Acts 15 – Defining “Christian”

Church Keep OutThe first major controversy the early church dealt with strikes the modern reader a strange.  Rather than debating who Jesus was or beginning to develop the doctrine of the Trinity, the first major theological problem they need to solve was the status of the Gentile who has faith in Jesus.  Are Gentiles converting to Judaism? If so, at what level should they keep the Law? Are they “God Fearers”?  Are they Proselytes? If there is an implied secondary status for the Gentile believers, how does that status effect their participation in the church?

Why was circumcision of Gentiles such a controversial issue? In Acts 13-14 Paul had success among Gentiles and established several churches with mixed congregations of Jews and Gentiles. Some Gentiles may have been “God Fearers” who worshiped in the synagogues, but others may have been converts from paganism with no grounding in the ethics of the Hebrew Bible. Jews would have continued to keep the Law as Christians, but what about these Gentiles? Should they “fully convert” and submit to circumcision?

This was not a minor difference in practice. It was seriously controversial for several reasons. First, circumcision was a major factor in Jewish identity. Prior to the Maccabean revolt, the practice of circumcision was suppressed and families that had their son circumcised were put to death (1 Mac 1:60-61). Some Jews forcibly circumcised Jewish boys if their families did not follow the tradition (1 Mac 2:46). This imposition of circumcision was described as “They rescued the law out of the hands of the Gentiles and kings” (1 Macc 2:48). Given the rising Jewish national of the middle first century, it is not unexpected some Jews might insist on circumcision for all people claiming to be Jews, including the new Messiah Jesus movement.

Second, for many in the Greco-Roman world, circumcision was one of the most ridiculous practices of the Jews.  Marital, for example, seems to find a great deal of humor in the Jewish practice (Epigrams 7.35.3-4; 7,82, 11.94). The practice was seen as a strange mutilation of the flesh and a sign of extreme dishonor. For this reason, some Jewish men underwent surgery to reverse the makes of circumcision (1 Macc 1:15, see for example Neil J McEleney, “Conversion, Circumcision and the Law,” NTS 20 [1974]: 319-341.)

Third, Paul was teaching his Church in Galatian there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the Body of Christ (Gal 3:28). If Gentiles convert to Judaism, then the church is Jewish; if Jews rejects the Law and behave like Gentiles, then the church is “Gentile.” Paul’s point is God is creating something different than Judaism in the present age. The “church” is not a form of Judaism nor is it a Gentile mystery religion. The church in Paul’s view transcends ethnicity (neither Jew or Gentile), gender (neither male or female) and social boundaries (neither slave nor free).

Authorized-PersonsFor Paul, if the Gentiles are forced to keep the Jewish boundary markers, then they have converted to Judaism and they are not “in Christ.”  This would have been radical in the first century Jewish world, but it is still remarkably difficult for Christians two thousand years later.  There is a perception people have to “act like a Christian” to be right with God. There are certain “boundary markers” defining who is “in” and who is “out.” Most of the time these are unacceptable behaviors: matters of food and drink, entertainment, etc. While doctrine is important as well, I have seen more exclusion based on how someone looked before finding out what they believe.

I do not want to reduce the controversy over circumcision to a trite discussion over whether Christians can get tattoos. Acts 15 represents the first time Christians thought about what the people of God were in the new age of the Spirit. To what extent does modern Christianity elevate practice to the level of a boundary marker? Do we still exclude people from the Body of Christ on the basis of ethnicity or social status? How does the decision of Acts 15 speak to these issues?

36 thoughts on “Acts 15 – Defining “Christian”

  1. It’s incredible to me how much passion can be stirred up on this issue. So much dissention and disunity is creeps into the Body because of the varying beliefs of what it should look like to be a Christian. Each generation has their own rebellious view and they are positive their parents and grandparents were completely wrong. In fact, we all think we are right. As much as this topic may be confusing and even frustrating, the Bible offers clear answers. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Trying to form our opinion with the limited perspective we are able to have is like trying to draw specific lines of a dim reflection (1 Corinthians 13:12). The more one stares at it the more frustrating it becomes, especially in the company of others who do not agree with your own deciphering. The truth is none of us is right. We all form our own opinions where scripture is not clear and in reality we are all a little off. The goal is not to be the closest to being right or to impress God with how close we get to understanding. The goal and the command is simply to trust in the Lord with all that we are.

