This morning I was reading George Eldon Ladd’s “A Theology of the New Testament” — a phenomenal book of theology that would also make a great doorstop as it measures 764 pages. 🙂 In all seriousness, I am growing to love Ladd’s perspectives.
Today I was reading his chapter on the early church and how it began as a Jewish movement but quickly became populated by non-Jews (Gentiles). So in Acts 15 the Jewish Christians meet in what is known as the Jerusalem Council trying to figure out what to do with the Gentiles coming into the church. Ladd’s writes, “The problem came to a new head after Paul’s first missionary journey when he successfully established churches in the Gentile world that were completely free from Jewish legal obsevances. Fellow believers came down from Jerusalem to Antioch, the new center of the Gentile Christian movement, and insisted that all Christians must embrace the Law of Moses, i.e., become Jews, to be saved (Acts 15:1-2). This led to a council in Jerusalem to decide the role of the Jewish Law in the Christian community. The conservative party, insisiting on the permanence of the Law, was led by converts from the Pharisees (Acts 15:5), while Paul represented the liberal party, which held that the Law was not binding on Gentile Christians.” (p.392). In the end the liberals won the debate, under the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit. As a conservative Christian, I’m glad the liberal Christians won that debate, and I bet you are too . . . so we are free from requirements of the Law.