Acts 15

Author

Dave Bruechert

Scripture

Acts 15:1 - 40

Observations

- People were teaching that in addition to believing, Gentiles needed to be circumcised, according to the Jewish law, in order to be saved.
- Paul and Barnabas sharply disagreed and went to Jerusalem with others so the apostles and elders could make a decision.
- The news that Gentiles had been converted made believers glad.
- The apostles and elders had a lot of discussion about the need for Gentiles to be circumcised.
- Peter said that God sent him to the Gentiles with the gospel and they believed. God did not discriminate between Jew and Gentile. Why require Gentiles to obey laws the Jews haven’t been able to keep. It is through the grace of Jesus that everybody is saved.
- Barnabas and Paul shared the signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.
- James recommended that they not make it difficult for Gentiles who are turning to God. The Gentiles should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. Three related to food and one related to sex. Nothing related to being circumcised.
- Judas, Silas and others went with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch to share the decision with Gentile believers there, who were glad.
- Paul and Barnabas wanted to visit believers in towns where they traveled and preached before. They had a sharp disagreement about whether to take Mark. They went their separate ways, both taking someone with them as they both shared the gospel.

Application

The chapter begins and ends with sharp disagreements. The first is a disagreement on the corporate level. They discussed it at length and then the leadership made a decision. The second is a personal disagreement between Paul and Barnabas. They parted company, but both went away serving God and preaching the gospel. I sometimes picture the early church as a place where everybody got along and agreed with each other. It’s good to see that they had to work through conflict, both corporately and personally.
How do we react when we disagree? My natural reaction is to try to avoid conflict. I want to be able to recognize that conflict will happen and that it’s an opportunity for everyone involved to grow in their relationship with God.

Prayer

Father, help me to see conflict and disagreement as something normal. Help me to value the relationships more than being right. Draw us to you as we work through our conflicts.

4 comments (Add your own)

1. Jim Asselin wrote:
Dave,
That's so true, in our human perspective we often see conflict as an end, not a means. I know that God's ordained conflict can cause greater growth. In churches who have split for instance I have seen the split cause greater growth than if the church had stayed together. At a personal level, conflict God has stirred up - okay, maybe I stirred it up - can lead to reevaluation, humility, growth, and forgiveness. I'd like to say - bring it on Lord - but I'll temper that for now..........

Tue, February 24, 2015 @ 7:17 AM

2. Phil Payne wrote:
RE: Conflict

David makes a wise point - that conflict is an opportunity for us to grow in our relationship with God. Even Godly people with sincere hearts can have limited understanding, and some of the sharpest church conflicts have come from zeal for righteousness that may or may not have been exercised in God's will. Sometimes the evolution & resolution of conflict brings needed purification or restoration of broken relationships. At other times, poorly resolved conflicts can open factions or perversions of the that break God's heart. We all know examples of each in our personal lives and can witness the denominational divisions in the Church as consequence of conflict.

How do we get ourselves out of the way so we can hear and respond to the Living Word of God who speaks through scripture and spirit? Acts 15 gives guidance.

The congregation at Antioch sent their elders (Paul, Barnabas) to Jerusalem so more mature leaders (the apostles) could instruct them. After the council, the church in Jerusalem sent their elders to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas to communicate the decision. Lesson - submit and listen to more mature leaders

The Jerusalem church found three evidences that God would call, had called, and was calling Gentiles to faith in Christ apart from the Mosaic Law. In the first case, God revealed His intent to Cornelius and Peter while they were praying, and Peter later observed God’s initiative in giving the Holy Spirit before any at Cornelius’s house at been baptized or circumcised. In the second case, Paul and Barnabas had seen God bless their faith-step of witness to gentile cities. God fulfilled his purpose as they missionaries stepped Into the precedent taught by Peter’s example. But all experiential evidence should conform to scripture, so James provides the third and conclusive witness by citing the Hebrew prophetic scripture about future gentile believers.

Application - look for God’s initiative in our community, step boldly into what we perceive God doing and test for fruit, check experience versus the scripture

Tue, February 24, 2015 @ 8:18 AM

3. Phil Payne wrote:
RE: Law and Grace in Acts 15

Pivotal verse is Acts 15:11 (Peter speaking): “But we believe that we shall be SAVED through faith through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” The council agrees that the church was freed from the need to obey all points opf the Law/ Nonetheless, much of the Mosaic law is given for the well-being and proper treatment of both people and animals - thus the council upheld warnings to flee idolatry and immorality, torespect of all blood as sacred – because Jesus gave His life blood, and to treat animals kindly when they are killed for meat (Not strangled).

Applications – The idols idols today aren't the Graeco-Roman deities Jupiter, Hermes, or Diana– but wealth, sex, and power. What are the forms by which they tempt us? The gods to which we bow down not might not be in pillared temples, but could be the tech toys that captivate our attention, confer status, or distract us loving God and neighbor. How many of us have texted while breaking conversation with the person we're with? Jesus said that the man who looks upon a woman and contemplates adultery is guilty of the deed. What does this say about the ways we commit immorality through the films, web sites, and books/magazines we look at. Those who traffic women as slaves of immorality are paid by those who subscribe to the porn sites. One of my strongest defenses when tempted is a pleas before God that I not participate in such evil as a patron-voyeur.

My prayer is for my own repentance – and for the church's conviction and repentance. Jesus. I have held idols, have coddled immoral fantasies, have eaten meat from animals that are abusively raised in feed lots or prison-like factory farms. I', not a Jainist here (that's a Hindu faction), but we do need to respect the sanctity of all life and treat our sentient livestock with more love.

Tue, February 24, 2015 @ 8:33 AM

4. Rob Schulze wrote:
Dave... thanks for highlighting these "sharp disagreements" and your exhortation. We should expect disagreement and learn how to submit to one another as we move towards agreement if possible. I think of our Lord's prayer for his disciples that they would be one as well as the church would be brought to complete unity. You see this in v22 where the apostles, elders with the whole church come to a decision.

"Lord, help me and others learn how to resolve conflict well. Whether the mutual decision is an agreement or that we agree to disagree... may there be unity and oneness as we apply humility in considering others interests more important than our own. May Paul's exhortation in Philippians 2 of imitating Christ be true of us when conflict comes our way."

Tue, February 24, 2015 @ 9:23 AM

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