Acts 15: 22-41Written by kathleen on Sep 13, 2015 in - No Comments
Contention in the Camp
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.”
James decided they should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God. James essentially says, “Let them alone. They are turning to God, and we should not trouble them.” At the bottom line, James decided that Peter, Barnabas, and Paul were correct, and that those of the sect of the Pharisees who believed were wrong.
Therefore the consensus of the council was that salvation comes by faith apart from any human work. On this point there was no compromise. However, they recognized that for the community of faith to flourish, there must be a sensitivity one to another. Jews and Gentiles must make adjustments in order to live together.”
The Jerusalem Decree
22 Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren.
There is credit to be given to the certain men of Acts 15:1, who boldly stated their convictions, even though their convictions were wrong because they were willing to be taught and to be convinced by the evidence from the Scriptures and by the confirmation of the Holy Spirit. A teachable spirit is a precious thing!
It seems there was a church business meeting with all in agreement to confirm the findings of the elders and to send men with a letter.
23 They wrote this, letter by them: The apostles, the elders, and the brethren,
To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:
24 Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law” to whom we gave no such commandment 25 it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Two things to notice; 1st This letter is written specifically to these churches where Jews and Gentiles having this tension; it was not addressed to every Gentile congregation. 2nd The letter gives the express decision of the Jerusalem council, that Gentiles should consider themselves under no obligation to the rituals of Judaism, except the sensitivity which love calls for to preserve the fellowship of Jewish and Gentile believers.
The Jerusalem council wisely sent two members of its own community (probably Jewish Christians themselves) with Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch, the place where the whole dispute arose.
One of the men who were sent to Antioch was named Barsabas, which means literally “son of the Sabbath” which is awesome when you see it as the Son of the Sabbath was sent to tell the Gentile believers they were free to rest in the finished work of Christ.
When a person has the realization in their life of the finished work of Christ and how that is intended to bring a freshness and newness to their lives; God’s Word becomes very meaningful as with 2 Cor 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
No matter if they are just coming to know Christ, or have been set free from a life controlling habit; the question I am asked more than any other is:
“How can I know God’s will for my life?”
There are nine basic ways we can know the will of God as we see the hand of God guiding His people.
1a. God guides through church unity.
The letter written to the church at Antioch stated that the believers in Jerusalem were in one accord. That’s so important. Whether you’re wrestling with an issue of lifestyle or doctrine, find out what the church says about it.
Begin by looking throughout church history; what has been the stance of the church regarding the subject with which you’re struggling? 1b.Beware of those who say, “You don’t need the church It’s outdated and old-fashioned.” Proverbs 22:28 says, “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.” It is through the wisdom of church unity both presently and historically that God has guided His people very significantly.
2. God Guides Through Gifted Men and Women in the Body
Eph 4:11-16 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,
15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head —Jesus Christ 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
How can you know God’s will? Be around whenever prophets, pastors, evangelists, or teachers expound the Word. It’s the wise person who approaches every Bible study, every time of fellowship expecting the Lord to speak through His people.
27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth.
28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.
3. God Guides through the Gifts of the Spirit
Earlier in this chapter, there was much debate and discussion. Suddenly, James stood up, and as he spoke, an interesting thing happened. Everyone in the room came into unity and agreement. The same is true for us. There are times when during what seems like an endless discussion, someone suddenly says something that settles not only in your mind, but within your heart—and you know it’s the Lord, speaking through a word of wisdom.
Therefore when you’re struggling with finding God’s will for your life, put yourself in a place where words of wisdom, knowledge, and prophecy are being exercised. Many times that’s how the Lord speaks most clearly.
30 So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter. 31 When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement.
They were very excited to know that the principle of grace was the way it was to be; and that they were saved and right with God.
32 Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words. 33 And after they had stayed there for a time, they were sent back with greetings from the brethren to the apostles.
34 However, it seemed good to Silas to remain there.
4. God Guides through Desires We May Have Personally
As the delegation headed back to Jerusalem, Silas said, “I like it here in Antioch. I think I’ll stick around.” Many times when a person or family comes into a church fellowship they see things that might need help or something started and within that it is usually something they find enjoyment in.
The reason I teach the Word is because #1 I love to teach and #2 I want people to grow in the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord. I’m doing exactly what I want to do.
35 Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
36 Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.”
- God Guides Through Concerns We Feel Internally
Paul said, “I’m curious about how the believers we saw five years ago are doing.” The same thing happens today a situation, a need, or an opportunity will tug on your heart.
The person next to you might not feel a thing—not because he or she is insensitive or unspiritual, but because meeting that particular need is not his or her calling.
There are times when the way of the Lord is to guide us individually through concerns we feel internally.
37 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work.
- God Guides Through Interpersonal Difficulty
Barnabas said “Let’s take John Mark with us,” “I know he backed out last time, but I see potential in him.”
Paul insisted. “We can’t afford to bring someone we can’t count on,” “Let’s leave him here.”
Paul was saying “What can he do for God’s work?” and Barnabas was saying, “What can God’s work do for him?”
Who was right? They both were.
When Paul was in prison awaiting his death, he sent for John Mark to comfort him! (2 Timothy 4:11). God had changed John-Mark!
The encouraging ministry of Barnabas paid off. Just like the ministry of Paul who evangelized the known world with the gospel paid off.
God often guides through interpersonal difficulty.
Is it the best way? I don’t think so. I think it’s much better to hear a word of wisdom, to learn from a teaching, to receive counsel and understanding from a gifted brother or sister.
But a lot of times we get too dull of hearing and hard of heart to receive a word of wisdom or to make personal application from a Bible study.
Therefore we have to bump heads with somebody for God to get us going in the right direction.
I wish I could say, “My spiritual sensitivity is at such a level that I never have conflict with anyone at any time; but I’m not there!
BUT you can find great comfort knowing that even the Apostle Paul, at the high point of his ministry, was directed through interpersonal difficulty.
39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
The Lord used interpersonal difficulty to send two teams out instead of one. As a result, twice as many believers were encouraged, and twice as much ministry ensued.
Six ways in which God guides His people are: through Church unanimity, through gifted men and women in the body, through the gifts of the Spirit, through the desires we have personally, through concerns we feel internally, and through interpersonal difficulty. Next week we’ll see three more in chapter 16.