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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 works make one righteous, and neglecting 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 ‘works to be saved’ (v.2), and such is an impossible approach, as to achieve such this the righteous requirement of the law must be , and that is to;
‘…keep all my commands always…’
(Deuteronomy 5:29 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
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, and not 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 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). Omayn (Amen).