And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
Acts 15:1 (KJV)
Ye cannot be saved – The great contest is not between God fearing believers and unrighteous unbelievers. In this world, it seems, good and evil are mixed together in deceptive ways. Evil, when visibly obvious, poses no threat to my walk with God, but when it is subtle and under the guise of good, I become much more susceptible.
This was the 1st century battle fought by Paul and the other Apostles. Why would these men claim that without circumcision “ye cannot be saved”? Paul and Barnabas take this issue to the council in Jerusalem that is governed by James, the brother of Yeshua. And during the conversation, more men state the needfulness of teaching the law and circumcision to the Gentiles, and seem to support the idea that it’s required for salvation.
These men were not Jews standing against the Messiah. They were believers in Yeshua, but strict in their adherence to God’s teachings. If these Gentiles wanted to be saved by the Jewish Messiah, then they needed to become Jews. And no man could be a Jew without circumcision. They insisted upon the Judaic process of becoming a Jew BEFORE one could receive anything from the Jewish Messiah – Yeshua.
I understand their desire. They wanted to make sure there was order and a reverence for God’s teachings (Exodus 12:48). But they were going about it backwards. Demanding the Gentiles convert to Judaism first wasn’t how this was going to get solved. In fact James suggests quite the opposite.
19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. (Acts 15:19-21)
After the Gentiles accepted the Messiah and became part of the community, James expected them to be in the synagogue every Sabbath learning about what Moses wrote – the law. Over time, they would be touched by God’s instructions and their hearts would be circumcised (convicted), and they would desire to keep the law physically through physical circumcision. It would be done by their love of God, not by the coercion of other men.
And this was the battle. God fearing men forced obedience on others as a stumblingblock before they could gain access to the Messiah. It was evil mixed in with good.
We see this with the prophets. It wasn’t the lack of religion that they rebuked, but rather the perversion of it. The people built altars and worshiped what they believed holy – but it was perversion (Hosea 8:11). It was evil mixed with good.
This is why we need to be so careful today. It isn’t the evil outside that is terrifying – it’s the evil within. When Yeshua warns us of the broad path and wide gate, He doesn’t speak about the blatant evil in the world, but rather warns us of the evil mixed in with the good.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. (Matthew 7:15)
Watch for the false prophets. The false prophets who stand among you and minister to your preachers. They are the one’s who will steer us wrong. They are the one’s who look like sheep, look like one of us. Be on guard.
There is great confusion happening because of the mixture of good and evil. It’s difficult at times to tell one from the other.