While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the believers: “Unless you are circumcised as required by the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Paul and Barnabas disagreed with them, arguing vehemently. Finally, the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, accompanied by some local believers, to talk to the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent the delegates to Jerusalem, and they stopped along the way in Phoenicia and Samaria to visit the believers. They told them—much to everyone’s joy—that the Gentiles, too, were being converted. When they arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul were welcomed by the whole church, including the apostles and elders. They reported everything God had done through them. But then some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted, “The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses.”Acts 15:1-5
I left you to ponder a few things from the last Gem.
A couple of you have drawn my attention to a seeming contradiction where Paul says in Gal 2:2 that he went up by revelation to Jerusalem over this matter and yet here we read the church sent him and the team to Jerusalem. So which is it? Was it by revelation or was it as a result of the church appointing him? What do you think? Have you stopped to think about it? Paul says he went to Jerusalem as a result of revelation – seemingly from God. Luke writes that the Antioch Church delegated them to go. Bible critics make much of this so-called discrepancy but the two are not mutually exclusive. Surely it is possible that Paul got a revelation as to what he had to do to resolve this important issue and the church either knowing Paul’s revelation or not sent him and the others to Jerusalem as an official delegation to resolve the matter. It’s not a big issue.
Did you notice what happened on the way up to Jerusalem? Along the way they stopped in Phoenicia and Samaria to visit the believers. They told them that the Gentiles, too, were being converted and everyone was delighted. There was great joy. Why was that? Because these places contained believers but were predominantly Gentile enclaves, it was natural that they would be overjoyed at the news. It is also clear the Gentiles had no problem with the conversion of Gentiles. It was the Jews who had problems with that fact. We are to assume that believers were among these Phoenicians from Acts 11:19 and even the Samaritans were overjoyed. Well of course they were. They had initially got the Gospel from Jesus himself in Sychar and it likely spread from there. They had to hear it from Jesus because clearly at that time His disciples were reluctant to share it. At that time they remained trapped in their Jewishness. So the woman at the well had to be the one to tell the others. Now they are overjoyed to hear other Gentiles are warming to the Gospel of Christ.
When they arrived back in Jerusalem the church welcomed them. Notice now they are called the church and not the believers as they have been termed up until now. The apostles and elders welcome them too. The issue that is behind this conflict is not seated within the Gentile church nor the leaders. It comes from those Jewish believers who were in internal conflict given their Jewish heritage. Paul and Barnabas reported to the whole church ALL that God had done through them. Surely that must have included the fact that they were successful among the Gentiles in Antioch and beyond and also the fact that they were not insisting that these new Gentiles believers be circumcised.
At that point some of the believers – who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted, “The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses.” We are left to wonder if those who stood up were some of the same ones who had gone from Judea (including Jerusalem) to teach this counter doctrine to the believers in Antioch? Or were they those who had taken on board this doctrine that was running counter to what God had shown the leaders and the believers following the inclusion of Cornelius and his household among the believers? We could be left wondering what was going on here. After Peter and those with him had reported to those back in Jerusalem the events surrounding Cornelius’ conversion it seems they all agreed on a plan of action. But as I wrote yesterday it one thing to agree to something on the spur of the moment when everyone is seemingly enthusiastically embracing this new move of the Holy Spirit among Cornelius’ household. But it is quite another to accept it wholeheartedly and then make it normative for all you meet. Was it an exception or was it now to become the norm? That is the question.
Now we have to move behind closed doors to gain an understanding of what happened with the apostles and elders met to discuss this. Fortunately we can be privy to what went on because Luke has given us the lowdown. The question is where did he get his information was? Was he there or not?
Here we have the minutes of the meeting:
So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue. At the meeting, after a long discussion, Peter stood and addressed them as follows: “Brothers, you all know that God chose me from among you some time ago to preach to the Gentiles so that they could hear the Good News and believe. God knows people’s hearts, and He confirmed that He accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for He cleansed their hearts through faith. So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”
Everyone listened quietly as Barnabas and Paul told about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. When they had finished, James stood and said, “Brothers, listen to me. Peter has told you about the time God first visited the Gentiles to take from them a people for Himself. And this conversion of Gentiles is exactly what the prophets predicted. As it is written: ‘Afterward I will return and restore the fallen house of David. I will rebuild its ruins and restore it, so that the rest of humanity might seek the LORD, including the Gentiles—all those I have called to be Mine. The LORD has spoken—He who made these things known so long ago.’ “And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood. For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations.”Acts 15:6-21
Did you notice who the speakers were?
The more things are forbidden, the more popular they become.Mark Twain
If you hear a voice within you say go do something, then you can resist all opposition. Stay true to your original calling.Ian Vail
Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.Dale Carnegie
Ultimately it is not YOUR gift or YOUR talent… It is HIS.Brian Houston