Summary: Do we equate the things we love about our Churches with the authority of Scripture? You bet we do.
What is the most authoritative part of the Bible?
Is the New Testament the most authoritative part of the Bible? The New Testament is the New Covenant that Jesus Christ gave to us, that sure is a powerful thing.
Could the Gospels be the most authoritative part of the Bible, because they are about the person of Jesus Christ? Or even further, what about the red letters in the Gospels? Could those red letters be the most authoritative, because they are after all, the words of Jesus?
Perhaps the Old Testament is the most authoritative part of the Bible? Remember, the Old Testament is the Bible that Jesus and the Apostles exclusively used. It may be obvious when you think about it, but Jesus only quotes the Old Testament when he taught the disciples and when he taught the crowds, as the New Testament had not been written yet.
So, what is the most authoritative part of the Bible?
That is not really a fair question. The whole bible is authoritative from cover to cover. From the very early days of the church, the Old Testament, sometimes referred to as the Hebrew Scriptures, from the early days of the church, the Old Testament is not something to be dismissed.
The Old Testament is authoritative. The Old Testament does not lose its authority when Jesus shows up. This appears to be the question at hand: Has Paul undermined the authority of the Old Testament in his eagerness to spread the Gospel?
The Apostle Paul arrives in Jerusalem after being gone for an extended time and he is greeted by the “brothers” (v17). Those who greeted Paul gladly were probably the Hellenistic element of the church. If you remember from our study early on in the book of Acts (chapter 6), we saw that the church in Jerusalem was a church made up of exclusively Jewish members.
The Jewish population in the city of Jerusalem was spilt up into two groups Hellenistic Jews and Aramaic Jews. The Hellenistic Jews, or their ancestors, had immigrated from another part of the Roman Empire. While the Hellenistic Jews lived outside of Palestine they not only picked up the Greek language, but they tended to also pick up some of the local Roman and Greek customs as well. They are called Hellenistic because Greek was their first language. These Hellenistic Jews were the first to become believers in large numbers. Stephen was the leader of the Hellenistic Jewish Christians before he was murdered.
Aramaic Jews on the other hand grew up in Palestine and were Hebrew through and through. They are the local folks. They spoke Aramaic and avoided speaking Greek, and usually only spoke Greek for business. The Disciples of Christ were Aramaic Jewish Christians.
Whereas Hellenistic Jews were open to different cultures and different ideas, Aramaic Jews were concerned with all things Jewish. They liked their Jewishness, and wanted to keep their Jewishness intact. These ways of seeing the world stayed with these two groups of Jews even after many have become believers in Jesus Christ.
So, we see at the start of verse 17, that is was most likely the Hellenistic Jews, the Jews who were open to new things and other cultures, these were the ones who welcomed Paul. They were the one who supported the mission to the gentiles, they were the ones who supported the bringing of the Gospel to people who were not Jewish, those they called gentiles.
Next, Paul meets with the elders of the church in Jerusalem and reported all that had happened in his latest mission work. There would have most likely been seventy elders for this was the traditional figure for Israel. Notice, there is no mention of any of the others who were the twelve disciples of Jesus - Only James is mentioned.
In verse 21 we see that Paul is falsely accused by people in the city. A rumor has circulated that Paul is telling the gentile Christians that they can ignore the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament. Essentially someone is accusing Paul of what we saw at the beginning of the sermon, that they Old Testament does not carry any authority anymore. Paul is being accused of apostasy, and worse, the gentile Christians are being accused of not fully being Christians.
Luke says nothing here about the financial gift that Paul delivers to Jerusalem at this time. Paul brings a large monetary gift for the church, the collection taken from the Gentile Christians across the Empire for the Jerusalem church. The irony here is this: The very one the Aramaic Jewish Christians are condemning, the gentile Christians, are the ones who step in to economically save them. They condemn the very ones who set out to save them.
The city of Jerusalem is in the middle of very hard economic times. Many of the members of the church in Jerusalem are struggling to make ends meet. Paul brings a gift from the gentile church which has reached out to help, still the Aramaic Jewish Christians believe the rumors they have heard.