Consultation in Jerusalem
Passage: Acts 15:1–15:31
- The Problem
- Some Jews who professed faith in Christ believed that the New Covenant was a renewal of the Old Covenant. They believed Jesus was the Messiah, and his life, death, and resurrection restored God’s people to faithfulness to the Mosaic covenant. Therefore, if Gentiles wanted to come to the Messiah, they must first become Jews and be circumcised, observe kosher and Sabbath laws, etc.
- But is salvation by means of faith alone, on the basis of God’s grace alone, in Christ alone . . . or by faith in Jesus supplemented with observing the Law of Moses?
- On what basis should Gentiles enter the church (15:1–5)?
- The Discussion and Decision (15:6–21)
- The inclusion of the Gentiles was not a divine after-thought but foretold by the Old Testament prophets.
- Old Testament scripture itself confirmed the facts of the missionaries’ experience with the Gentiles.
- There was an ‘agreement’ between what God had done through his apostles and what he had said through his Old Testament prophets.
- Gentiles do not have to become Jews. Salvation for Jew and Gentile alike is by grace alone through faith alone in the Lord Jesus alone.
- However, Gentiles cannot remain pagan idolaters, either. They must turn from their pagan idolatrous past.
- The Reply and Joyful Reception (15:22–31)
The Spectrum of Views Regarding Jews, Gentiles, and the Mosaic Law*
- (Paul’s position – i.e., the biblical position!) Jews and Gentiles who have placed their faith in Jesus for salvation are not free from God’s demands, but neither are we under the stipulations of the Law Covenant of Moses. Instead, Jewish and Gentile believers are under the Law of Christ: that is, all the teachings of Jesus and his apostles, under the directing influence of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 9:19-23).
- Christian Jews who chose, at least most of the time, to be observant Jews. They didn’t see circumcision or kosher food laws as necessary for salvation, and they didn’t want that imposed on Gentile believers.
- Christian Jews who thought Jewish Christians should observe the Mosaic code, even if it was acceptable for Gentile believers not to see themselves as under its stipulations.
- Christian Jews who thought Jewish Christians should observe the Mosaic code, and that Gentile believers could come to Christ through faith alone, but the really spiritual should want to obey the Mosaic code, even if it wasn’t strictly necessary for salvation (the “false apostles” of 2 Cor. 10-13).
- (“Judiazers”) Jews who professed faith in Christ and believed that the New Covenant was a renewal of the Old Covenant. Jesus is the Messiah, and his life, death, and resurrection restored God’s people to faithfulness to the Mosaic Covenant. Therefore, if Gentiles want to come to the Messiah, they must first become Jews (and be circumcised, observe kosher and Sabbath laws, etc.) (Acts 15:1, 5)
* - Carson, D.A. “Love in Hard Places”; “ For the Love of God”; “That By All Means I Might Win Some”
- Moo, Douglas J “The Law of Christ as the Fulfillment of the Law of Moses: a Modified Lutheran View”