Council At Jerusalem

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Council at Jerusalem

By Larry R. Lasiter

© 2010

"Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, ĎUnless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.í And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the Apostles and elders concerning this issue." Acts 15:1-2

 Paulís epistle to the Galatians gives great insight into the reason and purpose of the first Church Council held in Jerusalem. There were Judaizing Christians who had come from Jerusalem claiming that they had been sent by James to correct the Gospel Paul had been teaching them.

Paul had been personally taught the message he presented to the Gentiles by the resurrected Christ. Unlike these false apostles, Paul understood clearly that there was a major difference between the Covenant ratified at Sinai and the Covenant of Promise given to Abraham. Abrahamís Covenant is the "New Covenant" Christians have entered into.

Though this Covenant is based on faith rather than on Law it is not a lawless Covenant, -"All the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My Commandments, My Statutes and My Laws." (Gen.26) Galatians 3:8 explains that this was the Gospel message that was preached to Abraham beforehand.

 By contrast, the Sinai Covenant had hundreds of more Laws which were added because of transgressions and it was these Laws that the Judaizing Pharisees were insisting the Gentiles observe. Galatians 3:10 identifies them as the 613 Laws called the "Book of the Law."

 By the time the council in Jerusalem was held, Paul, Barnabas and Timothy had already taught the Gentile converts the Gospel and the Laws in the Covenant of Promise. Some erroneously believe that because James, who presided over the Council, ruled that the Gentiles keep themselves from fornication, meat sacrificed to idols and blood, that they were not obligated to keep the Ten Commandments. But this is certainly not true.

To know and understand what God required of the new Gentile converts, all one must do is read the epistles written to them. Paul plainly told the Corinthians, -"Circumcision means nothing, or uncircumcision means nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the Commandments of God." (1 Cor.7) He told the Romans that only the doers of the Law would be justified by God. (Rom.2)

Jamesí ruling did not take away what Paul and Barnabas had been teaching the new converts, but instead actually added three "essential" Laws from the Book of the Covenant. The Judaizers had demanded that the Gentiles keep all 613 Laws of the Book of the Covenant but James added only these three to what Paul had already taught them.

 Some believe that the requirements for Christian Jews is different from that of Gentile Christians -claiming that Jews must keep the whole Law of Moses while the Gentiles do not. But this is contrary to the instructions of Christ and the testimony of Peter given during the council. In fact, Peter testified that God made no difference between Jews and Gentiles.

 The resurrected Jesus sent His followers out with the great commission of taking the Gospel to the world, -"Go, therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you." (Matt.28) Notice that the teachings of Christ are the same for "all nations."

 

 

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