Grace to you and Happy Easter!
What does the event of the First Christian Council, the Council of Jerusalem (50 AD) recorded in Act of the Apostles 15, teach us? I will answer this question in today’s reflection and that of tomorrow.
Many times, we begin a mission without being aware of the implications. I remember when the Lord led me to evangelization through television and other electronic media here in the USA, poor me from Africa. I didn’t know sooner or later, I would have to hire attorneys, get consultants, call my Bishop regularly and even contract canonists who would help me do things the right way. Many of your works are probably like that; you jump into something without understanding what it may entail.
Paul and Barnabas had their fair share of this. The Holy Spirit had called them for a unique mission, which they realized was to the Gentiles (see Acts 13 & 14). Their preaching and miracles in Antioch, the Island of Cyprus and Southwestern Asia Minor were so fruitful that there was a large influx of Gentiles into the Church. This came with a price.
Some Jews, who were the first to accept the Christ, saw the conversion of Gentiles into Christianity as awkward. They thought they must save Judaism from this adulteration. Thus, those zealots hurried to the headquarters of Paul’s ministry in Antioch, teaching the Gentiles that Christian Baptism was not sufficient to save them. They said they needed Jewish circumcision too, which comes with the observance of the Law of Moses.
Trust fiery Paul. He didn’t take this lightly, but engaged these zealots. They claimed top Church leadership in Jerusalem supported their teaching; while Paul and Barnabas insisted it wasn’t consistent with the Church’s teaching. This matter had to be settled. Hence, Paul demanded they go back to the Church in Jerusalem to iron out the case. The events of the Council were recorded in Acts 15:1-35.
Lesson: From the very beginning of the Church, the need for a teaching authority, what we call the Magisterium, in the Catholic Church, is identified and practiced.
Present at the Council were the apostles (espicopoi) and the elders (presbyters), two names which are synonyms for bishops and priests.
Isn’t it reasonable to have a teaching authority that preserves the tradition of the Church, as well as sees how the tradition grows from culture to culture, over time?
If my interpretation of the bible and or Christian tradition is left to my subjective whims and caprices, I think anything could pass for solid doctrine. The result would be a syncretistic Christianity, the kind the Jewish zealot converts into Christianity wanted. Thank God we have the Magisterium.
Tomorrow, I’ll expand on other lessons to learn from the First Christian Council.
God Love you. God Bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Wednesday, Easter Week 5: Acts 15:1-6; John 15:1-8]
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.