  2. I would say that in modern christianity there is some exclusion that still occurs today. Acts 15:8-11 tells us that it is not right for us to make a distinction on who should have Christ or not. In verse 11 it specifically says “it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” I believe not only during Paul’s ministry but also today this verse applies in that we are all in need and should not make distinctions between one another. In Acts 15:19 it commands the assembly not to make it hard for the Gentiles. I would say that in modern Christianity we make it hard for others to hear Christ’s word by our actions, and who we associate ourselves with. I think we should step outside of our comfort zones to welcome new believers everyday.

  3. I see In Acts 13-14 BARNABAS and Paul were sent out together, and together they had success among Gentiles and established several churches together as a team of two. Then after they finished “the work they had now completed”, they returned and “reported” to those leaders in Antioch who had sent the two of them out together according to the will of the Holy Spirit. [Acts 14:26-28]

    In Acts 15 Luke is very careful, and goes to great pains in a number of verses, to make it clear that Barnabas and Paul were NOT Apostles. He also shows us that PETER lead the way going to the Gentiles, which is appropriate, since Peter was the first among equals of the 12 Apostles.

  4. This post makes me think of how the Jews needed signs and like you said, circumcision was a huge identity marker. Food laws, purification laws, and circumcision would have been very clear signs of one’s involvement in Judaism. But when Jesus came, he didn’t preach a new law, he brought freedom from the law. Rather than being identified by external measures, we are to be identified with him internally. He says, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matt. 6:6). In Acts 15:1 the controversy is over salvation. These men coming and preaching that you can’t be saved without salvation are still stuck under the external manifestations of the law which identified them with God. But we know that salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 4; Rom. 10:9). What is awesome is when you see people with varying beliefs on theology come together and grow and serve Christ. When we understand where salvation is really coming from, we will be willing to accept people who have different theological stands outside of salvation than us. “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Rom. 15:5-7).

  5. I agree with Leah in that the Jews needed signs in order to tell if someone practiced Judaism or not. Circumcision was a huge sign that many who practiced Judaism did in order to identify them as Jews who practiced the Law. Today, external signs, such as circumcision, are not something that one can look at and say they are a “Christian”. It is all about identifying ourselves with him internally. We must have faith in Jesus Christ. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). Certain boundary markers that establish who is a Christian and who is not could be based on the way a person acts as well as how they look. Today, some Christians find it hard to accept others who do not look and act the way that they do. I think that it is important that we not get comfortable in the way that we live our lives. We should step outside of our comfort zones and learn to accept cultural differences. I attend a Christian hip hop church and everyone dresses in regular clothes, some have tattoos and they rap about Christ. The people who attend that church love God and it is evident by the way that they live out their lives. They are accepting of anyone who walks through the doors of that church and try to meet them where they are. It is important not to exclude someone based on how they look before getting to know what they believe.

  6. The Church is supposed to be an accepting place because those who meet in it are the worst of the worst. We all deserve death and hell not matter what sin we have committed it is still sin. It is interesting that certain people are not welcomed because of their social status or who they are or the types of sin they have committed. The church needs to do a better job at showing Christ’s love to those who are not welcomed in the regular society. The thing that binds us all together is that we were created by the same God and we can partake in the same faith for Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. Most of the time the Church is the outcast of society because we go against certain principles that society finds acceptable. Romans 3 9-12 says, ” What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all both Jews and Greeks are under sin, as it is written: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned aside together they have become worthless; no one does good not even one.” This verse illustrates the pride that we can have thinking that we are better than others, but in reality we are all on the same level because we all need a savior to save us from our sins.

  7. I believe that the church should be a place where anyone can go to and feel free. You should not go to church and feel unaccepted or bound. I read Anna post and she said something that I really agree with. In her post she said, “The Church is supposed to be an accepting place because those who meet in it are the worst of the worst” (Veldink 2015). I agree with that 110%. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” With that being said, that means no one is perfect. With no individual being perfect, it gives us no right to judge or exclude others from the body of Christ based on ethnicity, social status, or things of that nature. God does not care about an individual’s ethnicity or social status, but He does care about the heart. I think that in Acts 15, it shows an example of basically everything that I stated above. In this passage, it talks about how God knows the heart of a person, and He does not discriminate but he purifies hearts. Something that opened my eyes when reading this passage is when Peter asked “why do you try to test God?” They replied to Peter by saying, “No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” So I think that Acts 15 speaks in the way that we should not discriminate or exclude people from the Body of Christ based on ethnicity or social status.

