Application

Every person must make the decision that was made at this Jerusalem council. Salvation is completely by grace, and is not dependent on my works in any way (Eph. 2:8, 9). Praise the Lord. He came to save sinners and not good people! Otherwise I would never make it to Heaven.

Acts 15:1-5 (English Standard Version)

But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, "It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses."

View this passage in NIV (Bible Gateway) »

More Acts commentaries

Acts 12:1-11
Continual Prayer Brings Results

Acts 12:12-17
Prayers Answered – Oh We of Little Faith!

Acts 12:18-25
God’s Judgment on King Herod (Agrippa I)

Acts 13:1-3
Barnabas and Saul Commissioned for Missionary Service

Acts 13:4-12
Saul (Paul) Confronts a Sorcerer at Cyprus

Acts 13:13-31
Paul and Barnabas Say Farewell to John Mark

Acts 13:32-41
Paul Preaches the Gospel Including Christ’s Resurrection

Acts 13:42-52
Gentiles Receptive to Paul’s Message – Jews Become Envious

Acts 14:1-7
Opposition/Rejection From the Iconium Crowd

Acts 14:8-12
Paul and Barnabas Refute People’s Worship

Acts 14:13-20
From "God” to "Stoning” – Paul Still Committed to Preach

Acts 14:21-28
Paul and Barnabas Share their Ministry with Supporters

Acts 15:1-5
Jerusalem Council–Divisions Re: Circumcision

Acts 15:6-11
Jerusalem Council–Discussion Re: Moses’ Law

Acts 15:12-18
Jerusalem Council–Decisions Based on God’s Word

Acts 15:19-29
Jerusalem Council–Decisions for Unity

Acts 15:30-41
Paul and Barnabas Disagree About John Mark

Acts 16:1-5
Paul & Timothy – New Ministry Duo

Acts 16:6-10
Paul – Flexibility in the Itinerary

Acts 16:11-15
Lydia–Conversion to Christ and Hospitality Offered

Acts 16:16-34
Paul & Silas – Praising God While In Prison

Acts 16:35-40
Paul’s Ministry Produces "People” Change

Acts 17:1-9
Paul & Silas – Trust God’s Strategy for Ministry

Acts 17:10-15
Obstacles that Hinder the Work of the Lord

Acts 17:16-34
Religion ... Ridicule ... Results

Acts 18:1-4
Paul Adapts to His Audience

Acts 18:5-11
Opposition Enhances Ministry Results

Acts 18:12-17
Paul’s Roman Citizenship On Trial

Acts 18:18-23
God Works His Will in His Servants

Acts 18:24-28
Tactfulness–Words That Work Mightily