Day 336: The Council at Jerusalem

Acts 15:1-29 The issue of circumcision of the Gentile converts would finally be resolved at the Council of Jerusalem, which is the first recorded gathering of the Church hierarchy to define a matter of faith. It is the forerunner to the Ecumenical Councils, of which the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) is the most recent. (CCC 9-10, 1554)

Acts 15:1-5 Despite what Peter had already said about the matter, the “circumcision party” continued to challenge the unconditional acceptance of Gentiles into the Church. At this time, Christianity was still regarded by some as a Jewish sect, and the Jewish Law had always forbidden the uncircumcised from becoming part of the Jewish faith. The group of men who raise the issue here again side with the Pharisees and insist on the rigidity of the Old Law.

You cannot be saved: Circumcision was seen as so necessary that in the Jewish mindset it was even vital for salvation. (CCC 595)

Ch 15:2 Recognizing lawful Church authority, Paul and Barnabas visited Peter and the Apostles in Jerusalem to resolve the matter of Gentile circumcision and the application of the Mosaic Law. (CCC 877, 879, 1559)

Ch 15:6-11 Peter, in his role as head of the Church, listened to the testimony and made his pronouncement. Recalling the Baptism of Cornelius and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Gentiles at Caesarea, he decided to accept the Gentiles into the Church without requiring circumcision. 

We believe: Peter summarized his judgment with a doctrinal statement of faith. (CCC 185, 1987-2005)

Ch 15:10 The Jews themselves, even the patriarchs, never managed to keep the Old Law perfectly. (CCC 578)

Ch 15:12-21 Everyone present accepted Peter’s decision, as he was the one appointed by Christ to lead the Church. James the Less, the leader of the local Church in Jerusalem, suggested that the Gentiles abstain from eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols, eating strangled animals, consuming animal blood, and impure sexual unions. These were points of the Old Law that had always been applied to Jews and Gentiles alike. These directives had the advantage of enabling the Gentiles to disassociate themselves from their old pagan practices when they became Christians. These guidelines were not matters of faith but of discipline, which would eventually become obsolete with the passage of time, since these issues would no longer exist. (CCC 1594, 2034)

Ch 15:14 Symeon: A Greek rendering of Simon, Peter’s original name, Shim’on  in Hebrew. (CCC 881)

Ch 15:22-35 The apostolic letter announcing the decision succinctly expressed the decision of the Apostles. 

It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us: The Apostles clearly saw its deliberations in council and decisions as guided by the Holy Spirit in keeping with the promise of Christ. The news was well received in Antioch.

Exhorted them...strengthened them: The role of brothers and sisters in the Faith is crucial for our own faith. We can be encouraged and edified by the support of other members of the faithful. The Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation involve a sponsor whose role is to guide the new Christian or confirmand in living out the faith. (CCC 100, 1311)

Ch 15:33 Other ancient authorities add verse 34: “But it seemed good to Silas to remain there.”

Ch 15:36-41 For reasons not stated, John Mark had left the company of Paul and Barnabas during their first journey and returned to Jerusalem (cf. Acts 13:13). It was apparently a point of contention as it also prompted Paul and Barnabas to part ways. (CCC 873)

1 Corinthians 11:1-16 The instruction Paul gave on head coverings came from Jewish tradition. Evidently there was a controversy, and Paul sought to settle it. In essence, our external posture, behavior, and dress-especially in worship-should reflect deep faith and a refined respect. It is still the custom of some women, especially in the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church, to cover the head in Church. (CCC 355-358, 369-373, 1205-1207)

Ch 11:17-22 It appears that the celebration of the Eucharist was sometimes held in the context of a larger meal called an agape. Some of the faithful ate and drank excessively while others did not receive enough. What was supposed to be a sign of solidarity in the Church became a source of disunity. Paul disapproved of this practice, and eventually the agape was no longer held in conjunction with the Eucharist.

