If you had always been Jewish, and you were a descendant of Jewish parentage and heritage, it may seem offensive to you for the Gospel message of Jesus Christ to be so easily accepted by Gentiles, and for them to come into the church without any other purifying affects than the Holy Spirit of God.
To be Jewish was in large part about becoming ceremonially pure, and about maintaining the status of ceremonial purity before God. This required knowledge of how God described ceremonial purity, and it also required the practice of all ceremonial purity required.
If the church was to ‘descend’ from Judaism, (after all – Jesus was a practicing Jew, and ALL the early apostles and disciples were practicing Jews,) it could easily be assumed the practice of Judaism was the starting point to becoming a Christian. Hadn’t that been the starting point for all those who had come to Christ so far?
Suddenly it becomes known the Gospel has not only been preached to the Gentiles but received by them as well.
For the Gentiles to have received Christ is one thing, but to invite them into the church was quite another. Certainly, they must make themselves ceremonially pure before coming into direct fellowship with the Jews in the church. Not only were the Gentiles ceremonially impure, they also would make the Jewish Christians in the church impure by association. This would go against all their tradition and heritage. Does tradition and heritage mean nothing in the church?
While easily understandable, what was missing was their trust of the Holy Spirit to cleanse lives. This is still prevalent in the church today. It is the job of the Holy Spirit alone to purify men’s hearts, not man.
How can any man become pure without a set of rules to be purified by? This is the first incursion of legalism, but it would not be the last.
Anyone who proposes to cleanse man by any other means than God’s grace has inserted himself into a process only God can perform, and he has provided the basis for a counterfeit of God’s grace most often called ‘religion.’