Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone All in the Family? The Jerusalem Council, Part 1
Posted: Thursday, December 9, 2010 4:56 pm
The Messenger, December 9, 2010
By CAMILLE KENDALL
Special to The Messenger
Thanksgiving is past, and Christmas is only weeks away. The holidays give us opportunity to enjoy family traditions, those peculiar habits and quirks that make us distinctively Kendall or Smith or Jones. Turkey, Grammy’s cornbread dressing, Aunt Polly’s pumpkin pie. Hiking back on the farm with the kids to cut a fresh cedar for this year’s Christmas tree. Late nights working jigsaw puzzles in front of a crackling fire, munching popcorn and sipping cider. What traditions characterize your family gatherings?
With the recent addition of a son-in-law, our Kendall family traditions are evolving. Dennis introduced us to Gluhwein — a dark red wine simmered with spices and served hot. Sipped together on Christmas Eve, this German tradition is just the ticket for a good night’s sleep before a day filled with Christmas bustle. Our family is growing … and changing.
On their first missionary journey to Galatia, Paul and Barnabas witnessed the addition of many new converts to the family of Christ. Taking the Gospel first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles, they endured hardship and persecution as they preached the good news of the salvation offered through faith in Christ. After establishing new churches throughout Galatia, Paul and Barnabas returned to their home base of Antioch and reported “all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27).
The church at Antioch — like many other recently-formed congregations — consisted of both Gentile and Jewish converts. However, these growing congregations were predominantly Gentile, and this presented a bit of a dilemma to some of their Jewish brothers: Jewish Christians feared that their traditions and heritage would be threatened by the overwhelming surge of Gentile converts. Many felt that if their Jewish heritage was to be preserved, they must act quickly to influence the life and character of the church.
Judaizers from Jerusalem arrived in Antioch to deal with the growing Gentile population in the church. Their strategy? Simply require Gentile converts to conform to Jewish customs and laws. For starters, these Jewish converts insisted that their Gentile brothers needed to be circumcised. Then, there was the issue of Jewish dietary restrictions to address.
Both parties — Jew and Gentile — understood that salvation came through faith, not through keeping the Law. The question needing to be addressed was, how was that faith to be practically lived out among the diverse members of the body of Christ? Did conforming to the Mosaic Law make a person more “saved,” somehow more righteous? Could Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians truly fellowship with each other as brothers, despite their cultural differences?
Paul immediately recognized the potential for the development of factions within the church and he debated the Judaizers vigorously. This dissension, if addressed incorrectly, could very well hinder the extension of the Gospel to non-Jews. Paul realized the outcome of the situation in Antioch would affect churches throughout the Gentile world. Taking Barnabas and a company of the Antioch believers, Paul headed to Jerusalem to seek the council of the apostles and the elders.
Still in its infancy, the Christian church faced its first threat of schism. Would Jewish Christians be able to welcome Gentile believers into the family of God? Or would “family tradition” force them to keep their new brothers at arm’s length, effectively strangling growth of the Gentile church?
Next week: How did the Church Fathers respond to sibling rivalry within the family of God?
Editor’s note: Camille Kendall is a wife and homeschool mom who celebrates the family of Christ at Grace Community Church (www.graceunioncity.com).
Soli Deo Gloria:
For the Glory of God Alone