Faith of a mustard seed

Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

“The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter rose and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God who knows the heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us; and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:6-9). The 10th occurrence of ‘pistis/faith’ in the Acts of The Apostles.

Perhaps your bible is a ‘study bible’ in which case subheadings and annotations are included. You would then see that the 15th chapter of Acts is known as ‘The Council at Jerusalem’. Paul and Barnabas had been sent by the Antiochian Church to Jerusalem to discuss the question of circumcision; for “certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers ‘unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved’.”

This ‘Council’ held at the Jerusalem Church was fueled by the raising of the issue by some ‘Pharisee believers’ whose position was as that of the Judean visitors at the Antioch Church. Also present at this assembly were ‘apostles and elders’; among them Simeon Peter and James, both of whom give leadership to the dissent by discourse. Peter rose to remind them that God chose him as the mouthpiece for the Gospel to the Gentiles; “giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us; and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith.”

Who would have thought it? Peter? Proclaiming that God had given the Gentiles the Holy Spirit! And a clean heart JUST by faith! And, followed it up by proclaiming ‘salvation through grace!’ If you keep reading this 15th chapter you’ll see that they had the need to write it in a letter and ‘elect Judas Barsabbas and Silas to return to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They are just not going to believe this— report.

The real issue here is ‘peritemno/circumcision’. Although Judaism would deny the act of circumcision having origins in Egypt, it is ascribed to Moses as Law. But then Moses was born in Egypt so again, it’s mathematical. Given, the teachings in Judaism of the origin of the act of circumcision being ‘lost in it’s pre-history’; where it was practiced widely and even performed on women in some cultures. For Judaism it went from being a ‘rite of passage’; to signifying a ‘sacrifice of redemption’; to being a ‘covenant sign’. It went from being performed on men and boys— to law: whereby “every male child born shall be circumcised on the 8th day of life”. Law and Moses, the combination of which can be deadly. We’ve already seen it. In the life of Jesus.

Here in this text of Acts, the question arises in Antioch and moves to ‘Council in Jerusalem’. This new faith, will no longer be about Moses, or law, or circumcision but— “God who knows the heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us; and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith.”

by email: mustardseedfaith@outlook.com