Acts 15:19-41

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If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)

Possibly a lesson James learned here in Acts 15 for certainly as they sought the Lord this is what they were given.

After much deliberation James stands and outlines specifically how the question of circumcision will be addressed.

1. They would seek to put as few limitations on Gentile believers as possible. (Abstain from meat offered to idols or meat that still contains blood and don’t be involved in sexual sin.) It was not because these things were needed for salvation but rather because these practices would be a stumbling block to anyone who knew the Law of Moses.

2. They would write an official letter and send their own personal emissaries along with Paul & Barnabas to deliver it. There would be every effort made to make their decision clear to all. Written for future reference; delivered by Antioch’s people and their own.

3. The communication would spell out how their relationships stood. We are brothers. We did not send the men who disturbed you. Barnabas and Paul are our dear friends who given their lives to serve our Lord Jesus Christ. We are sending Judas and Silas to speak for us. We have been led by the Holy Spirit in our response. (Let it be clear we do not wish any division among us or any burden on you except what is absolutely needed.)

James had a grasp of the big picture!

I imagine the church at Antioch was apprehensive as they waited for a reply – I mean there was no email or conference calling. They were happy and comforted by the response – and I might add they knew they were accepted as vital members of the body believers.

Judas and Silas stayed a while to encourage and strengthened their new brothers. Paul and Barnabas continued to preach and teach in that area.

After a while, Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” They were in agreement they should go but not about the details and there was such a sharp disagreement that they separated from each other.

The conflict was over John Mark. Barnabas wanted to take him along. Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. They each had their reasons I suppose, and we will never know what else might have been at play. Still, even in this they continued the work. Barnabas took Mark and went to Cyprus – where in fact Mark had been with them. Paul got Silas and they went to Syria and Cilicia to the churches there.

Strive for unity – I say “strive” because unity is hard and deliberate work for human beings. But the Lord seeks it in us and in the church so it must be possible – by His grace.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18) is what Paul later wrote. Sometimes “unity” looks like the outcome of the Jerusalem council. Sometimes it looks like deciding to take separate ways to do God’s work. Sometimes it looks like including a brother that has run before.

About God?
God’s desire: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace”

About Me?
Seek wisdom. Strive for unity.

About the World?
Wisdom, Compassion and Unity are irresistible.

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