What the Old Testament Says
In this post, I am going to talk about a key topic concerning the Law that is addressed in the Book of Acts. We see the Law of Circumcision brought into effect in Genesis 17:10-14 (NKJV), “This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised, and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”. As we get into the fifteenth chapter of Acts, we will see that the Jews and Gentiles are going to debate whether this is still necessary or not. Keep in mind the Gentiles do not participate in the Law of Circumcision.
Conflict Arises in the Book of Acts
In Acts 15:1 we see that men from Judea came with a desire to modify Paul’s approach of the Gentiles (non-Jews) salvation. In the following verse, we see after they have a discussion with Paul and Barnabas no agreement is made, and they decide to go to the church in Jerusalem to see what the leaders say. On their way to the church in Jerusalem, we see that Paul and Barnabas tell them about the conversion of the Gentiles and they are joyful to hear it. This is a reminder of how important our own personal testimonies are.
In Acts 15:4-5 they are received by the church in Jerusalem; however, we see the Pharisees rise and argue that circumcision is necessary and should be mandated to the Gentiles. Even though some of these people are believers in Jesus Christ, they still believe in circumcision. This is because they do not fully grasp what freedom we have attained from Jesus Christ dying on the Cross and conquering the grave. Jesus told us in John 8:36 (NKJV), “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”. If we are made free through Jesus Christ, then we are free indeed!
Don’t Question God’s True Work
While there is much debating going on between the leaders of the church, we see in Acts 15:6-12 that Peter rises and reminds them that God told them to preach the Gospel to Gentiles. He also reminds them that when the Gospel was preached to the Gentiles that it was accepted. We also know that they received the Holy Spirit also, and the Holy Spirit is the person who does the work in our lives the moment we believe as a new creation. Since the Jews and Gentiles receive the same Holy Spirit, the conversion pattern is the same! Paul tells us in Galatians 3:26-29 (KNJV), “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”. If God is truly working behind something or through someone, then we should not challenge it. Peter also reminds them that salvation is through the grace of Christ by faith in Him. We need this because whether one is a Jew or Gentile, we cannot satisfy the requirements of the law.
What do the OT Prophets Say?
In Acts 15:13-21 we see James begins to speak and reminds them Amos 9:11-12 (NKJV), “On that day I will raise up The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, And repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old; That they may possess the remnant of Edom, And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,” Says the Lord who does this thing.””. After James reminds them of this, we see that this becomes accepted by the church that there is no more need for circumcision. However, if we are born again our circumcision is of the heart.
News for Antioch
In Acts 15:22-29, we see two leading men of Jerusalem get sent back to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. These two men are Judas and Silas. They go with Paul and Barnabas to back up the results of what the church in Jerusalem decided. A letter also gets sent with them stating there is no need for circumcision as some had previously debated. However, they do write a few moral conduct rules, which include abstaining from sexual immorality, idol worship, and the blood of animals. The people of Antioch are encouraged by this letter that was read to them.
Dealing with Conflict
Lastly in Acts 15:36-41, we see after Paul and Barnabas stay and teach in Antioch. Then they decide to revisit the areas they preached in before to see how they are doing. Paul and Barnabas do have a disagreement about who they want to bring with them, they do not settle on an agreement but go their own ways. They could have let their disagreement hinder them from continuing, but they did not. We as a church should neither let small disagreements stop us from being the church! Paul and Barnabas do split up on good terms and go separately to Syria and Cilicia.
You have just seen a transition take place in the Book of Acts, which is when the law of circumcision is no longer in effect as agreed upon by the church in Jerusalem. Romans 2:28-29 (ESV) tells us, “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.”. Circumcision takes place in the heart when we are born again, it is now a spiritual thing and no longer a thing made by hands. The circumcision in the Old Testament had a purpose to point to Jesus. When you go through the New Testament you will often see footnotes to Old Testament Scriptures. I would highly encourage you to study those as often as you can. When you do you will begin to see how everything in the Old Testament points us to Jesus Christ!