A big dilemma for the early church was – did new Gentile believers have to be circumcised and then become Jews in order to complete their salvations?
This issue came to a head when the Apostle Peter visited Paul and Barnabas in Antioch. Peter ate with Gentile believers until a group of Jewish believers arrived from Jerusalem. Then, Peter separated himself from the Gentiles and only ate with the Jews because he feared what the Jews would think and say. Paul confronted Peter to his face about his hypocrisy —
“If you, who are a Jew live like a Goy [Non-Jew or Gentile] and not like a Jew, why are you forcing the Goyim to live like Jews? We are Jews by birth, not so-called ‘Goyishe sinners’; even so we have come to realize that a person is not declared righteous by God on the ground of his legalistic observance of Torah commands, but through the Messiah Yeshua’s trusting faithfulness. Therefore, we too have put our faith in Messiah Yeshua’s trusting faithfulness… (Galatians 2:14-16a Complete Jewish Bible by David H. Stern)
This confrontation resulted in Paul, Barnabas, and others going to Jerusalem to consult with the apostles and elders there. A decision was made that the Gentile believers just needed to abstain from:
(1) Things polluted by idols, especially meat sacrificed to false gods.
(2) Fornication, or any form of sexual immorality, including homosexuality and other improper sexual practices.
(3) What is strangled…that is meat from animals not slaughtered in a way that allows the blood to flow out.
(4) Blood, such as blood sausage.
(Taken from Jewish New Testament Commentary by David H. Stern)
These minimum conditions were placed on the Gentile believers so that the Jewish believers would not be offended to fellowship with Gentile believers. It was a good compromise.
Sadly, two centuries later, when the Gentile influence in the Body of Christ far exceeded the Jewish influence, a new dilemma developed – did new Jewish believers have to reject their Jewish roots and become Gentile Christians?
(Continued in Part 14…if you’re interested, the full series to date can be seen here.)