Acts Devotionals


There is such danger in listening to people tell their religious stories and beliefs because sadly, so many are gullible, believing just about anything “religious” they hear. What astounds me is that so many people who are educated and thinking tend to fall into false doctrinal beliefs. When they do this, they become what the commentator quoted yesterday said … they becomes the “rank and file” of religion. This happened in the Early Church in Jerusalem. Many Jews were part of the uncounted number who believed in Jesus, but their hearts were not converted and they spread false information about Paul’s teaching. They were those zealous for the law! Some called them Christian Zealots. They were legalists. Religion to them was all about works. There was not heart in it and not faith. Today many so called “Christian Zealots” roam through the Churches seeking to corrupt the pastor’s teaching. Please read again

Ac 21:21 They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. 22 What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, 23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. 25 As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.” 26 The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.

We have already said that James and the elders were anxious about what these “zealous for the law” were saying about Paul and his teaching. Now, as mentioned before, the Book of Acts is not intended to be a commentary on Christian doctrine, though there is so much doctrine in it. Another matter is that the Bible provides us with an absolutely true reflection of what happens. This is necessary to understand because context is important. “Context is king.” 1) Their accusation.

Ac 21:21 They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs.

The accusation made by those zealous for the law was rather damning. Judaism saw Moses as a ‘messiah’. He delivered the people from the slavery of Egypt. He was the human author God gave the “Law” too for the people (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). This was their Holy Book. It was law and needed to be kept. Failure resulted in serve punishment, even death. Those brining the accusation against Paul kept the letter of the law. The sad thing is that it was not to them an instrument drawing them into a deeper relationship with God. All it was, was a dead religious exercise. Having said that about them, they kept the law fanatically in public and watched everyone else to see who faulted in the slightest.

2) The implication. For Paul, his missionary team, the Mother Church in Jerusalem and Christianity as a whole this had serious implications. They taught they Paul removed all obligations for Jews to keep the law (stop practicing the ancestral customs handed down by Moses) and to cease circumcising their sons (remember this was the visible covenant sign). The allegations were huge and the implications were even greater. This was total heresy because apart from distinctive customs, there were all the commandments associated with the Law (first five books of the Bible), not forgetting all the key doctrines such as creation, human life, Garden of Eden, sin, Messianic Promise, universal flood, promise to Abraham to be a great people, with their place under God’s rule depicted by His presence in the Holy of Holies, animal sacrifice, priesthood, etc. It is true that the New Covenant rendered the Old Covenant obsolete, but at this stage the temple was still standing! For James and the elders as the leaders of the Church, this was a real hindrance because it was a stumbling block to believing the Gospel.

3) The truth. By this stage in the history of the Christian Church, with Paul having completed his third missionary journey and with us having some of the letters he wrote and accepted as inspired of the Holy Spirit and included in the Bible, we have greater insight as to his theological and doctrinal position. Yes, he denounced circumcision as an insurance policy should faith in Jesus be insufficient. He denounced adding anything that would cause departure from the purity of the Gospel.

Gal 5:2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

In fact, circumcision made no difference to one’s standing with God!

Gal 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Cross reference this with:

Gal 6: 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.

This is emphatic. Naturally the “new creation” refers to the new birth or being born again. Salvation is not through works. It’s all about regeneration. The old creation would be being born of woman. The new creation would be being born of the Spirit. Neither circumcision nor baptism, Church membership or confirmation, ministry or financial support can add value to the meritorious work of Jesus at Calvary followed by His Resurrection. Should any Jewish parent who became a Christian and want his or her son born after their salvation to be circumcised according to their ancestral tradition, Paul was not opposed to it as long as the parent understood that it did not add to or count towards salvation in Jesus Christ! Faith and faith alone saved the soul, not works of any sort! Are you able to see how easy it is to twist the truth to make it say what you want it to say? Let us never be guilty of this. Salvation is not based upon any Church’s constitution, doctrine or theology. It is based solely upon the Scriptures interpreted accurately from the original languages in which they were written. Lastly, it is important that the Church you hold membership in supports what I would call “the reformed persuasion of salvation”. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, by Scripture alone to the glory of God alone. This is commonly known as the Five Solas of the Reformation. These teach accurately what the Bible reveals as the way of salvation.

Father in Heavenly Glory, thank You for explaining so carefully and clearly in Your Word how a lost soul may be saved. We give You all the glory for our salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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