It took some level of trust from the church at Antioch to send representatives to Jerusalem in order to seek the best solution to their conflict. However, after hours of discussion between the apostles and elders, James, the brother of Jesus, who appears to be the leader of the assembly, made a judgment about what should be done (Acts 15:13-20). Clearly the council decided that Gentiles do not need to become Jewish converts, obeying all aspects of the ceremonial laws, including circumcision, in order to become Christians.
Read Amos 9:11-12 and Jeremiah 12:14-16. What predictions did these Old Testament prophets make regarding Israel’s neighboring nations?
While James quotes from Amos chapter 9, we see allusions to the salvation of the nations in other Old Testament prophets. It was God’s intention all along to save the entire world through Israel’s witness and experience. In fact, God’s call to Abraham included a blessing for all nations through him and his descendants (Gen. 12:1-3). The leading of the Holy Spirit; the ministry of Peter, Barnabas, and Paul among the Gentiles; and the conversion of many Gentiles were evidences that could not be set aside. These testimonies helped leaders of the Christian community in Jerusalem realize that many Old Testament prophecies were now being fulfilled. In fact, God already had given laws guiding the presence of Gentiles in Israel and what restrictions applied to them (Leviticus chapters 17, 18). James also referred to these laws in his decision (Acts 15:29). It became obvious to everyone that God was calling Gentiles to join His people and receive salvation in Jesus. The guidance of the Holy Spirit gave them a deeper understanding of the Scripture and revealed to them crucial truths that they had not seen before.
Acts 15:30-35 tells the response of the believers in Antioch to what was decided in Jerusalem: “The people … were glad for its encouraging message” (Acts 15:31, NIV). We see here in Acts a powerful example of how the early church, through submission to the Word of God, along with a mind-set of love, unity, and trust, could under the guidance of the Holy Spirit avert what could have been a major crisis of unity.
|What does this account teach us about how important it is for us, not only to listen to what others are saying but to consider that they might be right, even when what they say is not exactly what we want to hear?|