  8. This was a difficult time for the Jews in the sense that the “law” had been fulfilled by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.( Jews had live under the law for hundreds of years.) That is the Gospel that Paul was preaching. This also meant that “Jewish Traditions” such as circumcision were no longer required. The whole basis for the “law” was to prove that man could not keep it because of his sin nature. The only salvation that was possible was through Jesus Christ who was perfect. He was typified in Jewish tradition through sacrifices such as lambs without blemish etc.
    These so called “boundary markers” really don’t have anything to do with who is or isn’t saved since we are saved by grace thru faith in Jesus Christ, not by keeping the law. Paul and Barnabas disagreed on the whole circumcision thing that’s why Paul separated from him for a while. Barnabas had a hard time wrapping his mind around the whole grace thing too. Paul also teaches that it’s not a bad thing to stay away from certain things and that some “traditions” are good for us too. Acts 15:28,29. Staying away from meats offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled and from fornication are good things – but they won’t save us. The “church age” or “age of grace” sort of takes away the distinction between Jew and Gentile, and any other division except the distinction between who believes thru faith that Jesus Christ is Savior and who doesn’t believe. Yet we can’t totally disregard “lawful” things. We still should be obedient to God and his will for our lives. I don’t know where the comments on Christians getting tattoos fits in here though. Tattoos sort of fall under self-mutilation which was practiced by pagans such as Baal worshippers. Not related to circumcision in my mind at all. I think the next to the last question about excluding people from the Body of Christ does happen in some groups. This is an error since the only thing that “excludes” a person from the “body of Christ” is unbelief.

    • Megan,
      If you read the words of Jesus recorded by Matthew Mark Luke & John (including Acts and Revelation), you will see that Jesus never spoke the word “grace” there. If we are in the “age of grace” isn’t it strange that Jesus never mentioned this? I’m wondering where exactly this terminology came from….

      Also, when Jesus walked the earth in the flesh, did He have a tattoo? Since the obvious answer is NO, why would we want to get a tattoo if we trying to become more like Jesus was?

  9. I think the church, because it’s made up of worldly-minded people, has always had issues with one’s physical signs that they are a Christian. We long for tangible proof. For example, if someone came into my church with a t-shirt of a bloody skull and crossbones and covered in tattoos of pin-up girls, even though my church is rather accepting of different people from different backgrounds, most people would hardly consider for a second that person could be part of the church. After all, many 21st century Christians, myself included, have tattoos and some people see them as horrendously sinful. Although the change that takes place at salvation doesn’t happen externally, we think that it should. This is similar, I think, to the problems the church was having in its early days. People from heavily secularized culture were joining the Jesus movement every day, and the question logically came up about their physical appearance in accordance with their new ideology. Likewise, what is the church supposed to do, and how is the church supposed to act, toward a man with racy tattoos and grungy attire who has just come to faith in Christ and joined their church? Obviously, we would want to extend grace to them as they are just figuring out what this new life means for them, but at some point a change should occur. Do we expect them to pay thousands of dollars to get their offensive tattoos removed? Although some things may need to be removed, I think it is beneficial to have some sort of sign of your past life to show where God has brought you and how far you’ve come through his grace.

    • Trentcerra,
      You wrote, QUOTE:
      “I think it is beneficial to have some sort of sign of your past life to show where God has brought you and how far you’ve come through his grace.”

      Is there anything that Jesus said or did in the pages of Scripture that causes you to have this opinion? I cannot think of anything – but maybe I misssed something.

      Did Jesus ever bring up the pre-conversion sins (the sinful past life, before becoming a follower of Jesus) of his followers in the pages of Scripture? Or did Jesus wipe them away, and choose never to be “the accuser of the brethren” reminding us of our past life?

      The woman at the well was not a follower of Jesus when she first met Him.
      The woman caught in adultery was probably not either, but even if she was, “Go and sin no more” is not bringing up her specific pre-conversion sins.
      Did I miss something?

      Or are you simply following Paul’s example writing to the church he abandoned in Corinth, and the human traditions that have grown up around Paul and his writings?

