Proselytes, God-fearer and Noahide Laws
Today when we were in Caesarea , Judith talked about the God-fear man Cornelius in Acts 10. She explained the special meaning of God-fearing man in Jews’ vocabulary. “God-fearers or Fearers of Heaven” are gentiles who were sympathizers to Judaism. They were drawn to Jewish monotheism who kept some of the observances of Judaism, particularly the celebration of the Sabbath and the abstention from prohibited food, but which did not go to the length of becoming full proselytes and did not undergo the rite of circumcision. Circumcision was the last phase of conversion.
And she also talked about the “Noahide Laws” which are injunctions traditionally given to Noah and therefore binding upon Jew and Gentile alike. And that’s what James based on in the Acts 15, “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.”
God broke the yokes of Jewish Laws on the Gentiles. Gentiles can believe in Jesus without taking circumcision.
This is really a very important teaching. I think the application is: don’t take your own culture with the Gospel to the mission field. Render to Gospel the things that are Gospel’s, render to culture the things that are culture’s.
North American and European Christians have two cultural things abiding with the Gospel. They are:
1. Overemphasize academy in serving God: If you have not got a master degree, it’s hard for you to lead a church. You better get a doctor degree if you serve in a big church. Serving is not equal to teaching, but they are close in their eyes. Studying for years (over 10) is for teaching the saved within the four walls of the church, not for leading the lost to Christ.
2. People who serve God need to accept salary. And ministry should be led and done by these full time workers.
These two cultural elements have their origin and certain positive effects. Of course, the drawbacks are obvious at the same time. Both are not totally wrong, but are only partially true. If point one is totally true, Jesus and his eleven disciples were not qualified to serve. If point two is right, Paul should not serve.
I think these two cultural elements are the bottle-neck or choke point of the spontaneous growth of the churches in North America and Europe today. If Christians in North America and Europe do not realize these cultural but not totally biblical elements, the church will go on declining. If they export these cultural elements with the Gospel, this contaminated Gospel will choke the possible spontaneous growth of mission fields. Look around the tremendous church growth in apostle age, in modern China , Africa and South Korea …, the Holy Spirit leads them to grow in a way that the European and North American Christians cannot imagine. I hope we all can understand the way of God and make disciples of all peoples, starting from our homeland to the corners of the world.