Acts 15: Restoring the Tabernacle of David
And certain men came down from Judah and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised, according to the practice of Moses, you are unable to be saved.” Acts 15:1
Is that what this argument really is about: that you must be circumcised to be saved? Many in the traditional Christian church have misunderstood this passage and incorrectly concluded that what the Pharisees in Acts 15 were arguing was this: that one must follow the law (the torah) in order to be saved. This is not the debate, the argument, or the question on the table.
What is the real question being addressed? The real question is this: What has greater torah weight: circumcision of the flesh? Or circumcision of the heart?
Is there a larger question here? What does this discussion/disagreement that Paul was having with the Pharisees have to do with the restoration of the tabernacle of David?
After this I will return
And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down;
I will rebuild its ruins,
And I will set it up;
So that the rest of mankind may seek Yahweh,
Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name,
Says Yahweh who does all these things. Acts 15: 16-17
What was Paul really arguing about with the Pharisees?
The Pharisees were saying to new followers of Messiah Yeshua that if they wanted to follow the God of Israel, and be in the family of God, then they must convert to Judaism, and, as a sign of this conversion, they needed to be circumcised in their flesh. Paul argues that it is circumcision of the heart that is the weightier matter.
This ancient debate still manifests today. Should Christians follow the Torah? Many Orthodox Jews today say no, that Christians only need to follow the Noahide laws.
In order to understand Paul’s position, his teachings on the issue in the New Testament are examined. The reason why the dispute was settled in Jerusalem is because this is what the Torah requires (Deut. 17:8-10). The ruling by James and the brethren was based upon the prophecy in Amons 9:11 to restore the tabernacle of David: which is all about the reunification of Ephraim and Judah. The four necessary things given to the non-Jews to observe come from the Holiness laws in Leviticus 17-20. Furthermore, observance of these four things reverses the sins of Ephraim spoken of in the book of Hosea.