In, Not Of: A letter to my girls’ teachers explaining why we’re so different from other Christians

December 23, 2017 at 6:55 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , , , )

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As mankind continues to fall deeper into darkness and further away from God’s truth, we Higgins find ourselves trying to figure out how to live IN this world, but not be OF it.  Even in the bubble of Christian education, we must continually resist the compromise of God’s truth that we’re expected to gladly embrace.  God’s “church” has strayed so far from His ways in pursuit of a more “comfortable” doctrine, that most do not even recognize His ways anymore, let alone follow them.  We’ve somehow forgotten that HE made the rules…and  He defined them for us clearly in scripture…and no matter how much “greasy grace” we sprinkle on top of our thoughts and actions, or how much time we wander around aimlessly trying to “find ourselves” and attempt to play by our OWN rules that scripture actually opposes, we will ALL one day be held accountable to whether or not we played the game of life by GOD’S rules. 

God’s approval and our spending eternity with Him is pretty important to the Higgins family, so we have zero desire to waste time or energy playing by any man-made rules that can’t possibly help us win the game.  Instead, we spend every spare second we have learning God’s revealed winning strategy for this game of life.  We are consumed with knowing the Creator of this game, His ways, His expectations and His heart and reasoning behind each instruction.  We read and study His instruction manual constantly in order to know exactly how the game works: where dangers and curses lie, where blessing and favor can be found, what pleases the heart of our Heavenly Father and was angers Him and why.  We walk out our faith quite differently than most.  First and foremost, we’re not RELIGIOUS.  We don’t follow empty instructions that man has made up that add to or take away from the word of God.  Instead, we walk in RELATIONSHIP with the one true God, following the instructions He alone gave that have been preserved for us through the Bible.  We engage ourselves in un-ending pursuit of HIS truth and we boldly stand up in support of the truth we have already acquired—even when it’s not comfortable. 

I will never forget the day I returned from Christmas break years ago as a 5th grader.  My teacher went around the classroom asking each child to name something they had received as a Christmas gift.  I watched in sad confusion as my young classmate, Dennis, jumped from his seat and ran out of the room crying.  Our teacher followed him and returned to the classroom shortly after, explaining that Dennis was of a faith that did not celebrate Christmas.  Over the years, Dennis and his struggle with the emotions of having to live in but not of the world, have come to mind many times.  Nobody wants their kid to be the “Dennis” of the class; different than everyone else, ridiculed, misunderstood.  Yet God tells His followers in Isaiah 51:7 not to fear the disapproval of men.  Neither to be afraid or feel distress when they speak to us abusively with scorn or criticism.  We’re either FOR God or we’re AGAINST God.  There’s no riding the fence.  This God-fearing mom is just another “Dennis” married to another “Dennis” and we’re raising four “Dennis” kiddos.  We are NOT of this world and we cannot pretend to be. We tell our kids all the time that we are different than the world-and it’s a GOOD different.  However, in a school setting with a majority of children who are somewhat familiar with the ways of popular religion but who are not actually following through in a relationship with or in obedience to God, this can get a bit messy.  Glory’s teacher has had MANY opportunities to explain to the other children why God wouldn’t want us to allow certain things into our hearts and minds through the television.  He has standards of holiness for our eyes and our ears and it is not okay to watch or listen to whatever we want after we have come into a saving relationship with Him.  Some things may be just fine, but others definitely have to go!  The unacceptable old ways and patterns have to stop in order for us to be transformed into new creations.  If we hold onto all of the old, then we essentially remain unchanged.  That’s a problem!  Likewise, the high school kids have never once considered that you become more holy by spending time with the One who is holy!  They don’t know the word of God or how it applies to them today.  They don’t understand God’s Feasts or His sacrificial system or their roles in years past or in all of mankind’s future.  These differences in the Higgins family continually bring up new “situations” at the school so this Mama Dennis decided that it might really help the teachers out if I wrote them a letter explaining our beliefs and the heart behind the decisions we make as a family.  I sent it to the principal and asked her to read it and pass it on to the girls’ teachers and to my great surprise, she said she did.  I thought I’d share it here on the blog with friends and family for those of you who don’t quite understand who we are or why we do what we do either.  

 The letter is posted below.  It’s a little long, but what it speaks of literally changed our lives forever.  May it spark a curiosity in your heart to forever search out God’s absolute truth and fully embrace it -even if you find that it goes against everything man’s doctrine has taught you to believe.  May the Bible come alive and leap off of the pages into your heart like never before.  

