The Ten Commandments: Are they still relevant? – Part 4
We left off in Part 3 in Romans 13:8-10, in which the Apostle Paul is discussing with the Jewish Christians in Rome, who were beginning to have doubts about their conversion to Christianity. Who other than Paul was the best choice to be able to assuage their doubts? Paul had described himself as a Pharisee of Pharisees, meaning that he had kept the Law of God and the Law of Moses to the very last jot and tittle. For the devout Jew, leaving the faith of their fathers was a very serious thing, seeing that they believed that to do so was to eventually have your name blotted out of the land and you would be removed from amongst the people of God and remembered no more. So we find Paul in Romans 13, informing the Jewish section of the church that they were keeping the Laws of God.
In the early years of the church there existed a dichotomy; there were Jews converting to Christianity and then there were converts coming in from the pagan religions. So there existed a tension between the two groups, the one keeping the law of God as well as the Law of Moses even as they had always kept it. The church leaders were also attempting to give the laws of God to the other group as well.
But it probably became quickly apparent that they needed to do so without first requiring that they become Jews. More than likely these new converts from pagan religions, not knowing the long history of Israel and all of its trials and triumphs (some were subverting these new converts) and they were finding it difficult to understand “why” they were following these commands. This is why in Acts 15:1-31 we find the pericope that deals with this particular issue.
And certain men which came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 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.
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. 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.
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. And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
We should first notice that there isn’t any mention of the Ten Commandments in this verse. Rather, the Jewish believers coming from Judea were instructing the new pagan converts to Christianity that they had to be circumcised after the manner of Moses, so that they could first become Jews and THEN they could be saved.
So then both Paul and Barnabas greatly opposed this teaching so much that they then determined to go up to Jerusalem to ask the apostles and elders whether or not the pagan converts had to become Jews first. After Paul and Barnabas arrived at Jerusalem, a certain sect of the Pharisees arose to say that these new converts should indeed become Jews first and furthermore that they should be circumcised and THEN they should be commanded to keep the LAW OF MOSES. Notice it does not say, “to be commanded to keep the LAW OF GOD.”
As we continue with this particular passage and historical witness of the church, in v. 7 the Apostle Peter rises to address the group and reminds them that the Gentiles were now being chosen by God as well to join the church. Then in v.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?
So what yoke is Peter speaking about? None other than the intricate LAW OF MOSES, which Peter unequivocally states that their forbears and even they themselves could not keep the seemingly unending list of prescriptions and proscriptions that were required of them in order to be considered devout Jews. This of course did not include the unwritten rules and regulations that the Jewish leaders also required of the people.
We will continue in Part 6. God Bless.