Jerusalem Council–Decisions for Unity

In the Church there is the bond of family, yet room for variety. The devil tries to disrupt unity. Two chickens tied at the legs and thrown over a clothesline may be united, but they do not have unity. (Leslie Flynn, Great Church Fights). … More

Unity

Paul said we should not put obstacles in the way of the Gentiles that turn to God (v. 19). But we should send word to them in writing to abstain from and avoid anything that has been polluted by being offered to idols, all sexual impurity, eating meat of the animals that have been strangled, and tasting  blood (v. 20). The decision coming from this Jerusalem council was that Christians will not be bound by the Old Testament law. The law of Moses has been preached in every town for many years (v. 21). Once and for all, the vexing, divisive issue of circumcision was settled. The leaders and the whole church (v. 22), directed by the Holy Spirit (v. 28), made a doctrinal decision about salvation, and a practical decision about living for Christ. A letter was written explaining the action taken, and a group, including Paul and Barnabas, was chosen to distribute it to the mother Church of Gentile missions in Antioch, and to the Christians in Syria and Cilicia (v. 23).

The first thing this letter did was to carefully isolate the false teachers who had come pretending to have the endorsement of the leaders of the Jerusalem church (vv. 24-27). The apostles and elders of the church in Jerusalem wanted it known that they not only had no part in that legalistic teaching, but they were disassociating themselves from it altogether. There comes a time when those who propagate false teachings must be confronted, their teachings denounced, and their errors exposed.

The doctrinal position was clearly worded that faith alone was all that was needed for salvation.  At the same time the council made some suggestions for the Gentiles concerning fellowship. That being that they would abstain from certain things which would be offensive to Christians with Jewish background. The three things the Gentiles were to abstain from (v. 29) were: (1) Eating food that had been offered to idols, (2) Becoming involved in sexual immorality, (3) Eating meat from any animal that had been killed by strangulation.

Application

In this letter it is good to see the loving unity of people who had once been debating each other with opposing views.  I need to  take time to listen, love and learn from my brothers and sisters in Christ.  A person who is always right, and who insists on having his or her own way, is difficult to live with.

Acts 15:19-29 (English Standard Version)

"Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues." Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, with the following letter: "The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell."

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