Love and blessings to all,

Julie

Dear teachers,

My three daughters, Alyssa Joy, Grace, and Glory began attending [the school] this year.  We are so grateful for Christian education and are beyond blessed for the opportunity Mrs. K extended to us for our girls to be a part of your wonderful school.  Many of you have already become aware that we’re a bit different than most families of the Christian faith and I understand that this sometimes causes an “awkwardness” in the classroom.  I apologize for that and would like to take a few minutes to write to you all to explain our beliefs and clear up any confusion you may have regarding them.

  First and foremost, we are Bible-believing Christians.  We believe in salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  All three of our girls have come to the realization that they are sinners in need of a savior.  They have received forgiveness of their sins, given their lives to the Lord, been baptized, and are walking in a personal relationship with Him.

  In order to have a greater understanding of our Christian heritage, their father, William, and I have studied the Jewish (Hebrew) roots of Christianity since before our girls were born.  Most people don’t even realize that there was a vital connection between Christianity and Judaism that was severed centuries ago, but 2000 years of Jewish history, culture, language, and customs literally form the root of Christianity.  Once that severing took place, Biblical Judaism and Biblical Christianity, which God intended to be one, went their separate ways.  Our family realizes that the Bible is not about “Jewish” or “Christian” things.  Rather, it is about divine, eternal, and universal things-and therefore applies to all people.  However, the ability to understand it correctly requires a deep awareness of and comprehension of the people, nation, and culture through whom God chose to reveal His ways and His word.  While Christians in America view the Bible and all of life through a Western mind and worldview, the Bible was written by Abraham’s descendants, who had a Hebraic culture, language, and worldview.  This western perspective has caused great misunderstanding and misinterpretation in the church for many years-as we have been trying to understand and interpret a Middle-Eastern book through a 21st century western mentality.  The Bible is the divinely inspired word of God, given to mankind in the form of a Jewish book and we Higgins choose to study it that way.

 I know that some of you have been trying to figure us out for a while now.  We are not Jewish by blood and you can rest assured that we do not believe that we are Jews.  J  We simply study the Jewish roots of Christianity to better understand our Savior.  Jesus was a Jew born into a Jewish family in the Jewish village of Bethlehem in the land of Israel.  He lived and ministered as an observant Jew, read the Jewish scriptures, spoke Hebrew, wore Jewish clothes, ate only biblically kosher food, kept the Jewish Sabbath, celebrated God’s commanded feasts, followed Jewish customs, and most importantly, He kept every law of God.  Our goal as Christ-followers is to pattern our lives after His, and to become more like Him in character and actions.  Had God chosen a different people group and set them apart to testify of His integrity and to give credence to the absolute authority of His scriptures, we’d be busy learning His ways as expressed through them.  Yet, the Bible reveals that God’s great plan for salvation was originally for the Israelites alone, the House of Israel and the House of Judah (Jeremiah 31: 31) and that everyone else was separate from the Messiah, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and were strangers to His new covenant.  (Ephesians 2:11-12) Yet, in His great love and goodness, He extended an invitation to any who would join themselves to Him and His ways to be “grafted” into the new covenant that He made with His chosen people, Israel.  (Romans 11:11-31) We did not “replace” them, but were “included” into the covenant that God made with them. 

Our family has always kept the Feasts of the Lord, as recorded in the Bible, simply because God commands that they are to be celebrated FOREVER.  That was easy enough for us to understand, as He did not call them the Feasts of the Jews, but of the Lord.  And since we all had chosen to embrace His offer to be “grafted in” to His new covenant and His ways, we just naturally celebrated them.  However, like many, we had always been taught by the Western church that the law (actually translated “instructions”) of God was done away with when Jesus came.  Believing that, we, like most Christians, didn’t really think that much of the Old Testament was relevant for today and never really taught our children to value it either. 

We moved from Texas to Oregon last October to dis-engage from many of the distractions of the world and start a new way of life pursuing the truth of the Bible and spending time that used to be dedicated to television to instead truly seek out the Lord and learn His ways.  It was at this point, when we actually started digging deep into the word of God and not just relying on the tiny snippets of scripture from a church sermon here or there, that we began noticing that much of our “Christian” belief system did not actually line up with the divinely inspired word of God.  That’s a real problem when you genuinely love the Lord and want to follow Him in obedience!  After months of researching the original language of the scriptures as well as just taking time to compare portions of scripture and of actually READING what it says without an agenda and stripping away any “added” teaching or theology passed down by our denomination, we came to realize that there is much more to the Bible than we ever thought possible!  Specifically, the Lord opened our eyes to the fact that His good and perfect law (as defined in Psalm 19:7 and all throughout Psalm 119, as well as throughout the rest of the Bible) is STILL good and perfect and is NOT some sort of “bondage” that our world has twisted it into. 

