Acts 15:4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. 5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. 6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. 7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
This is the passage of scripture which records the very first council of the church. It set guidelines for understanding what of the Old Testament traditions should be maintained in the new Christian era. You will find the decree listed in verses twenty three through twenty nine of this chapter. And this is where the Gentiles were relieved from what the Apostle Paul calls the weak and beggarly elements of Jewish tradition. (Gal. 4:9).
And it was well received, not being a hinderance, nor binding consciences, but granting joy and liberty in following Christ. For we read in Acts 16:4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. 5 And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.
We must be very careful in not allowing priestcraft to raise its ugly head among us, but seek for those ministers who are helpers of our joy! 2 Corin. 1:24 Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand. 1 Peter 5:3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
The desire to practice Jewish tradition is a very strong and deceptive spirit! Entire religions are built upon their ceremonies and pageantry! 2 Peter 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
The problem arose from the coming together of two kinds of believers from very different backgrounds. The Jewish believers came from a lifestyle of a strong consciousness of the law of Moses. But the Gentiles had no such formal training!
The Apostle Paul addresses this in his Roman letter. Romans 2:9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: 11 For there is no respect of persons with God. 12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; 13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. 14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: 15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) 16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
Paul here, first lists out that both the evil Jew and Gentile alike shall receive God’s tribulation and anguish. Then he states that both the good Jew and Gentile alike shall be recipients of God’s honor and peace! So both are the same in these matters. But then he comes to the matter of their relation to the law. And he states that it is not the one who hears the law, but that one who obeys what is written therein that is justified before God. So although they have both come from varied backgrounds, and from different experiences in the hearing of the law, that is not the issue! The issue is that one, even like the Gentiles, who was never brought up in the law, will keep the law when the Holy Spirit writes it upon the fleshly tables of their hearts! For the Holy Spirit is lawful, whether in himself, or whether he is dwelling within the heart of man! And any man, no matter the background from which he came, will act lawfully with the Holy Spirit creating a new nature within him!
Regenerate Gentiles are spiritual Jews!
And as far as those who keep the law by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, born again Gentiles are true Jews! Romans 2:26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? 28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
For we are the true children of Abraham, not by compliance to the ceremonial law, but by the faith of Christ! Galatians 3:6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. 7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
Our Lord himself clearly proclaimed that it was not his natural kin, even his own mother, who were truly his relations, but it was obedient believers! Luke 8:19 Then came to him his mother and his brethren, and could not come at him for the press. 20 And it was told him by certain which said, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee. 21 And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.
Christ is not to ever be known again according to the flesh! 2 Corin. 5:16 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. 17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
All sinners are alike!
We also find Peter’s two words, (the words which form our title), in the Apostle Paul’s Roman letter. Romans 3:22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
The Prophet Isaiah also instructs us of this. Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. All men, whether Jew or Gentile, have one thing in common. We have all gone astray from the righteousness of God. We have all denied the glory of God in defacing God’s image invested in us! In this, no one nation, or people is different from any other!
Dear Reader, there are no holy, no noble unregenerate Jews! There are no noble unregenerate Gentiles! Romans 3:9 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; 10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
THE elect “nation” now is the church, not national Israel! It is in speaking to “you which believe,” that the Apostle Peter applies this description! But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: (1 Peter 2:9). And then he deals with “them which be disobedient” – NOT specifying either Jew or Gentile! And to those disobedient, of whatever nationality, he states that Christ, the corner stone of the true building (the church), becomes to them a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. (1 Peter 2:8).
Listen to what the Lord himself stated to the nation of Israel: Luke 13:34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! 35 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. That house of which he speaks is their temple! And he makes it clear that he shall no more deal with them as a nation.
They will now only come to say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, in personal, individual regeneration, just like any other sinner. The Apostle Paul deals with this in Romans eleven, as he speaks of God being able to graft them, as individuals believers, back into the tree of salvation as individual branches. Paul also reminds them that the root of Abraham’s faith sustains all believers, and that Abraham was formerly an uncircumcised Gentile! Romans 4:11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:
Not a single individual was ever saved by keeping the law!
Neither King David, the man after God’s own heart, nor Noah, nor Elijah, not even Moses, whom God used to write the law, is in heaven right now because of their keeping the law! For that is not even the purpose of the law! Romans 3:19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
The law stopped all mouths from declaring the heart’s righteousness outside of Christ. The law causes everyone to know of their guilt before God. And the law is a school master to direct one to Christ for salvation! Gal. 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
Man’s works of righteous are as filthy rags in the sight of God! (Isa. 64:6). We are saved by grace alone, through the gift of faith alone! Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. We are not saved OF works! but most assuredly UNTO good works! Like the tail of the dog. Call the dog and the tail will follow with him. If God calls a man effectually by his grace, the fruit of the Spirit will follow him!
Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
May God have mercy! Pastor Gene Breed.
September 3, 2010.