Hallmarks of Encouragement
Thank the Lord for the gift of his Holy Word, the Bible, and for all the wisdom, guidance and encouragement there.
Read Acts 15:22-35
 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers.  With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings.  We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said.  So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul-  men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing.  It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:  You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.  So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter.  The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.  Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers.  After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them.   But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord. Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
ReflectWhat effect did the Council’s message have in Antioch?
We know that a gold ring is genuine by looking at the hallmark. For the church in Antioch the hallmark that the restrictions placed upon them was designed to bring unity and protect the body of believers. This is demonstrated by the loving response of the messengers. The Jerusalem Council didn’t dictate from a distance but sent their instructions through capable and godly men who showed their commitment to seeing the church built up by bringing encouragement to strengthen the believers (25, 26, 32). This moment in the life of the early church, which could have caused so much damage and fragmentation, becomes a time of encouragement and blessing. Reflect for a few minutes on your own life. What hallmarks can others see of the genuineness of your faith in how you live and how you relate with fellow Christians? Is your focus on bringing encouragement and seeing them strengthened in their faith?
Ask God to give you an insight into how you can build up the body of believers today. If you sense God’s leading, follow it.
Lord Jesus, make me an instrument of help and encouragement for Your people. Use me in some way even today, I pray.