Saturday Meditations: The Jerusalem Council Statement

Preamble

“Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves…” Psalm 100:3

Faithful Jews at the dawn of the first century find themselves living in a period of historic transition. As Judean culture has become increasingly pagan and Greco-Roman and God’s Spirit is now being poured out upon Gentiles as well as Jews who have faith in Christ, they have embarked upon a massive revision of what it means to be a human being in covenant with God. By and large the spirit of our age no longer discerns or delights in the beauty of God’s design for His followers. Many deny that God created Saturday to be a day of rest or instituted circumcision or created animals clean and unclean for His glory, and that His good purposes for us include our personal and physical commitment to abstain from any work on the Sabbath, cut off the foreskins of our penises (if male), and that all should abstain from eating unclean animals. It is common to think that yom shabbat and circumcision and unclean animals are not part of God’s beautiful plan, but are, rather, an expression of an individual’s autonomous preferences. The pathway to full and lasting joy through God’s good design for his creatures is thus replaced by the path of shortsighted alternatives that, sooner or later, ruin human life and dishonor God.

This secular spirit of our age as well as the ignorance of Gentile converts presents a great challenge to the faithful people of God. Will the covenant people of YHWH and followers of the rabbi Jesus lose their biblical conviction, clarity, and courage, and blend into the spirit of the age? Or will she hold fast to the word of life, draw courage from God, and unashamedly proclaim His way as the way of life? Will she maintain her clear, counter-cultural witness to a world that seems bent on ruin?

We are persuaded that faithfulness in our generation means declaring once again the true story of the world and of our place in it—particularly as those who are in covenant with the true God who made the heavens and the earth. Scripture teaches that there is but one God who alone is Creator and Lord of all. To Him alone, every person owes glad-hearted thanksgiving, heart-felt praise, and total allegiance. This is the path not only of glorifying God, but of knowing ourselves. To forget our Creator is to forget who we are, for He made us for Himself. And we cannot know ourselves truly without truly knowing Him who made us. We did not make ourselves. We are not our own. Our true identity, as male and female persons, and the animals’ true identities, as clean and unclean, is given by God. It is not only foolish, but hopeless, to try to make ourselves, the days of the week, foreskins, or animals what God did not create them to be.

We believe that God’s design for his creation and his way of salvation serve to bring Him the greatest glory and bring us the greatest good. God’s good plan provides us with the greatest freedom. God promised faithful Israel and Gentile proselytes that we would have life and have it in overflowing measure in the age to come. He is for us and not against us. Therefore, in the hope of serving God’s people and witnessing publicly to the good purposes of God for penile and dietary cleanliness revealed in Scripture, we offer the following affirmations and denials.

Articles

Article I

We affirm that God has designed observing the Sabbath (Saturday) as a holy day of rest from work, circumcision, and the distinction between clean and unclean animals to be creational and covenantal observances and laws, breathed out by God, and meant to stand until heaven and earth pass away.

We deny that God has designed his covenantal signs to be bloodless or Saturday to be common or dietary laws to include seafood or swine.  We deny that the decision to become circumcised or what you do on Saturday or what animals to eat is a mere human preference.

Article II

We affirm that God’s revealed will is for all faithful Jews and Gentile converts to the faithful service of YHWH to be circumcised, avoid any work on Saturday, and abstain from unclean foods.

We deny that any desire to expend effort on Saturday or to eat delicious pork or not have your penis cut up a little ever justifies dietary immorality or covenant infidelity.

Article III

We affirm that God instituted His special covenant among humanity by the sign of circumcision and created the Sabbath as a day of rest as well as creating animals with intrinsic natures, characteristics, roles, and specific domains to live in, defining special covenantal roles for them in Scripture.

We deny that the divinely ordained differences in days, animals, or penises render them unequal in dignity or worth.

Article IV

We affirm that the creational and divinely ordained signs of the Sabbath and circumcision and the divinely ordained differences between animals reflect God’s perfect plan for creation and his covenant people.

