The Spirit Explodes
Part 14 of 22
Who are the people of God?
by Roger Kirby
Who are the people of God? That is and was indeed the question. About 4 studies ago we heard about the problems that arose over the question of what the people of God could eat. As a result of a vision, Peter understood that there were no foods that the people of God could not eat. That was the second of the 3 requirements; circumcision, food laws and Sabbath keeping, that had come to dominate the concerns of the serious Jews who thought of themselves as the only true people of God. Now we come to the first of these and the most important – circumcision.
This was a very critical question. Reluctance to be circumcised as adults would affect the willingness of non-Jewish men to become full converts and follow Jesus completely. It affected the role of women, who, not being subject to circumcision, would forever be second-class citizens in a kingdom for which that was the badge of entrance. Since not being circumcised would mean that followers of Jesus would no longer belong to Judaism they would not enjoy the freedom from harassment and persecution because they did not worship the Roman gods, that the Jews had enjoyed since the days of Julius Caesar.
Much was at stake, as some former Pharisees, now seeking to follow Jesus, correctly realised. They wanted Jesus’ followers to constitute a sub-group of Judaism. We read Acts 15:1–11.
There was therefore a profound theological disagreement between the Pharisaic believers and what was happening far away from Jerusalem. The fundamental underlying question was ‘how do we know who are the people of God in this new situation?’ or ‘what are the marks of a Christian?’. Before we go any further you need to think very carefully what the answer to the following question is in your place and culture. We have already come across this question and its Biblical answer. But what is the practical identifier where you are?
Question 1: What are the marks of a Christian?
We read Acts 15:12–21.
Question 2: Why did James quote from scripture?
Question 3: How would this relate to what Paul says in Romans 15: We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbours for their good, to build them up? How does it relate to us?
Question 4: What idol do we have the most difficulty in avoiding?
We read Acts 15: 22 – 35.
Question 5: The letter said ‘it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us’. How did they know the mind of the Spirit? How do we know the leading of the same Spirit when we are so liable to add in our own desires to what we think he wants?
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