There was another element of Christian Jews who acknowledged that God
had, indeed, called men out of other nations; “to take out of them a
people for His name” (Acts 15:14). We will call them Moderates. The
Moderate Christian Jews decided not to trouble the Gentile believers by
insisting that they live as did the Jews (Acts 15:19). The Moderates
maintained a separatist’s attitude toward the Gentiles; not
understanding, that in Christ Jesus, “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” (Galatians 3:28).
The writings of Peter, James, and John indicate that this was not a
truth for them to teach. No wonder thousands of Jews who believed that
Jesus was the Christ were zealous of the Law and could not bring
themselves to accept Gentiles with great enthusiasm.
As we have pointed out, for the sake of this writing, there were two
groups of Jewish believers during the Acts of the Apostles: (1) the
Extremist Christian Jews, and (2) the Moderate Christian Jews. The
Extremists believed that Gentile believers should become proselytes;
that is, submit to the Jewish rite of circumcision and keep the Law of
Moses. Acts 15 states that this group was influenced by those Jews who
had been of the sect of the Pharisees.
“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” (Acts 15:5).
This clearly points out that the zeal of the Pharisees carried over into
New Testament truth. That is, if they were going to accept Gentile
converts, the Gentiles must become proselytes.
It should be pointed out, in defense of Peter, that in Acts 15:7-10 we
“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. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them
witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no
difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 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?”
Well said, Peter! We don’t find him developing this line of doctrine.
However, it was apparent that Peter was no longer the force he had been.
As it was previously pointed out, this is the last we heard from Peter.
James now appeared to be the head spokesman for the church in Jerusalem.
[Just a side-note before we continue; there is an old Southern
expression for when someone loses his influence, or just fades away; “He
just flat petered-out.”]
The Lord Jesus said of the sect of the Pharisees that they would compass
land and sea to make one proselyte, “and when he is made, ye make him
twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matthew 23:15). This
fervor was carried over even by those who believed. These were the major
influences among the Extremists. Keep in mind that it was very difficult
for them to shed the traditions that had been ingrained in them all of
The same can be said for many Christians today. Many who name the Name
of Christ can never come to the full knowledge of present truth. They
are either unable, or unwilling, to let go of the traditional doctrines
that they have grown up with.
The Moderates were still “zealous of the Law” (Acts 21:20). However,
they announced in Acts 15, under the leadership of James , they would
not trouble the believing Gentiles; only that they should abstain (1)
from meats offered to idols, (2) from blood, (3) from things strangled
and, (4) from fornication (Acts 15:29). They still maintained a
separatist attitude. The Apostles of the Circumcision decided that they
would limit their ministry to those of the Circumcision, and they would
leave it up to the Apostle Paul to minister to the heathen.
The Extremists and the Moderates were made up primarily of the following
Jewish people—the priests, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the ordinary
people, the Greek speaking Grecians, and the Essenes.
Paul did not have any patience with the Extremists who were the
“And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer
persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased. I would they were
even cut off which trouble you. For, brethren, ye have been called unto
liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love
serve one another” (Galatians 5:11-13).
It is apparent that Extremists gloried in the flesh—the foreskins of
those they circumcised. Did they bring back the proof of the
circumcisions to Jerusalem in order to glory in their conquests? The
American Indians did the same to frontiersmen, but instead of foreskins,
it was their scalps.
“As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you
to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the
cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep
the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your
flesh. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord
Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the
world” (Galatians 6:12-14).
Paul chose to glory in the cross of Christ which brought about
persecution from the Extremists. The Extremists railed against the
liberty encapsulated in Paul’s Gospel of the Uncircumcision.
THE APOSTLES OF THE CIRCUMCISION
What was the Twelve Apostles’ doctrine? What did they teach? What did
they write when under inspiration? To find the answer to these
questions, it is suggested that the epistles written by Peter, James,
John, and Jude be carefully read. It would be a flagrant mistake to read
into their epistles truth that was given to Paul. The Apostle Paul was
given an abundance of revelations (2 Corinthians 12:7) which he
developed (under inspiration) in his Acts’ epistles. The mistake made by
most Bible students is to assume that the Twelve understood the
doctrines Paul taught. It is even a graver mistake to assume that the
Twelve taught the Circumcision that which they did not understand.
Peter admitted that the things Paul wrote were hard to be understood.
Note what came from the pen of the Apostle Peter:
“And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as
our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him
hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of
these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they
that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other
scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15-16)
(We tend to believe that Peter is referring to the Epistle to the
Hebrews when he wrote; “hath written unto you.” Peter was not writing 2
Peter to any of Paul’s “saints,” but if Paul wrote Hebrews, it was
addressed to them. This would include those to whom Peter ministered).
Peter knew what Paul taught, even admitting what Paul wrote was
scripture. The way Peter knew what Paul taught was because of the text
“Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas,
and took Titus with me also. And I went up by revelation, and
communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles,
but privately to them which were of reputation (i.e. Peter, James, and
John), lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain” (Galatians
Therefore, we notice that the leaders of the Twelve had an opportunity
to learn of Paul’s gospel, but they did not teach it, or write about
being “Justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified
by the Law of Moses” (Acts 13:39).
The Twelve had agreed that they would confine their ministry to the
Circumcision. As far as I can tell, they brought forth no additional
revelation of truth other than what the Lord had both “began to do and
teach” (Acts 1:1). They continued doing and teaching what Christ did and
taught as a minister to the Circumcision, confirming the promises God
made to the fathers of Israel (Romans 15:8). The one exception was that
they were eye-witnesses to the Resurrection. Hebrews 2:3-4 confirms this
“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the
first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them
that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and
wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost,
according to his own will?”
“Them that heard” the Lord Jesus Christ, in the context above, were the
Twelve Apostles. The ministry of the Lord Jesus, recorded in the four
Gospels, was carried on by the twelve after the Ascension. There was no
break, nor was there a new testimony beyond the fact that Christ arose
from the dead. These Apostles were commissioned to REPEAT AND CONFIRM
what the Lord had already said. The Twelve were not commissioned to
herald Paul’s gospel. They were true to their commission. It was
reserved for Paul to make known additional revelations which surpassed
the Gospel of the Circumcision.
To deny this is to disparage Paul’s authority and deny him his place in
God’s scheme of things during the Acts of the Apostles.