By Life Sentence Publishing
At the council of Jerusalem recorded in Acts 15, a great controversy arose regarding the Gentiles who had been converted under the ministry of Paul. Until then, the manner in which the Gentiles were received was determined according to the law of Moses, which included submission to the rite of circumcision and keeping the law of the old covenant.
But Paul had received Gentiles into the Israel of God without circumcision of the flesh and without charging them to keep the law of Moses. This caused a great uproar among the Jews and was the motive behind their persecution of Paul. Even among the Christian Jews in Jerusalem, many felt that the Gentile believers should be circumcised.
Paul believed that the entrance of the Gentiles into the Israel of God (the true people of God) was through Jesus the Christ under a New Covenant in His blood. He preached circumcision of the heart (Colossians 2) by means of a covenant sealed in baptism in water and in the Holy Spirit to enter into the body of the Lord Jesus Christ through repentance and faith. This baptism represents our identification into the death and resurrection of Christ and a willingness to die to ourselves so that the victorious life of Jesus can flow through us by means of the Holy Spirit. Paul preached that there was a new and higher law: for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).
The controversy continued until, after hearing the testimony of Peter concerning his vision and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the household of Cornelius, the apostle James powerfully resolved the debate in favor of Paul and Peter by citing a seemingly obscure Scripture from the prophet Amos:
13 Men and brethren, hearken unto me:
14 Simeon has declared how God first visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.
15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,
16 After this I will return, and will restore the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will repair its ruins, and I will set it up again:
17 that the men that are left behind might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.
19 Therefore my sentence is that those from among the Gentiles who are converted to God not be troubled,
20 but that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood (Acts 15:13-17; 19-20; Amos 9).
What was this Tabernacle of David? Why were these dogmatic Jews (some were Pharisees) convinced by such a strange argument (v. 28)?
When David failed to bring the ark of God home (to Jerusalem) in the new cart, causing the death of Uzzah (the strong man) and the breach God made upon his people, he learned his lesson. The next time they brought the ark (the anointing and the glory) of God according to due order upon the shoulders of the Levites sanctified for this purpose (1 Chronicles 15:11-15).
But when they arrived in Jerusalem, instead of restoring the ark to the Tabernacle (which still existed in Shiloh) according to the requirements of the law of Moses, David pitched a simple tent in the backyard of his house and put it there! They placed the ark of the glory of God in a common tent without an intermediary priest, without furniture, without a holy place, without a bronze altar, and without continual blood sacrifices. And David entered this tent frequently to have communion with God without any religious rites or rituals whatsoever!
In the Tabernacle that God ordered Moses to make, all the rites and rituals had to be kept to perfection for a whole year, and only one man, the high priest, could enter the Holy of Holies of the presence of God for a few moments once a year. Any carelessness could produce the death of the high priest, whose dead body would then have to be removed from the Holy of Holies by a rope previously tied around his ankle -- to protect the lives of the other priests who could not enter the Holy of Holies under any circumstances.
The raising up of the Tabernacle of David is a perfect picture of the intimate and personal communion that all who have died to their own ways enter into the Way of the greater son of David and enjoy uninterrupted fullness with God the Father without any need for an intermediary clergy, religious rites, structures, organizations, or denominations. The simple tent or tabernacle symbolizes our union with Him, and the ark of God symbolizes our access to the glory, unction, and presence of God the Father.
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