So many people instantly jump to the conclusion that if you value the law in any way, you must also believe that mankind can obtain salvation by trying to keep the law.  Nothing could be further from the truth and the scriptures confirm this and make it very clear that salvation is a gift from God and CANNOT be earned by keeping the law.  However, scripture (as well as Jesus Christ Himself) also makes it very clear in multiple passages that His coming was not to bring the law to an end, (end as in, “it’s over and done with” kind of end) but rather that He came to live the law out for us as an example to learn from!  His journey as a man on this earth was the fulfillment of the law in the sense that the literal WORD OF GOD (including all of the law/instructions) was now a breathing, walking, talking human who could now teach the people by example in everyday life!  He was the FULFILLMENT, or goal, of the law…not the end of it!  God never finished giving His law at Mt. Sinai.  The people were scared and begged Him to stop so He told them He would send a prophet like unto Moses to them instead.  That was Jesus Christ and He walked God’s law out perfectly before the people day after day.  This is extremely difficult to discern while one is filtering all of scripture with a “lens” of doctrine passed down from the church that says that “We’re not under the law, we’re under a new covenant of grace.”  However, when you read the front of the book, and you realize that grace has been there all along from the very beginning and was not in any way a new concept, and that the new Covenant that God made was DUE TO the people BREAKING His law (not because there was any problem with His already declared perfect law) and that He said this time, rather than the law being just words and teachings passed down from generation to generation that are easily broken and forgotten, He was going to write His law, or instructions, on the hearts of the people and give them the Holy Spirit so that they now would actually be capable of following through with His original instructions, or law.  (Ezekiel 36:26-27) Likewise, there would be no excuses for intentional sin, as the Holy Spirit and their own consciences would now either accuse or defend their actions against the same law found in the old covenant that was now written on their hearts in the form of a new or renewed covenant.  (Romans 2:15) And not only that, He told them that His law is EASY to follow and not beyond anyone’s reach, (Deuteronomy 30:11) unlike the Oral Law that the Pharisees had come up with that built fences (rules) around fences (rules) around fences (rules), practically making it impossible to follow. 

When we began to see all these things, we decided to become a neutral party and go back and read the text of the New Testament with a 100% clear lens as a filter, not leaning either direction.  It was absolutely astounding how differently the text now read.  Not only did we find multiple instances of NEW TESTAMENT believers continuing to follow God’s law or instructions as given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, we also found Jesus himself still following this law that He supposedly came to do away with.  We found Paul, Jesus, and Stephen all being FALSELY accused of NOT keeping the law and strong defenses that they were indeed following it faithfully.  We found Peter making a declaration that Paul was very difficult to understand and a warning that many would twist his writings on the law to actually PROMOTE lawlessness –just as the majority of the churches in our world today do!  And we also found him warning us in advance NOT to fall into those false teachings!  After a careful study of all of Paul’s writings we came to realize that there are actually SEVEN laws that Paul made reference to and our assuming that he is referring to God’s law when actually talking about the law of sin and death makes him out to be a liar and a hypocrite and directly opposed to God’s commands and everything Jesus Christ taught-which we of course know is not true.

  I say all this to explain that our family came into a new awareness of and respect for the law of God.  Our little Higgins world was flipped on end when we realized that all this time we’ve had access to something extremely valuable and have just absolutely been ignoring it!  Suddenly, we had this insatiable appetite to read and understand the books of the Old Testament.  Day after day we began to unsurface new treasures hidden in the books we had always thought didn’t really apply to us.  We began to see that the entire Old Testament-all of the strange customs and very, very specific ways God required things to be done—they all point to Jesus Christ!  The only instructions the people had at the time, (the New Testament not yet penned), they were pictures and shadows and types of things to come so that God’s people would recognize the Messiah when He arrived!  We began to learn the holiness and character of God and that He’s nothing like our current world paints Him out to be- a schizophrenic Deity that originally rewarded strict obedience to His law/instructions with great blessing and favor and severely punished and even cursed any who transgressed it but suddenly and without warning reversed the entire system and everything He ever taught after his son died on the cross and now considers His good and perfect law to be a form of bondage and therefore does not expect anyone to actually follow it.  We found that there is absolutely no Biblical support for this flawed logic.  In fact, God gave us the scriptures and declared that they are ALL profitable for teaching and instruction and reproof, both Old and New! He describes Himself and His ways in extreme detail in His word, so His people will KNOW Him, His ways, and His character and will not fall into such deception! 