  10. Much similar to what most people said in their comments, I think the church should not exclude anybody. As Christian we I called to love each other no matter who they are or what challenges they bring. The perfect example of accepting others is Jesus. Throughout his ministry Jesus Christ showed a lot of love to people who other Christians ignored and didn’t want to involve themselves with. One topic that many churches choose to ignore, is homosexuality. Should homosexuals be excluded from the church or should we love them as people ? Just as Christ loved everyone. Acts 15 says “He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith”. Acts 15 simply tells us that God doesn’t look at anything besides the heart. Jesus Christ accepted everyone. As Christian and a body of Christ we should accept everyone without judging them no matter what their ethnicity, social status, or anything else in that matter. We don’t have to agree with the choices of others but we are called to love them.

    • Asu,
      According to Jesus,
      .1) which one is the first and greatest most important commandment,
      .2) and which one is the second?

      hint: Matthew 22 & Mark 12

  11. Circumcision was the Jewish way of outwardly showing that they lived under the Law. It was a very obvious physical feature that was used. But when Christ came, he came with the intention to free us from the Law. Now, as Christians today, we are no longer called to show our faith outwardly, but our faith is an inward decision. We don’t have any physical marks that people can see and for sure say “that person is a Christian”.

    As for the second part, about whether we exclude people from the body of Christ based on their ethnicity, social status, or any other human “flaw” (for lack of a better word):
    The modern church today is made up of humans, with human minds, and as humans, we are all at least a little bit naturally judgmental. We make snap-judgments about people before they even open their mouths to say something, based solely on what they look like. The church is called to love everyone, but because the church is made up of humans, we have a hard time accepting everyone who wanders into the front doors of the church. Much like the Jewish Christians viewed uncircumcised Gentiles of the time, we tend to look at people who don’t look or act like us as wrong, and sometimes go as far as to push them from the church. You don’t often find people covered in tattoos, with outrageous colored hair and facial piercings sitting in a “normal church” today. The first time my husband ever entered a church, he wore a Metallica tshirt and ripped blue jeans, and he was asked to leave.
    But also, the council did send out a letter to the Gentiles telling them the things they should avoid as Christians. I think that, even though we are called to love these people who may not appear normal in our church, if their lifestyle or physical appearance is doing anything that would be considered sin (and can be backed up with scripture, I’m not talking tattoos, more like immodesty or inappropriate messages on clothing), we are still called to confront them

  12. Before we criticize ourselves because
    ” We make snap-judgments about people before they even open their mouths to say something, based solely on what they look like”,
    let us consider:

    Jesus reminded us from the Law,
    “at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female'” [Matthew 19:4, quoting Genesis 1:27]

    No one was born with tattoos, or purple hair, or facial piercings. A Metallica tshirt costs more than a plain one, and for most people here today, ripped blue jeans are a conscious fashion statement, not a sign of poverty.

    People spend their money on these things and wear them, often flaunting them, because they WANT other people to make snap judgments about them based solely on what they look like. It’s a form of advertising, looking for “likeminded people’ who have similar value systems and interests.

    I’m not saying we should not love all people with the Love of God. We should. Because God first loved us, we should Love God first, and love people second with God’s Love. God is patient with us, so we need to be patient with people. Yet, that is not the same thing as saying that “I want to be all things to all men to save some,” (like Paul, supposedly), so I’ll get a tattoo and a nose ring and dye my hair green to attract people like that. 🙂

  13. As crazy as it may seem to look at these disagreements between believers in the first century, it is definitely still relevant in today’s time, even though it looks different. I agree with Paul’s point, that God is creating something completely new and different than Judaism (Long). When Jesus came, He changed everything. He is the One who set the NEW covenant in place. When people disagreed even down to the title of one another, it shows that they are not living under the new creation. If Jesus paid the way for all who believe, there should not be a distinction between one over another.
    Peter refers to how God cleanses their hearts by faith, and it does not restrain to one people group (Acts 15:13). The people are missing the point. The point is that it is anyone who believe, and Jesus abolished the law with His blood.
    No matter if it is Gentile or Jew, female or male, rich or poor, all have access to God through Christ. Modern Christianity, specifically in the Western world, can see one another as better or worse depending on our works before God. In reality, He is our righteous Judge, and He is the only one who knows what our heart posture is, and what we believe. It is easy for our culture to judge and say “there’s no way they are a Christian,” when maybe they are more yielded to Him than we will ever be. It can be based upon appearance, finances, or even way of life. It is not our job to tell people their “title,” that is God’s job.

