Jews and Gentiles Included

     Jack Levison told about a Baptist Church out in western Oklahoma that had been in existence for years. One Sunday morning who should show up for worship but thirty five people from Ghana, Africa? The folks from Ghana liked the worship so much they said they wanted to become Baptists.
That presented a problem to the people from the Baptist Church. The folks from Ghana arrived late for worship each Sunday, while the Baptist arrived and began on time. The people from Ghana liked to sing and dance to the music while the Baptist were straight. The folks from Ghana were unhappy with the length of the service (they worshiped until they felt like going home). The Baptist wanted to end the service at twelve noon. The people from Ghana spoke with a broken accent while the Baptist were English speaking people. Those differences along with a few others presented a challenge.

     Normally in today’s world the two groups would split. One would be the Original Baptist Church and the other would be the Inclusive Baptist Church. This kind of challenge was exactly what happened in the early Church. Originally the founding fathers of the Christian Church were all Jews. The Apostles were all Jews and most of the people in the Church at Pentecost were Jews as well. But the problem arose when Gentiles were coming into the Church and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit alongside of the early Jews.
     The old line Jews wanted the Gentiles to become Jews. They insisted that in order to be a part of the Christian movement the men needed to be circumcised, eat kosher food and obey the Jewish laws. But the wisdom of the people in the Church in Antioch believed they needed to appeal to the Churches headquarters in Jerusalem; so Barnabas and Paul were sent to get an official decision from headquarters. For several days the leaders in Jerusalem hammered out a decision, after much prayer and debating. The apostles and elders said, “We believe that we and they are saved in the same way, by the grace of the Lord Jesus”. The Church leaders said, “We shouldn’t create problems for the Gentiles who turn to God. Instead we should write a letter, telling them to avoid the pollution associated with idols, sexual immorality, eating meat from strangled animals and consuming blood.” (Acts 15:19-20)
     With that being said, the Church worked through a problem and did so under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We can learn from this situation too. Whenever there is a controversy, it is best to take time to use the wisdom of tested leaders to seek the mind of Christ for a resolution. The Quakers have the right idea of sitting and staying in a room and discussing the problem until it’s resolved. Read Acts 15 and learn how to do conflict management.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Gene Wells