Avoiding the “Surgery”
In Acts chapter 15 the church faced a crucial decision. The church was born out of Jewish influences, both racially and religiously. Jesus was Jewish. As the gospel of Jesus began to take root, a segment, perhaps a large segment, of the church demanded that people not only believe in Jesus but also adopt Jewish customs and follow the Mosaic law. This was not such a big deal so long as the majority of Christians were of Jewish descent; after all, they would be familiar with the Mosaic law and would have observed Jewish customs such as circumcision…aka, the “surgery”. But now the gospel was going to the non-Jewish or Gentile world. These people had not been exposed to Jewish teachings. To make them become “Jewish” and followers of Jesus would have been an impediment to the gospel. Imagine the hesitancy of Gentile adult men to want to have the “surgery”! Thankfully, the church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, refused to require the Gentiles to become “Jewish” in order to be a part of the church. This decision set the course for the explosive spread of the gospel of Jesus around the world.
We still face a similar issue today. Many people have grown up in the church with particular styles and traditions in place in their lives for years. But younger people, without church backgrounds, have no such experiences. They don’t have an attachment to church traditions and experiences; yet they believe in Jesus. The church today, though not dealing with issues like circumcision, have other issues such as music and worship style and liturgy to deal with. Our challenge is to keep the focus on Jesus. Each church decides, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, how to worship and express itself. However, all things need to be done in love. Not requiring the “surgery” set the course for the spread of the gospel. Keeping the gospel the main thing today will keep those gospel fires burning into the 21st century.