  14. I believe that if a person accepts Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior and give their life to Him, choosing to follow Him forever, that they are made new and become a Christian. Like the blog talks about, I really like Galatians 3:28 because it shows that all Christians are equal because they are in Christ. I understand why there may have been some confusion as to whether or not the Gentile converts should be considered Jewish, Christian, Gentile, or something else. Like I mentioned earlier, if they accepted Jesus and chose to follow Him forever, then they would be Christians. Today, we see many people from a variety of different religions convert to Christianity from religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and many others. It is not uncommon for people to go from one religion and convert to Christianity. As long as they are fully devoting themselves to God and living for Him, there should not be a problem with them converting from a different religion. We see throughout Acts that there were many Gentiles who converted. The topic of circumcision surprised me a little bit when reading about how extreme some people got involving the Jewish law. I can understand why circumcision is so important to the Jews because of the covenant of circumcision that God gives to Abraham in Genesis 17:9-14. Though I do not think that it is required anymore, I do not think that it is bad and can still be done. It was definitely important to the Jewish community and may have been hard to move away from.

  15. I find the arguments on circumcision to be a greater degree of severity than the topics we often discuss today about who is “in” or “out” of the church. However, often we make these lesser topics in our churches of the same severity where they do not belong. The discussion of circumcision goes deeper than “are they or aren’t they”. To the Jewish Christians, a rejection of this law standard and tradition could lead to the forgoing of how many other law-abiding traditions? If this is not necessary for new Christians than what is the standard to which we are all to follow? Potentially more than just a rejection of the law but a rejection of their way of life. If Jesus first came to the Jews than who is to say that their standard of living is not the right way? Is Paul rejecting a whole culture? I do not think so, but to some it may seem like this in the attempt to accept the new Gentile Christians. I think this discussion is absolutely important for us to discuss today. The Gospel is meant for all people (Galt. 3:28). There is a boundary of preaching the Gospel and preaching our culture. We see this abused throughout history and even today. If someone does not fit into the “mold” the American church has made, then there is judgement. There has been an increased movement to be more inclusive of other cultures in churches, and this is a positive movement that all churches should be a part of.

  16. Something that still stands out to me and leaves me with questions about Judaism, Gentiles, and Christianity, is the concept of circumcision. Why was it required to be a Jew? Acts 15:1 says that unless a man is circumcised, he cannot be saved, even though circumcision was just a custom. Is circumcision parallel to a water baptism? Baptism and circumcision seem to be parallel practices between early Christians and Jews that demonstrate a level of faith. To me, these boundary markers are often what confuses people most about God and His gift of salvation. Gentiles “feared” God, Jews were circumcised, and Christians were baptized. However, none of these boundary markers actually bring a person salvation, and yet, they still set people apart because they have been made to be so important. Based on the boundary markers discussed, Christianity seems to have more of those than we admit to. With the many denominations of Christianity comes boundary markers – Baptists practice baptism, Catholics practice lent, etc. There are MANY other reasons that these denominations are set apart from one another, but the basic premise of Christianity is that there is one God, who sent His Son Jesus to earth to make disciples, ministering all over until His death and resurrection. Because Christ ascended into heaven, mankind receives that salvation through faith and obedience. Because of all the many denominations, there have been many personal values and customs that mankind have made a part of religions. Could circumcision be one of these? I think that with the many denominations of Christianity in today’s world, churches have in fact become really selective. The way that churches have become selective in their audience, is through any requirements they give the members. For example, some churches will let someone from the LGBTQ+ community in their church because they want to love on the lost individual. On the other hand, churches deny anyone from the LGBTQ+ community because what they are practicing is unbiblical. This one example, along with others, have drawn me to believe that Christians in today’s day in age have been distracted by personal interpretations or feelings that they forget what the Bible says about salvation. As mankind grows and learns, society changes. As society changes, mankind likes to change with it in order to be accepted. There is so much change constantly happening in society, and Christians are all so different from one another, that it is difficult to conclude on whether or not Christians practice exclusion today as Jews and Gentiles did during the time of Paul and Barnabas.

