Passage: Acts 15
v1-21 - It doesn't take long for division to take root in the early church. The traditional Jews were happy to welcome the new Gentile believers, but they thought that the Jewish rituals and customs ought to be applied to all these new Christians as well. The Jews went so far as to make compliance with these laws and customs the condition that must be met for salvation (v1). A meeting is called, presided by Jesus' brother James, and a compromise is reached involving four requirements. Although these requirements sound odd to our ears, they stand in stark contrast to the myriads of rules and regulations included in the Torah and even more so to the traditions & customs that had been added to the Torah over the years. Notice a couple of things about this passage. First, when a conflict came up, the Church addressed it as a body; there wasn't a 'I'll believe what I feel is best and you believe what you want' attitude that's prevalent today. Second, the seemingly odd regulations set down by this first Church Council we're all about making sure the early Christians lived a lifestyle that looked markedly different than their worldly neighbors who participated in these newly restricted practices at pagan temples. Additionally, by living according to these principles, the Christians would not be overly offensive to the Jewish diaspora, whose synagogues often served as the first place Paul would stop at when bringing the gospel to a new city.
v22-35 - The conclusions of the Council are written up and sent out to the churches.
v36-41 - Long time partners Paul and Barnabas come into disagreement over whether or not to take Mark on the next mission trip, and they end up going their separate ways. Even two of the strongest Christian leaders were not immune from the effects of sin upon their relationships! The amazing thing is that God sovereignly uses this broken situation to double the amount of territory the gospel would be brought to.
Old Testament References - Add even more value to your daily Bible reading by reading a related passage from the Old Testament
Psalm 1 demonstrates the contrast our lives should display when compared to the people of the world.
Use the comment box below to discuss one or more of these questions. For every comment or reply you post, you will receive an entry for this month's prize.
The four regulations given by the early Church were designed to make sure Christians lived a different lifestyle than their pagan neighbors. What sort of activities should we refrain from in order that we look different from the increasingly pagan world we live in?
Follow the AAA Prayer Pattern:
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: God, who knows your heart (v8) sovereignly administers all things for His glory
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that God will strengthen you to live a life that reflects His Word and not the sinful world we live in.
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Ask for continued Christian unity so that the gospel can be effectively preached from a diversity of churches.