Friday, January 08, 2010

First Church Council - The Problem

During the first five centuries of Christian history, a number of ecumenical councils were held. Tradition says that these councils settled outstanding theological disputes. For example, the Council of Nicea in AD 325 is said to have established the doctrine of the Trinity. My view is that theology of the Trinity is settled in the nature and character of God, not by human councils. Those who listen to the Spirit of God will find the truth. Human councils will usually arrive at a convenient compromise.

Christian historians who back the council movement identify the meeting of elders and apostles in Jerusalem that is recorded in Acts 15 as the first ecumenical council. A careful reading of the text does not support this view. This meeting was not a council that set a pattern for the church; it was actually a shambles that shows how easily these things can go wrong.

The problem arose when the gospel spread to Antioch. At first the gospel was only preached to Jews, but eventually the Gentiles began to receive the gospel. Some Jewish Christian arrived in town and claimed that gentile Christians should be circumcised according to the law of Moses.

Paul and Barnabas already had a relationship with apostles and elders in Jerusalem from the time when they both lived and preached there (Acts 9:26-30). They were sent up to Jerusalem to talk to the about the problem (Acts 15:2).

The apostles and elders met to consider this question (Acts 15:6).
I will look at their solution to the problem tomorrow.

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