Written by John Fontanella
Sunday, 22 February 2009 09:00
Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15)
- Should Gentile Christians be required to submit to circumcision and practice the Jewish way of life, as Gentile proselytes to Judaism were required to do?
- To those Gentile Christians unwilling to become “wholly Jewish,” should the church grant a second-class citizenship, as for Gentile God-fearers in Judaism?
- Most importantly, what makes a person Christian - faith in Christ solely, or faith in Christ plus adherence to the principles and practices of Judaism?
- Are Jews who believe there is a dispute over the status of Gentile believers. They teach that Gentile believers must submit to circumcision, as prescribe by Moses, else they cannot be saved. In other words, Gentile believers must come into the church under the same terms that govern the entrance of Gentile proselytes into Judaism.
- Full Jewish converts, God-fearers, who were willing to practice Judaism in part but, if male, unwilling to undergo circumcision and observe the stricter Jewish taboos. They found Jewish theology superior to pagan polytheism and or superstition.
Antioch Circa 75 A.D.
- Third largest city in the Roman Empire at more than 500,000
- Home base for the first major expansion of Christianity outside of Palestine.
- Heavy mixture of both Gentiles and Jews it is the geographical and political crossroads of the two cultures.
“The full implication of how Jewish Christianity and Gentile Christianity could reach a spiritual symbiosis was yet to be realized.” –Timothy George
What’s the Deal with all these “Meals”?
- “In Judaism table-fellowship means fellowship before God, for the eating of a piece of broken bread by everyone who shares in the meal brings out the fact that they all have a share in the blessing which the master of the house has spoken over the unbroken bread.” –James Dunn
- “Devout Jews of this period would have remembered the story of Daniel and his friends, who refrained from partaking of the royal table of a Gentile king because of their religious scruples, as well as the story of the Maccabean revolt when many pious Israelites resisted foreign efforts to Hellenize their welcomed death rather than defile themselves and profane the holy covenant, and so they died” ( Dan 1:3-16; 1 Macc 1:62-63)
- Scru.ple (skrōō'pəl) n.
An uneasy feeling arising from conscience or principle that tends to hinder action. See Synonyms at qualm.
Gal 2:11-12 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.
- By refusing to eat with the Gentiles, Peter demonstrated a prejudiced attitude toward his fellow Christians.
- Out of fear of what others might think, Peter disassociated himself from the Gentiles 2:11-12
- The Judaizers wanted to make the observation of the Law a requirement for righteousness
Gal 2:13-14 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
- When Peter withdrew from the Gentile believers, it also influenced another strong Christian (Barnabas) to do the same thing 2:13
- Paul dramatically (Ed speak) confronted Peter with the truth.
- GOOD 1 of the original 12 disciples of Jesus
- GOOD Part of Jesus’ inner circle (Peter, James, and John)
- GOOD Credited with the confession that, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The very confession that by itself alone gets us in to Heaven if we believe it. (Matthew 16)
- GOOD Depicted as holding the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven
- BAD Peter walking on the water, but sinking when he lost his faith.
- BAD Denies Christ 3 times before the rooster crowed the next morning.
- GOOD Jesus appears first to Peter and then to the twelve after Resurrection.
- GOOD In one of Jesus’ Resurrection appearances Peter affirms his love for Jesus 3 times.
- X factor - John 18:10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear.
- As followers of Christ you are not obligated to avoid conflict, its inevitable, but as followers of Christ you are obligated to resolve conflict
- Most of us are either good at presenting the truth and not so good at receiving the truth. Or we are good at receiving the truth and not so good at presenting it.
- There are very few of us that are good at both my wife is very lucky to have someone so gifted.
Give me the bottom line!
“Thus what is implicit in Peter’s withdrawal from table fellowship with Gentile believers was not simply a laudable honoring of the scruples of the “weaker” Jewish Christians but rather the imposition of an alien theology of salvation… one that reintroduced the very bondage from which Christ had died to make us free.” –The New American Commentary
Give me the bottom line again!
“What was so insidious in the separatism of Peter and his associates was that [they projected the idea that] because of their ritual purity and obedience of the law, [they] stood in a different, more favorable relationship to God.”
Exreme bottom line it!
“This is the issue at stake here: Either Peter must be severely rebuked, or Christ must be removed entirely. Rather let Peter perish and go to hell, if need be, than that Christ be lost.” - Martin Luther
Small Group Questions
- Where is your favorite restaurant to go to? Do you order something different every time or the same thing?
- We learned that the table fellowship experienced by the early believers was something that they took really seriously. They felt that in sharing a meal they were sharing in blessings. What traditions did your family have growing up? Did these times serve as a blessing to you or something different?
- Peter has an impressive resume: a member of Jesus’ inner circle, he holds the keys to God’s kingdom, etc. What does your resume in your relationship with God include? What have been some of the highlights?
- Who are the people in your life that have influenced your resume?
- Read Galatians 2:11-13. Paul did not hesitate in his conflict with Peter. He saw what he was doing and how that was influencing people around him. How do you feel about conflict? Do you tend to avoid conflict or go to the person face to face right away?
- As followers of Christ we are obligated to resolve conflict. How does that make you feel? Are you better at presenting the truth or receiving the truth?
- Why did Peter separate himself from the Gentiles during meal times? Why was this significant and what was the result?
- Peter’s conduct of separating himself from Gentile believers threatened the Gospel. Another name for the Gospel is the “Good News”. What is the good news about Jesus that can not be compromised?