Imagine that you attend a small church of, say, 50 people. You have been meeting together for quite a long time. You have a common set of beliefs and practices. You get along well together. You are comfortable together. Now imagine that, for some reason, your church doubles in size in a mere 30 days. Do you think that would change the character of your church? Of course it would. Some of those new people would come from a religious background that differed in some ways from your own. The dynamics and interactions would change. Imagine it doubled again, and again. In the end, you may well not even recognize your old church.
Now consider the church that Jesus left behind. There were, on the day of Pentecost, 120 disciples—all trained in Jesus’ teachings and practices, all of the same spirit, of the same accord. They were comfortable with one another. Then, they baptized 3,000 people in one day—a little later, 5000. Do you suppose this would change the character of the Christian church in any way?
You wouldn’t like to think that it did, would you? Yet, when you know human nature, you know it had to change the character of the church. Is it possible that large chunks of the church were not at all on the same wavelength as Jesus? Not only is it possible, it is certain, and it is attested by history. The church in Jerusalem was a collection of ex-Pharisees, ex-Sadducees, ex-Essenes, and who knows what else. What it was, at this early stage, was Jewish to the core. That part of it was only to be expected, but it had consequences that are not often considered. Let’s look at how these differences were dealt with in the 15th chapter of Acts.