Scripture: “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.”
The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said…” Acts 15:1-7a
Observation: Even in the early church there are “those” people just hanging around, ready to express their opinion, not going along with anything. And that is not so bad to have. During any discussion or debate, the baseline is always the Word of God. However, sometimes you have important issues to talk about…
Analysis: “Gentiles, you cannot be saved unless you submit to circumcision.”
“Wait a minute! What was this Saved by Grace spiel you gave me? This sounds an awful like a “work”—and a work that has some immediate and intimate outcomes to consider…”
No circumcision: No Salvation.
What is its counterpart today? Maybe, No baptism: No Salvation?
Either one, when it is drawn down to the binary choice involved, looks pretty dumb on the face of it.
I appreciate the working of the early church described above. Here’s the dynamic duo of the 1st century, Paul and Barnabas, putting up a strong argument and debate (key word) about the issue. The local church cannot decree a decision, so they send Paul, Barnabas, and a number of other folks to the head church of Jerusalem where more argument, debate, and discussion occurred.
Finally, Peter, having gathered all the data, gets up and says….
Peter’s decree doesn’t matter for this post. What does matter is the broad process involved—it is talked about among the local church leaders. Sometimes there isn’t a consensus or agreement. If not, it needs to be either tabled and/or booted up the ladder.
Recently I had communicated an opinion of “stuff” to the leaders of our local church. I didn’t mean it to come out nasty but, I realize from a distance of time it could have tilted in a wrong way.
Point is that the leadership and I talked through it and we are much better now. Good study and good understanding come from good conversations and humbleness. Do I want to be right in my opinions or do I want to espouse the Word of God rightly?
From what I see, the guys of the circumcision are stuck (“If it was good enough for me, it is good enough for them”) and the guys of the Pharisees are also stuck (“Obey the law of Moses and yadda, yadda”).
What is going to be interesting is what Paul argues about being not needed today is exactly what he does to Timothy tomorrow.
Prayer: Father, make me always lean to transparency and candor, in the Love of Christ and by the unction of the Holy Spirit. Do you know how hard that is? Of course you do for that is why one of the first things you teach is “Do not lean on your own understanding…” AMEN and AMEN.