And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Luke 24.27
Be sure to view the video introducing our study of Acts 14 and 15 (Lesson 13) by clicking here.
Read and meditate on Acts 15.1-5.
While Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch, and Peter with them, certain teachers arrived from Jerusalem and insisted that the Gentile believers needed to be circumcised according to the Law of Moses if their faith was going to be valid. It was to these men that Peter deferred, provoking Paul’s confrontation.
1. These men were preaching Jesus + Law = salvation. Coming from a Jewish background, they were trying to incorporate Christianity into Judaism, keeping the faith they loved, but “stretching” it to accommodate what Paul was preaching. Can you see that even from within the ranks of those who believe, compromising the Gospel is to be expected? What might such compromises look like today?
2. Paul said, “Huh uh. No way.” These men must have been fairly impressive, for both Peter and Barnabas yielded to them and slighted the Gentile converts in Antioch (Gal. 2). Paul recovered these brothers, and he and Barnabas “had no small dissension and dispute” with them. How do your church leaders stand up against compromises of the Gospel?
3. This was a matter of such importance that it could not be settled at the local church level only. The disputing parties must go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles, elders, and churches (and Church) there, for a full debate and final resolution. The sense of the oneness of the Body of Christ is so strong in the book of Acts! How can you see from this incident that right doctrine matters in the ongoing work of Christ? Why?
4. The apostles worked hard to strengthen individual churches and to keep the Church together worldwide. Dealing with theological issues – hammering out the theology of the faith – is part of the ongoing work of Christ. The churches in Antioch had previously helped the churches in Judea; now the shoe was on the other foot. Upon arriving in Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas reported the work of the Lord through their hands, which, to the leaders there, would have been seen as building on the earlier report given by Peter (Acts 11). But the “Judaizers” were allowed to present their case as well. Here there is no attempt to silence the dissenters, but to hear them out. Truth is always arrived at within the Christian movement when all parties have been heard and their views have been weighed in the balance with Scripture. What does it take for a believer to be able to participate in and contribute positively to such disputes? Whose responsibility is this?
5. Christianity does not seek to stifle dissent, but to hear it, weigh it, and resolve it. What Christianity must not do is accommodate dissent – let each person have his or her own opinion about things, as if it doesn’t matter all that much what people believe. But in fact, it matters a great deal. And only when the entire Church’s understanding of Scripture has been consulted can we determine which of the dissenting views is to be embraced, and which denied. How does your church deal with differences of opinion on important matters of faith?
The ongoing work of Christ always requires a certain amount of “back-and-filling.” We saw this as Paul and Barnabas returned to the churches the Lord had started under their preaching, in order to set them in order and strengthen the disciples. We saw this in Antioch, where Paul and Barnabas reported on their work. And now we see that even in the realm of doctrine it is necessary, from time to time, to review, clarify, and refocus what we believe and what we teach. Why is all this “back-and-fill” necessary? How does it work in your church?
The words of the LORD are pure words,
Like silver tried in a furnace of earth,
Purified seven times.
You shall keep them, O LORD,
You shall preserve them from this generation forever.
Psalm 12.6, 7
T. M. Moore
Each week’s studies in Acts are bound together into a free PDF that you can download for personal or group use (click here). Each week also features a video related to the studies of the week, which you may find helpful as you work through our studies in Acts.
Acts is the record of Christ’s ongoing work as King and Lord. This is the work of bringing the Kingdom of God to earth as it is in heaven. Read more about the implications of this work in our new book, The Kingdom Turn (click here).
Please prayerfully consider supporting The Fellowship of Ailbe by sending a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452. Or, you can click here to donate online through credit card or PayPal.