It is perhaps hard for us to remember that the first Christians believed they were a Jewish sect. They were the Jews who believed that the Messiah had come, as opposed to the other Jews of that time who believed that the Messiah was yet to come. The Christians continued to live out their Jewish faith—attending the synagogue, celebrating the feasts and festivals, such as Passover, eating according to Mosaic dietary guidelines, etc.
They were not very successful in their evangelization of their Jewish brothers and sisters. That was surprising and disappointing to them. How could it be that those who had grown up on the expectation of the coming of the Messiah rejected Him when He came? But then something happened that was very unexpected.
In Antioch, many Gentiles heard the preaching of the Christians there. They accepted the message and asked to be baptized as disciples of Jesus. Word of this got to the Apostles in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas and Paul to see what was happening. They saw the fruits of this new phenomenon and encouraged it. More and more Gentiles became Christian, and it created the first real crisis within the Church.
The questions were, “Do the Gentiles have to become Jews to become Christian? Do they have to be circumcised, follow Mosaic dietary laws, etc?” Or is Christianity something new?” The decision, coming from the Council of Jerusalem, was that they did not have to become Jews to become Christians.
On the Feast of Epiphany, we see the Star of Bethlehem shining out from Israel to the Gentile world. The Magi are from Persia, which is modern day Iran. So, among the first to come and worship the Christ Child were Gentiles. The Church celebrates that Christianity is a universal religion, for all people. It is not limited by culture or nationality or race. God is the Father of the entire human race, and Christ has come to save all.
–Fr. Mike Comer