New Testament Reading Reflection Week 6
Written by Jeremy Schultheiss
Acts 15:1-2, 8, 19.
While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the believers[a]: “Unless you are circumcised as required by the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 Paul and Barnabas disagreed with them, arguing vehemently...8 God knows people’s hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us….19 “And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.
First, a little bit of context. The church, as of Acts 15, is still figuring things out (hint: we still are today as well). There were an incredible number of Gentiles converting to the faith and God was at work in mighty ways. However, as the Church grew there was a fear that their new diversity would cause them to lose some of what made them distinct. They feared their righteousness was at stake.
They began to lose some of their uniformity.
The non-Jews didn’t understand or follow the centuries-old traditions that early Christians had been handed from Judaism. In this case, namely circumcision.
This initial strife within the church was over race and ritual. Jews versus Gentiles. And the ultimate question of: what is necessary to be accepted in God’s sight?
I love the line in verse 8, "God knows people’s hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us.”
Just as he did to us.
He is inviting the church forward. He has moved from the idea that the Gentiles need to piggyback on the Jewish faith and therefore adopt the laws and customs of Judaism, toward the revolutionary concept that the Jews were saved by God’s grace (just like the Gentiles), not because of anything they had done — including their heritage, nationality, or religiosity.
In short, unity doesn’t equal uniformity.
What unites God’s church isn’t a physical distinction, nationality, political affiliation, socioeconomic status, or religious moralism.
What unites us as followers of Jesus is the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
This passage challenged me this week to consider how can we help create Ranch Church to be a place that makes it easy for those who are turning to Christ.
As we grow and find our identity as a church we want to ensure that we don’t create barriers for people to experience God’s freedom, love, and grace.
Some questions to consider: What are the benefits of a diverse church? How can you help make Ranch Church the kind of church that welcomes those who are turning to God?