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The Union of Jews and Gentiles

28 Sep

Once you get the Jews and the Gentiles in the Church together, how does that work? Under what conditions is this possible, and who gets to say? God’s plan has always been not only to sum up everything in heaven and earth in Christ, but to bring together the whole human race in him as a sign to the principalities and powers (Ephesians 3:10). Caesar and world powers today would have loved to unite the world in this way, but they cannot. Only God is able to cross national and traditional boundaries with all the differences this implies, and cross gender lines, social class, and levels of authority and unite all in one body under the Lordship of Jesus.

This is the emerging Kingdom of God on this earth—all nations throughout the world, united as one people in obedience to the God of Abraham. So, Acts 15 asks the question does one have to belong to the family of Abraham (symbolized in the act of circumcision) in order to be saved? It depends upon who gets to tell the story of the people of God. The believing Pharisees in Acts 15 told the story of the people of God needing to be circumcised to be associated with the Abrahamic Covenant and the promises and the need to keep the Law of Moses and be kept in line thereby in order to inherit those promises. Therefore, anyone wanting to take part in a basically Jewish movement must become a Jew in order to be associated with the God of Abraham. This is a very logical point of view, but it is also wrong, if the Scriptures are to be taken into consideration.

Consider the fact that Peter (Acts 15:6-11) told the story differently showing God placed no difference between the Jews and Gentiles, because without being circumcised the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit just as it fell upon Jews in the beginning (Acts 2). Afterward, James stood up and gave his judgment of the matter in Acts 15:13-21. Quoting Amos 9:11, James says that the Lord would raise up the tabernacle (Temple) of David in order that “the remnant of men, and all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called, may earnestly seek me, says the Lord who does all these things” (Amos 9:12 LXX).

The new or rebuilt Temple (tabernacle) of David is Jesus and the Church emerging throughout the world! Notice that James does not support the Marcionite error of the 2nd century. He doesn’t claim the Gospel has nothing to do with Abraham or Moses, but he draws from the Old Covenant itself to prove the equality of Jews and Gentiles come together in one body. Had James believed that the salvation of Jesus had nothing to do with the Old Covenant, this would have been a good time to show it. However, instead of cutting himself off from the Old Covenant, he drew his supporting argument from it.

It is important to note that Luke uses the arguments of Peter and James rather than Paul and Barnabas to provide the Scriptural answer to the problem of uniting Jew and Gentile. Had he not done so, modern critics might have some support in claiming Christianity was invented by Paul, but Luke refutes this argument here by showing Peter and James support Paul’s claim against the traditional Jewish claim that righteousness comes through the Law and identification with God comes through circumcision. The point is, the Law was incapable of giving the life it promised. This is why it is so wrong to seek to be righteous through it—in doing so, we put God to the test (Acts 15:10). Rather we are saved through faith or trust in Jesus that he will do all that is needed in and through us. He is Lord, not the Law. All the Law can do is show me I am a lawbreaker. It cannot offer life, because I am unable to keep it perfectly. Life or salvation comes only through Jesus. Deep within the heart of the prophecies of the Old Testament is the statement that when God does everything for Israel that he intends to do, then the Gentiles would want to join in also. And why not; aren’t they also the creation of God who has created everything else?

James concludes by writing a letter to the Gentile churches affected by those Jews who erroneously claimed to be sent out by him and says that circumcision and uncircumcision are irrelevant. Gentiles do not have to become Jews in order to be saved and have a relationship with the God of Abraham. However, this doesn’t mean the Gentiles have no responsibility. They do have the basic responsibility of no longer participating in pagan temples of worship (Acts 15:20, 29), of being faithful to God in all things related to prayer, thus not seeking answer to prayer through the curious arts (cp. Acts 19:19), to refrain from eating meats that have not  been properly bled (e.g. strangled animals), and of not participating in meals “with blood”—i.e. meals that invite the god (demon) to eat with them.[1] By doing these things we leave the door open to practicing Jews in our communities who have their eyes open to the fact that Jesus is the Messiah.


