THAT WAS A CLOSE SHAVE!
“‘So here is my decision. We’re not going to unnecessarily burden non-Jewish people who turn to the Master. We’ll write them a letter and tell them, ‘Be careful not to get involved in activities connected with idols, to guard the morality of sex and marriage, not to serve food offensive to Jewish Christians — blood, for instance.’ This is basic wisdom from Moses, preached and honoured for centuries now in city after city as we have met and kept the Sabbath.'” Acts 15:19-21 (The Message).
All the heavyweights in one place, holding the future of church of the Lord Jesus Christ in their hands! Could they be trusted to make the right decision?
It was their responsibility to interpret and implement the yoke of their Rabbi to the infant church in the Roman world then and for all the generations of believers that followed them to this day. Their decision would either set people free or entangle them in the bondage of legalism and rob the cross of its power to save.
What would the New Testament have looked like for us had the decision gone the other way? Would it have become just another rule book for another powerless religion to enslave people and keep them from access to the God who yearns for the freedom and fellowship of His people?
Thank God for the Holy Spirit who was in them to guide their thoughts and understanding at this critical moment in the history of the church! The foundation was being laid for all the generations that followed. So Paul could write to Gentile believers with all the confidence and authority of the Lord Jesus and the backing of the church leaders:
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him, the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” Ephesians 2:19-22 (NIV).
All the circumcision and law-keeping in the world had not changed the hearts of the Jews. In fact, it had only made them worse because they thought they were above everyone else; they despised the Gentiles, calling them “dogs”; they would not associate with them, much less eat with them; they considered God their exclusive possession despite their rebellion and did not think it appropriate to share His word with “outsiders”.
But now all that had changed. God had to use drastic means at times, for example, Peter’s bizarre vision before he was persuaded to go to the house of Cornelius and share the good news with him; the shocking observation of the Holy Spirit coming on and manifesting Himself in the exactly the same way as He fell on them at Pentecost, to change the minds of these stubbornly prejudiced Jews.
How could they now come to any other decision than that the Message of life in Jesus Christ was for the whole world and not just for those who had undergone a small operation? That had served its purpose for a season but had now become obsolete with the coming of the Messiah to whom all these rules and rituals pointed. Never again did they need to peer through the dark at types and shadows because Jesus had ushered in the full light of day.
Anyone who adds anything to what He has done had gone backwards from light to darkness, from life to death and from freedom to slavery all over again.