Reflecting on Acts 15: 1-2, 22-29
It’s unimaginable how brave those early evangelists were. Paul and Barnabas were so positive of what the Spirit was doing to advance the early Church that they took it upon themselves to free the Gentiles, clamoring for baptism, from the requirements of male circumcision, and most of the Mosaic Law.
It was their experience of encounter with those Gentiles in Syria in the mid-fifties that convinced them that this was, indeed, what the Spirit was saying to the Church. But what a huge and shocking departure it was from everything their Jewish backgrounds had taught them about God’s will.
Their convictions, and courageous actions, created such a conflict with the “Judaizers”—-Orthodox Jews who had been baptized into Christ, and yet believed that Gentiles could only access salvation through adherence to strict Mosaic Law—that the first conference ever convened among Christians took place just to settle it.
The Council of Jerusalem ended up siding with Paul and Barnabas. There were a few dust-ups along the way (see Galatians 2, just for fun), but in a decade or two the matter was ancient history, and by the end of the first century it became obvious that the worldwide growth of Christianity would be among the Gentiles.
They listened to the Spirit, those earliest Jewish-Christians, and oh what grace followed. What impediments to the growth of a vibrant Church need to be set aside so that grace may follow? In our wildest dreams we couldn’t find an impediment more “central to the faith” than the Mosaic Law was to Judaism, yet they set it aside in order to save the souls of the billions of Gentiles who would come to Christ throughout history.
What, if anything, is standing in the way of the Spirit’s work?