[1] Blood was perceived as the food of the gods or demons. In placing a cup of blood on the table, one was inviting the god/demon’s presence and imagining the god/demon was there eating with them at the meal.

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11 Comments

Posted by on September 28, 2011 in Acts of the Apostles

 

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11 responses to “The Union of Jews and Gentiles

  1. Anonymous

    March 15, 2012 at 02:25

    hello Ed,
    Would you please mind deleting all my comments. I have had a change of opinions and do not wish to represent myself in the light of my views expressed in this conversation. Thanks again.

     
    • Ed Bromfield

      March 15, 2012 at 08:22

      Hi Anonymous, I have done as you requested. If this is not suitable, please tell me what you have in mind.

      Lord bless you,

      Eddie

       
  2. Ed Bromfield

    October 6, 2011 at 20:11

    I make a effort to permit the final word to go to those who disagree with me. It is evident that we do not agree on these matters, and probably misunderstand one another to a great extent. So, rather than reply to each item in your comments, I’ll let what you say stand, because you indicated it was your final comment to this blog post.

    Have a great day in Christ,

    Eddie

     
  3. Anonymous

    October 6, 2011 at 18:51

    Deleted at the request of the poster.

     
  4. Anonymous

    October 6, 2011 at 18:39

    Deleted at the request of the poster.

     
  5. Anonymous

    October 6, 2011 at 09:37

    Deleted at the request of the poster.

     
    • Ed Bromfield

      October 6, 2011 at 13:01

      Concerning Isaiah 2, the “latter days” are the days between Jesus’ ministry and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The “mountain of the House of the Lord” is the Kingdom of God preached by Jesus and the Apostles. All nations shall flow to it (the Kingdom of God). The people of the nations (Gentiles) say: “Let’s go up to the mountain of the Lord (i.e. the Kingdom of God) — to the House (Church) of the God of Jacob that he may teach us his ways and we may walk in his paths (i.e. they are taught to of God through the Holy Spirit).” For out of Zion (the Church) shall go the law and word of the LORD from (beginning in) Jerusalem.

      Concerning “forever” — it concerns an undefined amount of time. For example, in Philemon it meant the length of a man’s life. In Jonah it was three days and three nights. It can mean for all ages in the future, but it is defined in the context where it is used.

      Concerning Romans 3:31 — faith does not overthrow law — all authority (Jewish or Gentile) is from God. To rebel against the laws of the land, in so far as such law does not dishonor God, is to rebel against God.

      Concerning Christianity in the 1st century and what we find today: Jews today don’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah for the same reason they rejected him in the first century CE. They are taught by their leaders that Jesus is a false Messiah. Jesus showed that they (the leaders) would not enter into the Kingdom and they continually prevent from entering those who would desire to do so. I know I do not present Jesus as a law-breaker, I have no idea who you may be referring to.

      On the contrary, I value your input, as I believe Jesus does as well. He is interested in our hearts–yours and mine. While I don’t intend to bow to any man’s words at face value, I have been known (even on this blog) to change my opinion about a matter once I’ve been proven wrong. Nothing is set in cement here, because I know that in this age we **all** know only in part. That which is perfect is still beyond our ability, but not forever! :-)

      Lord bless,

      Eddie

       
  6. Anonymous

    October 6, 2011 at 07:15

    Deleted at the request of the poster.

     
    • Ed Bromfield

      October 6, 2011 at 08:16

      Hi Anonymous (name deleted by request of poster), and welcome to my blog. Thank you especially for taking the time to comment and offer your own point of view.

      I am sorry but I must respectfully disagree with your viewpoint as addressed here. The Jews who run the synagogues would be the people who lay down the requirements for worshiping with them. James issued an edict for Gentiles to follow throughout the world so that their behavior would not openly offend Jews.