  17. I do believe that in modern Christianity people are still excluded for things that really shouldn’t matter. You can see this taking place in many different ways. Some major ones would be through discrimination and stubbornness. The discrimination is shown to those of different ethnicities and those who are poor. Especially here in America where racism has always been a major issue. You can see that majority of the churches are still segregated into races. I believe that this is due to people not being willing to change and open up to new things. That brings me into the next topic I mentioned which is stubbornness. I don’t believe some followers realize that in order to be a true follower of Jesus you have to be willing to teach the word to others. And not to those who you are comfortable with but also to the people that you know probably don’t have the same opportunity to hear the word. A good example of would be those living in poverty.

  18. I think the concept of “in” and “out” are still relevant in Christianity today. From an outside perspective, I have heard many people talk about how Christianity seems to be about a bunch of rules you have to follow. A list of things you should or should not do. It can be intimidating and a turn off to those who do not know Jesus or the significance of the cross. The concept of a boundary or “a line” is relevant today. There is the question of how far can I go? Or what all can I do? It seems that sometimes the strength of people’s faith is based on an outward action rather than what is on the inside. It reminds me of the verse “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Someone being devoted to God and having a strong faith does not always show on the outside. On the other hand, I believe there is a balance between acting in a way that shines a light to others and acting in a way that takes God’s grace for granted. In Acts 15, Peter talks about God giving those the Holy Spirit just like he did to them and that God “cleansed their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9). Polhill adds, “they were saved by faith in their hearts, not by circumcision in their flesh” (Polhill 2115). This shows the significance of Jesus dying on the cross and how faith saves us, not outwardly actions.

  19. In Biblical times it was easy to tell who was Jewish and who practiced Judaism. They had signs such as circumcision that made it easy to determine if someone was Jewish or not. This is not the case for Christianity. The Bible does make it clear that if you are a Christian that your actions should change and that your faith should be reflected through your works but only God and that person know whether they are really saved or not. However, the church likes to tape stereotypes to a Christian anyways and judge people based on those things. If you didn’t grow up in the church, don’t dress a certain way, and don’t have certain theological or political opinions then there is a good chance that you haven’t felt welcome in the church and that some people in the church don’t consider you to be a true Christian. As believers, our identity lies in Christ not in what we do or what we look like. We shouldn’t be judging other people’s faith by making assumptions about them that are based on what they look like.

  20. I do think that Christian are put under this light where it feels like we can’t do anything such as get tattoos or do certain things because we worship God. In a way it is kind of true but I believe it silver lining somewhere when it comes to loving God and still having that freedom to do what we want to have the best life possible and for us to feel free. God put us on this earth for us to live the best life we want while praising him and I truly believe that getting a tattoo or drinking or having fun doesn’t go against what God stands for. I just feel that it should be a balance and at the end of the day you should do what God wants you to do and live for him while finding your purpose and doing your own thing.

  21. Circumcision was such a highlighted topic while reading the first part of the blog post. I did not understand the importance of Jewish individuals not being circumcised and if a Jewish family had their son circumcised, they were eventually killed for doing the act. I did not know that circumcision resulted in death because it was looked upon as an evil doing. It was also said that “some Jews forcibly circumcised Jewish boys if their families did not follow the tradition” (Long, 2015). This is very interesting because if circumcision is so frowned upon, why would you have families who were said to not be following the law, forcibly break more law, it does not make any sense to me. It actually makes me think that those forcible acts were out of anger and hatred which is yet a sin. I agree with Paul about the importance of stating that God is not Jewish and not a Gentile, this is important for Paul to preach to those groups of people because they need to gain an understanding of who God is and what he wants from the people. It is explained that Jews and Gentiles are not “in Christ” (Long, 2015) because of the fact they practice ideas that are not what God intends for humans to do. There is a large difference between people who follow the laws of Christianity and God such as in their actions and how they treat other people. This is important to note because there are so many controversial topics of what is right and what is wrong such as circumcision but in reality, Paul is explaining to the people that God has less specific laws such as following his word and being good people to others and to themselves.

  22. In biblical times a marker for “defining” someone as a Christian was whether or not they were circumcised. The physical markings that determined whether or not you were truly serious about being a “Chrisitan” have changed over time. In biblical times it was easy to know who Jews were or not based on circumcisions. Today that looks a little different. Some believers may say that if someone has tattoos or goes out drinking then they are not a true Christian. Someone who is a true believer won’t be defined by whether or not they have tattoos or by their actions. People who follow Christ should be aiming to be like Him and trying to fix their actions to be the most Christ-like. However, when Christ died for us, our sins were forgiven. Nothing we do can bring us salvation. Our salvation is based on if we admit that we are sinners and Jesus died for us and accept Jesus into our heart, it is not based on whether or not we are circumcised, have tattoos, or whatnot. In today’s world of Christians people do look at others based on their race or social status and judge them on if they are really a Christian. As wrong as it is, we all are human. From biblical times until now it has been happening. Acts 15 can be a great example to current believers on how differences like circumcisions the same concept in today’s world is. People need to learn that we all make mistakes, but our faith is a very personal thing, and our salvation is something that we find on our own through the help of others, but people can’t save other people, they can only plant seeds (Mark 2:7).

