Acts 15: United and Diverse
Acts 15 is a chapter that highlights conflicts in the church at Antioch. The question before Antioch was regarding how much of the Old Testament law was necessary for the Gentile Christians to keep. All of the early church leaders met in Jerusalem to talk this out, and it seems that there was some disagreement. However, Peter made a comment that seems to have brought the discussion to an end.
Act 15:8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
Act 15:9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
Act 15:10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
Act 15:11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
It is a simple point, but it makes sense. History has proven that it was not possible for anyone to follow the entire law. That was why Jesus Christ was necessary for salvation. There is no way to earn it through adherence to a moral code. No matter how hard they tried, no one was or is perfect.
As a result, why was it necessary to put particularly the ritual law on people who did not need it for salvation? As Peter had learned earlier, dietary laws no longer applied, and this entire debate was over circumcision. The moral law still applied, but there was no need to make the Gentile people culturally Jewish. As long as they were living a life as a Christian, it was all right that they were also Greek for example.
I think about us today. The moral law still applies. You can see that through the New Testament writers as well as through Jesus Christ Himself. They reaffirmed that things like murder, stealing, adultery and all the rest were wrong. However, it is possible to be American and Christian. It is possible to be Egyptian and Christian. It is possible to be Vietnamese and Christian. It is not that we need to become culturally Jewish. We need to be Christians first obviously and display among other things the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, but we can see here in Acts the early church was both united and diverse.