The Jerusalem Council

Acts 15:6–21 (NKJV)

6 Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. 7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”

Acts 15:6-11

When Paul and Barnabus arrived in Jerusalem to discuss the requirements to be imposed on Gentile believers, the apostles and elders came together. The dispute was severe, and Peter rose to remind everyone how God had sent him to preach to the Gentiles, making no distinction between the circumcised and the uncircumcised. His opinion was strongly in favor of not requiring circumcision among the Gentiles. His argument was based on God’s blessing Gentiles without circumcision, and upon the fact that the complicated Levitical laws were more than even the Jews could observe.

12 Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. 13 And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: 14 Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:

16 ‘After this I will return
And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down;
I will rebuild its ruins,
And I will set it up;
17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD,
Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name,
Says the LORD who does all these things.’

18 “Known to God from eternity are all His works. 19 Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

Acts 15:12-21

Paul and Barnabus then told of the great revival taking place on their missionary journey, and how God saved and filled Gentiles and Jews alike. James, highly respected in the church, rose to speak, recounting Peter’s experience, and quoting the prophet Amos (9:11-12) concerning the salvation of the Gentiles. He then made the following restrictions on Gentiles, not wanting to trouble them beyond reason: abstain from idols and their pollution, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. He reminded the Council that the law of Moses is read in synagogues everywhere on the Sabbath. If new Christians were to be convicted to observe the law, then they could do so. However, no such restriction would be placed on them by the church. This satisfied the Council, and letters were written to be distributed among the churches, much like minutes of a Council meeting.

God does not change, but the way of doing God’s business does from time to time. When the law was fulfilled in Christ, there was no need to strive for that legal perfection. Instead, a relationship of obedience to God and His Word and His Spirit became the need in a believer’s life. We sometimes consider the traditions of men to be sacrosanct, when actually the only thing sacred is the Word of God. Determining the style of clothing or music required to worship God is forced and unnatural. It is merely tradition. Therefore, do not allow tradition to destroy a new convert who does not understand legalism and becomes overwhelmed by the requirements of it. Instead of decreeing tradition to be mandatory, walk with a new convert and relate to them the love of God and His holiness, and allow the Holy Spirit to convict and change the individual. He will. Have your own Jerusalem Council and determine to only require what the Word of God requires, not man’s traditions.

Artwork from https://kingsharbor.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/j-council.jpg

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