Concession for Christ
Loving Father, I praise You that my name and my needs are known to You. I trust You and I worship You.
Read Acts 21:17-26
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Read Matthew 18:15-20. Note the steps outlined by Jesus for conflict resolution between Christians.
A few years ago a well-known Christian leader caused a stir by publically criticizing a prominent pastor’s new book before it was even published. The criticism had merit, but I felt more could have been accomplished for the kingdom by arranging a private meeting to discuss the issue prayerfully. That’s what we see in this passage. James, the leader of the Jewish wing of the church, and Paul, a pioneer of the Gentile wing, are meeting once again (15:1-35) to confront the most divisive issue of their day: how can Jews and Gentiles be in the same church? What’s fascinating is how the two men avoided a blow-up and maintained the unity of the church.
First, they agreed to meet (17,18). When you have an issue with another Christian, even a doctrinal issue, is your first instinct to criticize them to others, or to invite them out for lunch? Next, they shared a mutual respect and accountability. Paul reported what he had been doing (19); James praised God for the results (20). Are you able to affirm God’s work in Christian traditions other than your own? These basic steps created the context for discussing a more delicate issue: what to do about the perception that Paul was encouraging believers to reject Jewish customs (21)?
Some commentators have criticized Paul for agreeing to James’s proposal (23-26; see Num. 6:1-21); they see it as a compromise. To that, John Stott comments, “The solution to which they came was not a compromise, in the sense of sacrificing a doctrinal or moral principle, but a concession in the area of practice.” This passage is a case study of what Paul meant when he said, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22).
What influences you when you must decide to bend for the sake of others, or to stand on your principles?
Lord Jesus Christ, I know it grieves You when Your followers have unresolved conflict. Grant those who are struggling right now a heart for reconciliation and a willingness to follow Your Word.