6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7 After they had talked it over, Peter got up and spoke to them. “Brothers,” he said, “you know that some time ago God chose me to take the good news to those who aren’t Jews. He wanted them to hear the good news and believe. 8 God knows the human heart. By giving the Holy Spirit to non-Jews, he showed that he accepted them. He did the same for them as he had done for us. 9 He showed that there is no difference between us and them. He made their hearts pure because of their faith. 10 “Now then, why are you trying to test God? You test him when you put a heavy load on the believers’ shoulders. Our people of long ago couldn’t carry that load. We can’t either. 11 No! We believe we are saved through the grace of our Lord Jesus. Those who aren’t Jews are saved in the same way.” 12 Everyone became quiet as they listened to Barnabas and Paul. They were telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done through them among non-Jews. 13 When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. 14 Simon Peter has explained to us how God first showed his concern for those who aren’t Jews. He chose some of them to be his very own people. 15 The prophets’ words agree with that. They say, 16 “‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. I will rebuild what was destroyed. I will make it what it used to be. 17 Then the rest of the people can look to the Lord. This means all the non-Jews who belong to me. The Lord says this. He is the one who does these things.’ (Amos 9:11,12) 18 The Lord does things that have been known for a long time. 19 “Now here is my opinion. We should not make it hard for the non-Jews who are turning to God. 20 Here is what we should write to them. They must not eat food polluted by being offered to statues of gods. They must not commit sexual sins. They must not eat the meat of animals that have been choked to death. And they must not drink blood. 21 These laws of Moses have been preached in every city from the earliest times. They are read out loud in the synagogues every Sabbath day.”
In this section of scripture, we read of a complex, but very important meeting of the heads of the early church. On the surface, we read about circumcision, which was a highly contentious issue in the day. The subtext, though, what is going on behind
the scenes is a challenge and struggle for leadership as well as a setting of standards on how “Jewish” Christianity would need to be.
The incredible thing that goes on here is that it seems to be
the accounts of how Peter, Paul and Barnabas have seen miracles amongst non-jews and salvation of gentiles has a significant impact on the council meeting. There is no voice of God declaring the way that gentiles should behave, just people with true authority, inspired by the Holy Spirit, leading the Church.
I pray that we will be able to raise up leaders who are filled with the Spirit and who can lead with true authority. I also pray that we would be able to be led and that the worldwide Church would be able to unite and continue to have discussion and agreement as it did in the days described in the scriptures.
Written by Justin Ware