We realized the importance of following ALL of the ten commandments-not just nine of them-and we started honoring the Sabbath.  This was very difficult for us at first-especially for me because I am a work-a-holic.  Yet, in just a short period of time we came to experience the tremendous blessing that comes with following this often ignored instruction!  Now we look forward to this special day set aside for rest and time with our Creator with GREAT anticipation!  We understand now that the Sabbath is what actually sets us apart from the rest of the world as His people.  (Exodus 31:13) Yet strangely, many of the same Christians who agree that we should carefully follow the laws of not murdering, stealing, or committing adultery that are printed in the same list just inches from the one that commands us to honor the Sabbath, think we are “extreme” and “legalistic” because we keep the Sabbath on the actual Sabbath.  Yet no one seems to think that it’s “legalistic” of us to not murder their child or sleep with their spouse…why is that?

We learned how the Lord makes it very clear in scripture that He is not to be worshipped in the ways that other gods are worshipped or at the times that other gods are worshipped.  (Deuteronomy 12:30-31, Deuteronomy 18:9-15, Exodus 23:24, Jeremiah 10:2, Deuteronomy 12:1-8, Psalm 78:58) We learned of the appalling and detestable origins of many of our current holidays.  They say ignorance is bliss….No longer being ignorant of these things, we were forced to make a choice.  The ways and traditions of man, or obedience to the true and living God to not participate in these things?  You might have guessed that we chose the latter and here we are with children who have never celebrated Halloween (because that one we’ve always known was tied to pagan practices) but have always celebrated Christmas and Easter and Valentine’s Day.  They now know the truth and want no part of it, but they still have to live in a world full of people that either do not yet know, or do not care.  That part has not been as smooth of a transition as we would have liked.  They are still trying to process everything we have learned this past year for themselves and still have a difficult time putting into words in a way that is not offensive to any of their friends or authority figures these beliefs that make us so different from everyone else. 

Absolutely we value our precious Savior’s birth and we do celebrate Him in our hearts and in our home.  But we can no longer declare that “He knows our hearts” and that “our intentions are good” while throwing our Holy Savior’s birth celebration into a pagan mix that originated from the celebration of other false gods (namely the sun god who has also conveniently stolen His day of worship and moved it to Sun-day.)  That would be like my husband declaring that he has decided that he’ll move the celebration of my special birthday to the same day as one of his ex-girlfriends’ birthdays and telling me not to worry because as his wife I know his heart in the matter and it’s not really about her at all to him.  He just prefers to celebrate me on her day.  It’s not an act of love and devotion, but an insult, and it’s just not something we can continue in as a family truly desiring to please and honor the Lord.  William and I have great Christmas memories with our own children and extended families.  Our past Higgins Christmas celebrations have always directly pointed to the birth of the Messiah (not Santa or materialism or commercialism), yet we’ve come to realize that it’s not about us or how WE FEEL about anything.  It’s instead about how the all-powerful God of this universe feels about it.  So we have let go of following the traditions of men like some other “traditions” found in Mark 7 that made Jesus so angry with the Pharisees.  Our desire is to do life HIS way, despite what our traditions have always been and no matter how near and dear we hold them to our hearts. 

Since starting school, our girls have been asked everything from if we are Jewish, if we are even Christians, to if we are Seventh Day Adventists.  But the simple truth is, we’re just Christ followers who actually do what He commands us to do in the Bible.  We don’t do it to try to earn salvation.  We do it out of love and because God never intended for the grace that Jesus’ death on the cross brought to mankind to be twisted into a license to willfully sin.  Oh, that grace exists when we unintentionally fall short after coming into relationship with God through His son, Jesus, but scripture is beyond clear in Hebrews 10:26-30 that a sacrifice no longer remains for those who go on deliberately sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth.

 Jesus tells us that if we love Him, we’ll obey His commands.  And His disciple, John,  tells us that any who say that they follow Christ but do not obey His commands are liars and the truth is not in them.  I hope after reading this, you will have gained a better understanding of our kiddos and the things you hear them talking about or the things we choose not to participate in.  Our heart is only to be obedient and therefore express love to God in the way that He clearly instructed us to and not in man-inspired ways that we *think* or hope He might find pleasing and acceptable.  Our heart is never to judge, condemn, or disapprove of others or the way they live out their faith.  We are simply in the process of letting go of many things we once genuinely believed to be true (due to our “busy-ness” and lack of studying the scriptures) and we’re replacing them with the actual truth that can be found in God’s word after removing the blinding “scales” of misunderstanding and misinterpretation.  We appreciate your patience and of course your prayers as we continue to seek the Lord wholeheartedly.

