Thoughts on the First Reading for the Sixth Sunday in Easter

Some of our number who went out without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings…. We have with one accord decided to choose representatives and send them to you. Acts 15:24, 27

The wall of the city had twelve courses of stone as its foundations, on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

Revelation 21:14

The fifteenth chapter of Acts describes the apostolic college, the apostles at Jerusalem, at work guiding the Church and keeping it safe from error. Paul and Barnabas had found the Church in Antioch much troubled by those who taught, “Unless you are circumcised, you cannot be saved.” Paul did not decide the matter for himself but went to Jerusalem to obtain the judgment of the apostles at what would be known as the Council of Jerusalem. There Paul and his companion Barnabas found Peter and perhaps also James and John (Acts 15:7, Galatians 2:9).<br.> Just who is and who is not an apostle in the account of Acts can be confusing. The word apostle is a Greek word describing one who is sent out, in the sense of Matthew 28:19: Go, baptize, and teach. In the first instance the apostles are the Eleven, or the Eleven plus Mathias, who was elected by the Holy Spirit under the criteria that he had been with the apostolic mission from the beginning so that he was a first-hand witness (Acts 1:21–26). Surrounding the eleven, and commissioned by them, was a larger group also called apostles, among whom Paul is chief example. When Paul enumerates those to whom Jesus had appeared after his resurrection the Twelve are a category different from “all the apostles” (Acts 15:5). Continue reading “Thoughts on the First Reading for the Sixth Sunday in Easter”