Read - Acts 11v1-3
Message - Scott Woodburn
When we consider the church in the days after the Lord's ascension we can often put on our rose tinted spectacles. In those days, we think, everything was united and wonderful and easy. The Apostles exercised their ministry faithfully and the church grew everywhere. They were perfect days, we propose, days of wonder and joy and days that we should seek to repeat. There's a small problem though. The church has never been a perfect place.
As we enter chapter eleven we meet a group called the "circumcision party" (v2). This wasn't a traveling group of children's entertainers who would come to birthday parties to play games. This party was altogether more serious. We will meet them again in Acts and indeed their influence is felt in other places in the New Testament. Who were these individuals? The circumcision party was made up of Christians who had come from a Jewish background. This in itself isn't extraordinary.
At this point in the history of the church Christians from a Jewish background were by far the majority. The Gospel was only now leaving the borders of Jerusalem and so it would be a little while before Gentile converts became the majority. So the circumcision party were Jewish converts who would insist that Gentile converts needed to be circumcised and follow the various regulations of Judaism.
They greeted Peter's return to Jerusalem with the accusation "You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them." (v3). For those in the circumcision party this was unacceptable. Peter met and ate with unclean Gentiles completely disregarding Jewish customs and now he should give a reason for his actions.
Peter's answer will come in the next verses but please notice today that theological disagreements are not new within the church of Jesus Christ. Ballynahinch is full of churches with each one having a different theological take on various aspects of the Bible's teaching. What is to be done? There is no substitute for knowing and understanding the Scriptures.
Why do Christians no longer insist upon circumcision? Why do Christians enjoy pork and shellfish? Why do Christians meet to worship on Sunday and not Saturday? None of these questions are vitally important. They certainly don't compare to such a question as what is justification? But still...how would you answer someone within your fellowship causing division because they firmly believe that a Christian should seek to keep the dietry requirements of the Old Testament?
The American Baptist preacher John Piper offers an answer. "When all your favourite preachers are gone, and all their books forgotten, you will have your Bible. Master it. Master it." Theology isn't just for the preacher...it is for you. Read the Bible, study the Bible, hear it preached...master it..."for all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3v16-17).
Q17 Into what estate did the fall bring mankind? The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.