The Apostles of the Circumcision taught that believers were
regenerated—that is to say, “begotten of God,” or “born again.” This
ties in with what the Lord Jesus taught Nicodemus in John 3:1-13. The
Twelve repeated and confirmed what the Lord had already said. Notice in
1 John 3:9:
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in
him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
John continued this in the fifth chapter of 1 John:
“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every
one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him”
“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the
victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (v. 4).
“We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is
begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not”
The Jewish believers under the ministry of John, as well as the other
Eleven, would naturally be the ones who, by faith, were the “Born Again
Ones”—those who were said to be “begotten of God.”
Peter also repeated and confirmed what the Lord Jesus began to teach
concerning being born again.
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the
word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Peter 1:23).
The Truth which the Twelve taught carried believers no farther than
being “begotten of God.” Those who believed the Gospel of the
Circumcision during the Acts period limited themselves to the spiritual
rudiments of the “new birth.” Those who were content to only embrace the
Truth of the “new birth” were never able to enjoy the higher plane of
blessings which the Apostle Paul made known. The Apostles of the
Circumcision knew what Paul taught and knew it was an advancement of
revelation from God (see Galatians 2:1-2). They definitely knew what
Paul taught; both Jews and Gentiles alike. They never saw fit to teach
the same. It was apparent they were not commissioned to preach Paul’s
The “Born Again Ones” were not prevented from moving from the faith of
being “born again” to the faith of being justified by faith without the
works of the Law.
Hebrews 6:1-2 encourages the “Born Again Ones” to move on “to
“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ [‘ye must be
born again’], let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the
foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of
the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection
of the dead, and of eternal judgment.”
Of course, the key to going on to perfection or maturity lay in
believing Paul’s testimony regarding justification.
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being
witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God
which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that
believe: for there is no difference” (Romans 3:21-22).
By comparison to being “begotten of God,” this Truth concerning the
“righteousness of God without the Law” is a greater spiritual
revelation. The “But now” informs us that it was given to Paul to make
known. The believer is a passive recipient as he is credited with God’s
righteousness; not by his own faith, but “by the faith of Jesus Christ.”
In plainer words, Paul said: NOW IS MANIFESTED THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD
WITHOUT THE LAW. This truth was reserved to be made known and declared
by the Apostle to the Gentiles.
By contrast to the Apostles of the Circumcision, who only repeated and
confirmed what the Lord Jesus Christ began to do and teach, the Apostle
Paul was given an “abundance of revelations” ( 2 Corinthians 12:7).
Under inspiration, he revealed and developed doctrine that far surpassed
that of the Twelve.
Even though the righteousness of God was made manifest—obvious,
discernable, or apparent, the Jewish Extremists actively worked against
this doctrine throughout the Acts period. This doctrine “flew in the
face” of the Extremists. It agitated them. It made them think they had
an inferior position. They gloried in the flesh; whereas, the “Justified
Ones” could only glory in the Lord Jesus Christ and Him alone.
It seems in any sect of Christendom that if someone appears to have an
advanced understanding of certain Truths beyond that which is standard
to the sect, it causes agitation among those “left behind.” The only
remedy is to expel, ex-communicate, ostracize, cut-off fellowship,
denounce, or consider them “history.”
The Extremist zealots detested the fact that the “Justified Ones” were
said to have “put on Christ.” To put on Christ meant: to array, clothe
(with): in the sense of sinking into a garment.
“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on
Christ. 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”
THE WEAK AND STRONG IN FAITH
This brings us to another classification of believers during the Acts of
the Apostles. For want of a better name, we will refer to them as
“Justified Christian Jews.” Paul distinguishes between two classes of
believers found in this group. These Jews who embraced Paul’s Gospel of
the time were mostly those of the Dispersion. Paul refers to them as
either “weak” or “strong” in faith. They received the righteousness of
God through the faith of Jesus Christ without the works of the Law. As
“Justified Ones,” they lived as having “put on Christ” where there is
neither Jew nor Gentile. They were to reckon that they were dead to the
Law (Romans 7:4).
