Reflection materials excerpted from the Chinese edition of the New Testament with Lectio Divina (by Claretian Publications), translated by Fountain of Love and Life
Reflection: A good Christian must follow many rules? Where do these rules come from?
Prayer: Ask the Holy Spirit to help you distinguish necessary rules from unnecessary rules. Also ask the Spirit for a broad mind, to accept that there are different ways of living the Christian faith.
Action: Make an effort to talk to those people you find hard to deal with in your community. Try to understand and accept them.
Acts of the Apostles
Council of Jerusalem.
1 Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers,a “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice,b you cannot be saved.” 2 Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and presbyters about this question. 3 They were sent on their journey by the church, and passed through Phoenicia and Samaria telling of the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. 4 When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church, as well as by the apostles and the presbyters, and they reported what God had done with them. 5 But some from the party of the Pharisees who had become believers stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and direct them to observe the Mosaic law.”
6 The apostles and the presbyters met together to see about this matter. 7 After much debate had taken place, Peter got up and said to them, “My brothers, you are well aware that from early days God made his choice among you that through my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness by granting them the holy Spirit just as he did us.d 9 He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts. 10 Why, then, are you now putting God to the test by placing on the shoulders of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?f 11On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they.” 12 The whole assembly fell silent, and they listened while Paul and Barnabas described the signs and wonders God had worked among the Gentiles through them.
James on Dietary Law. 13 After they had fallen silent, James responded, “My brothers, listen to me. 14 Symeon* has described how God first concerned himself with acquiring from among the Gentiles a people for his name. 15 The words of the prophets agree with this, as is written:
16 ‘After this I shall return and rebuild the fallen hut of David; from its ruins I shall rebuild it and raise it up again, 17 so that the rest of humanity may seek out the Lord, even all the Gentiles on whom my name is invoked. Thus says the Lord who accomplishes these things, 18 known from of old.’ 19 It is my judgment, therefore, that we ought to stop troubling the Gentiles who turn to God, 20but tell them by letter to avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals, and blood. 21 For Moses, for generations now, has had those who proclaim him in every town, as he has been read in the synagogues every sabbath.”
Letter of the Apostles.
22 Then the apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole church, decided to choose representatives and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. The ones chosen were Judas, who was called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers. 23 This is the letter delivered by them: “The apostles and the presbyters, your brothers, to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of Gentile origin: greetings. 24 Since we have heard that some of our number [who went out] without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind, 25 we have with one accord decided to choose representatives and to send them to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 So we are sending Judas and Silas who will also convey this same message by word of mouth: 28 ‘It is the decision of the holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, 29 namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.’”
Delegates at Antioch.
30 And so they were sent on their journey. Upon their arrival in Antioch they called the assembly together and delivered the letter. 31 When the people read it, they were delighted with the exhortation. 32 Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, exhorted and strengthened the brothers with many words. 33 After they had spent some time there, they were sent off with greetings of peace from the brothers to those who had commissioned them. 34 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and proclaiming with many others the word of the Lord.
Paul and Barnabas Separate.
36 After some time, Paul said to Barnabas, “Come, let us make a return visit to see how the brothers are getting on in all the cities where we proclaimed the word of the Lord.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take with them also John, who was called Mark, 38 but Paul insisted that they should not take with them someone who had deserted them at Pamphylia and who had not continued with them in their work.m 39 So sharp was their disagreement that they separated. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus. 40 But Paul chose Silas and departed after being commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41He traveled through Syria and Cilicia bringing strength to the churches.
Teaching from Fr. Francis Ching (Traditional and Simplified Chinese subtitles are available):
Read Acts 15:5. Paul encountered very strong opposition from people who were in favor of keeping the Law of Moses. Why was this mentality so common among the early Christians? (Hint: read CCC 595 below.) Is this mentality still hindering many Christians today? How?
The Council at Jerusalem is a Crucial Moment in the Church’s History
- The Church faces a dilemma: to be bound by the law and become one of the denominations of Judaism; or to reject law and cut off completely from her foundation, i.e., OT
- The Son without the Father? Christ without Scripture, i.e., OT? No! The acceptance of Christ means the acceptance of OT and the law as Jesus has fulfilled OT and the law.
- The Church is “catholic”.
- Throughout the 2000 years of history, the result of many debates about whether the Church could become the Church according to God’s will lies in the decision of the leader: circumcision, Arianism, Sola Scriptura, NFP > the Church never falters in crucial issues, not only because of Paul or JPII, but because of the permission of the Holy Spirit and Jesus (Mt. 16:17ff).
- “… appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders” – that’s how the early Church operates. Today’s Church: instructions from the apostles; obedience to the top leadership.
- How does the Jerusalem Council share the characteristics of the Apostolic Council? Is the instructional authority of the Apostolic Council higher than that of the Pope?
- Peter made decisions as the head of the Church; he found support in James as well as the Prophetic Books. By the authority of the Bishop of Jerusalem, Peter also made decisions on pastoral care.
- “… by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?” – meaning the law. “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” Only Jesus can keep the whole law.
- James, quoting from OT, explained that the conversion of the Gentiles fulfills the words of the prophets, “rebuild the dwelling of David”.
- “abstained … from whatever has been strangled and from blood” – why don’t today’s Christians follow this?
Acts of the Apostles
Council of Jerusalem. / James on Dietary Law. / Letter of the Apostles. / Delegates at Antioch. / Paul and Barnabas Separate.
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