And after they were silent, James responded, saying, “Men, brothers, hear me: Simon recounted how even as at first God oversaw to take a people out from among the nations for His name. And with this agree the Words of the prophets, as it has been written, After these things “I will return and “will build again the tabernacle of David which has fallen,” “and I will build again the things which have been demolished,” and I will set it up, so as the rest of men may seek the Lord, “even all the nations on whom My name has been called, says the Lord, who is doing all these things.” [Amos 9:11, 12] All His works are known to God from eternity. For this reason I judge not to trouble those from the nations turning to God, but to write to them to hold back from the pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and that strangled, and blood. For in every city from ancient generations Moses has those proclaiming him, having been read in the synagogues on every sabbath.
After they had finished speaking there was silence. The silence came because all were talked out. They had no more to say. A good leader will wait until that silence comes and then make their summary comments. There is debate among the experts as to whether “when they finished speaking” refers to Paul and Barnabas – in other words when they had finished James picked up the role of speaker. Or “when they finished speaking” refers to when everyone had said their piece, James’ moment came. Two of you have asked me why was Peter first and why was James last? Good questions. It shows you are doing some good thinking. I think Peter was first because he is reminding them that this has happened before. God was the one who initiated it. So He must agree with it. The link back to the experience with Cornelius is the benchmark. God was the One who instigated it. Notice James uses Simon and not Peter. James, a Jew, uses the Jewish name Simon as we would expect. He also uses an interesting verb epekepsato (from the root episkeptomai). It is related to [episkopos] “elder” “overseer” or “bishop”. God is the ultimate elder. He himself visited the Gentiles when He sent Peter to Cornelius. You can’t deny that God was behind the sending of Peter to Cornelius.
In doing so He took a people from among the nations for His name. God’s people are the people of God – the Jews. But here we have a fascinating play on the term referring to Gentiles. It is easily missed in English but not easily missed by a Jew. Neither should it be missed by us. It is a huge paradox which is meant to be chewed on. God has taken Gentiles from among the nations for His name. In other words He took a people for Himself. He choose another group other than Jews to bear His name. He selected another race other than Jew to belong to him and be His people. He called Gentiles by His name – people of God in addition to the Jews. Not in substitution for the Jews but in addition to! This is a huge statement. It marks a new frontier. A new direction in the activity of God.
That the line of demarcation delineating God’s people or not God’s people should be extended to embrace the Gentiles. It is grounds for jealousy on the part of the Jews. This is a shocking paradoxical statement. It reminds me immediately of Hosea Chapter one where there is a play on words in the mouth of the prophet. My people / not My people; Loved / Not loved. With some parents they can’t love their children equally, they always have to have favourites. One is in and the other is out. With God that is not the case. God can love the Gentile and the Jew equally. You have only to read through the Bible carefully to understand that God’s heart was always toward all people. He just simply chose the Jews and intended make them a nation, a royal priesthood, as an example. How would the people of the earth know and realize how God worked with His chosen people unless there was a people who were chosen? Thus God could say, if you want to know how I deal with a group of people or a people group (there is a difference) then watch this group – the Jews. I choose them to be my own and to stand before Me. Watch what happens when they obey my commands and what happens when they don’t. That is what is clearly spelled out for us all in the book of Deuteronomy, where Moses is going over what happened to the Israelites in the wilderness and making it clear why God chose the Jews and why them particularly. Because they were a stubborn and obstinate people. (Deut 9:5,6)
“All day long I hold out my hands to a stubborn and obstinate people.”
Now the moment has come, which was always in God’s intention to come when He would unite Gentile and Jew to be His people. Now the basis of choice will be on the basis of personal choice for each individual. Now each person and each person in each people group must choose God for themselves. A new era has begun. Until the coming of Christ, Gentiles were not His people; now they have become His people!
Now James the presiding elder (leader) of the church in Jerusalem has made the pronouncement, on the back of Peter’s benchmark experience and Paul and Barnabas’ testimony of what GOD has been doing. God is behind this and we can’t deny it. The Church in Antioch has sent the delegation to Jerusalem asking them to decide on this matter. Now the watershed pronouncement has been made by the Leader of the Church in Jerusalem, James the Just. As the leader he is the last one to speak. Notice what he does by what he says in this speech. He firstly makes the link to the Word of God (Old Testament) and then he makes his recommendations on the conditions of their acceptance. Not only that but he chooses the material to back up his statement from the TANAKH (The Law, The Prophets and the Writings – OT) by choosing a quote from the Twelve (the minor prophets). Why?
James also makes a very significant statement when he says,
- “And with this agree the Words of the prophets, as it has been written . . .” [LITV]
- And the words of the Prophets are in complete harmony with this for it is written, [CJB]
- And this conversion of Gentiles is exactly what the prophets predicted. As it is written: [NLT]
This is not a new thing it has been predicted by God from ancient times.
I know I have only pulled out two significant verses. I just didn’t want you to miss the importance of what is buried in this seemingly unimportant section of James’ speech. It’s another one of those blah-blah segments of the Word of God which most of us are so prone to pass right over and miss. But I won’t let you. Cogitate on it some more.
We will continue our investigation in the next Gem.
- First God chose the Jews as His own people.
- “If you want to know how I deal with human kind then watch this people group. I choose them to be my own. Watch what happens when they obey Me. Alternatively watch what happens when they disobey Me.” God
- Then He chose the Gentiles to be included among His people.
- Has God changed His mind? No, it was always in His plan. He is the God of all the nations of earth. He made it clear to us in His Word what would happen.
- God is the God of ALL THE EARTH. Expect Him always to have a global purpose.
- So why did He choose the Jews? Why are they so special?
- Because they are so stubborn. They are an example of human kind.
Are you and I any less stubborn?Ian Vail
Remember—those branches (Jews) were broken off because they didn’t believe in Christ, and you are there because you do believe. So don’t think highly of yourself, but fear what could happen.Romans 11:20