For years my studies and thinking produced an awareness of enormous problems existing between Jewish Christians and gentile Christians in the early church [first century Christian community]. The more I understood about this reality, the more aware I became that (a) their challenges in this reality and (b) the New Testament writersí response to the reality is relevant to the Christian community in the 21st century.
This writing attempts to do two things. First, it seeks to verify the reality of that struggle among first century Christians. Second, it seeks to acknowledge Paul and Peterís response to the struggle.
This writing is designed for the person on the pew whose faith roots are similar to the authorís. During the formative years of my early life I was taught to view scripture from a specific perspective. The two basic goals were (a) to discover every proof text in scripture that would champion this specific perspective and (b) to discover ways to discredit any scriptural statement that contradicted this specific perspective.
These goals were rarely conscious goals, and they were rarely vindictive goals. However, these goals were restrictive to openness to Godís full revelation through His word. I was so convinced that the specific perspective I learned was Godís perspective that I refused to be aware of scriptures that contradicted my perspective.
I am not so arrogant as to think that I have an insight and understanding that cannot and should not grow with a better grasp of scripture. My primary hope: may these thoughts prove to be a helpful stepping stone in the pursuit of Godís purposes in Jesus Christ. The journey from the moment of entering Christ to the moment of living with God is just thatóa journey. There always will be increased understanding. There always will be growth. There always will be development. Thankfully, there always will be Godís grace and mercy revealed in Jesus Christ to accompany each of us on our journey.
I do not ask you to agree with these thoughts. I do ask you to think honestly about these thoughts as you openly examine scripture. Even if you disagree, at least acknowledge the perspective. As you continue your journey, may it always be a journey of faith that seeks Godís fullness in His purpose by understanding all He did and does in Jesusí death and resurrection.
There is no way to acknowledge in any complete sense the many teachers, authors, friends, and fellow believers in Jesus Christ who stimulated, guided, challenged, or nurtured my thinking. They all richly blessed me and continue to be a powerful source of blessing to me as well as to many others. I am deeply grateful to each of them. Little that appears in these thoughts is original.
I also am deeply indebted to those who encouraged me and helped me. To the extent these thoughts bless you, you are a debtor to Christians you likely never shall meet. May God reward each of them richly!
Table of Contents Cast of Characters