Gentile Proselytes and the Circumcision Covenant

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Cornelius Baptised Uncircumcised
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Cornelius: Gentile Baptised Without Being Circumcised

Cornelius: The First Gentiles Baptised Without Circumcision - Acts 10

"Eat the Meat in the Sheet" - Peter's Vision in Acts 10:

First, in case you've wondered if Acts 10: means that the Old Testament food laws were "done away" after the “eat the meat in the sheet” vision on the rooftop, Peter did not go downstairs to find that some men had arrived with a ham sandwich for him to eat. On the contrary, what we learn from this is that even years after the crucifixion, Peter still hadn't eaten ANYTHING unclean. Arguably, had he or any of the apostles done so the New Testament would be much thicker than it is now with the doctrinal debate that it would have caused within the primarily Jewish church (Acts 13:42-43)

He did however go to meet with Cornelius, a gentile. And he took with him some VERY interesting people. More about Peters associates ("those of the circumcision") later, because they crop up again in Galatians. First of all though, let's take at what Peter does learn from the vision.

Acts 10: 34 ¶ Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS: 35 But IN EVERY NATION HE THAT FEARETH HIM, AND WORKETH RIGHTEOUSNESS, IS ACCEPTED WITH HIM.

Dropping down to: 43

Acts 10:43 To him (Christ) give all the prophets witness, that through his name WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM (that is irrespective of whether physically descended from Abraham or not) shall receive remission of sins. 44 ¶ While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.

Now that was a surprise. A BIG surprise. The Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and members of his household.

45 And they OF THE CIRCUMCISION WHICH BELIEVED were astonished, as many as came with Peter because that ON THE GENTILES also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. 46 For they HEARD THEM SPEAK WITH TONGUES, and magnify God.

Notice that verse (45) very carefully.

45 And they OF THE CIRCUMCISION WHICH BELIEVED were astonished, as many as came with Peter because that ON THE GENTILES also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. 46 For they HEARD THEM SPEAK WITH TONGUES, and magnify God.

It appears then that a group of people who the Bible describes as being "of the circumcision" came with Peter on this special occasion, and at least SOME of them believed that God HAD poured His Spirit out on gentiles because they were talking in tongues.

Now that presumably indicates that there were some "of the circumcision" WHO DIDN'T BELIEVE that God had done this. And notice this, very carefully.

Cornelius was an Uncircumcised Gentile

Cornelius is referred to as a GENTILE isn't he? That means he is NOT a circumcised proselyte, because he would have been treated in exactly the same way as a born descendent of Abraham, as a naturalized Israelite citizen (Remember what it says in Exodus 12:48 - circumcised proselytes are to be treated NO DIFFERENTLY from Israelites). The implication here is clear then, that Cornelius is an UNCIRCUMCISED GENTILE proselyte.

From this, Peter and his companions deduce that in the same way that God selectively called them (as Jews) God is now selectively calling gentiles - DIRECTLY. And what's more in this case, to show He means business, God is undeniably clearly giving GENTILES His Holy Spirit WITHOUT circumcision AND WITHOUT baptism.

These men were speaking in tongues. No doubt about it. They had the Spirit of God.

Notice though that they put the baptism issue right, straight away.

Cornelius Baptised Immediately

Acts 10:46 . Then answered Peter, 47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

Cornelius Was NOT Circumcised

Notice though what it does NOT say. It DOES NOT SAY "And he commanded them to be CIRCUMCISED and THEN baptized in the name of the Lord".

Because God had revealed to Peter that he should call no man (i.e. no gentile proselyte) common or unclean, Cornelius was baptized WITHOUT the circumcision required in Exodus 12:48, and THAT was what created what was to become the biggest doctrinal controversy for the Church.

Since large numbers of gentiles were going to be called equally alongside Israelites it would have made a mockery of the "everlasting" circumcision distinction that God obliged Abraham and his descendents to make, to have ALL gentiles circumcised too.

The Single Most Contentious Issue Recorded In The New Testament

This became the single most contentious issue in the New Testament. Large tracts of Romans were written to address it. It is the core of the Galatian controversy / Galatian heresy and the main topic of the only recorded apostolic conference of Acts 15 at Jerusalem .

Next: Are the Old Testament Clean / Unclean Food Laws Done Away?

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© www.gentiles-and-circumcision.info Jan 2006.

Why do many christian theologians believe, even after the crucifixion, that Paul kept Nazirite vows & offered sacrifices at the temple, so is the written Torah law really "done away" in Galatians?