Church in Conflict (24)
The fifteenth chapter was played out in the year 50AD. Less than twenty years after the resurrection, the church faced a grave crisis. There were those who had trouble letting go of the past. There were those others who had trouble appreciating the past. The New Testament had to find a place for the Old. We know that the Old is fulfilled in the New. We know that the Law and the Prophets are the underpinnings of the New Testament Church.
There came a time when there needed to be a clarification about what it meant to be a Christian. Did the new Christians have to be Jews first? Did they have to observe the rites, rituals, ceremonies cherished by their Hebrew brethren? Were the Jewish Christians more Christian than the Gentile Christians? Did not new believers have to do this thing or that thing in order to be authentic?
The question was settled at the Jerusalem council in 50AD, or was it? The spirit that would love to cause schisms is still at work. While the circumcision question seems to have been settled, it has been replaced by a hundred other “so called” litmus tests. There are those who insist that unless a convert do this, that, or the other thing, their faith is suspect at best and spurious at worst.
The Apostles in Jerusalem spoke to the need for purity and simply left it at that. The concern was not to “trouble” the gentiles with things that would not add to grace. We wish it was as simple as this, but it is not. Another schism developed between Paul and Barnabas over a relative. Barnabas wanted to take his nephew on the second missionary journey, Paul refused. It seems that grace could not keep the church from being broken. This is the first church “split.” The Bible says that the contention was “so sharp.”
Chalk it up to temperament if you like. Barnabas seemed to have the gift of encouragement, Paul of prophecy. In the end Mark is welcomed back and we find that grace wins in the end. Should we find ourselves in the middle of a Jerusalem council or having problems with men who fall short of the Mark you believe is a minimal, pray for grace and pray you will be gracious.