Text: Acts 15:22-35
Theme: Sometimes wolves can sneak in among the sheep. What to do?
Key verses: “Then the apostles and elders together with the whole church in Jerusalem chose delegates, and they sent them to Antioch of Syria with Paul and Barnabas to report on this decision…This is the letter they took with them: ‘This letter is from the apostles and elders, your brothers in Jerusalem. It is written to the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. Greetings! ‘We understand that some men from here have troubled you and upset you with their teaching, but we did not send them! So we decided, having come to complete agreement, to send you official representatives, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are sending Judas and Silas to confirm what we have decided concerning your question. ‘For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no greater burden on you than these few requirements: You must abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. If you do this, you will do well. Farewell.’ The messengers went at once to Antioch, where they called a general meeting of the believers and delivered the letter. And there was great joy throughout the church that day as they read this encouraging message. Then Judas and Silas, both being prophets, spoke at length to the believers, encouraging and strengthening their faith. They stayed for a while, and then the believers sent them back to the church in Jerusalem with a blessing of peace. Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch. They and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord there.” (v. 22-
What God said to me: Good Saturday morning, Dwayne! I’ve blessed you with rest, health, time, and a beautiful day to enjoy it all. Make the most of your time today. Redeem it, for the days are evil and brief. Glad you are prioritizing time in my Word this morning. Great place to start! A good summation statement for this passage is that clarity, joy, and encouragement can come when my people operate in godly wisdom, responsive leadership, and deliberate truth-seeking. Note some important things they did. Rather than getting pulled in too deeply by those who opposed Paul & Barnabas and their message of grace, note that the wise church leaders in Antioch sent them to inquire in Jerusalem “to talk to the apostles and elders about this question.” They needed and heeded the wisdom and council of their main leaders. It took humility for the church in Antioch to acknowledge they needed help and direction from their superiors. This is a first huge step in resolving disputes: Trust and seek the council of your church elders. Second, give careful hearing to the testimonies as well as the disputes. Consider both sides of the argument. But be careful who you allow in the room for such a hearing. It was the “apostles and elders” who had a “long discussion” about the dispute–not the whole church and not the disputers themselves. Third, don’t be shy in using the God-card. Peter stood and reminded them of what they all knew. He said, “God chose me from among you some time ago to preach to the Gentiles…” Peter was claiming his divine authority to speak into this dispute. It’s good for church leaders to be reminded of clear evidence of my leading and will. Peter used his influence and position to help bring clarity to the confusion. Fourth, note also that Peter brought them back to my character and to the truth of what they believe about my Son. It should always come back to the basic foundations of faith as revealed in my Word and the Word made flesh. In every disagreement and dispute, anchor yourselves and your leaders in your common belief about undeserved salvation through Christ. That is the common denominator. If an argument or opinion doesn’t line up with that bedrock truth, then it should be scrapped. Fifth, put away your phones and other distractions and concentrate on what is being said and testified too. Watch them as well as listen to them. Try to discern their sincerity and motives, and think carefully about their story and the points they make. The church leaders in Jerusalem listened intently to Paul and Barnabas. They really sought to understand their point of view. Their minds had been centered and called back to truth by Peter and now they were ready to receive what P&B had to share. This is a vital step in properly discerning truth from mere opinion. Sixth, not only did they bring clarity and truth to the situation, they also made the solution simple and easy to comprehend and do. What James stood and said was nothing short of brilliant–brilliance that could come from none other than the Holy Spirit, mind you. Notice he said, “My judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” This should be the end result of hearing and settling a dispute among my people. Never complicate things and make it hard for people to accept me. Find a simple and clear solution that is based on truth and love. The seventh and final step in biblically settling a dispute is this: Write down what you decide to do and take it to the people who need to hear it. Share it clearly and concisely. An effective vehicle and means is necessary to get the decision out of the courthouse and into the church house. It’s never enough to come up with a great idea and solution. You must not rest until you’ve gotten that solution to the people who need to understand and apply it. This will help assure peace, unity and joy to carry on my work of spreading the Gospel.
What I said to God: Wow, I didn’t realize there was so much practical help and guidelines within this chapter. These “acts” really did set the example for the Church to follow–even 2000 years later. May Your Church today heed the wisdom and clear direction of this chapter and these early Church Fathers. Thank You for recording this powerful occurence for us to learn from and apply. We need Your Word and Your Spirit to guide us and help us in each and every dispute and confusing turn as we seek to lead Your Church. May nothing distract us or discourage us from “encouraging and strengthening” the faith of the believers and from teaching and preaching the word of the Lord to many.