Why Do They Insist That Christians Must Keep the Law?

Very early in the life of the infant Christian church a problem of no mean proportions arose.  The first converts to the new faith were Jews who were in no way required to put away their Jewish customs as a prerequisite for accepting the gospel. Their customs involved the observance of the Law of Moses as prescribed in the Torah.  As Gentiles heard the gospel and were accepted into fellowship, cultural differences became exaggerated.  Some of those who represented the dominant culture in the church began to flex their super-spiritual muscles by visiting Gentile congregations and confusing them with a man-made need to adopt the Jewish culture in order to be saved.

It is interesting to note that in Acts chapter 8, there is no indication that Cornelius was  required to accept Jewish culture in order to be saved.  Paul, the Apostle to the gentiles never preached it as a requirement, so when he learned that some Jews were harassing the gentiles with such a requirement; Paul and Barnabas engaged them in sharp debate. This was an affront to the gospel and Paul was not going to let them have their way. Paul and Barnabas knew that a person was saved by grace through faith and not by works of any kind.

We pick up the story in Acts chapter 15. This is dubbed in church history as the Jerusalem conference.  Paul and Barnabas asked for a general conference with the other apostles at Jerusalem.  Present at the conference were the apostles, and the church elders. Believers who used to be Pharisees (we do not know whether these were elders) stood up at the conference and said that  Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the Law of Moses (Verse 5). The next verse tells us that the apostles and elders met to consider this question.  Some would want us to believe that the question answered by Acts 15, concerned circumcision and circumcision alone.  Luke in his account here is careful to tell us that the question under consideration by the Jerusalem conference was whether the Gentiles were required to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses.  We do not know how long the conference lasted or what everyone present said.  However, we have here preserved by the Holy Spirit, the important information the church needed throughout history.  God knew that the question would pop up from time to time. Therefore he gave us a clear ruling; a ruling that the Judaizers then and now have never accepted.

The ruling of the conference was put into a letter and sent to the Gentile churches.  The ruling was as follows: Acts 15:28-29 “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.”

The Holy Spirit had spoken and He was not taking the church where the Judaizers wanted it to go. These four (4) essentials were imposed on Gentile Christians.  Gentile Christians are not required to observe the other things in the Law of Moses.  If that is not clear, what in this world can be clear?  From that day on, everything that the apostles wrote and practised concerning the Law of Moses has to be interpreted in light of this ruling.  When you combine Gal.5:2 and Gal.5:11 it is clear that Paul did not impose the Law on Gentiles. Gal.2:14 Peter lived like a Gentile and not like a Jew.  Even the Jewish Christians knew that they were justified by faith in Jesus and not by the Law (Gal.2:15).  This idea that Christians ought to keep the Jewish customs apparently was held by a small group of Jews whom Paul calls “the circumcision group” Gal.2:12.  They obviously had so much influence in the church that Peter was afraid of them Gal.2:12.  Paul, however, stood his ground against them and corrected Peter for capitulating to them.

The Judiazers did not give up. Paul had to confront them as they tried to subvert the Gentile churches he founded.  Paul warned the Philippians about them Phil.3:2. In Gal.5:12 Paul had some harsh words for the Judaizers who were perverting the gospel and throwing the Galatians brothers into confusion and turning away from the truth. Paul wrote the Brothers in Galatia a stinging rebuke for allowing the Judaizers to turn them away from the gospel.

Why is it that the Judaizers are not giving up? They don’t like the freedom we have in Christ and they want to make us slaves to the Law (Gal.3:2-5). They despise the grace of God and the sacrifice of Christ as insufficient for our salvation.  They want to alienate us from Christ Gal.5:4.  They want your allegiance and a following for themselves.  Their motives are not in your interest Gal.4:17.

What should you do when the Judaizers show up?  Confront them with the word of God and stand fast in the liberty we have in Christ and do not allow yourself to burdened by a yoke of bondage. Gal.5:1. Send  them packing.