  23. In Acts 15, we can clearly seen a comparison between the disconnect between the legalism of Gentiles and Jews and the disconnect between more conservative and liberal Christians. As Long states in paragraph 6, there are certainly ‘boundary markers’ or certain standards and practices we need to meet and do to be saved and get the gift of eternal life. However, in that time period, they didn’t have any past experiences to decide the rules of legalism upon. Nowadays, we can look back on the cause-and-effects and avoid certain events such as a revolt. One of the disagreements between the conservative and liberal Christians in today’s society involves the LGBTQ+ community who is often seen as the outsiders who aren’t actually saved. Many people saw this in the Gentile community – outsiders who couldn’t be saved. Can someone part of the LGBTQ+ community follow our rules and laws stated in the Bible to be saved just like straight Christians? Just like Gentiles, if they were circumsized could they be considered Jews? Legalism has brought up a lot of division and hatred in the Christian community. Along with the people in that time period, we need to remember that only God can save us and make that judgement, we as humanity can’t save ourselves.

  24. After reading Acts 15, It was quite evident to me that back then, when gentiles were being excluded in some cases, and looked down upon, their experiences were not so different than some of the experiences people in today’s world face. Oftentimes I feel that some Christians today, in a sense, look down upon those who are not, and exclude people altogether who may think or do things differently than themselves. This is super hard to think about because as a Christian, I know that God has called us to love everyone, not just those who look or act a certain way. In this passage, God makes it very clear that everyone has the opportunity to enter the kingdom of God, whether Jew or Gentile, one group of people is not better or worse than the other, since Jesus paid the price for all sinners on the cross, and accepts anyone who puts their faith in him, whether circumcised or uncircumcised, Jew, or gentile, he does not discriminate, and neither should we as Christians in the world today.

  25. While defining “Christian” there is one question that we need to reflect on: why was circumcision of Gentiles such a controversial issue? Long (2015) gives three reasons for this controversial issue. First, circumcision was a major factor in Jewish identity. Some Jews were forcibly circumcised, so that they were a part of their family. Secondly, circumcision was a most ridiculous practice of the Jews. The martial was a great example as it brought some humor to the Jewish practice. Finally, Paul was teaching his church that in Galatian there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the Body of Christ, for that God is creating something different than Judaism in present age. In response to the question on whether or not we still exclude people from the Body of Christ on the basis of ethnicity or social status, I would say that although it may still be an issue, it shouldn’t be happening. Everyone is created in the image of God, so that we are a child of Him. Everyone should be welcomed when it comes to the Body of Christ.

  26. The author of the post describes the early church’s discussion over circumcision highlights the challenges of defining the borders of the new community of religion, as well as tensions between Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus. Because circumcision was a vital hallmark of Jewish identity, it was considered a disgusting practice by many in the Greco-Roman culture, making the subject complicated and difficult. Paul maintained that trust in Christ transcends ethnic, gender, and social borders and that Jewish rituals are not required for participation in the community of faith. Now, as we handle cultural and theological differences, this bold thought continues to challenge us. The choice in Acts 15 to spare Gentile Christians from circumcision serves as an example for us Christians today, indicating a willingness to pass on cultural rituals in order to foster tolerance and unity. Our faith ultimately revolves around our connection with God, rather than specific conventions or traditions. The early church’s wrestling with these issues inspires us as we strive to develop varied and inclusive Christian communities.

