Psalm 96:1-3, 10
Acts of Apostles has been relating the story of the most difficult controversy in the early Church: whether a Christian is a Jew who follows Jesus or just a follower of Jesus. We saw last week how the message spread beyond the Jews to the Gentiles, but the question remained whether the Gentiles, in order to be good Christians had to follow the Jewish law.
There are many arguments in favor of this idea. Jesus is a Jew. He followed the Jewish law. The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are the same God. Christians still read the Old Testament, which is filled with laws about being clean and unclean. So it should not surprise us that a number of Christians believed that all Christians should follow the Jewish laws.
Peter, in his role as the head of the Apostles, stands up and reminds those Christians why they are wrong. He does not try to find a compromise or settle the disagreement. He stands up and explains the Gospel all over again. Jesus has saved all of humanity. His salvation is the only salvation for all peoples. Peter reminds his fellow Jewish Christians that they are not saved because they follow the traditions of their ancestors.
All who are saved, are saved because of faith in Jesus Christ. There is only one way, one truth, one life: The Old Testament, which contains all the regulations of the Law, is the word of God, expressed through human beings. For a time it was the only light by which anyone could see God. Jesus Christ, however, is the Word of God incarnate. The light of the Gospel outshines the light of the old Law as the sun outshines a candle. The Law was good, but it has been replaced by something greater.
The Old Law was a series of commandments, some forbidding evil actions, some regulating rituals. This Law was a burden, as St. Peter says, “a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear.” The New Law is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a burden; he lifts us up to God. By the power of the Holy Spirit we become people who do what is good without any law. The Law was not enough, but the Holy Spirit is enough. He is everything we need. When the sun is out, we do not need candles. When we have the real thing, we need no imitations. When we have the Holy Spirit, we do not need the old Law.