Pt. 2# The Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1-2) (THE SONS OF ABRAHAM) (7-24-21)
(WHO ARE ‘THE SONS OF ABRAHAM’?: ‘FROM THESE STONES GOD IS ABLE TO RAISE UP ‘SONS TO ABRAHAM’!)
And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "UNLESS YOU ARE CIRCUMCISED ACCORDING TO THE CUSTOM OF MOSES, YOU CANNOT BE SAVED.”
The Apostolic Jerusalem Council was called because some Judean Christians were teaching Gentile Christians in Antioch that they had to be Circumcised or else they could not be Saved. But Luke’s readers already knew that uncircumcised peoplehad been given the Holy Spirit and had been baptized (Acts 10:44-48). God had called Gentiles to Repentance and Salvation (Acts 11:18), but a formal policy about circumcision had not yet been made.
Many Gentiles had come into the Church because of the work of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13-14, especially (Acts 14:27), and it became evident that Gentiles would become a substantial part of The Church. Therefore, it became necessary to clarify some theological and practical details of Gentile membership in The Church. Some Pharisees had also become believers (Acts 15:5). The Council was called to determine how both Pharisees and Gentiles could be part of the same Community of Believers.
Luke seemed to write the story with a bias that helps us to be favorable toward The Council’s Decree. First, Luke’s readers already knew that Circumcision was not required. Luke is contrasting The Council’s Decree with an obviously faulty Theological Position. Luke also tells us that Phoenician and Samaritan believers expressed great joy when they learned that Gentiles were becoming believers (Acts 15:3). Paul and Barnabas were warmly welcomed by the Jerusalem Church (Acts 15:4),implying that The Pro-Circumcision Group were a small minority even within the Jewish Church. Both ‘Acts 14:27 and Acts 15:4’ remind us that the Gentile mission was being done by God, implying that the opponents were opposing God, not man.
Luke emphasizes the error of the Pharisee Believers when he says that they taught that Gentile Believers must be Circumcised and obey all the law of Moses TO BE SAVED (Acts15:5). For more evidence of Luke’s bias, we see that he writes about arguments against Circumcision, but none in favor. And he tells us that the people of Antioch reacted to the decree with joy (Acts 15:31).
Abraham was of course the father of the Jewish people. It might be surprising to learn that ‘ABRAHAM WAS ABOUT AS ‘GENTILE’ AS YOU CAN GET’, until he and his family took on God’s Covenant By Being Circumcised, which was considered to be the ‘Covenantal Sign’ for him and all his descendants. In one sense, the term: ‘THE SONS OF ABRAHAM’ means to be a descendant who shares in Abraham’s Covenant, in effect to be a Circumcised Jew. By the time of Jesus, the idea had arisen that a person’s Salvation was based on his or her being a ‘SON OF ABRAHAM’ in terms of being part of The Family Covenant. But John The Baptist disagrees with this:
Therefore bear fruits in keeping with Repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, `We have Abraham For Our Father,’ for I say to you that ‘FROM THESE STONES GOD IS ABLE TO RAISE UP ‘SONS TO ABRAHAM’.’
Therefore, John is warning them not to claim that their National Covenant made them right before God. Rather, they needed to be true ‘SONS OF ABRAHAM’ people who inwardly have the Faith that Abraham Did. They expected that a SON would tend to have his FATHER’S personality, so to be a SON OF ABRAHAM was to have The Character of Abraham, meaning to have Faith and Commitment To God. Jesus says this in John 8:39.
They answered and said to Him, “Abraham Is Our Father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s Children, YOU WOULD DO THE WORKS OF ABRAHAM!’
Interestingly, Paul stretches the definition farther to even include the Gentiles, the very group not included in the first definition of a “son of Abraham”! He says:
‘Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of Faith who are ‘SONS OF ABRAHAM’. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by Faith, preached The Gospel before hand to Abraham, saying: ‘ALL THE NATIONS (GENTILES) WILL BE BLESSEDTHROUGH YOU’!
Therefore, Paul can conclude that Gentile believers in God are true ‘SONS OF ABRAHAM’!
(WHO ARE ‘THE SONS OFABRAHAM’?: ‘FROM THESE STONES GOD IS ABLE TO RAISE UP ‘SONS TO ABRAHAM’!)