After the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Church quickly spread throughout Judaism. Steadily, the number of believers increased and devoted themselves to the life of Jesus. Jerusalem was the site of Pentecost and the first converts, but God desired for the whole world to enter into His life. It wouldn’t be long before Christianity was brought to not only the Jews, but the Gentile nations as well.
When Jesus walked this Earth, he specifically focused His mission to the children of Israel. This is because the prerequisite for receiving Jesus, the Son of God, is faith in God. With this faith comes a certain way of life that rejects sin. For centuries, God had prepared and formed the nation of Israel to receive the fullness of His love (Jesus) and to trust Him in great faith. Thus, Jesus focuses His mission on those who have been prepared for His coming.
Yet, we see on a couple of occasions that Jesus opens up His mission to Gentiles who exhibit great faith. One was with the Syrophonecian woman who demonstrated that she understood the primacy of Judaism over paganism. Another was the Centurion of whom Jesus proclaimed that He had not experienced such great faith in all of Israel. Finally, at the end of His mission, as He enters Jerusalem for the final time, Jesus is approached by some Greeks and He gives His famous ‘grain of wheat’ teaching, signaling that the time of the Gentiles was coming.
After Pentecost, the Apostles initially continued the work of Jesus by preaching to only Jews and many were converted. But like Jesus, they were rejected and persecuted by the Jewish leaders. Thus, they were forced to leave Jerusalem and spread throughout Judea. Then Jesus appeared to Saul, a Jewish persecutor of Christianity. Paul was converted, baptized and was renamed Paul. Paul began his missionary journeys throughout Asia and Macedonia laying the foundations of Christianity throughout the Roman empire. He would go to the Jewish synagogues in these regions, but he would also preach and baptize anyone who would listen (Jew or Gentile). As a result, Christianity became a universal religion, not based on ethnicity as Judaism was. Peter himself also experienced this truth whenever the Holy Spirit brought him to the house of Cornelius, a Roman official who had faith. Peter baptized his whole household, and the Holy Spirit came upon them.
Despite these happenings, rifts began to form in Christianity because some Jews believed that before Gentiles could become Christian, they must adopt the customs of Judaism first. Specifically, the customs of not eating unclean meat and whether or not the men needed to be circumcised. As a result, the Council of Jerusalem was held in 50 AD to answer this question. After testimony from Paul and Barnabas, and an exhortation from Peter, the council decided that the physical aspects of Judaism were not required to be Christian. The only aspects of Judaism that must be followed were those which had moral implications.
In this truly revolutionary statement for that period in human history, the Christian Church became officially Catholic, or universal. Yet, at the same time it was not that revolutionary for those who followed Jesus. The Church was already Catholic. Jesus came to die for all people, and His Church was for all people who accepted and believed in Him. For centuries the Jews either failed to morally live out their faith in God, or they had lived out their faith materially but not in the interior of their hearts. But now the Holy Spirit had come, and all who had true faith in the Father and the Son, would receive the Holy Spirit and Its power. In the statement made by the Council of Jerusalem, the early Church verified the very message Jesus had given at His ascension: Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. The only requisite to become a disciples was faith in Jesus and accepting His teachings.
After the decision, the message was spread to all Christian communities, and their numbers continued to grow. The Apostles of Jesus continued to travel the known world, preach His message, and perform His signs and wonders. As a result, not only was the Church Catholic in its policies, but it actively pursued all people so that they could know and love the Father through His Son, Jesus.