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To: Salvation

From: Acts 15:1-2, 22-29

Dissension at Antioch; Judaizers

[1] But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brethren,
“Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be
saved.” [2] And when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate
with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up
to Jerusalem to the Apostles and the elders about this question.

The Council’s Decision

[22] Then it seemed good to the Apostles and the elders, with the whole Church,
to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barna-
bas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the breth-
ren, [23] with the following letter: “The brethren, both the Apostles and the elders,
to the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greeting.
[24] Since we have heard that some persons from us have troubled you with words,
unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, [25] it has seemed
good to us in assembly to choose men and send them to you with our beloved
Barnabas and Paul, [26] men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord
Jesus Christ. [27] We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will
tell you the same things by word of mouth. [28] For it has seemed good to the Ho-
ly Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:
[29] that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and
from what is strangled and from unchastity. If you keep yourselves from these,
you will do well. Farewell.”


1-35. This chapter is the center of Acts, not just because it comes right in the
middle of the book but also because it covers the key event as far as concerns
the universality of the Gospel and its unrestricted spread among the Gentiles. It
is directly linked to the conversion of the pagan Cornelius; here, with the help of
the Holy Spirit, all the consequences of that event are drawn out.

Christians with a Pharisee background — “certain men [who] came from James”
(Galatians 2;12) — arriving in Antioch, assert categorically that salvation is impos-
sible unless a person is circumcised and practices the Law of Moses. They ac-
cept (cf. 11:18) that Gentile converts can be baptized and become part of the
Church; but they do not properly understand the economy of the Gospel, that is
the “new” way; they think that the Mosaic rites and precepts are all still neces-
sary for attaining salvation. The need arises, therefore, for the whole question to
be brought to the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem, who form the government of
the Church.

2. Paul and Barnabas are once again commissioned by the Antiochene commu-
nity to go to Jerusalem (cf. 11:30). Paul says in Galatians 2:2 that this journey to
the Holy City was due to a special revelation. Possibly the Holy Spirit inspired him
to volunteer for it. “Paul”, St. Ephraem writes, “so as not to change without the
Apostles’ accord anything which they would allow to be done perhaps because of
the weakness of the Jews, make his way to Jerusalem to see to the setting aside
of the Law and of circumcision in the presence of the disciples: without the Apos-
tles’ support they [Paul and Barnabas] do not want to set them aside” (”Armenian
Commentary, ad loc”.).

22-29. The decree containing the decisions of the Council of Jerusalem incorpo-
rating St. James’ suggestions makes it clear that the participants at the Council
are conscious of being guided in their conclusions by the Holy Spirit and that in
the last analysis it is God who has decided the matter.

“We should take,” Melchor Cano writes in the 16th century, “the same road as
the Apostle Paul considered to be the one best suited to solving all matters to do
with the doctrine of the faith. [...] The Gentiles might have sought satisfaction from
the Council because it seemed to take from the freedom granted them by Jesus
Christ, and because it imposed on the disciples certain ceremonies as necessa-
ry, when in fact they were not, since faith is the key to salvation. Nor did the Jews
object by invoking Sacred Scripture against the Council’s decision on the grounds
that Scripture seems to support their view that circumcision is necessary for sal-
vation. So, by respecting the Council they gave us the criterion which should be
observed at all times; that is, to place full faith in the authority of the synods con-
firmed by Peter and his legitimate successors. They say ‘it has seemed good to
the Holy Spirit and to us’; thus, the Council’s decision is the decision of the Holy
Spirit Himself” (”De Locis”, V, 4).

It is the Apostles and the elders, with the whole Church, who designate the peo-
ple who are to publish the Council’s decree, but it is the Hierarchy which formu-
lates and promulgates it. The text contains two parts—one dogmatic and moral
(verse 28) and the other disciplinary (verse 29). The dogmatic part speaks of im-
posing no burden other than what is essential and therefore declares that pagan
converts are free from the obligation of circumcision and of the Mosaic Law but
are subject to the Gospel’s perennial moral teaching on matters to do with chas-
tity. This part is permanent: because it has to do with a necessary part of God’s
salvific will it cannot change.

The disciplinary part of the decree lays down rules of prudence which can change,
which are temporary. It asks Christians of Gentile background to abstain—out of
charity towards Jewish Christians—from what has been sacrificed to idols, from
blood and from meat of animals killed by strangulation.

