Sorting Things Out
Loving Christ, show me how I can live at peace with everyone. Fill me with the fruit of Your Spirit.
Read Acts 15:1–12
Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. 3 The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.
5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”
6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectWhat causes division or dispute in your church? Take a moment to think of a few things from the last few years.
The picture we have of the Pharisees in the gospels is not very attractive. They come across as hard-nosed legalists who opposed Jesus at every step.
But when we read today’s passage we discover that a significant number were actually followers of Jesus and were associated with the apostles. They clearly had problems with what Paul and Barnabas had been doing on the “first missionary journey,” and they viewed circumcision as the indispensable mark of being a member of God’s chosen people (1–5).
So “the Council of Jerusalem,” often thought of as the first ecumenical church council, came about not, as far as we know, because of personality clashes but because of genuine theological qualms. For many centuries circumcision had been the sign of being saved. How could Gentiles avoid this time-honored and
biblically sanctioned practice? Were the apostles offering a kind of cut-price salvation and membership of the church? What was this “cheap grace”?
Is there a current conflict in your life or church? Search out some passages about peace-making in Scripture.
God, I pray for the unity of Your church body. Show me how I can aid in building up the body of Christ.
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