The problem and its source
Certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Let’s challenge assemblies and elders in Particular to be diligent to who and where men come from.
In Jude: 4 “Certain men have crept in unnoticed…” The rest of the epistle goes on to speak of angels, cities and certain men like Cain, Balaam and Korah who rebelled against the authority of the Word of God and whose characteristics were seen in the men who crept in.
Those men were grumblers, complainers walking to their own lusts using great swelling words flattering people to gain advantage (Jude 16). This encouraged Jude to challenge the believers to earnestly contend for the faith (Doctrine of Truth) once for all delivered to the Saints.
Paul addressing elders at Ephesus “For I know after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men shall arise speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20: 29-30)
Men who cause division
Sadly some assemblies have experienced in their lifetime men coming from the outside and men raised among them gaining influence and popularity causing division taking many with them. This left a trail of sadness and deep hurt to those who remained faithful.
However it is the Lord’s church and though a few lean and tough years followed, they are stronger now than ever. Faithfulness to God and His Word always is honored by Him!
Beware the dominant man
John, in his 3rd Epistle, speaks of “Diotrephes who loved the preeminence among them and did not receive us.” (3 John 9) Not content with that, “he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting out of the church.” (3 John 10) Does this sound familiar?
Some assemblies are known for having a leading brother who makes all the decisions even though he is one of a group of elders. Dominance does not mean spirituality! A simple warning be aware of certain men singular or plural who assume sole custody of the Truth.
The problem with its error
The false teaching being expressed was that unless they were circumcised they could not be saved (Acts 15:1). The statement made presents two very specific truths, circumcision and salvation, to be of equal importance. Those men were Jews who were mixed up in distinguishing Old and New Testament Teachings.
It is easy to criticize them but remember they did not have the New Testament fully given to them yet. Paul deals with circumcision in his epistles making it clear, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision or uncircumcision avails anything.” (Galatians 5:6)
Circumcision is a very important truth given to the Jewish nation and a symbol of their identity and heritage. However as far as salvation is concerned it has no relevance whatsoever. The problem here is they were trying to make it essential for salvation.
The problem confronted
“Therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small contention with them.” (Acts 15:2) There are times in the church it is necessary to confront wrong teaching! No time for a wishy-washy attitude and the matter shelved or put under the rug hoping it will go away.
The elder has to hold fast the faithful Word as he has been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and convict those who contradict (Titus 1:9).
Tacking problems head on
Confrontation was no stranger to Paul. In Galatians 2:2-5, when false brethren sought to compel Titus to be circumcised he “did not yield submission even for an hour that the truth of the Gospel might continue with you.”
“When Peter came to Antioch, Paul withstood him to his face for he was to be blamed. For certain men came from James saying they should not eat with the Gentiles and even Barnabas was deceived along with Peter and withdrew.” (Galatians 2:11-13)
Sometimes even the best among us can be swayed away from the truth. The conclusion to the confrontation was for Paul, Barnabas and others to go to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles, elders and the church on the matter.