Jerusalem Council–Discussion Re: Moses’ Law

D. L. Moody said, “I believe firmly that the moment our hearts are emptied of pride and selfishness and ambition and everything that is contrary to God’s law, the Holy Spirit will fill every corner of our hearts. But if we are full of pride and conceit and ambition an … More

Law

The chairman of this Jerusalem council was James, the half brother of Jesus, who did not believe in Him until after the resurrection (v. 13). Peter was also an important participant in this meeting. It appears that at least four different meetings were involved in this strategic conference:

  1. The first was a public welcome to Paul and his associates (v. 4).
  2. Then a private meeting with the key leaders (v. 4).
  3. A second public meeting when the Judaizers presented their case (vv. 5-6).
  4. Finally the meeting where the four key leaders (Peter, (vv. 6-11, Paul and Barnabas, (v. 12) and James, (vv. 13-18) presented their case for keeping the doors open to the Gentiles

The Jerusalem council was not made up of good guys and bad guys. They were all good people, converted to Christ, and all sure they were right. Most of these converted Jews did not want to exclude the Gentiles, they simply wanted them to play by the rules and keep all of the Jewish laws before they could have membership in the church. Peter went right to the heart of the question. In this whole dispute the deepest of principles was involved. Can a man earn the favor of God? Or must he admit his own helplessness and be ready in humble faith to accept what the grace of God gives? In effect, the Jewish party said, “Religion means earning God’s favor by keeping the Law.” Peter said, “Christianity consists in casting ourselves on the grace of God.” Here is the big difference between a religion of works and a religion of grace.

After much discussion Peter stood up and spoke (v. 7). He reviewed what had happened when the Holy Spirit opened the door to the Gentiles at the house of Cornelius. He went on to say that there was “no reason to put a human yoke on these new Gentile Christians when we Hebrews have not been able to keep all the laws ourselves.”

Application

The kind of thinking in these verses is not limited to first-century Christians. I need to be careful about imposing my standards and values on others before I accept them as Christians.

Acts 15:6-11 (English Standard Version)

The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will."

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