The winds of change- Friday, 5th Week of Easter- Acts 15:22-31
Yesterday, we heard of the deliberations that took place in the first council of Jerusalem. There was much debate about the issue of the Gentiles. There were some converts to Christianity, who were formerly Pharisees, who believed that the Gentile Christians whom Paul had converted to the faith in Antioch, must be subject to the Law of Moses which demanded circumcision.
The council could be divided into four parts; a debate which obviously included the views of both sides, an opinion expressed by the head of the Church to give the debate some direction, sharing of testimonies related to the debate and finally, a decision. This was the high council of the newly formed Christian Church in full action, yet it was not governed by a legalistic framework but one of openness to the Spirit and to one another.
It was Peter who suggested that the demands of the Christians, who came from a Pharisaic background be disregarded, as he felt that it placed on the new Gentile converts, “a yoke that neither their (Jewish) ancestors not they could bear” and yet, this was demanded from the Gentile Christians of Antioch. Peter thus signalled the winds of change in this ‘new sect of Judaism’ which over time was called Christianity. This new path envisioned by Peter was backed by the testimonies of Barnabas and Paul to the wonders that God had worked among the Gentiles of Antioch and the neighbouring areas.
It was James who finally decided the matter for the Church (not Peter) when he suggested that the ritualistic demands of the Mosaic Law be done away with for the Gentiles. This however does not mean that the moral and natural law of God as read in the Law of Moses and experienced in our lives, does not stand. The Ten Commandments continue to be the foundation of Christian moral law. Remember that in Matthew 5-7, Jesus calls us to a higher standard of living the Law; the way God wanted it to be lived.
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