240 – THE OBJECT OF CONTROVERSY
There was a great controversy between Christians in the early years of the Church. It is clear in Acts 15that there were two dissenting groups. Christians who were Jews made up one group. They taught that the circumcision of Jehovah was necessary for salvation (Gen. 17:13-14). It is written in the law of Jehovah that Moses transmitted to the people, that no hired servant or sojourner could take part on the Passover of Jehovah, unless they were circumcised (Ex. 12:45-48). As the Jews considered themselves the children of Jehovah, and rightful heirs of his promises, and for this reason considered the foreigners as strangers and rejected by god, they thought that only the ones who were circumcised could belong to Christ, that is, the Messiah of Jehovah and deliverer of Israel. This gave birth to a serious discussion. Paul and Barnabas released the Gentile Christians from the circumcision and the obedience to the Law, and the converted Pharisees wanted to force them to become Jews, with their old rituals. Paul said, “For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (Gal. 6:15).
The very Peter, who preached the gosple of circumcision, was against this absurd demand (Acts 15:7-11). To Paul and Barnabas the eternal covenant of circumcision was made void by Christ, in the Church(Gen. 17:13). If Jehovah were Jesus, he would have suffered change, for he established an eternal covenant that ceased from being eternal. The truth is, in that controversy, the Holy Spirit took the side of the Gentiles, and exempted them from the circumcision and the law (Acts 15:28-29). The Church, though, was divided. The Pharisee Christians combined law and faith, and the Gentiles did not meet the law of the Old Testament and of Jehovah (Gal. 2:7-9).
Stephen, the first martyr, being a Jew, placed himself against the law (Acts 6:13-14). The writer of the letter to the Hebrews was against the law, declaring that the covenant of the law has been abrogated for its weakness and uselessness, and that it has never made anyone perfect (Heb. 7:18-19). Paul, being a Jew and a law-keeping Pharisee, placed himself against the law and the sacrifices of the law. Let us read the accusation made against Paul: “And they have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs” (Acts 21:18-21; 21:28). Paul calls the covenant of the law as the ministry of death and of the condemnation (2 Cor. 3:6-10). And he said more: That concert and that ministry hardens the heart of those who validate it, and becomes a veil that hinders the vision of Jesus Christ, and prevents conversion (2 Cor. 3:14-16).
WHERE IS THE TRUTH?
The Law was the instrument of Jehovah for salvation. Isaiah says, “To the law and to the testimony! If they do no speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn” (Is. 8:20). “Pay attention to Me, O My people, O My nation; for a law will go forth from Me, and I will set My justice for a light of the peoples. My righteousness is near. My salvation has gone forth” (Is. 51:4-5). “Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, a people in whose heart is My law […] My righteousness shall be forever, and My salvation to all generations” (Is. 51:7-8). “For the commandment is a lamp, and the teaching is light; and reproofs for discipline are the way of life” (Prov. 6:23). The psalmist declares, I long for Thy salvation O, Jehovah, and Thy law is my delight” (Ps. 119:174). “So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am Jehovah” (Lev. 18:5). The same is in Ezekiel 20:11.13.21.
Obedience and the keeping of the law unite man to Jehovah. “And he took the book of the agreement, reading it in the hearing of the people: and they said, everything which the Lord has said we will do, and we will keep his laws. Then Moses took the blood and let it come on the people, and said, this blood is the sign of the agreement which the Lord has made with you in these words” (Ex. 24:7-8). “But the mercy of the Lord is eternal for his worshippers, and their children’s children will see his righteousness; if they keep his agreement, and have his laws in mind to do them” (Ps. 103:17-18). Jeremiah speaks in a distinct way that the covenant of the law unites to Jehovah.“See, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new agreement with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah: not like the agreement which I made with their fathers, on the day when I took them by the hand to be their guide out of the land of Egypt; which agreement was broken by them, and I gave them up, says the Lord. But this is the agreement which I will make with the people of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put my law in their inner parts, writing it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Jer. 31:31-33).
If the Law of Moses unites the faithful to Jehovah, there arises in the New Testament a serious problem, for the law separates form God, the Father of Jesus Christ. Let us look at what Paul declares. “What then may we say? That the nations who did not go after righteousness have got righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith: but Israel, going after a law of righteousness, did not get it” (Rom. 9:30-31). And Paul goes on: “Brothers, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is, that they may get salvation. For I give witness of them that they have a strong desire for God, but not with knowledge. Because, not having knowledge of God’s righteousness, and desiring to give effect to their righteousness, they have not put themselves under the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who has faith” (Rom. 10:1-4). We have just registered that salvation resided in keep and obey the law, and now Paul affirms that salvation comes by faith, without the keeping of the law? (Rom. 3:28; Gal. 2:16).
According to Paul, though, the keeping of the law does not only separates from the Father, but also from Jesus Christ. The law is very dangerous. Besides being an encourager of passions and of sins, it also is the power of sin (Rom. 7:5); 1 Cor. 15:56). But worse than that, the law separates from Christ, that is, makes salvation impossible. “Christ has truly made us free: then keep your free condition and let no man put a yoke on you again. See, I Paul say to you, that if you undergo circumcision, Christ will be of no use to you. Yes, I give witness again to every man who undergoes circumcision, that he will have to keep all the law. You are cut off from Christ, you who would have righteousness by the law; you are turned away from grace” (Gal. 5:1-4).
We believe that it is not difficult to conclude, that if the precepts of the law unite to Jehovah, as we have proven above, and separate from Jesus and from God and Father of Jesus, Jehovah is an element strange to the plans of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
By PASTOR OLAVO SILVEIRA PEREIRA