Acts 15:16-17, Why We Needn’t Circumcise, part I of II

And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: … 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: 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.

//This topic will require a little introduction. The book of Acts tells how Paul argued before the heads of the church that Gentiles need not be circumcised like Jews in order to be accepted as Christians. James, the head of the Jerusalem church, agrees. He stands up and offers this argument: God selected a people (the Jews) out from among all the nations, and gave them special circumstances that didn’t relate to the gentiles.

Thus the course of Christianity is drastically altered, allowing Gentiles to enter the fold without living up to the law of the Jews regarding issues like circumcision. It’s hard to imagine a more important decision in the course of Christianity.

In presenting his argument, James directly quotes the prophet Amos. Note the similarity between what he says and what is written in the book of Amos:

In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this. –Amos 9:11-12

Amos is talking about the coming Day of the Lord, when God would send a Messiah to rescue the Jews and set the world right. First-century Christians argued that that day was upon them; the long-awaited Messiah had arrived. Thus, says James, the time has come and Gentiles can finally be accepted as they are.

But don’t read the verses in Amos too carefully, or you’ll see the problem. More tomorrow.

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