Today’s devotion is written by Pastor Vance Rains.
It’s nearly impossible for us to imagine the enormous significance of the following three things to the Jews of Jesus’ day, and thus the early Jewish followers of Jesus:
- “Clean” vs. “unclean”
- Being Jewish – not Gentile.
But, the God of the Jews extended grace to the entire world. Jesus came as a Jewish savior for everyone. And, there were a growing list of examples of ways the Holy Spirit was working miraculously among the new Gentile followers of Jesus. The question was, did the Gentile believers have to become Jewish, or at least observe the Jews Laws and customs, to follow Jesus? Were they required?
Much of the Apostle Paul’s writings deal with this very topic, concluding that as we are NOT saved by Law or works, and only by grace through faith in Jesus, then the old Jewish legal requirements – such as circumcision and dietary laws – were no longer mandatory for any follower of Jesus, Jew or Gentile.
In fact, after a lively conversation among the leaders of the early church, James – the brother of Jesus – wrote the following letter to be presented to the Gentile church in Antioch:
“The apostles and the elders, to the Gentile brothers and sisters in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. Greetings! 24 We’ve heard that some of our number have disturbed you with unsettling words we didn’t authorize. 25 We reached a united decision to select some delegates and send them to you along with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul. 26 These people have devoted their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore, we are sending Judas and Silas. They will confirm what we have written. 28 The Holy Spirit has led us to the decision that no burden should be placed on you other than these essentials: 29 refuse food offered to idols, blood, the meat from strangled animals, and sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid such things. Farewell.” (Acts 15:23-29, CEB)
From a strictly Jewish perspective, this was earth-shaking!
How does this story from Acts speak to the modern Church, as we deal with modern conflicts and requirements?
What modern issues are as important to us, as food and circumcision were to the early church?
What role did the Holy Spirit play in the way they discerned a way forward? What can we learn from that?
What are your thoughts, comments, questions?