Daily Reading: Acts 15:1-5 also read Galatians 2.
“Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them. Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”
The identity of these Judaizers is provided in Acts 6:7; Acts 15:5, where it is made clear that they were priests of the sect of the Pharisees who had accepted the gospel, but were unwilling to give up the customs and ceremonies of Judaism.
To see in more detail how this situation of Acts 15 occurred we first need to study Galatians 2:1.
Paul focused teaching the Gospel. “I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles.” Gospel/(euaggelion) the glad tidings of salvation through Christ; the proclamation of the grace of God manifest and pledged in Christ. This is clearly in stark contrast to what “certain people” were teaching that “unless you are circumcised, you cannot be saved.”
We have an illustration of a grace preacher compared to a teacher of the law. The enemy would like to do nothing better (since he can’t touch your salvation), than to take your freedom in Christ and make you slaves to religious law (Galatians 2:4).
Do you know where the word religion comes from? It comes from the Latin word religare, which means “to tie, to bind.” Religion will try and bind you as a slave, but the relationship you have with Christ has set you free from religion (the works of the Law).
We have been given another picture of grace versus law, in the Greek word for freedom itself (eleutheria): liberty to do or omit things having no relationship to salvation. If you are not circumcised it doesn’t matter it makes no difference to your salvation you are in Christ (Titus) is an example (Galatians 2:3).
Different people are called to preach the Gospel in different places and to different people groups (Galatians 2:7). The point is not is the person circumcised or not circumcised- the point is that the message of the Gospel (the glad tidings of salvation through Christ; the proclamation of the grace of God manifest and pledged in Christ) is preached to all people.
See, the false teachers claimed to be of James and have James’ approval in the message they taught. Paul actually had the blessing of James- meaning the message of grace is the true Gospel the other is a counterfeit (Galatians 2:9).
Paul shares the true Gospel- Peter, Barnabas, and James once again find their freedom in Christ (Acts 15:7-21).