Journal Acts 15 (all references are from the ESV; changes in punctuation are mine)
Scripture: “But some men came down from Judea (to Antioch) 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 (at Antioch), they passed through 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 (Paul and Barnabas) 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.” Acts 15:1-5
Observation: It is this kind of stuff that causes division, dissention, and denominations.
Analysis: Reviewing the story so far, Paul and Barnabas are in Antioch, preaching the Kingdom and the Grace of God; maybe doing a miracle or two, just like in Lystra.
Some guys from Judea, are crowding into their territory, teaching authoritatively, that the brothers need to be circumcised to be saved. Who and what should the Lystra church believe?
This kind of deliberation is tough, especially if young believers are around—but it doesn’t help ungrounded older believers either. Hopefully the newbies are sponges at this age, but who will protect them from bad doctrine and stinking thinking?
What happened, then, with Paul and Barnabas is that they were dispatched to Jerusalem to bring the matter before the Apostles and Elders at the Jerusalem church. Eventually wisdom broke out and the subject of circumcision was set aside (but not forever, nor at all places). While this was put to the side back then, this current age has a similar issue: “Is water baptism essential for salvation?” Is this a stretch? I don’t think so. There have been folks that left this local church because “Salvation” and “Water Baptism as necessity” wasn’t linked hard enough to suit them.
What is it? Was being circumcised essential for Jesus to recognize one of his? Is being water baptized essential for Jesus to recognize one of his? Of course not. Grace is Grace. So, if it is not necessary from the Trinitarian God point of view, to whom’s POV does it matter?
So, what is the point? This post is not to make decisions, it is to say, THINK!! I have to keep thinking about the Scriptures; to consider them reverently, thoroughly, methodically and never stop. It is God’s Word, and the reader is emphatically encouraged to study and deliberate. (c. Ps 119)
Have conversations about God’s Word. Savor it with each other. Exalt it more than scores and statistics. After all,
“Where can I go, Lord? Only you have the words of Life.”
Prayer: I am nodding off in my chair writing this. But I have to write. It captures my soul.
Bore down in my heart, O God, make my will, thine.
Keep newbies in the Faith protected with Good and Sound Doctrine—keep them from ravenous wolves.
Bring revival, heal this land.