Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Monday, November 21, 2016

Chronological Reading Plans for Nov 22, Acts 15-16

Today's readings are Acts 15-16. Tomorrow's are Gal 1-3.

We see some Interesting events in Acts 15. A structure is being formed within the new church. The Apostles go to Jerusalem to settle a doctrinal issue, "Should non-Jewish believers have to be circumcised in order to be saved?" The very first church council is held with James presiding over it. A decision has to be made in what has turned out to be a contentious issue.

This has the potential to fracture the newly formed church. Both sides believe themselves to be right. It is an emotionally charged issue. Many years of tradition are behind those who support circumcision. Lacking a strong governing organization, this is the first internal challenge the church face. How will the two opposing parties handle it?

Without the authority and guidelines of the New Testament to aid them, they depend on and trust the leadership structure they have been given. James makes a carefully considered opinion and the rest of the Apostles abide by it, "The Gentiles do not have to be circumcised." The church moves on in unity.

Moving on to Acts 16, Interestingly enough, Paul has Timothy (technically a Gentile), circumcised. The doctrine has been established. It has been determined that circumcision was not necessary for salvation. But, here we see grace being exhibited in how that non-essential doctrine is carried out. Clearly, it is OK to circumcise and it is OK not to circumcise. Since it has been determined that circumcision is not necessary for salvation, there is freedom (grace) in practicing it. Furthermore, Paul, apparently the second level of authority in the church, operating under James and the council at Jerusalem, is given grace to function according to his circumstances. The church maintains unity while having different opinions and practices in areas that are non-essential. This is a lesson from which many of us can benefit.

Later in Acts, to emphasize the extent of this freedom and grace, we will see that Paul does not have Titus, another Greek, circumcised.

Timothy is circumcised. Titus is not. Both are Greeks. Both are leaders in the church. Both decisions are right. There is grace in non-essential doctrines. But, there is also structure in how that grace is administered. Honor is given to God by all sides. 

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