Acts 15.1-6; Psalm 121; John 15.1-8
Napoleon Bonaparte, keen to cock a snook at the Catholic Church, undertook instruction from Islamic imams. When his studies were completed, they were ready to make him a Moslem, but told him he would first have to forswear alcohol and submit to circumcision. Napoleon quickly decided to settle instead for a certificate of Islamic study.
His predicament parallels the difficulty the earliest Christians faced in trying to incorporate Gentiles into the nascent Church. Was Christian faith the completion of the covenant God had made with Abraham, so that to be a Christian one first had to keep the whole of the Torah? Or did the revelation of Christ cut across the old distinctions between Israel and “the nations”?
It was in the preaching of Paul, addressed first to the Jews but then, when the message fell on deaf ears, offered to Gentiles, that the answer began to be worked out. The Gentiles, Paul declared, had been grafted onto the tree of Israel, “to share with them the rich sap.”
[Romans 11.17-18] God himself had welcomed all peoples into his own house.