Reading For Thursday Acts 15:1-41
The new Gentile mission elicited significant debate because Paul did not require the Gentile converts to be circumcised or to subscribe to the Jewish law about things like food regulations. The bottom line was that no requirements were put into place that would make Gentiles become Jews if they were Christians. Some believed that Gentile converts should be circumcised and live according to Jewish law in order to be followers of Christ. They came to Antioch, and there was great dissension and debate over the issue. It was decided that a formal meeting should be held in Jerusalem to resolve the issue. Paul and Barnabas led the Antioch delegation.
When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were welcomed, and Paul testified how God blessed their mission to the Gentiles. Some Pharisees immediately challenged Paul's position and declared that circumcision and the law of Moses should be necessary. The apostles and elders carefully considered the matter. Paul’s position was defended by two influential figures—Peter, the leading apostle, and James, the brother of Jesus and ruling elder of the Jerusalem congregation. Salvation is by grace alone, for Jews and Gentiles alike. James reinforced Peter’s arguments, offering scriptural proof for God’s inclusion of the Gentiles. James agreed and did not feel that the Gentiles should be circumcised or have to live by the Jewish law. He also proposed a solution, requesting that Gentile Christians abstain from certain food and to maintain sexual purity. This proposal pleased the apostles, elders, and the entire church. They drew up a letter addressed to the church of Antioch and its mission field and selected delegates to deliver the letter which was received with joy. The prophets Judas and Silas encouraged the congregation in Antioch and then departed. Paul and Barnabas remained and continued their teaching ministry.
Paul asked Barnabas to accompany him and revisit the churches established on their first mission. Barnabas wanted to take Mark, but Paul strongly opposed the idea. There was a sharp disagreement that resulted in the separation of Paul and Barnabas. Barnabas took Mark for a mission to Cyprus while Paul took Silas and left. They went throughout Syria, Cilicia, and to the churches established during the first journey.
Things To Consider:
Why is clarifying the gospel essential?
How should believers respond to conflict?
How do church leaders serve in resolving conflict?
Why is the law an unbearable yoke?
What is the benefit of having this formal meeting in Jerusalem?
Why did they include some admonitions concerning food and sexual immorality?
Why did they send two delegates with the letter?
Why was this such a relief to the congregation in Antioch?
Was it sinful for Paul and Barnabas to separate? Why or why not?