The Conference in Jerusalem (2)

The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 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. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.  He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 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? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

Acts 15:6-11

As the Jerusalem council begins in earnest, there is much discussion of the proposition that Gentiles must be circumcised and obey the Law of Moses before they can be saved by grace. Peter rose to speak, and in a single paragraph spoke volumes to those assembled. First of all, he reminds the apostles and elders of the Jerusalem church that he requested their blessing to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles, and that they had assented to his request. Then he pointed out that God Himself had made the choice to give the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles. This was a sort of “kill shot” for the Pharisaic contingent that insisted Gentiles must become circumcised Jews before being Christians, since it was obvious that God had made no such requirement of them.

He cinches the argument in the next sentence:

He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith

With his point fairly won, Peter now points a rhetorical finger at his opponents:

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?

Game over.

After Paul and Barnabas tell their story, James stepped up to agree with Peter and actually offered a sort of compromise: They would not demand circumcision (which was basically a joke) but require that the Gentiles follow certain Mosaic principles

Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For the Law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath. (15:20)

James’ idea was agreed to, and the letter was drafted and delivered to Antioch by a delegation appointed for that purpose (15:22-35). The believers in Antioch received the delegation and the letter they bore with obvious relief, and the matter was settled… sort of.  As I noted before, circumcision would keep coming up as time passed, and those Mosaic principles would only last for a time.

Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, working to build the church there and strengthening the body of believers, but as we will see next time, nothing stays the same for long.

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About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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9 Responses to The Conference in Jerusalem (2)

  1. Mel Wild says:

    Good stuff! Acts 15 is really the watershed moment for the Church. Paul also seems to describe this time in Galatians 2 (whole letter, really). I’ve always thought it interesting that Paul was not taught by the apostles, but was separated for a time. I think if he had been, with his formal background, would not have gotten the revelation he had for the Gentiles. Christianity would probably still be seen as a sect of Judaism, as it was still pretty much thought of at that time.

  2. The Jews thought of Christianity as a sect of Judaism like being a Pharisee, Sadducee, or Essene. It took a long, long time to help them understand otherwise. Today, the Jews would be horrified if someone called Christianity a sect of Judaism.

  3. pipermac5 says:

    This is one of the strongest repudiations of religious-legalism in all of Scripture, and yet Adventists and Messianic-Jews continue to cling to “For the Law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” as “proof” that we are still under Mosaic Law. Legalism is a hard “disease” to annihilate.

    Blessings,

    Steve

  4. The other interesting point here, that oft gets overlooked, is that Peter (the Rock) does not say, “Jesus gave me the keys, what I say goes.” He presents his arguments, then lets the assembly come to a decision. It is a communal agreement, not a single voice saying that this is how it will be.

  5. mete pete says:

    I daily get confronted by people who never got to read the minutes of that meeting, which is why they argue about it for hours!

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