Acts 15:1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
These were the Judaizers, insisting that new converts first keep the Jewish old testament covenant, including circumcision. Paul addresses this in the Epistle to the Galatians. We are not to be put back under the law.
Gal 5:12 I would they were even cut off which trouble you.
Gal 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
Gal 5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Acts 15:2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.
Paul probably more then anyone new the law and grace. He knew that the law was not to be imposed on the new believers as a requirement for salvation; but that by grace ye are saved.
Gal 3:23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
Gal 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
Gal 3:25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
Gal 3:26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
Gal 3:27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Gal 3:29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Acts 15:3 And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.
Acts 15:4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.
What had God done? Both Jew and Gentiles had come to Jesus. There were signs and wonders following the gospel message. The evil hearted Jews persecuted them, even stoning Paul, but God had raised him up.
Acts 15:5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
1 Cor 4:19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power.1 Cor 4:20 For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.
Believing Pharisees wanted to bring the old ways with them and impose them on others. They were intoxicated with the old wine.
Luke 5:37 And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.
Luke 5:38 But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.
Luke 5:39 No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.
Mat 26:27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
Mat 26:28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Col 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
Col 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
Rom 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
Rom 16:18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
Eph 4:3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
It is grace through faith in Jesus, nothing more. There are those who will argue some point of scriptures to the point of destroying the unity. Do you preach the gospel? Jesus Christ is our focus, these other things become a hindrance. Our strength is in unity.
The Jerusalem Council
Acts 15:6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
The apostles were chosen by Jesus, the original disciples and Paul. The elders were the chosen and ordained leaders of the churches.
This was an important event for the Christian faith. The Judaizers were Christian Jews who were demanding that the Gentile believers first be circumcised and obey the Jewish laws. Were laws required to receive salvation? Or was salvation by the finished work of Jesus on the cross, and by faith alone? Most religions try to please God by good works. Is this what God requires? Or is it the work of God by faith?
We know that it is the work of God by faith.
John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
John 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Now we look at the historical event that came to this conclusion, the council at Jerusalem.
Acts 15:7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
There was much disputing, discussion and reasoning together. Peter testifies of what God has done in his life regarding the Gentiles.
Acts 15:8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
Peter witnessed the conversion of the Gentiles and their receiving the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is the sealing of the believer unto God.
Acts 10:24 And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends.
Acts 10:32 Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.
Acts 10:44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.
Acts 10:45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Acts 10:46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.
Acts 15:9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
Peter says it well, by faith they received the purifying of their hearts. Paul repeats this in his epistles (letters.)
Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Eph 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Peter spoke from God.
Acts 15:10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
Acts 15:11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
Acts 15:12 Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.
Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, he had witnessed both Jew and Gentile receive the Lord, with signs following.
Acts 15:13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:
James was half brother to Jesus, he wrote the book of James. He was not a believer until after the Lord arose. He was thought to be the elder of the Jerusalem Church.
Acts 15:14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.
Acts 15:15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,
Acts 15:16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:
Acts 15:17 That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.
James quotes from Amos 9:11-12. All questions should be first be brought to the scriptures. The word of God is God's will.
Acts 15:18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
Acts 15:19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
To sentence is to make a judgment. A judge at a trial would pass a sentence. This was a trial of deciding if the Gentiles could enter God's grace without keeping the ceremonial laws of the Jews. We as Christians are not to judge, in this meaning, we are not to pronounce a sentence or a final judgment on another. Jesus will judge all things by his word. We are however to use judgment through God's word in knowing right from wrong and in warning those who are opposing God's way. To warn and exhort and to admonish, is not to pass a sentence.
Acts 15:20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
Acts 15:21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.
These laws were particularly important to Jews, both saved and traditional under the Old Covenant. The law of Moses was taught to the Jews every Sabbath day.
John includes part of this in his conclusion to 1John.
1 John 5:21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.
These are not commands that must be included to be saved, no, it is through faith in Jesus we are saved. These were to be observed so as not to be an offense to the Jews.
Paul spoke of meat offered to idols that was sold in the marketplace.
Rom 14:13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.
Rom 14:14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
Rom 14:15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
Rom 14:16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of:
Rom 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
Rom 14:18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.
Rom 14:19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
Rom 14:20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.
Rom 14:21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
Rom 14:22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
Rom 14:23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
Interestingly though Paul, admonished Peter for leaving the company of the Gentiles when the Jews from James were present. Peter was concerned not to offend those of Jewish origins. Paul hearing from Jesus, by the Holy Ghost confronts him.
Gal 2:11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
Gal 2:12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
Gal 2:13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
Gal 2:14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
The book of James spoke about doing good works; Paul put grace first, works to follow. But no works will gain God's favor. It is the blood of the Lamb that he sees. We are loved, because we are in His son. We must not impose rules to gain God's favor. We also cannot be man pleasers, if so we may take away from God's truth.
Gal 2:15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
Gal 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Gal 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Gal 2:21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
What shall we do in regards to people who are without Jesus? We should not be an offense in our manner of life; be on their level.
1 Cor 9:19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.
1 Cor 9:20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
1 Cor 9:21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.
1 Cor 9:22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
1 Cor 9:23 And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
The New Covenant is a better covenant.
Heb 8:6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.
Heb 8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.
Heb 8:8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
Heb 8:9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
Heb 8:10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
Heb 8:11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
Heb 8:12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
Heb 8:13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
Jewish Christians may keep the old covenant with it's promises, but salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ.
Gentiles are not under the Mosaic law and the covenant to the Jews. The sign of the old covenant was Sabbath keeping. The sign of the new covenant is water baptism.
Rom 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Rom 6:5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
Rom 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
Those who wish to observe the Jewish laws are not to impose them on the Gentiles as a requirement for salvation. The New Covenant believers are Spirit controlled with the laws written on their hearts. It is not necessary to be under the law of Moses to be a born again believer. We are free in Christ.