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59. The Apostolic Council in Jerusalem.

When Christianity had spread throughout the known world and multitudes of pagans began to accept the Christian faith, some Christians were troubled. Christians of Jewish background held that Christians from pagan religions had to strictly observe the rituals of the Law of Moses. As a prerequisite, it should be necessary to turn them first to the Jewish faith because otherwise they could not be saved. This led to heated disagreements among the Christians.

No single apostle was able to resolve such an important question alone. It was determined by the holy apostles together with the presbyters or priests in harmony with the commandments of Christ (cf. Matt. 18:17) to convene the first Apostolic Council in Jerusalem in the year 51 A.D.

After long discussions, the issue was settled by the words of the Apostle Peter. He arose and said that the Lord having elected him in the early days to preach to the gentiles did not make any distinction between Jews and gentiles but to all gave the Holy Spirit; and therefore, Christians converted from pagan religions did not have to keep the rituals of the law of Moses. "We believe," the Apostle finished his speech, "that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ."

The speech of the Apostle Peter created a deep impression and was then strengthened still more after the Apostles Paul and Barnabas related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.

After this, the Apostle James, the "brother of the Lord," arose to address those present at the council. The last word belonged to him as to bishop of the Jerusalem Church and to president of the council (first among equals). His opinions were furthermore important because he himself was a strict adherent of the Law and received for this not only from Christians but also from Jews themselves the epithet "righteous." Honour was accorded him by his position in the Church, first bishop of Jerusalem, placed there by the Lord Himself. St. James led a strict ascetic life, and he wore a gold name plate which was worn only by the chief priests. He spent whole hours alone in the Temple praying for his people. In Jerusalem, he was honoured and respected by the people.

St. James approved the opinion of the Apostle Peter. He showed that it was in agreement with prophecy (Amos 9:11-12) and consequently with divine providence. He proposed, "we should not trouble those of the gentiles, who turn to God, with keeping the rituals of the Law of Moses; but they must refrain from idol worship, from fornication, and from things strangled and blood. They should not do to others what they do not want done to themselves."

This proposal of the Apostle James was accepted by the apostles, presbyters, and the whole Council unanimously as a resolution of the Council. It was made known to all Christians in a Council decree, which began with the words, "It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us..."

Thus the Apostolic Council showed Christians that the decree of the Council, in agreement with the word of the Lord (John 16:13;14:16), is established by the Holy Spirit. This letter of the Apostolic Council brought great joy and comfort to the Christians.

Note: See Acts of the Apostles 15:1-35.

The Preaching Labours of the Apostles.

In a short time the apostles of Christ by their preaching, which was inspired in them by the Holy Spirit, won multitudes of pagans to Christ, simple and unsophisticated people, as well as scholars and even kings. The apostles suffered much difficulty in their holy work enduring much grief and need. All the apostles, except John the Theologian, met a martyrís end. The Apostle John the Theologian died in exile at a great old age. The number of Christians grew from year to year, even after the deaths of the apostles, and the Christian faith spread to all the ends of the earth.

The apostles preached mostly verbally; but in order that the teaching of Christ be better preserved, several of them under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote it down in books. Therefore, these books are called the Holy Scriptures, as were the books of the prophets before Christ.

Two of the twelve apostles, Matthew and John, and two of the seventy apostles, Mark and Luke, each wrote a book about the life of Christ the Saviour on earth and His teaching. These four books are called the Gospels ("good news") because they preserve the teachings of Christ which the Saviour Himself called the Gospel. The apostles who wrote them were called the Gospel writers or Evangelists.

The Evangelist Luke wrote another book, the Acts of the Apostles or the deeds and labours of the apostles. This book records how the apostles spread the Christian faith in the first years.

Others of the apostles: James, son of Alphaeus, Peter, as well as John the Theologian and Jude (Judas), the brother of James, wrote seven general epistles, letters to Christians all over the world, and taught in these letters how to believe and to live according to the teachings of Christ. One of the letters is by the Apostle James, two ó by Peter, three ó by John, and one ó by Jude.

The Apostle Paul wrote fourteen epistles to distant churches and people.

The Apostle John the Theologian, in addition to the Gospel and three epistles, wrote still another book, the Apocalypse or Revelation. In this book, there is found the future destiny of the Christian Church and of the whole world.

Of course, the apostles did not write in the books everything they taught and had heard from the Saviour. The Evangelist John the Theologian himself wrote, "But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written" (John 21:25).

The teachings and rules which the apostles conveyed to the Christians by their words and example firmly preserved Christianity. These teachings, which are given to them orally and only later written down by the saints, are called Apostolic or Holy Tradition.

Together with the apostles and after them, apostolic men or disciples of the apostles preached the Gospel. These pastors, teachers and fathers of the Church of Christ, spread and strengthened the Church of Christ by their speaking, writing, and by their holy lives.

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