 

Blessings from our family to yours,

Julie

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4 Comments

  1. Jamie Carter said,

    My first thought is what about Cornelius? In the book of Acts, Cornelius has a vision and summons Peter. Peter has a vision, too. Peter sees a big white blanket lowered before him where God tells him to take whatever he wants to eat – all of the animals he sees are all unclean. Peter protests saying that he’s never eaten anything unclean. The voice of God responds: ““Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”” This happens three times. Just as Cornelius’ men arrives to get Peter, God directs Peter to go down to them. They return together to Cornelius’ place. There Peter fills them in on Jesus and the Holy Spirit falls on them. When Peter returned home, he had to answer for what he had done – because he had broken the custom of his people not to associate with uncircumcised men. Afterwards, the big question became whether or not gentile believers ought to be circumcised. The leaders decided not to burden non-Jews with obeying Jewish customs, such as circumcision.

    • hidden jewel said,

      Hi Jamie,
      Thanks so much for your comment. My understanding regarding this portion of scripture (Acts 15) is that the Jerusalem Council came to the conclusion that it is unreasonable to expect new believers to immediately understand and put into practice all of God’s ways. The Gentile converts had not been taught these things from childhood as the Jews had. Rather than forcing immediate obedience to all of God’s laws on the new converts, James offers them a process much like that found in our churches today. We help new believers focus on putting an end to their blatant intentional sin first. Then as they begin to grow and mature as Christians and in their relationship with the Lord, the Holy Spirit and the study of scripture will perfect them, convicting them to take care of the smaller issues in their lives. The Council understood that the “Gentiles [were] coming out of a culture rooted deep into pagan cultic tradition and religion. It [was] all they [had] ever known, and they [did] not know how to fully walk in God’s ways. Their multiple gods, idols, idol worship (temple prostitution and drinking of blood), etc., [were] all historically known practices that would need to first be addressed as brand new converts in the faith. We cannot serve two masters, the table of God and the table of demons (Luke 16:13; 1 Corinthians 10:21).

      The council [stated] that the new believers [needed] to address the following first and that it should be their only focus for now:

      Acts 15:20 “But that we write unto them, that they may abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.”

      Obviously, the commandments that they gave the new converts were taken directly from the Law of Moses (Leviticus 17:12-16; Deuteronomy 32:17). So, their decision could not mean that the Law was no longer to be followed.
      “Rather than suddenly overwhelm them with the whole Law of Moses, it was the council’s recommendation that they start with dealing with the priority or the weightier sins first, primarily idolatry, which as Paul states in his letters, is the same as worshipping demons.”

      “Believers cannot be part of a pagan cultic idolatry and be at the same time claim to be following the one true God. That issue had to be addressed first. We cannot serve two masters, God and Satan.”

      Once the converts addressed the 4 given instructions, they would then be allowed back into the synagogues to sit under the teachings of Moses every Sabbath (Acts 15:21) and it would be here that they would learn to apply all of the rest of God’s instructions to their lives week after week.

      Please note that I gathered the quoted portions that I included above from the teaching from 119 Ministries entitled, Acts 15: Obedience or Legalism.
      It is an excellent and fascinating teaching on this subject and I highly recommend that you watch it for a more complete understanding regarding this portion of scripture. The video teaching can be found at:
      http://www.119ministries.com/teachings/video-teachings/detail/acts-15-obedience-or-legalism/preacher/119-ministries/
      Blessings,
      Julie

      • Jamie Carter said,

        Still, the Council of Jerusalem decided not to force circumcision; when you read Paul in 1 Corinthians, he says “circumcision is nothing” so ultimately it wasn’t about following rules. As Jesus had quote from Hosea, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” – he put the weightier matters of mercy, peace, forgiveness ahead of the rules and regulations of sacrifice. That’s why New Testament believers are not bound to Old Testament codes and laws. Jesus was the final sacrifice, and we no longer need to keep sacrificing because his was sufficient.

  2. hidden jewel said,

    Hi Jamie,
    I apologize for the delayed response. I singlehandedly run a small business and haven’t had a chance to sit down at the computer since you last commented. I’m not sure if you’ve yet had a chance to watch the teaching I posted in my previous comment, but in it you will find a thorough evaluation of the context surrounding the meeting of the Jerusalem Council and their decision. In order to fully understand the decision, we need to back up a little and clarify what positions were even being presented. Again, because they articulate it so well and for the sake of time, I will quote directly from 119 Ministries’ teaching.

