Reader Warning: The following reflection on Acts 15 will be of specific interest to those who are interested in the internal debates within Christendom. If you do not see yourself as a follower of Jesus you will likely find this discussion to be strange.
What do you have to believe to be a follower of Jesus? Or what do you have to do to demonstrate that you are a follower of Jesus? This issue quickly confronted the early church because the Jewish faith had a number of requirements for those who claimed adherence to the faith. The main issue was circumcision. There were also a number of other issues such as eating meat with blood in it, participating in sexual immorality (participation in the Greek religion’s practice of the use of temple prostitutes), meat or foods dedicated to idols and meat from animals that were not properly killed, e.g. strangled.
The Jerusalem Council, the first council of the church, decided that salvation or the way of faith was by faith in Christ and Christ alone. Circumcision would not be a requirement of those who professed faith in the Christian faith. The council did decide that those who followed the Way of Jesus would: …abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood” (Acts 15:19).
The behaviors required of the new followers of Jesus who came from the Greek community were not intended to help them curry favor with God or to increase their likelihood of entrance into God’s presence. They were requested in order to reduce offense to the followers of Jesus who came from the Jewish community. Careful reading of the text suggests that the leaders of the early church were almost embarrassed to make these requests of the new followers of Jesus from the Greek community.
Over the years the church has always struggled with this issue: Is our faith in God through Jesus the Christ alone? The answer has always been: Yes!
Ronald Friesen © 2015