Acts 15:1-21 (web)
Conflict with the Legalists
"Unless you are circumcised after the custom of Moses, you can't be saved."
15:2 Therefore when Paul and Barnabas had no small discord and discussion with them,
they appointed Paul and Barnabas, and some others of them,
to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about this question.
15:3 They, being sent on their way by the assembly,
passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles.
They caused great joy to all the brothers.
15:4 When they had come to Jerusalem,
"Brothers, you know that a good while ago God made choice among you,15:12 All the multitude kept silence, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul
reporting what signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.
15:13 After they were silent, James answered,
"Brothers, listen to me.
vs 5 Luke writing in an historic sense speaks of these Pharisees as "believers" referring simply to their association with the Christian community. But Paul writes of this incident in Galatians 2 saying
"Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you."Gal 2:3-5Here he calls these same people "false brothers". For he was writing what they really were not simply what they called themselves.
The church of Jerusalem had false brethren infiltrating the ranks whose objective was to change the gospel so as to bring the Christian community under the bondage of the Law as they saw it. And there are many such people even today in the Christian community. What I find interesting is that the leaders of that church - James, Peter and John apparently were either unaware such infiltration was going on, or simply not willing to deal with it until Paul has to finally come to deal with it himself. Such false brothers would certainly not have been tolerated as far as Paul was concerned. The weakness of the leaders of the Jerusalem church was again evident in Galatians as Paul rebukes Peter.
"When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group." Gal 2:11,12Let us not fear those who oppose the gospel of grace, who seek to bring us into bondage. Let us oppose them. For example you may have people today proposing that you must be water baptized and keep a Sabbath to be saved. While customs and rituals have a place in the Christian life, dependence upon such for salvation is a misconception of the basic concept of salvation by grace.
vs 7-11 Peter makes reference to Acts 10 in which he preaches to Cornelius, a Roman centurion. This dispute should have been put to rest long before when Cornelius was converted. For I don't perceived that he was required to be circumcised after his conversion. In fact I wonder what happened to him. For though living in Israel it doesn't appear that he being uncircumcised would be welcomed into the church at Jerusalem. Furthermore despite Peter defending Paul on the matter, we can see an "us" versus "them" mentality when he speaks of Gentile believers, except for in verse 10 when he simply refers to them as "disciples". I wonder if in reality Peter was not as prejudice as he appeared, but rather was simply using figures of speech acceptable to the racist Jews.
vs 12 Paul & Barnabus' Affirmation:
vs 13-21 James's Argument:
vs 16 James references the prophet Amos. The prophecy was given before Israel's Assyrian captivity. One might view the literal fulfillment took place when Zerubbabel returned from captivity to rebuild the temple in accordance with the commission of Cyrus King of Persia. The restoration of Israel to the promise land prepared an environment in which the Messiah would come. Having come he established his people and now the he was drawing the Gentiles to God. Or viewing it more spiritually one might say that the rebuilding of the tabernacle of David was the building of the Christian church into which Gentiles had now been introduced. The gist of this is that God is doing a work as was foretold and let's not interfere.
vs 19-20 This is the origin of Catholicism. Peter had noted that justification by law was too difficult to attain, even for Jews, and thus salvation is by grace apart from Law. Peter agreed with Paul. James did not. Instead, rather than abandon the Law as a means for justification, James picked up on what Peter said about the Law being too difficult to follow and what James did was to cherry pick from the law and made salvation contingent upon his arbitrary cherry picked regulations so to make it easier for Gentiles to be saved through law, just as Catholics do with regards to their Canon Law which they develop through their Vatican councils. In fact Catholic theologians reference this event in Acts to justify their tinkering with the Gospel.
James made salvation contingent upon the follow.
What arrogance this man had to say, "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult ..." Who the hell do you think you are to tinker with the gospel? Jesus made the gospel. Who are you to suggest it be remade in your image.
Now if this was the regulations he imposed on the Gentiles, then what of the Jews? There's little doubt in my mind that the James thought justification for the Jews was by the Law of Moses and that James himself was involved with the cult of the circumcision, who even held positions of leadership in the church at Jerusalem who declared as verse 5 indicates, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses." It's like James is saying that Jews must be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses to be saved, but we'll make it easier on Gentiles by just making their salvation contingent upon compliance to certain regulations, like not eating meat of strangled animals.
Jesus nullified the dietary commandments in Peter's vision which was in reference to Gentile believers, commanding "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." Acts 10:15 Although not explicitly referring to meats sacrificed to idols, strangled animals, and blood. But the principle applies. For Paul goes on to write: "As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean." Romans 14:14These are directly contrary to Jame's instructions. In 1Cor 8 Paul views eating meat sacrificed to idols to be just a matter of the conscience and that doing such is OK as long as you don't defile the conscience of the weaker brother. Again no reference in 1Cor 8 to Jame's command. "Food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do." 1Cor 8:8 And contrary to James's decree Paul teaches, "Eat anything sold in the meat market " 1Cor 10:25 Yet James makes a big deal about food. But Paul writes that "the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit," Rom 14:17