    Regarding Acts 15:1-21,

    “We need to understand what groups are involved. First is the Jerusalem Council. This is the first century church leadership – They are overseeing the debate at hand to deliver a decision to the Gentiles.
    Next is the Circumcision Party. They believe that circumcision is necessary for salvation (legalistic) and they are teaching the Gentile converts this doctrine. This group is also found in Galatians 2:12 and Acts 10.
    Then the believing sect of the Pharisees, defined as valid believers, they are of course saved by faith and thus they know they cannot be saved by keeping the law. But they still keep the law out of obedience -just like Paul. He was also a Pharisee. This is very important to understand. Scripture is calling this group valid believers in the faith, AND they are teaching that the law of God, as written by Moses, IS VALID.
    And lastly, the New Gentile converts. This group has recently come into the faith but many are still deep into their pagan worship and traditions – such as drinking blood, temple prostitution, eating unclean/strangled animals, and worshiping false gods.
    We basically find that there are two groups debating here in Acts 15.
    First the Circumcision Party believes the law of Moses should be kept as a requirement of salvation. The “Circumcision Party” –as this particular Jewish denomination was called- began teaching the new converts outside of Jerusalem that the Law of Moses -starting with circumcision- is a must for salvation. It was this group that caused Paul and Barnabus to travel to Jerusalem to settle this matter as revealed in Galatians Chapter 2.
    And then we have those who believe first in faith and then still keep the law of Moses out of obedience: This group in verse 5 is stated to be believers, which means they have faith in Yeshua and they understand this is the only way to salvation.
    It is important to note that the group in verse 1 is not noted as believers. They believed salvation came from keeping the law (legalism) and not through faith, as was established through Abraham.
    These are clearly two different groups with two different doctrines… and are both interested in having their position projected on the Gentile converts. This is why it is necessary to look into both positions the Jerusalem Council was considering in the matter. We now have our two arguments in the debate.

    One of these positions will be accepted and the other will be rejected.
    In summary, the debate is about whether the Gentiles should be keeping the law of Moses as a means to salvation or be keeping the law of Moses as a matter of obedience as a result of faith. THE DEBATE IS BETWEEN ONE OF THESE TWO CHOICES. NO ONE SUGGESTS ANYWHERE IN THIS DEBATE THAT THERE IS A THIRD OPTION IN WHICH THE LAW OF MOSES HAS BEEN ABOLISHED, IN WHOLE OR IN PART. IT’S SIMPLY NOT A PART OF THE DEBATE.
    The Jerusalem council came together to discuss the doctrine found in verse 1 and the doctrine found in verse 5. THOSE ARE THE ONLY CHOICES. THAT IS VERY CRITICAL TO UNDERSTAND, BECAUSE MANY CHOOSE TO IGNORE THE DEBATE AT HAND AND INVENT A NEW DEBATE ALL TOGETHER. ONE THE CONTEXT SIMPLY DOES NOT SUPPORT. Verses 1-5 set the context and set details of the debate at hand. That being…obeying the law gives salvation vs. salvation produces the fruit of obedience to the law.”

    The converted Gentiles were obviously not keeping the Law of Moses very well or there would not have been a cause for either side of the debate. In verse 6, we learn that The Jerusalem Council came together to discuss the matter. In verses 7-12 several things take place.
    Peter stood up and gave testimony proving that the Gentiles could be saved… through faith. His reference was to that which took place in Cornelius’ house where we read…
    Acts 10:45
    The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.
    This is direct evidence against the position held by the Circumcision Party in verse 1.
    In verse 10, Peter appeals to Scripture and notes that no one in Scripture has ever been able to keep the law perfectly to yield salvation. When adding commands to the Law, such as saying it is required for salvation, we make it a yoke. A burden.
    We know that simple obedience to God’s law is not an unreasonable or difficult yoke. For God Himself declares His law to be easy and light in Deuteronomy and 1 John. If God says His law, as written by Moses, is easy, then we can not have Peter saying it is bondage or an unreasonable yoke.
    What Peter is referring to as a yoke that we are unable to bear must relate to those in verse 1 in some way, but not against what God said. The yoke, that is unreasonable, is a doctrine that teaches that we are to be saved through God’s law and the commandments of men. Salvation through the law was and is indeed impossible, which is why God’s grace is necessary, as it always has been.
    Peter is clearly taking the position of the only remaining debate in Acts 15. Which is keeping the Law of Moses in obedience. Not for salvation, but because of salvation. Notice Peter does not say anything against the position of those in verse 5. Peter goes on to state that this faith of the Gentiles is demonstrated by the new Gentile converts by grace in Yeshua.
    This prompted Paul and Barnabas to provide even further evidence that the Gentiles were not saved through the law, but through faith. It should be noted that the debate in progress is still consistent with

