Eight years later, the same old controversy about circumcision brought Paul again before the elders and apostles at Jerusalem.
They re-affirmed their former decision that Gentiles be excused from circumcision but reminded Paul that he (a Jew) was expected to walk orderly and keep the law of Moses. They prevailed upon him to take a vow, shave his head, and enter into the Jewish temple until an offering should be offered for him, because he taught Jews of the dispersion, that they should not circumcise their children nor walk after the customs of Moses. Paul was induced to suppress or conceal his indifference to circumcision but not his pronounced indifference to water baptism.
Thus closes our last recorded meeting of the elders and apostles at Jerusalem with no apparent abatement of zeal for circumcision. To the last they evinced much more zeal for circumcision than they had ever shown for water baptism; and they never in any way recognized water baptism as the successor of circumcision.
Plainly it was not by the apostles but after the apostles’ time that circumcision was discarded and water baptism exalted.
Altho’ Paul ostensibly yielded to the elders and apostles at Jerusalem, yet his subsequent epistles indicate that he remained firmly indifferent or opposed to circumcision, water baptism, and other ordinances, all of which he called carnal, weak and beggarly elements when applied to Gentiles. Paul said he was made all things to all men that he might win some.
To the Jews, he became a Jew, to the Gentiles a Gentile.
[Footnote 162: Acts 1.6; Luke 24.21]
[Footnote 163: Acts 11.1, 3; Gal. 2.11, 12]
[Footnote 164: Acts 11.1, 16; Acts 10.28]
[Footnote 165: Acts 11.1, 3]
[Footnote 166: Acts 15.5, 6]
[Footnote 167: Acts 15.1]
[Footnote 168: Acts 15.2]
[Footnote 169: Acts 15.2, 6]
[Footnote 170: Acts 15.6, 20 R.v.]
[Footnote 171: Acts 15.21]
[Footnote 172: Acts 15.21]
[Footnote 173: Acts 15.23, 29]
[Footnote 174: Acts 21.21, 24]
[Footnote 175: Acts 21.21, 25; Acts 21.21, 26]
[Footnote 176: Acts 21.21, 26]
[Footnote 177: Acts 21.21, 26; Col. 2.10, 23; Heb. 9.1, 10; Gal. 6.12, 16; 1 Cor. 1.14, 17; Gal. 4.4, 11; 1 Cor. 9.20, 22]
Dean Stanley says: “It has been the misfortune of churches that they have imagined a primitive condition which never existed. The reluctance to look the facts of history in the face has favored the growth of a vast superstructure of fable.”
Let us avoid this “misfortune of the churches,” this “vast superstructure of fable,” and be willing to look the facts of Scripture and history squarely in the face.