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Here Acts 15:1 will be explained to show how believers are deemed ‘saved’ before they are circumcised, and that the verse in no way abolishes the commandment of circumcision.
At the time, some dear zealous Pharisees who believed that Christ was Messiah, sadly incorrectly still thought it was the circumcision which meant a person was ‘saved’ and resulted in the conversion of a person.
For reference, even still today conversion in traditional Judaism (those who do not yet believe in Messiah), takes place after the circumcision.
With this, believers are further instructed not to force other believers to be circumcised. They will however, naturally seek and desire to be circumcised as they come to the knowledge of the commandment – as this means they are trying to uphold the Law of Moses with their faith.
Acts 15:1-2 read as follows;
‘Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”
2 … Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them…’
Acts 15:1-2 NASB
Here, a person may now incorrectly conclude that ‘circumcision has been abolished’, When it says ‘Paul and Barnabas had… debate them’ – however, such a position is incorrect, and let us now civilly share why.
Acts 15:1 Is For Context; ‘saved’
‘Saved’ is the last word of verse 1, and it sets the context for what follows it.
Here, some of the believers who belonged to the party of the believing Pharisees, Pharisees who are believers (v.5), may have incorrectly thought at the time that a person is saved or declared righteous by their works upfront; they thought ‘saved because of their circumcision’.
This is the cause for the civil disagreement in verse 2. It should also be noted that in no place does the passage abolish circumcision.
In Acts 15:5 we see that some of the believing Pharisees may have been approaching the law of Moses in a somewhat unbalanced manner. Perhaps these zealous people were being too heavily of the opinion that one’s own works make one completely righteous before G-d, and thus neglected the value of faith.
‘…“It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.”’
(Acts 15:5 NASB)
The context here is thr Pharisees who believed were thinking ‘works to be saved’ (v.2), and such is an impossible approach, as the requirement for everlasting salvation is faith – believing in Messiah (Christ);
The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.
Deuteronomy 18:15 NIV
‘…a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’’
(Isaiah 28:16 ESV)
‘…Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,’
(Ephesians 2:20 ESV)
‘…You believe in God ; believe also in me.’
(John 14:1 NIV)
This brings us to Acts 15:8.
In verse 8-9 we see that new believing Gentiles are actually divinely converted prior to being circumcised – before their works, by their faith in Christ (Messiah);
8 And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; 9 and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.
Acts 15:8-9 NASB
Later, in verses 10-11 we then see that the disciples clearly state that it is not necessary to circumcise new believers on the impossible approach that ‘such a work will save them’ – rather, they diligently uphold the law and were believing for saving grace from God as Christ prays (Isaiah 53:12, Zechariah 12:10) for them;
But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
Acts 15:11 ESV
Planning A Circumcision?
With regard to anaesthetic; the writer highly encourages a local injection – as opposed to a general anaesthetic which puts a person to sleep. This also means that the patient will be concious of all in the medical room during the procedure. Shalom.
From the explanation we can understand that Acts 15:1-2 does not abolish the commandment of circumcision. Rather the context is that ‘relying on our works to be saved, instead of our believing in Christ – is an incorrect approach’.
We can also gather all of this context from the last word of verse 1, which is ‘saved’.
This explanation also shares the context for the Apostle Paul and Barnabas civilly, and correctly not agreeing with some people whom may have sadly thought differently to the workings of the gospel, with regard to approach, at the time.
‘…the righteous will live by his faith.’
(Habakkuk 2:4 NASB)
May the Holy G-d bless you, beyond maximum believing in His risen Son the Lord Jesus Christ (Adonai Yehoshua HaMoshiach). Amen.
Biblical Copyright Translation Disclaimer
“Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
“Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are from the New American Standard Bible® (NASB), copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.Lockman.org ”
“Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Standard Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™”
“Scripture quotations marked (OJB) are from the Orthodox Jewish Bible Copyright Artists for Israel Intl. Used by permission © The Orthodox Jewish Bible fourth edition, OJB. Copyright 2002, 2003, 2008, 2010, 2011 by Artists for Israel International, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”