      Concerning Kosher food, I don’t believe any animal killed and offered before an idol would be Kosher, yet those that were not burnt offerings, but meal offerings were sold in the marketplace, and Paul approved of the church buying and eating such meat, so long as one was not knowingly offending a brother who had a conscience of an idol (1Corinthians 8:4-13). Synagogue worship was usually not an option for a Christian. Paul often severed relationships with the synagogue that rejected Jesus, saying he would go henceforth to the Gentiles in that city. If he did this, the church met somewhere else, not in the synagogue. People grew in the word of God, not through Jewish teachers who rejected Christ but through Christian teachers and prophets, and their own private studies, just as it is so today.

      Concerning what is required, James set down what was required. They were the edicts, and if followed, they would not hinder Jews from coming to worship with Christians. Your example of bestiality would be covered under James’ requirement to be faithful to one’s wife. Bestiality was normally offensive to Gentiles, or do you think it was commonly practiced by all Gentiles throughout the world? I think your argument is reaching at this point.

      Paul never implies the Gentiles need to be ‘kosher’ in their eating habits. Absolutely nothing is said in the NT concerning this issue. Jesus implied that **anything** taken into the body could not defile the body, because the body eliminates it afterward. What defiles comes from one’s heart.

      Lord bless you as you walk with him,

      Eddie

       
      • Anonymous

        October 6, 2011 at 09:15

        Deleted at the request of the poster.

         
        • Ed Bromfield

          October 6, 2011 at 13:00

          Hello Anonymous (name deleted by request),

          Concerning Jesus’ kosher habits, Jesus was a Jew. We would expect him to behave in such a manner. But the point of the Jerusalem council was, must I become a Jew in order to follow Jesus? The conclusion was “no!” — Gentiles don’t have to become Jews in order to follow Jesus, otherwise, what disagreement was there with Paul & Barnabas by the Pharisees claiming everyone must become circumcised?

          While it is true that the context of Jesus’ remark is “eating with unwashed hands”, Jesus said “whatsoever enter the mouth” does not defile a man. What does “whatsoever” mean to you?

          Jesus lived according to the customs of the Jews in so far as those customs did not dishonor God. The Mosaic Law contained dietary laws which he kept because all these things pertained to righteousness of which he is its fulfillment. Keeping such things was necessary for Jesus to do, if he were to fulfill the Law.

          Perhaps you have misunderstood your statement, or perhaps you have misunderstood me. The ordinary Jew would never consent to table fellowship with Gentiles — so there was a separation there even before Jesus’ ministry. Because of the Gospel preached by Paul Gentiles and Jewish believers in the Messiah did have table fellowship together. This was not looked upon as proper by the so-called “men from James”. They took issue with it under presumed authority of James. Peter and Barnabas submitted to that authority, but Paul would not because it was clearly wrong. The Jerusalem council convened as a result of this occurrence at Antioch. The result was a contradiction of what the “men from James” proclaimed. They were clearly wrong, just as Paul testified. I am not separating believing Jews and Gentiles. Are you saying unbelieving Jews had table fellowship with Gentiles?

          Concerning Paul’s behavior, to the Jew he was a Jew, and to the Gentile he was as they were. There is no hierocracy here, just different national traditions. If there was no difference in customs concerning believing Jews and believing Gentiles, what was the problem concerning the “men from James”? Obviously, they observed something that they didn’t consider kosher, and I don’t believe they asked anyone to drop their trousers to identify the difference. It was observable.

          Concerning the Scriptures you posted: Acts 22:3; 25:8 & 28:17, these specifically concern the context of his imprisonment, namely that he brought Gentiles into the Temple and defiled it. Acts 21:28, Paul specifically acknowledges that he did do exactly as they claim, but without breaking any law — see 1Thessalonians 2:16. The Jewish authorities supposed that Paul’s preaching to **all** men was an offence to the Jews and the Law. It was not. Certainly, these authorities were offended, but that was their problem. It was not a problem with the Law or with God.

          Concerning hierocracy, Jesus and Paul: Jesus and Paul were Jews and observed Jewish customs — the laws of the land. Paul taught Gentiles should keep the laws of their own land in so far as those customs don’t dishonor God. They did not have to become Jews in order to become Christians. They could be a follower of Jesus and still be Gentiles — observing their own customs. We are called to peace.

          In Christ,

          Eddie

           

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