302 - The Church in Jerusalem Makes an Important Decision
OCTOBER 29 - Nº 302 Acts 15:1-35; Galatians 2:11-16
Not long after Paul and Barnabas arrived back in Antioch, some false teachers showed up from Jerusalem. They taught that for a Gentile to become a Christian, they must first convert to Judaism. They also insisted that, after accepting Jesus as their Messiah, both Jewish and Gentile believers were obligated to obey the laws given to Moses. (These teachers were later referred to as “Judaizers.”) Paul and Barnabas completely disagreed with what they taught. This led to a huge dispute. The Judaizers were very influential religious men. Once when Peter (Cephas) came from Jerusalem to visit the church in Antioch, Paul noticed that he did not eat with the Gentiles because he was afraid of what the Judaizers might think. Even Barnabas returned to some of his old Jewish customs when these false teachers showed up. Paul was very upset with Peter and Barnabas for being hypocritical. “As Jews we know that it is impossible to become holy by obeying the Law,” he reminded them. “The only way we can have a relationship with God is through faith in Jesus Christ—not by our good works! If righteousness could be achieved by obeying the Law, then Jesus died for nothing!” he argued passionately. It was time to determine the truth regarding this issue: Was salvation a free gift from God given in exchange for believing what Jesus did on the cross, or was it based on a believer’s ability to keep the Law? The leaders of the church in Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas to meet with the church leaders in Jerusalem to determine the answer. When Paul and Barnabas arrived in Jerusalem, they gave a full report about their missionary journey and explained that many Gentiles had become believers. This made everyone happy—until some of the Judaizers who were also attending the meeting insisted, “These Gentiles must now be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses.” After a long discussion, Peter (who was a church leader in Jerusalem) stood up to address the council. “I was the one God chose to first take the message of the Gospel to the Gentiles (see #296 - October 23 and #297 - October 24). They accepted it by faith, and God forgave their sins and gave them the Holy Spirit. There were no requirements other than faith. God would not be pleased if we added more conditions—especially laws that we cannot keep ourselves. It is only through the grace of the Lord Jesus that anyone can be saved from their sins. This includes both Jews and Gentiles!” James (the brother of Jesus) agreed. “Years ago, the prophets wrote about this,” he explained. “They said that one day God would call even the Gentiles by His name. Here is my advice. We should not make it difficult for this to happen. Let’s send a letter with three simple instructions: (1) Gentiles should not eat meat that has been offered to idols; (2) They should not engage in any sexually immoral behavior; (3) They should not eat the meat of animals unless the blood has been drained so they won’t offend any Jewish believers.” The Jerusalem Council decided that these were the only laws the new believers needed to keep! Everyone agreed and the letter was written. Paul and Barnabas, along with two of the elders from Jerusalem, delivered the letter to the church in Antioch. Everyone was pleased with the decision and with the freedom both the Jews and Gentiles could now enjoy as they worshiped Jesus Christ together.
Have you ever struggled to figure out something God meant in the Bible? It is wise to seek advice from someone who has spent time studying the Bible. As you investigate, discuss, and pray together, God’s Holy Spirit will give you the understanding you need.