  27. In today’s day we hear so many different definitions of what a Christian really is. We talk about how in order to be a Christian we have to do x,y, and z. In reading Acts we read about different things that have come up. Long starts his blog off by making a very important statement of how instead of debating about who Jesus actually was or talking about the Trinity, people argue over things with “less importance.” Skipping around through this blog post, something major that is stated is the fact that some Gentiles are forced to keep Jewish practices so in this case they are converting to Judaism and are not “In Christ.” Going back to the other blog post about Circumcision, we see that this was a huge controversial issue. When Paul was teaching he talked about Galatians 3:28 but going to the last question of the blog, how is this scripture valid during this time? God created all of us different of course but there was a huge issue back then with the Jews and Gentiles. The last question in this blog really did strike me. We see a lot of older Christians looking down on younger generations because of social status. Are we not Christians because we have piercings and tattoos? Will God strike us or love us any less because some people have chosen to express art through ink on their skin? Overall this blog post can strike a very good discussion for a class. I feel like this is a topic or issue that should be talked about more often.

  28. In today’s day we hear so many different definitions of what a Christian really is. We talk about how in order to be a Christian we have to do x,y, and z. In reading Acts we read about different things that have come up. Long starts his blog off by making a very important statement of how instead of debating about who Jesus actually was or talking about the Trinity, people argue over things with “less importance.” Skipping around through this blog post, something major that is stated is the fact that some Gentiles are forced to keep Jewish practices so in this case they are converting to Judaism and are not “In Christ.” Going back to the other blog post about Circumcision, we see that this was a huge controversial issue. When Paul was teaching he talked about Galatians 3:28 but going to the last question of the blog, how is this scripture valid during this time? God created all of us different of course but there was a huge issue back then with the Jews and Gentiles. The last question in this blog really did strike me. We see a lot of older Christians looking down on younger generations because of social status. Are we not Christians because we have piercings and tattoos? Will God strike us or love us any less because some people have chosen to express art through ink on their skin? Overall this blog post can strike a very good discussion for a class. I feel like this is a topic or issue that should be talked about more often.

  29. I really appreciated this blog of getting into the dilemma of what even makes a person a true Christian. I think it makes sense why both Jews and Gentiles were confused on the correct procedures to take in order to be a Christian, even though the apostles were pretty clear in their teachings to them of what to do or not to do. Since Christianity was only in its beginning at this time in the Word, the imperfect people are only beginning to understand everything.
    I really appreciated how you mentioned Galatians 3:28 and said, “Paul’s point is God is creating something different than Judaism in the present age.” As you mentioned in class that people are always searching for a rule-book of how to do something or be someone, it makes sense in my mind that the people were seeking a certain way of being in order to have the label of a Christian.
    Thankfully, Christianity, being a follower of Jesus, definitely does have more of an expansive definition than our human conditions (like gender, ethnicity, social status, etc.) If we are still struggling with that concept now in 2023, I can only imagine, in the culture of the people written about in Acts, how terribly they were struggling with this truth.

  30. After reading this blog post, the thoughts that came into my mind was highlighting that the first big issue the early church had to deal with wasn’t about Jesus’ nature or the Trinity or anything else. Instead, they had to figure out what to do with Gentiles who believed in Jesus. I never really thought about this too much being the first big issue, because sometimes we can overlook it. Should they follow Jewish customs and get circumcised? This was a big deal because circumcision was really important to Jews and many non-Jews thought it was weird. Paul said that the church was supposed to be something new and different, and making Gentiles do Jewish stuff could mess that up. This problem still matters today. Do we use certain behaviors to decide who’s really a Christian? Do we exclude people because of their race or social status? This is big even in our world today and this is important to note because this was an issue even in the early days of Christianity. The early church decided that Gentile believers could be part of the church without getting circumcised, and this can be a good example for us to follow in trying to be more accepting and inclusive to anyone and everyone.

  31. I think it’s an interesting point that P. Long brings up on how the Jewish Christians were so concerned about following the law that they probably didn’t even have time to think, ponder, or grow in maturity in Christ since they were so worried about other Christians converting to the law. Though it’s understandable why some of them thought this way because God’s Law was all that they knew for some long time in history. God was extremely gracious to them especially in the sense that He made sure they were witnessed before moving on to the Gentiles. God again, expressed His long-suffering and gracious character to them. Circumcision was a huge deal to the Jewish people and they were in an uproar because they wanted to make sure the Gentiles followed the Law of Moses despite how it might cause any issues for the Gentiles. The Jewish people seemed to have such a challenging time accepting the grace of God, but they had good intentions. The way to hell is paved with good intentions as they say, and that’s exactly what the Jewish people (especially the Pharisees) represent. They focused so much on the overt things that they completely missed the point about their heart posture which is sad.

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