Very early in the life of the infant Christian church a problem of no mean proportions arose.  The first converts to the new faith were Jews who were in no way required to put away their Jewish customs as a prerequisite for accepting the gospel. Their customs involved the observance of the Law of Moses as prescribed in the Torah.  As Gentiles heard the gospel and were accepted into fellowship, cultural differences became exaggerated.  Some of those who represented the dominant culture in the church began to flex their muscles by visiting gentile congregations and confusing them with a man-made need to adopt the Jewish culture in order to be saved.

It is interesting to note that in Acts chapter 8, there is no indication that Cornelius was not required to accept Jewish culture in order to be saved.  Paul, the Apostle to the gentiles never preached it as a requirement, so when he learned that some Jews were harassing the gentiles with such a requirement; Paul and Barnabas engaged them in sharp debate. This was an affront to the gospel and Paul was not going to let them have their way. Paul and Barnabas knew that a person is saved by grace through faith and not by works of any kind.

We pick up the story in Acts chapter 15. This is dubbed in church history as the Jerusalem conference.  Paul and Barnabas asked for a general conference with the other apostles at Jerusalem.  Present at the conference were the apostles, and the church elders. Believers who used to be Pharisees (we do not know whether these were elders) stood up at the conference and said that  Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the Law of Moses. Verse 5. The next verse tells us that the apostles and elders met to consider this question.  Some would want us to believe that the question answered by Acts 15, concerned circumcision and circumcision alone.  Luke in his account here is careful to tell us that the question under consideration by the Jerusalem conference was whether the Gentiles were required to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses.  We do not know how long the conference lasted or what everyone present said.  However, we have here preserved by the Holy Spirit, the important information the church needed throughout history.  God knew that the question would pop up from time to time. Therefore he gave us a clear ruling; a ruling that the Judaizers then and now have never accepted.

The ruling of the conference was put into a letter and sent to the Gentile churches.  The ruling was as follows: Acts 15:28-29 “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.”

The Holy Spirit had spoken and He was not taking the church where the Judaizers wanted it to go. These four (4) essentials were imposed on Gentile Christians.  Gentile Christians are not required to observe the other things in the Law of Moses.  If that is not clear, what in this world can be clear?  From that day on, everything that the apostles wrote and practised concerning the Law of Moses has to be interpreted in light of this ruling.  When you combine Gal.5:2 and Gal.5:11 it is clear that Paul did not impose the Law on Gentiles. Gal.2:14 Peter lived like a Gentile and not like a Jew.  Even the Jewish Christians knew that they were justified by faith in Jesus and not by the Law Gal.2:15.  This idea that Christians ought to keep the Jewish customs apparently was held by a small group of Jews whom Paul calls “the circumcision group” Gal.2:12.  They obviously had so much influence in the church that Peter was afraid of them Gal.2:12.  Paul, however, stood his ground against them and corrected Peter for capitulating to them.

The Judaizers did not give up. Paul had to confront them as they tried to subvert the Gentile churches he founded.  Paul warned the Philippians about them Phil.3:2. In Gal.5:12 Paul had some harsh words for the Judaizers who were perverting the gospel and throwing the Galatians brothers into confusion and turning away from the truth. Paul wrote the Brothers in Galatia a stinging rebuke for allowing the Judaizers to turn them away from the gospel.

Why is it that the Judaizers are not giving up? They don’t like the freedom we have in Christ and they want to make us slaves to the Law. Gal.3:2-5. They despise the grace of God and the sacrifice of Christ as insufficient for our salvation.  They want to alienate us from Christ Gal.5:4.  They want your allegiance and a following for themselves.  Their motives are not in your interest Gal.4:17.

What should you do when the Judaizers show up?  Confront them with the word of God and stand fast in the liberty we have in Christ and do not allow yourself to be burdened by a yoke of bondage. Gal.5:1. Send  them packing.

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