CH101 - The First CenturyThe Primitive Church - 30 - 100 AD
The Jerusalem Council
Next we find this same sentiment directed at Paul after he and Barnabas have had success reaching Gentiles:
This is what led to the Jerusalem Council, the first known formal gathering of the most strategic leaders in the Church. The issue is to define the expectations for the growing Gentile church. According to Luke, Peter reminds the Council of how God had used him to bring the first Gentiles into the fold. Then Paul and Barnabas shared some of their stories. Next James speaks. Outside of some vague references in the gospels and one quick reference in Acts 12:17, this is the first mention of James, the brother of Jesus. Yet it seems that James is in charge rather than Peter, the "rock." It is James who states the decision of the Council: Gentiles would be expected to avoid three types of unclean meat, and to avoid sexual immorality.
James also seems to be saying that Gentiles could continue hearing the word of GOD preached in the synagogues on the Sabbath. (Acts 15:21) After all this is what they were already doing. (Acts 13:42) If Acts 15:20 is the only requirement for us Gentiles would this please the apostles, the elders, and the whole church?
There are several comments to be made here:
First, saying that Moses was being read around the Roman world did not mean that Gentiles were commonly present. There were Gentile proselytes, but they would certainly not be the majority in the synagogues - most likely they were indeed a small minority.
Secondly, Paul always preached in the synagogues: "FIRST to the Jew," then he would go into the streets if/when they refused to listen and respond: "Then to the Greek."
Lastly, the Jerusalem Council mandate was the universal "rule" until the Pauline letters (and other NT writings) were circulated. But it is important to understand that it is likely that Gentiles had other local traditions: the Lord's Supper, oral creeds, and principles from Jesus teachings and parables. To assume that the Jerusalem Council mandate is the ONLY "rule" is likely to be a poor assumption.