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Jesus Creed

JerusTem.jpgLet’s back up again to see what is going on if we look at the Book of Acts in its presentation of God’s mission. The more strict Pharisaic believers contend that Gentile converts have to “go all the way” to circumcision to be fully devoted (Jewish) Messiah followers. The issue is no small one: it has to do with one’s view of Scripture, one’s view of how God regulates God’s people, and one’s view of authority. It was too simple, the apostles argued, to say “it is written” without taking into consideration what God’s big plan was and how God would incorporate the Gentiles. So, instead of arguing that Gentiles had to become Jews, the apostles argued that Gentiles could remain Gentiles — and they anchored this in the Torah itself (probably Lev 17-18). Gentiles will be expected to keep a minimum of Torah — or better yet the Torah as shaped for the Gentile. So, here’s the letter sent to the Christians that sums up what the apostolic conference determined:

15:22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to send men chosen from among them, Judas called Barsabbas and Silas, leaders among the brothers, to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. 15:23 They sent this letter with them:

From the apostles and elders, your brothers, to the Gentile brothers and sisters in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, greetings! 15:24 Since we have heard that some have gone out from among us with no orders from us and have confused you, upsetting your minds by what they said, 15:25 we have unanimously decided to choose men to send to you along with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul, 15:26 who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15:27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas who will tell you these things themselves in person. 15:28 For it seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us not to place any greater burden on you than these necessary rules: 15:29that you abstain from meat that has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what has been strangled and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from doing these things, you will do well. Farewell.

15:30 So when they were dismissed, they went down to Antioch, and after gathering the entire group together, they delivered the letter. 15:31 When they read it aloud, the people rejoiced at its encouragement. 15:32 Both Judas and Silas, who were prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with a long speech. 15:33 After they had spent some time there, they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them. 15:35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and proclaiming (along with many others) the word of the Lord.

God’s mission involves perception into the distinctions between peoples; it involves clarity from Scripture; it involves breaking down barriers between peoples, not by infringing on the sacredness of some for the sake of others but by respecting the differences and adhering to what is sacred. (A good commentary to read is by Beverly Gaventa: Acts Abingdon New Testament Commentaries .)

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