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In today’s Christain Religious Studies class, We will be learning about Controversies among the Early Christians. We hope you enjoy the class!
CONTROVERSIES AMONG THE EARLY CHRISTIANS [ACTS 15; 1-5]
Every human community faces controversies ever so often. It is just an inevitable phenomenon; conflict. And so it proved to be in the early church when the main source of controversy was the discrimination of Jewish Christians against the Gentiles. The Jews thought that those who were not circumcised were not permitted to be Christians. As the Bible recorded, some of the Jewish Christians who held this opinion came from Judea to Antioch preaching to the people that unless they were circumcised according to the custom taught by Moses, they could not be saved.
This conflict caused further conflict between Paul and Barnabas. The two of them then went to Jerusalem to seek advice from the church elders and apostles in order to settle the controversy once and for all. And on their way, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria and saw how the Gentiles were converted. They told the Jerusalem church how Gentiles had been converted and this made the church happy.
Meanwhile, some of the believers who were in support of the Pharisees stood up and said that all gentile Christians must be circumcised and keep the laws of Moses if they were to be fully accepted into the Christian fold. After discussing this issue with them (elders and apostles), Peter got up and addressed them. He recounted the works God had done among the Gentiles, especially the Holy Spirit pouring down on them which according to him indicated God’s acknowledgement of them. He explains that God makes no difference between the Jews and Gentiles and concluded by saying both Jews and Gentiles would be saved the same way.
After Peter finished speaking Paul, Barnabas once again recounted the many miracles God had done through them among the Gentiles. James also reinstated what Peter said. He reiterated that the Gentiles should not be about the need for circumcision, but rather that they should be admonished to abstain from things stained by idols, from sexual immorality, from the things strangled and from blood etc.
The Church then sent Paul and Barnabas, Judas (Barsabas), Silas and some others back to the missionary fields. They wrote a letter and handed to Judas and Silas to deliver. The letter simply advised the Gentile Church to abstain from things stained by idols, from sexual immorality, from the things strangled and from blood. This they did because indeed what matters, according to them is not circumcision but obedience to the laws and words of God. What matters is an obedient and ready heart turned to God.
Disagreement Between Paul and Barnabas
Sometime after the settlement of the circumcision controversy, Paul said to Barnabas “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of God and see how they are doing.” But a fresh controversy started when Barnabas wanted to take John (also called Mark) with them and Paul refused. Paul refused because Mark abandoned them in Pamphylia in their previous journey to those places. This led to a serious disagreement which made them to part ways. Consequently, Barnabas took John Mark and sailed through Cyprus while Paul chose Silas and sailed through Syria and Cilicia strengthening the churches. The believers were happy and their faith renewed because of the visit and encouragement.
- What was the cause of the conflict in the early church?
- How was it settled?
- What led to the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas?
We have come to the end of this class. We do hope you enjoyed the class?
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In our next class, we will be talking about Controversy in the Corinth Church. We are very much eager to meet you there.
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