What is Christianity, Anyway?

This isn't obvious.

Acts 15:1-5 (ESV)

But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”

With all the external challenges Christianity faces, the last thing they need is an internal one. Yet, as unfortunate as this sounds, it’s actually a good thing. Christianity is full of truth, but the church still hasn’t figured out who it is.

The advocates of circumcision have a point. If Jesus is the Jewish messiah, then shouldn’t the people who want to follow this messiah become Jews? Otherwise, wouldn’t it be like becoming a fan of Shakespeare without learning English, or following Bobby Fischer’s chess methods without learning chess? Isn’t being Jewish a prerequisite for following the Jewish messiah?

If Christianity is merely a sect of Judaism, then they’re right. But the Holy Spirit has been falling on gentiles in dramatic fashion, without them getting circumcised, so maybe Christianity is something else.

But what?

This is an important issue. So, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.

The church has to be unified on this. Time for a get together.

The modern Christian church is many things – but unified sure isn’t one of them. In some ways that’s probably good – it’s a check on the corrupting influence of power – but in other ways it’s tragic. We tend to divide over things we shouldn’t be dividing over. (Of course, Americans will divide over anything – e.g., sports rivalries.)

Today, let’s pray for unity. It’s OK to have different methods and styles and even doctrines, but we shouldn’t have cross purposes. Ask the Lord to inspire our local churches to work together for common goals – particularly His glory.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. – 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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