We deny that resting on Saturday, circumcision, or dietary laws are a result of the Fall and a tragedy to be overcome.

Article V

We affirm that the differences between Saturday and other days, circumcised and uncircumcised, clean and unclean, are integral to God’s design for self-conception as human and inside or outside the covenant.

We deny that physical anomalies, psychological conditions, or a poor perception of time nullify the God-appointed link between the passing of days, the biological sign of the covenant, and the biological need to eat and covenant fidelity.

Article VI

We affirm that those born with a physical disorder of sex development, thus being unable to receive the sign of circumcision, are likely cursed by God.  They are welcome to being cared for by the community but are not allowed to enter into the congregation of the Lord.

We deny that ambiguities related to a person’s biological sex render them incapable of living a fruitful live in joyful obedience to God.  You may have the desire to participate in corporate worship in the Temple or synagogue, but you are not permitted to act on it.

Article VII

We affirm that self-conception as a created human or faithful or unfaithful should be defined by God’s holy purposes in covenant and redemption as revealed in Scripture.

We deny that adopting an uncircumcised self-conception, or a human who does not need to rest on the seventh day self-conception as a faithful follower of God, is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation, covenant, and redemption.

Article VIII

We affirm that people who experience the desire to remain uncircumcised or to get things done on Saturday or to eat unclean foods may live a rich and fruitful life pleasing to God through faith in Jesus Christ, as they, like all followers of YHWH, walk in purity of life.

We deny that a desire for picking up sticks on Saturday or leaving your foreskin intact or a desire for pork is part of the natural goodness of God’s creation, Law, or that it puts a person outside the hope of salvation (except picking up the sticks on Saturday, because that carries the death penalty).

Article IX

We affirm that sin distorts our desire for food or rest or avoidance of pain away from the covenant with God and toward dietary/foreskin-possessing/working-or-resting-whenever immorality – a distortion that includes both Jew and Gentile.

We deny that an enduring pattern of wanting to do things on Saturday or eat unclean animals or not be circumcised justifies doing things on Saturday or eating unclean animals or being uncircumcised.

Article X

We affirm that it is sinful to approve of conversion without circumcision, considering all days alike, or eating unclean animals and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from our faithfulness and witness.

We deny that the approval of conversion without circumcision, doing whatever you want on Saturday, or eating unclean animals is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful followers of God should agree to disagree.

Article XI

We affirm our duty to love our neighbor as ourselves, including when we speak to or about one another as created human beings inside or outside the covenant with God.

We deny any obligation to speak in such ways that dishonor God’s design of the days of the week, animals, or image-bearers as male and female even if the males are not circumcised.

Article XII

We affirm that the grace of God in Christ gives both merciful pardon and transforming power, and that this pardon and power enable His faithful people to put to death sinful desires and walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.

We deny that the grace of God in Christ is insufficient to forgive all dietary or foreskin-related sins and to give power for holiness to every believer who feels drawn to avoiding circumcision or eating foods God has declared unclean.  Breaking the Sabbath carries the death penalty, however, so… guess you’ll just find out what happens, in that case.

Article XIII

We affirm that the grace of God in Christ enables Gentiles to forsake uncircumcised, pork-eating, Saturday-working self-conceptions and by divine forbearance to accept the God-ordained link between Saturday being the created day of rest, circumcision being the sign of the covenant, and unclean foods to be shunned and one’s self-conception as inside or outside of the covenant.

We deny that the grace of God in Christ sanctions self-conceptions that are at odds with God’s revealed will.

Article XIV

We affirm that Christ Jesus has come into the world to save sinners, and this apparently includes Gentiles, now, and through Christ’s death and resurrection forgiveness of sins and eternal life are available to every person who repents of sin and trusts in Christ alone as Savior, Lord, and supreme treasure.

We deny that the Lord’s arm is too short to save or that any sinner is beyond His reach.  We do want to remind you that, in Article X, we said you were unfaithful if you disagreed with us.

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