The Lord’s supper: This is the celebration of the Eucharist, called the Mass, or Divine Liturgy. (CCC 752, 777, 1329, 1397-1401, 2178)

Ch 11:23-34 The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. Paul recounted the history of the institution of the Holy Eucharist to emphasize to the Corinthians that they received the true Body and Blood of Christ. Christ left us the Eucharist as a visible, unbloody, sacramental sign by which his one, bloody Sacrifice on the Cross would be re-presented and remembered until he comes again. For so great a privilege, the faithful must be properly prepared; those who receive the Body and Blood of Christ while conscious of any mortal sin commit the sin of sacrilege. (CCC 610, 613, 1362-1366, 1388-1390)

Ch 11:24-26 The celebration of the Eucharist has not changed in its essence from the practice of the early Church, for it is by Christ’s own instruction that we continue to gather together to celebrate and receive this great Sacrament. The word eucharist is derived from the Greek eucharistia, meaning “thanksgiving.” One of the aims of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is to offer thanksgiving for the gift of our redemption as we look forward to Christ’s return in glory. (CCC 1076, 1097, 1328-1329, 1356-1358, 1374-1378)

Ch 11:26 In proclaiming the death of the Lord, we also proclaim the forgiveness of sins won for us by his Sacrifice. The Eucharist thus purifies us from venial sins and strengthens us against future temptation as it unites us to Christ. (CCC 1130, 1344, 1393-1395, 2772, 2776)

Ch 11:27-29 Proper preparation for receiving the Eucharist includes a careful examination of conscience. If we are aware of having committed a mortal sin for which we have not yet received absolution in the Sacrament of Penance, we are obliged to refrain from Holy Communion. To receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin is a sacrilege. It is also advisable to make a habit of frequent Confession as a preparation for receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. (CCC 1098, 1385)

Ch 11:30 The Eucharist and the other Sacraments are channels of grace, which increase the divine life in our souls. (CCC 1123-1128, 1509)

Ch 11:33-34 Paul cautioned that intemperance of the agape meal suggested an improper disposition for receiving the Eucharist. Canon Law specifies that the faithful must refrain from all food and drink for one hour before receiving Holy Communion. (CCC 1468, 2043)

Ch 12:1-11 Perhaps undue importance was given to the use of charismatic gifts in the Corinthian community, with some working miracles, some speaking in tongues, some prophesying, and others interpreting prophecies. The various gifts of the Holy Spirit are granted to the faithful for the building up of the Church and must be exercised with that end in mind. The authenticity of these special gifts is always submitted to the judgment of the Church. (CCC 798-801, 1971, 1988, 2003-2004)

Ch 12:3 Jesus is Lord: The word “Lord” in this context indicates divinity. This statement of faith indicates that Christ deserves the same worship, praise, and glory as God the Father. (CCC 142, 455, 683, 2670, 2681)

Ch 12:6 Every good thing we have comes from God. To use our gifts and talents for the good of others is to allow God to work through us. (CCC 249, 308)

Ch 12:7 Every charismatic gift is subject to the judgment of the Church to ensure that the common good is being served by its use. (CCC 801, 951)

Ch 12:9 Some receive the gift of healing, given by the Holy Spirit, so the grace of God may reveal his power over sickness and death. Physical or mental healing in many instances is not granted for the sake of a deeper spiritual and moral healing. It is important to note that the Lord uses these maladies to bring us in more intimate contact with Christ on the Cross. In such instances, God provides an opportunity to offer up our suffering for our personal intentions or the intentions of others. (CCC 873, 1508)

Ch 12:12-31 Using the analogy of the Church as a Body, Paul related that each person has a certain role to play in building up the Church, Christ’s Mystical Body. Like various parts of the body, all of the faithful must work in harmony, and none should feel superior to any other or reject the gifts of another. The Holy Spirit is the source of Christian unity, and we each play a part in building and maintaining that unity. (CCC 787-798, 805-807, 1988, 2003)

Ch 12:13 Baptized into one body: By the Holy Spirit, the baptized become members of Christ’s Body, the Church, and enter a universal (in Greek, katholikos, whence “catholic”) community that transcends all earthly distinctions.

Made to drink of one Spirit: Water is the efficacious sign of Baptism that cleanses the soul of all sin; to drink of the one Holy Spirit is to be grafted onto the life of Christ by the work of God the Holy Spirit. (CCC 694, 790, 1227, 1267, 1396)

Ch 12:26-30 As members of Christ’s body, the faithful share in a “communion in charity,” a solidarity in which everyone shares in the joys and sufferings of every individual member. Because the Church is one body, every action of its members can have a positive effect through virtuous deeds or a harmful influence through sinful actions. (CCC 779, 953, 1265, 1469, 1508)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

Council of Jerusalem 

(*Walking With God: A Journey Through The Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)

Key Event 68b: Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15)

The apostles and elders hold a council in Jerusalem to discern whether Gentile converts need to be circumcised.  Peter resolves the matter by declaring that we are saved by the grace of Christ, through faith, and thus the Mosaic Law is not binding on these converts.  The Council recognizes the Holy Spirit as the inspiration behind their decision (Acts 15:28-29).