Some men came down from Judea and began
teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised
according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be
The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.”
Saturday’s Bible reading is Acts 15–16. These two chapters record two significant events. The first is the ruling by the apostles and elders that Gentiles who believe in Jesus do not have to become circumcised and observe the law of Moses. The next is the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey in which he is joined by Silas, Timothy and Luke who travel with him into Europe. There in Philippi, Lydia becomes a Christian, and we have the famous account of the imprisonment of Paul and Silas and the resultant conversion of the Philippian jailer.
Whenever you read one of Paul’s letters go back to Acts and see if you can find whether or not Paul preached in that city. This will give you important background on the recipients.
If you’re wondering why, after the decision made in Jerusalem regarding circumcision, Paul later circumcised Timothy, F. F. Bruce has these remarks:
“[16:]3 Paul . . . circumcised him; so that he might be more useful in the work of the gospel. Lesser minds have not been slow to charge Paul with inconsistency here (or else to deny the truth of Luke’s statement); but Paul was in truth loyal to a higher consistency, the consistency described in 1 Cor. 9:19–23. He fought against any suggestion that Christians should be circumcised in order to complete their salvation; but circumcision in itself, he held, was religiously indifferent (1 Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:6; 6:15). Timothy has been brought up by his Jewish mother and grandmother to be a Jew religiously in every point but circumcision. Moreover, as his mother was a Jewess, he ranked as a Jew in Jewish eyes, albeit an irregular one because, his father having been a Greek, he was not circumcised. Therefore to regularize his position Paul circumcised him; it was better that he should be clearly one thing or the other than betwixt and between.”1
May the Lord be with you and bless you through the reading of His Word.
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1F. F. Bruce, “Acts,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., p. 993.
Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter