Acts Devotionals

Born into the Kingdom

We started off yesterday asking the question … “How do we know something is genuine?” The purpose for this question is to go further and ask … “How do you know a conversion is genuine?” The passage we are digging into is

Ac 15:1 Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 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. 3 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 brothers very glad. 4 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. 5 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 obey the law of Moses.”

We are pondering on the insistence the men from the Party of the Pharisees placed upon Gentile believers teaching the need to be circumcised … “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”

1) In Judaism, circumcision was part of the Mosaic Law. It was a requirement given to Abraham for himself, his offspring and their descendants.

Ge 17:9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

This rite was practiced faithfully and religiously and in essence it celebrated God’s choice of the nation to be His special people, marked by circumcision. There was nothing wrong with this at all. The problem was, the rite became works apart from faith. You see, the covenant was intended to be by faith and this was ignored as the nation slumped into spiritual decay and lethargy. Their faith was in circumcision, making them God’s children and not faith in God to be His through an intimate relationship! Is this not a problem today in the Church? Many have faith in what they do and do not exercise faith in God for their salvation! It’s faith in their tithing and serving, faith in their baptism and confirmation, faith in their churchmanship and membership … but sadly no faith in God!

I met up with a fine man today who is the chairman of a denomination’s ordination board. He was speaking about America in general and South Carolina in specific. He said that most of the Church (Christianity) became nominal as the years past after a period of great spiritual blessings to the point where today at least three quarters of those who were Churched say they are not Christian at all! One’s faith needs to be in God not in any rites we do or perform.

2) Faith was always the requirement. Take a look at this:

Dt 30:1 When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, 2 and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, 3 then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. 4 Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back. 5 He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. 6 The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.

It seems as though this passage looks down the line towards the dispersion of both Israel and Judah into exile. Some of Judah returns … but maybe the main focus could be on Pentecost, where through the Gospel, people from all nations are brought to God. This is through the Gospel not works … it is through faith … see verse 2 … return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul … and verse 6 … The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. The way of redemption was always through faith in God, not in works!

3) Taking it into Christianity. Very often people feel the Old Testament is not part of Christianity! How wrong they are. We have one God and one Holy Bible. What starts in Genesis one and ends in Revelation Twenty-Two is all about the same God and His salvific plan. Let me prove this with reference to the topic at hand:

Ro 2:28 A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.

This is the exact teaching from Moses in Deuteronomy. Salvation is not a circumcision issue, it is a heart matter! Circumcision of the heart is the same as redemption through the Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Tomorrow we shall return and see the problem those of the Party of the Pharisees were creating in the Early Church and how this could have destabilized Gospel Ministry amongst the Gentile believers. For today though, in what or whom is your faith for salvation? Is it in baptism or confirmation, is it in Church membership or service … or is it in the Lord Jesus Christ and His penal, substitutional, sacrificial death at Calvary for the forgiveness of sin and the redemption of your soul? May it be that your heart has been circumcised by the Holy Spirit! He alone is the giver of life. He births all believers into Jesus’ Eternal Kingdom. Has this happened to you?

Our Lord, God and Father, thank You that our trust in not in works but in You and what You have done for us at Calvary. May love, trust, service and joy grow in our hearts as we seek to live for Your glory alone. Amen.

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