“But some believers who belonged to the party (αἱρέσεως) of the Pharisees rose up, and said, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them (the newly-converted Gentiles), and to charge them to keep the law of Moses.’ The apostles and the presbyters were gathered together to consider this matter. And after much discussion (ζητήσεως), Peter rose and said to them, 'Men, 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: 5-9)
This happens to be part of our Church’s reading for this Friday, so here are some thoughts.
The so-called “Council of the Apostles” is similar to later Church-councils, in that already here, in apostolic times, we see a “party” (the Pharisees), which “rose up” to defend the “old,” according to the Law; and we also see others, like Peter and James, who “rose” to bear witness to the “new,” according to God’s signs in their own time. After “much discussion,” as most of us will know, the Council opted for the new.
But the “Council of the Apostles” is also dissimilar to Church-conciliarity in our day, in which we have “much discussion” in untraditional places like the Internet, after which some of our “parties” refuse to show up for a face-to-face “discussion” at an actual Council. (That’s just a fun fact from recent Church History, in case you didn’t know.)
So let me pray today (pardon the rhyme) that we, as members of an “apostolic” Church, have the courage not only for “much discussion,” but also to have it the old-fashioned, traditional way, face-to-face, at an actual Council. “For the stability of the holy churches of God, and for the unity of all, let us pray to the Lord.” Lord, have mercy!