    the debates established in verse 1 and verse 5.
    There is no new debate as to whether any of God’s law has been abolished. This is still all about the debates presented in verse 1 and in verse 5, either keeping the Law of Moses for salvation, or keeping the law of Moses as believers in the faith.
    Now consider …
    Acts 15:13-14
    13 And after they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, “Brethren, listen to me. 14 “Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name.
    After the testimony of the witnesses has concluded, James brings out the final witness: direct scriptural support. The process James is using is important, because according to God’s Word, God never does anything without revealing it to His prophets beforehand (Amos 3:7). James, of course, knows this and begins teaching what the prophets state on this matter. James proves that it was always God’s plan to graft in the divorced House of Israel back together with the House of Judah in order to save all of Israel.
    Watch him pull out prophecy that which agrees with Peter…
    Acts 15:15-18
    15 “And with this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written,
    16 ‘AFTER THESE THINGS I will return,
    AND I WILL REBUILD THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID WHICH HAS FALLEN,
    AND I WILL REBUILD ITS RUINS,
    AND I WILL RESTORE IT,
    17 IN ORDER THAT THE REST OF MANKIND MAY SEEK THE LORD,
    AND ALL THE GENTILES WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME,’
    18 SAYS THE LORD, WHO MAKES THESE THINGS KNOWN FROM OF OLD.
    The matter has been settled. The group and theological position in verse 1 are rendered in error through the establishment of the two to three witnesses.
    The conclusion of the matter is that salvation has nothing to do with the keeping of the law of Moses. The only remaining position as part of the debate is that the Gentiles should pursue the law of Moses as a matter of just obedience. SO DOES THIS NULLIFY CIRCUMCISION? NOT AT ALL. IT NULLIFIES IT AS A REQUIREMENT FOR SALVATION. Again, no one said anything against the doctrine presented in verse 5. Thus, those in verse 5 are correct.”

    Having established this, we can return to the things I shared with you in my last comment regarding the Jerusalem Council’s decision to start with the “basics.” They fully intended that the new converts would learn to walk out their faith and the rest of the law as they heard the Torah taught every Sabbath from the seat of Moses.

    As you attempt to process all of this, also keep the following in mind.
    “Something that is often overlooked is the following chapter after this decision was made. While Paul was on his journey to deliver the decision of the council to the churches, he meets Timothy.
    Compare…
    Acts 16:1-5
    1 And he came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, 2 and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 Now while they were passing through the cities, they were delivering the decrees, which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem, for them to observe. 5 So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily.

    THE PROBLEM WE HAVE HERE IS THAT IF THE MESSAGE FROM THE COUNCIL WAS THAT THE LAW, OR EVEN JUST CIRCUMCISION, IS NO LONGER SOMETHING TO BE CONCERNED WITH, THEN WHY DID PAUL CIRCUMCISE TIMOTHY? This would have been hypocritical by Paul and done behind the backs of the elders in Jerusalem, if in fact they had decided it was no longer a concern.
    Yet the council clearly displayed that the law was to be learned and followed by the new believers as instructed by Yeshua in Matthew chapter 23 and in Matthew chapter 28.
    Though Timothy’s father was a Greek, it is clear that Paul knew he had been raised in the faith since birth. So it was obvious that Timothy was not new to the faith. Once the local Jews heard the decision from the council, they would have then questioned as to why Timothy had not yet been circumcised since he was not a new believer. But was indeed well known and spoken of highly.
    The local Jews could have, and most likely would have, rightfully spoke up and said “If these converted gentiles are to learn and grow in obedience to the law, then why hasn’t your partner Timothy submitted after all these years?” Thus following the decrees in Acts 15 Timothy was convicted to be circumcised by Paul. After circumcision they could then deliver the Acts 15 decree without being viewed as hypocrites.”

    And finally, a few more things to consider as you search out the truth,

    “While debating if circumcision is not for today, many refer to Galatians chapter 5. It says…
    Gal. 5:2
    Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you.
    Here we find Paul saying that if one gets circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit. Yet, now consider what he says to the Romans…
    Rom. 3:1-2
    1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? 2 Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.
    So, to the Galatians he said if we are circumcised, Christ will be of no value, but to the Romans he says that the benefit of circumcision is great in every respect. Contradiction? Or misunderstanding Paul to be teaching Lawlessness as warned by Peter?
    Looking at this one verse in Galatians, one may try and say, “Case closed.” If we are to comprehend what is going on here, we need to see Galatians in full context.
    Is Paul speaking to all of mankind throughout all generations here? Or is he speaking to a certain group found in Galatia? Galatians 5:2 is a statement being made as a result from a group he is specifically addressing from chapter 4.
    Compare…
    Galatians 4:21

    Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?
    Those being addressed in chapter 5 are those here in chapter 4 who are desiring to be under the law.
    With 4:21 brought in view for context, it sheds light on exactly who Paul is talking to.
    Galatians 5:2
    Behold I, Paul, say to you (that desire to be under the law) that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you.
    This is where many begin to debate the issue of saying that we are no longer “under the law”.
    So the question becomes “What law is Paul talking about?” It is immediately assumed that it MUST be the Law of God. Yet we know the words Paul said in Romans was that circumcision is a benefit in every respect. And we know that Paul also said in Romans 3…
    Romans 3:31
    Do we then make the law of none effect through faith? God forbid: nay, we establish the law.
    So what law is Paul saying that we are not to be under here in Galatians? Is it the Law of God? Or another?
    Compare Paul’s words in Romans 6…
    Romans 6:14
    For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under law, but under grace.
    The whole purpose in the Law of Yahweh was to give blessings.
    Compare…
    Deuteronomy 11:26-28
    26 See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse — 27 the blessings if you obey the commands of the YHVH your God that I am giving you today; 28 the curse if you disobey the commands of the YHVH your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.
    In Romans 6:14 Paul is saying that we are not under Law but under grace. This implies that grace and the law are two different things. If one wants to say that the law of Yahweh is opposite of grace, they have an uphill battle ahead of them.
    The whole giving of the Law was an act of grace. Think about that for a moment. There was even provisions for forgiveness in the law. That’s grace. So wouldn’t Paul look at the Law of Yahweh as grace? Something that was declared as perfect, holy, righteous and good? He would not have called it sin.
    It’s the law of sin and death that we have been delivered from. That which came from our disobedience

    to God’s law. We are not under the Law of sin and death.
    Romans 6:14
    For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under law, but under grace.
    Yeshua did not come to free us from the blessings but rather from the curse. Again, that which came from our disobedience. Walking in any doctrine that added to the Law of God then put you under the law of sin and death.
    And that’s what the Galatians were trying to do. They were wanting to walk in that which was added by man. This goes back to the debate found in Acts 15. Those who were saying that circumcision was a requirement. This was adding to the law of Yahweh. And if the act of circumcision was followed in that understanding, it would truly have been of no value for it would have been done out of a feeling of obligation and not of loving obedience.
    We are told ….
    Deuteronomy 6:5
    Love the YHVH your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
    Just obeying the law doesn’t mean you love the Lord. But if you love the Lord, you’ll obey the law. Does that make sense? In other words, doing something solely out of obligation does not show love. But if done out of love in obedience, well, that’s a different story. It’s a matter of the attitude of the heart. Thus, our hearts are to be circumcised. The whole point from the beginning.
    Colossians 2:11
    In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,
    Obedience from the heart. Not obedience from obligation.
    This is why circumcision is a benefit as Paul says in Romans 3. It’s a sign and reminder of our loving obedience through our relationship with the loving Father.
    Other verses that some struggle with regarding circumcision is found a few verses down in Galatians 5.
    Galatians 5:6
    For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
    Again, who is Paul talking to? He reminds us just two verses before this…
    Galatians 5:4
    You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Messiah; you have fallen away from grace.

    Those who were trying to be justified … through the law. With this in mind, let’s read verse 6 again.
    Galatians 5:6
    For in Messiah Yeshua neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
    Thus, circumcision, in and of itself, does nothing for salvation. The only thing that counts is obedience out of love. He continues in verse 11…
    Galatians 5:11
    Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished.
    Paul USED to teach circumcision FOR salvation. Remember, he USED to be a Pharisee.
    Consider his words in chapter 1…
    Galatians 1:14
    I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
    “For the traditions of my fathers”
    He wasn’t zealous for the Word of God, but rather for the traditions. Recall the words spoken by Yeshua to the Pharisees…
    Mark 7:8-9
    8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” 9 And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!
    And …
    Mark 7:13
    Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
    But Paul no longer holds to these traditions. He preaches the Word of God. Thus, in verse 11we clearly see Paul showing that circumcision is not a requirement for salvation as he once held to. In fact, he mentions how he is still being persecuted. From who though? Obviously the same group that he opposed in Acts 15. Those that said circumcision is a requirement for salvation.
    The very group that he opposed and the Jerusalem council overruled in saying that circumcision is not a requirement for salvation but rather something that the new converts should grow in as they learn the Law as given through Moses.”

    I know this is a much lengthier response than you probably expected, but it’s really important to take the whole word of God into account as you hash out these contradictions. This stuff is sooooo crazy deep that I have to continually re-visit it and digest it one tiny portion at a time until I can fully grasp it with complete understanding.

    119 Ministries has a very comprehensive teaching over circumcision that can be found at:

    http://www.119ministries.com/teachings/video-teachings/detail/circumcision-the-eternal-sign-part-1/

    Part 2 of the teaching can be found at:

    http://www.119ministries.com/teachings/video-teachings/detail/circumcision-the-eternal-sign-part-2/

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