“For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone that
believeth” (Romans 10:4).
However, they were not restricted from observing that portion of the Law
which was not related to righteousness.
In Romans 14:1-15:2, Paul writes about these two classes; the weak and
the strong. Gentiles, who had been influenced by the synagogue’s
instructions, would also fall into the category of either weak or
Those who were “strong in faith” were dead to the Law. Those who were
“weak in faith,” as it related to the Gospel of the Uncircumcision,
still felt obliged to observe days, meats, and drinks. Romans 14 and 15
were written to bring about peace and understanding between the
“Justified Ones;” that is, between the “strong” and the “weak” (Romans
During the Acts period, the believers to whom Paul ministered were led
to Truths which placed them on a higher plane than those Christians who
were simply “born again.” The “Born Again Ones” continued to observe the
Law of Moses and were very zealous toward it.
As long as Jews held onto their identity by observing the Law, either in
part or in whole, there existed a “a middle wall of partition”
(Ephesians 2:14) separating the believing Jew from the believing
Gentile. Try as they might, there could never be a oneness between the
Jew and Gentile believers as long as the Jewish believers embraced the
Law. The Law, with its’ elaborate system of legal observances, publicly
marked off the Christian Jew from the Christian Gentile. However, those
Christian Jews who embraced the doctrine of justification through faith,
alone, learned that “in Christ” there was no difference.
While Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles, he also had countless Jews
who believed his gospel. An example would be Aquila and Priscilla (Acts
18). Paul explained the Christian Jews’ relationship to the Law if they
believed his gospel of being justified without the works of the law:
“Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how
that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the
woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long
as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of
her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to
another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be
dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though
she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are
become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married
to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should
bring forth fruit unto God” (Romans 7:1-4).
Paul was saying that if the Jewish believer was justified by faith, he
was freed from the claims of the Law. How? He was dead to the Law. Not
only that, but they were now living as those who were alive from the
dead and were to walk in newness of life. Those who did, Paul said in
Romans 6, are not under Law but under grace.
The believers in Paul’s gospel, justified by faith without the works of
the Law, lived on a higher plane. They were more advanced than those who
were just “born again.” Paul’s people were called to live on
“resurrection ground,” being dead, indeed, unto sin and alive unto God.
They were dead to the Law. In the sphere in which they lived, there was
no distinction between Jew and Gentile. They lived on reckoning ground.
They were crucified with Christ; nevertheless, they lived; not really
them, but Christ was living in them, and the life that they were living,
they were living by the faith of the Son of God (Galatians 2:20). It was
not by their faith but by the faith of the Son of God.
One of the worries of Paul during the Acts period was that many of his
converts were continually being persuaded to lapse back to the weak and
beggarly elements of the Law which would bring them, again, into bondage
of the Law (Galatians 4:9). Those who were side-tracked by the Extemists
would be those who Paul said have fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4), and
Christ would profit them nothing (Galatians 5:2).
JOHN THE BAPTIST’S DISCIPLES
There was, yet, another group we find in the Acts of the Apostles. They
were the disciples of John the Baptist. While it is generally thought
that the Word of God spread with great rapidity during the Acts period,
it is interesting to notice that as late as Acts 18, Apollos showed up
[around 55 A.D.], knowing nothing more than what John the Baptist had
“And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man,
and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed
in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and
taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of
John” (Acts 18:24-25).
While it’s true that Luke mentioned that the Word of God “increased” and
“grew and multiplied” (Acts 6:7, 12:24), there were still those Jews who
had not heard any more Truth than that of John the Baptist. In Acts
19:1-7, Paul meets twelve of John’s disciples who only knew what John
All of the foregoing should point out, again, the various elements, or
factions, which existed during the Acts era. There was not complete
agreement and understanding among believers.