1. God in nothing discriminated between Peter (an Israelite) and Cornelius (a God-fearing, righteous-acting Gentile), in that he cleansed the hearts of both men by their faith in the evangel of the Circumcision.
2. Cornelius - being a Gentile - had no covenant-based obligations before (or after) his heart was cleansed.
3. Therefore, Peter had no covenant-based obligations before or after his heart was cleansed by faith, and could completely disregard the law of Moses without jeopardizing his eonian salvation.
The two premises are both true. However, the conclusion (3) does not logically follow from these premises, and the argument is thus a non sequitur. The fact that God did the same thing for both Peter and Cornelius (i.e., cleansing their hearts through faith) doesn’t mean that Peter no longer had to keep the law of Moses as an expression of his faith in order to receive eonian life (nor does it mean that Cornelius’ salvation was by faith alone, and disconnected from the fact that he was “fearing God and acting righteously”). A valid conclusion to the two premises could, instead, be expressed as follows:
3. Therefore, Cornelius didn’t have to become circumcised and keep the law of Moses in order to be saved.
After having provided a succinct refutation of the position of the believing Pharisees, Peter concluded his short speech by (1) rebuking these Pharisees and (2) putting an emphasis on what believing Jews and believing Gentiles had in common. The rebuke is found in v. 10:
When Christ said that those who came to him would find rest for their souls, he was likely referencing Jeremiah 6:16-19:
Peter went on to conclude his speech with the following statement: “But through the grace of the Lord Jesus we are believing, to be saved in a manner even as they.” Does this mean that there’s no difference at all between how Peter, Cornelius and those who became believers through the apostleship of Paul are saved? Not at all. It needs to be kept in mind that, by “we,” Peter, of course, meant “we who are Jews/Israelites,” and by “they” he meant “those who are of the nations.” He’s referring to two different categories of people, the former being comprised of those who are in covenant with God (and thus under the law), and the latter being comprised of those who aren’t. Peter was not saying that there was no difference whatsoever between Jews like himself and Gentiles like Cornelius. Rather, he was simply affirming that the salvation of those under the law and the salvation of those not under the law both involved, and required, believing “through the grace of the Lord Jesus.” That is, Peter’s simply emphasizing what he and his fellow believing Jews had in common with believing Gentiles.
“Men! Brethren! Hear me! Simeon unfolds how God first visits the nations, to obtain out of them a people for His name. And with this agree the words of the prophets, according as it is written, After these things I will turn back, ‘And I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen... And its overturned structure will I rebuild, And I will re-erect it... So that those left of mankind should be seeking out the Lord, And all the nations, on them over whom My name is invoked, Is saying the Lord, Who is doing these things.’”
In these verses, was James referring to events that will be taking place “in the heavens” and “among the celestials” in the eon to come? Was he referring to that celestial kingdom in which flesh and blood is unable to enjoy an allotment (as was referred to by Paul in 1 Cor. 15:50)? No. James was undoubtedly referring to the future kingdom of God on the earth – i.e., the kingdom that is to be restored to Israel, following Christ’s return to earth. And James clearly understood Cornelius and his house as being representative of that class of righteous Gentiles who - like the “sheep” of Matthew 25:31-46 - will be enjoying an allotment in the kingdom of God after it’s been established on the earth.