Oct 30, 2018

Acts 15 and Table Fellowship

I was recently listening a speaker talking about Acts 15 at an academic conference. He made the remark that the issue of table fellowship as a rationale for the Apostolic Decree (which many hold) seemed unlikely since there was not significant evidence that table fellowship was an issue for the early church. 

But such a view is questionable. We have the issue of food sacrificed to idols in 1 Corinthians 8:1–11:1 and Romans raises the issue of kashrut in Romans 14. One might even point to the parenthetical statement in Mark 7:19 as an indication of the issue. It could be argued that all these texts were solely about personal convictions but this seems unlikely given the strong corporate emphasis of the New Testament where personal convictions have corporate implications. You also have the practice of “love feasts,” meals practiced in conjunction with the Lord’s Supper (see 1 Cor 11:17-34; Jude 12).

More importantly, one could turn to something closer to home by looking at the book of Acts itself. We have the paradigmatic statement in Acts 2:42 that mentions the “breaking of bread” that could be a reference to communal meals (or the Lord’s Supper). The pivotal Cornelius episode begins with a vision which uses the imagery of food (Acts 10:9-15). Following Cornelius’ conversion, Peter is asked to stay for several days. The fact that Peter stayed is seeming confirmed in 11:3. More importantly, Peter is criticized by the “circumcision party” (probably Jewish believers) who confront the apostle with, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” So, it seems likely that Acts 10–11 set the table as it were for the Jerusalem Council and while there may have been other issues, maybe even more substantial issues, table fellowship seems to be a legitimate concern.

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