And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1)
Teaching False Doctrine
The early church had to bridge a difficult challenge of doctrine. When the Lord appeared to Abraham to establish a divine covenant, circumcision was the sign of the bond between God and the children of Abraham. Under the Law of Moses, circumcision was required without exception. To be cast out of the favor of the Lord was to be uncircumcised. Every male child was circumcised on the eighth day. When Jesus was eight days old, He was circumcised and named Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. Only the Jews were required to be circumcised as recipients of the Law of Moses. Gentiles who proselyted into the Jewish faith were required to be circumcised, but only if they were willing to be subject to the Mosaic Law. Outside of the Law of Moses, circumcision was not required.
Jesus came to bring Jew and Gentile together as one. The Gentile was justified by faith, and the Jew found justification under the law. Both avenues of salvation could not take away the stain of sin. In the death of Jesus, the Son of God reconciled Jew and Gentile together through His blood, thereby establishing the gospel of Christ as the means of salvation. In the early church, many Jews could not let go of circumcision as a means of salvation. The controversy heated up to where many were teaching that without circumcision, there could be no salvation. This doctrine of salvation by baptism and circumcision was false teaching without God’s authority. For the Jew, circumcision was the sign of the covenant, and many were unwilling to accept that God had taken it out of the way. Circumcising a child on the eighth day was not a sin; binding circumcision as a means of salvation was a sin.
The controversy over circumcision illustrates the problem that faces the church in clarifying the reality of false doctrine. Binding law where the Lord never bound is sinful. Teaching doctrines that are not according to the gospel of Jesus Christ is false doctrine. Adding to the word of God is forbidden. The early Jews tried to bind circumcision as a covenant of grace that God never allowed. Paul never taught the necessity of circumcision for salvation because it was not true. He asked Timothy to be circumcised because the Jews in the region knew Timothy’s father was a Greek. Titus was not required to be circumcised. Convincing the first-century Jew that circumcision was unnecessary was a stern message to accept. It became equally hard to remind many of the Jews that teaching salvation by circumcision was false.
Satan tries hard to destroy the souls of those seeking after the Lord. He spins a web of false doctrine to convince the unprepared soul to believe in something untrue. The result is the soul is lost. Teaching false doctrine has eternal consequences. Accepting a false dogma can bring about eternal ruin. One of the greatest tools in the arsenal of the devil is to convince men he does not exist and that there is no such thing as false doctrine. He has effectively created a ‘religious world’ with as many beliefs as Breyers Ice Cream. Everyone gets to choose and pick what church they want to be a part of and how to believe the Bible. In a world of religious diversity, there is no unity among believers in Christ. Churches bear different names by followers who wear distinctive names accepting doctrines not found in the word of God. And no one seems to believe false doctrine is real.
The early church faced the false doctrine of salvation by circumcision. There are many teachings today that are untrue. The eternal result of false doctrine is false hope and a false promise. There is one truth, and that truth must come from the pages of God’s word. Men may say that a difference in interpretation is a blessing from God, but that is the siren voice of the deceiver who placates the unsuspecting soul to accept what is clearly false. Does it matter what a person believes as long as he is honest? There were none so honest as the Jews who said that they could not be saved unless a man is circumcised – and they were wrong. Do not believe something because of what a man says or what you have believed all your life. Believe what God says and demand nothing less.