Christianity began as a Jewish sect but four major events separated it from Judaism: (1) Receiving the Holy Spirit on Pentecost; (2) Persecution of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem; (3) The first uncircumcised Gentile Christians, and (4) the Acts 15 church council.
1. THE JERUSALEM PHASE
This phase began with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. With the power of the Holy Spirit, the church grew exponentially but, for 2 to 4 years, consisted of Jews only, functioned as a sect of Judaism, observed the Law of Moses and the Jewish customs, remained limited to Jerusalem, and worshiped daily in the temple.
2. THE JUDEA AND SAMARIA PHASE
When Israel again rejected God by persecuting His Spirit-filled believers, the 490 year-covenant of Daniel 9 ended. Stephen pronounced God’s judgment on Israel and the Christians fled to Judea and Samaria, taking the gospel away from Jerusalem. For the next years, the church still observed the Law of Moses.
3. THE GENTILE DISPUTE PHASE
The church regarded Gentiles as unclean and avoided them but when Gentiles also received the Holy Spirit in Acts 10, it convinced the church that Gentiles may join the church. But a dispute arose as some Christians claimed that Gentile Christians must observe the Law of Moses.
4. THE SEPARATION PHASE
The Church Council in Acts 15 agreed that Gentiles are not subject to the Law of Moses, but Jewish Christians continued to live according to the Law and customs. This caused separation between the Jews and the Gentiles in the church.
Early Church history provides important context for (1) Paul’s arguments that Jewish and Gentile Christians are united under the same law, (2) that the Law of Moses is no longer applicable, (3) that man is not justified by the works of the Law and (4) for Paul’s teaching, or lack of it, with respect to the Seventh Day Sabbath.
Approximate dates for key events in the first 40 years of the church – This article compares dates proposed by eight different Internet resources.