Roughly two decades after his initial conversion experience, Paul travels to Jerusalem to meet with what he describes as “pillars” of the church— Peter, James and John, all Jewish Christians who were with Jesus from the very beginning. Here, Paul and the Jerusalem apostles discuss many important things. In the end, these pillars of the church give Paul the right hand of fellowship. This means that they recognized the validity of his calling as an apostle and affirmed that gospel message that he preached. The gospel message is this: that one is saved by the faith of Christ and NOT by obedience to Torah.
Jesus was, of course, a Jew- the child of a pious Jewish couple who, in obedience to the customs of their people, had him circumcised on the eighth day. His first followers were all Jewish. The twelve disciples who formed his inner circle were all Jewish. The first explosive wave of growth that the early church experienced consisted entirely of Jewish converts.
In the first century, it was NOT seen as odd for a Jew to become a Christian. It WAS odd, however, for gentiles to become Christians- to walk away from the polytheism of their ancestors, embrace the God of the Jews and worship Jesus as the long-promised Jewish Messiah.
Should the new and rapidly growing church accept gentile converts? If so, under what conditions? These were some major issues that the early church had to struggle with. In Paul's Letter to the Galatians- the ninth book of the New Testament- the apostle tackles this issue head on.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we'll be taking a deep dive into this fascinating letter from the New Testament and, in the process, touching upon:
- Some interesting details of Paul's biography. - How the early Christians understood the law of Moses. - What salvation means and how one is saved. - What part the Holy Spirit has to play in the life of the Christian.
After a long journey from the land of Egypt and through the wilderness, the Israelites finally arrive on the outskirts of the land that God promised to give them— a land “flowing with milk and honey.” Through Moses, God instructs the Israelites to select 12 men (one from each of the 12 tribes) to go and explore the land. These 12 scouts are to bring back information about the kind of people who live there, how strong they are, whether or not the cities are fortified and the quality of the farmland. Moses even tells them to bring back some grapes from the promised land so the people of Israel can see for themselves the kind of fruit that grows there. After 40 days, when the 12 scouts return from their journey through the promised land, they share what they've learned with their countrymen. However, instead of going forward to take the land that God promised to give them, the people opt to return to Egypt. How is this story relevant to our lives? What can we learn from the error of the Israelites? We'll discuss this in today's Bible Study on Numbers 13:1, 25-14:4.