Friday: Further Study – The Jerusalem Council

Further Study: “The Jewish converts generally were not inclined to move as rapidly as the providence of God opened the way. From the result of the apostles’ labors among the Gentiles it was evident that the converts among the latter people would far exceed the Jewish converts in number.

Spectacles on Bible

Image © Stan Myers from GoodSalt.com

The Jews feared that if the restrictions and ceremonies of their law were not made obligatory upon the Gentiles as a condition of church fellowship, the national peculiarities of the Jews, which had hitherto kept them distinct from all other people, would finally disappear from among those who received the gospel message.”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 189.

“The Jewish Christians living within sight of the temple naturally allowed their minds to revert to the peculiar privileges of the Jews as a nation. When they saw the Christian church departing from the ceremonies and traditions of Judaism, and perceived that the peculiar sacredness with which the Jewish customs had been invested would soon be lost sight of in the light of the new faith, many grew indignant with Paul as the one who had, in a large measure, caused this change. Even the disciples were not all prepared to accept willingly the decision of the council. Some were zealous for the ceremonial law, and they regarded Paul with disfavor because they thought that his principles in regard to the obligations of the Jewish law were lax.”—Page 197.

Discussion Questions:

  1. In class, go back to Monday’s final question. How do we understand the fact that belonging to the “right” church does not guarantee salvation? For example, certainly ancient Israel was the “right church”, but that does not mean everyone in it was saved. If being in the true church does not guarantee salvation, then what is the advantage of being a part of it?
  2. How to accept uncircumcised Gentiles into the community of faith was one of the first most important administrative issues faced by the early church. What might be some comparable issues in our church today, and what does the example of Acts 15 teach us on how to deal with them?
  3. In class, have some people take the position of the Jews who insisted that Gentiles must become Jewish proselytes first before joining the church, which they saw (and rightly so) as an extension of the covenant promises made to Israel. What are their arguments, and how can you respond? How could a debate like this show us why issues that today seem so clear-cut could, in a different time, seem much more difficult than they do to us now?
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Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons