Tag: Jerusalem council
Scripture reading for June 23rd: Acts 15:1-31
The church today is sometimes affected by legalism. Well-meaning Christians, pastors, and leaders try to define holiness developing rules or traditions that help them define what pleases God. This confuses people and often causes conflict and division. The early church also struggled with this. Most of the early church members were Jews and they had a history of keeping the Law of God. These new believers struggled to know how to balance keeping the Law with salvation by faith through grace!
“Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1) This teaching brought sharp debate in the early church and Paul and Barnabas were appointed to go to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders to discuss this question. They had seen God pour out His Spirit on uncircumcised Gentiles in many places where they were sent by the Holy Spirit to preach and disagreed with this teaching.
At Jerusalem, this conflict was found to be simmering as well. There were believers who came from the party of the Pharisees who agreed that the Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the Law of Moses. (Acts 15:5) The apostles and elders gathered for discussion and Paul got up and addressed them. He noted that God accepted the Gentiles and poured out the Holy Spirit on them without their keeping of the Law. God purified their hearts by faith, not by law-keeping! In fact, no Jew was ever able to keep the Law and become justified either! (Acts 15:8-12)
James spoke up in agreement, citing the Old Testament prophet Amos as confirming Paul’s word to them. “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” (Acts 15:19-20) This seemed good to the elders and apostles and the Holy Spirit, so they sent Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch to share the ruling.
Salvation by grace alone was then taught by the early church. Adding law would not be allowed to hinder people from coming to Christ from any background. Are you trusting in Christ alone for salvation?
Scripture reading for June 17th: Acts 11:1-30
Without a vision, people cast off restraint. (Proverbs 29:18) Spiritual vision is the ability to see with the eyes of the heart what God is doing and where He is taking you. Accurate spiritual vision will always line up with the Word of God, which never changes.
The leadership of the early church was overwhelmingly devout Jews who had come to Christ. Their understanding of God’s plan was filtered through their religious training and traditions. There were parts of the Holy Scriptures that they were not open to and God had to help them. God worked with Peter first, helping him to see the need to go to the Gentiles. When the others in Jerusalem heard that Peter went to the Gentiles, they did not understand and criticized Peter. (Acts 11:1-3)
Peter explained how God had helped him to see that the Gentiles were also to be saved. (Acts 11:14) God worked in such a miraculous and supernatural manner, that their eyes were opened to God’s bigger plan. When these Gentiles received the gift of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of tongues, all doubt was removed! (Acts 11:15-17) Those who heard the testimony began to praise God for granting the Gentiles repentance to eternal life!
With this new vision, the scattered church began to preach to the Gentiles in distant lands. Some went to Cyprus and Cyrene and Antioch preaching to the Greeks there. “The Lord’s hand was on them and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” (Acts 11:21) God’s grace brought salvation to all who would believe! The disciples in Jerusalem sent Barnabas who found Saul and both went to preach in Antioch and instruct the believers there. Great numbers of people were brought to the Lord as these apostles taught in Antioch for a whole year together. It is recorded that Christ’s followers were first called “Christians” at Antioch! (Acts 11:26)
New vision, expanded ministry, and great numbers of people being saved brought excitement and joy to the early church. Men and women, full of the Holy Spirit preached and taught, bringing the Word of Jesus Christ to Jew and Gentile alike. God saved all who believed! This simple program is still in effect today! God wants to use you to reach the world you live in! Are you full of vision and equipped with the Holy Spirit?