A conference is held in Jerusalem to decide the question and the Antioch (predominantly Gentile) church sends Paul and Barnabas as its representatives.
As the text tells us, they were warmly welcomed when they arrived in Jerusalem, and they began to tell the apostles and elders, all about everything that God had done through them among the Gentiles. It was at this point that certain believers from “the party of the Pharisees” make their assertion that Gentiles must first be circumcised and obey the Law of Moses.
This assertion has some very serious problems: First, every man who reads this can tell you that an adult male will only submit to circumcision if one of three things is present:
- Superhuman faith.
- Extreme levels of an intoxicating substance.
- Overwhelming force.
Unless one or more of three factors is present, anyone who comes at that particular region of a male with a knife is not likely to live to tell the tale; we’re funny like that. As a result, this could be seen as a rather thinly veiled way to keep Gentiles out of the church.
Secondly, what these men were trying to do is to mix covenants, which is a theological error of immense proportion that a great part of the New Testament is written to warn us against. Two excellent examples of this are the entire books of Galatians and Hebrews which both make the case that the Law is over and done with, that the Old Covenant is “obsolete” and will “soon disappear” (Heb. 8:13). As hard as the New Testament authors tried to prevent this, the controversy continued throughout the first century, yet a controversy is one thing, the real disaster happened a few centuries later.