The effect of the decree means that the disciplinary rules contained in it, although
they derive from the Mosaic Law, no longer oblige by virtue of that Law but rather
by virtue of the authority of the Church, which has decided to apply them for the
time being. What matters is not what Moses says but what Christ says through
the Church. The Council “seems to maintain the Law in force,” writes St. John
Chrysostom, “because it selects various prescriptions from it, but in fact suppres-
ses it, because it does not accept ALL its prescriptions. It had often spoken about
these points, it sought to respect the Law and yet establish these regulations as
coming not from Moses but from the Apostles” (”Hom. on Acts,” 33).

Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.

3 posted on 05/04/2013 8:18:13 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: All

From: Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23

A New World Comes Into Being. The New Jerusalem (Continuation)

[10] And in the Spirit [the angel] carried me away to a great high mountain, and
showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, [11]
having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as
crystal. [12] It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve
angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were
inscribed; [13] on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south
three gates, and on the west three gates. [14] And the wall of the city had twelve
foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

[22] And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty
and the Lamb. [23] And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for
the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.


9-21. In contrast with the punishment visited on the evil city, Babylon, the harlot
(cf. 17:1), we are now shown the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, the spouse, co-
ming down from heaven. There is a significant parallel between 17:1ff and 21:9ff.

The author writes with a truly remarkable mastery of language: after the introduc-
tion (v. 9), he describes the Holy City using three literary devices which, after gi-
ving the measurements of the city, he repeats in more or less reverse order. The
description is like the impressions a traveler has as he approaches: first, from a-
far, he sees its radiance—the city as a whole and the glory of God (vv. 10-11); as
he comes closer he can distinguish walls and gates (vv. 12-13), and when closer
still its foundation stones (v. 14). Once inside, he realizes its sheer scale (vv. 15-
16) and is able to assess the size and richness of its walls (vv. 17-18) and foun-
dation stones and gates (vv. 19-21); and he is spellbound by the brightness that
shines from the glory of God (21:22-22:5).

The city is given the titles of Bride and Wife (Spouse) which are normally used to
designate the Church (cf. 19:7). This is easy to understand in the context of the
imagery used: the city represents the Church, the community of the elect viewed
in its complete, indissoluble union with the Lamb.

10-14. This vision is rather like the one the prophet Ezekiel had when he saw the
New Jerusalem and the temple of the future (cf. Ezek 40-42). However, St John
stresses (cf. also 21:2) that the city comes down from heaven: this shows that
the full establishment (so long desired) of the messianic kingdom will be brought
about by the power of God and in line with his will.

The description of the Holy City begins with the view from outside. This is the first
thing that is seen and it is what makes it strong and unassailable. He speaks of
walls and gates and foundations. The names of the tribes of Israel and the twelve
Apostles show the continuity between the ancient chosen people and the Church
of Christ; and yet the point is made that the Church is something quite new which
rests on the twelve Apostles of the Lord (cf. Eph 2:20). The arrangement of the
gates, in threes facing the four points of the compass, indicates that the Church
is universal: all nations must come to it to gain salvation. This is what St Augus-
tine means when he says that “outside the catholic Church one can find every-
thing except salvation” (”Sermo Ad Cassar”, 6).

21b-27. After taking us up to the walls and through the gates of the City, the au-
thor brings us right inside, to its very center; this also is amazingly rich. However,
surprisingly, there is no temple. This makes it different from the Jerusalem de-
scribed by Ezekiel, for the center of that city was the temple (cf. Ezek 4042). The
temple in Jerusalem and the tent of the tabernacle in the wilderness symbolized
the fact that God dwelt there; it was the visible sign of divine presence (”shekinah”
in Hebrew), a presence revealed by the descent of the cloud of the glory of God.

In the heavenly Jerusalem there is no longer any need for God to have a dwelling-
place, because God the Father himself and the Lamb are always present. The
Godhead does not need to be brought to mind by the temple (the symbol of his
invisible presence), because the blessed will always see God face to face. This
sight of God is what causes the righteous to be forever happy. “There are no
words to explain the blessedness which the soul enjoys, the gain which he ob-
tains once his true nature has been restored to him and he is able henceforth to
contemplate his Lord” (Chrysostom, “Ad Theodorum Lapsum”, 1, 13).

In the Old Testament theophanies of Yahweh, a splendid brightness revealed the
divine glory. And so, the presence of God will fill the heavenly Jerusalem with such
a brightness of light that there is no need of sun or moon. Beside God the Father,
with equal rank and dignity, is the Lamb, whose glory will also shine out, revealing
his divinity.

This light will illuminate all those who worship the Lord, thereby fulfilling the mes-
sianic prophecies of Isaiah (cf. Is 60:3, 5, 11; 65-66).

The gates of the Holy City will stay open by day, that is, always, because there
will be no more night, nor anything unclean: the saints will be the only ones to en-

Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.

4 posted on 05/04/2013 8:19:01 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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