July 28

Acts 15:1-2, 28 1Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." 2This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.

28It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:

Some of the group of the Pharisees had come to believe in Jesus as Messiah. They brought with them their intense desire to see that everyone obeyed the laws of Moses. When some of them visited Antioch, where many Gentile believers worshiped, they insisted that they learn all the details of the law. They even taught that unless they keep the law, they could not be saved.

At that point Paul and Barnabas began to debate with them. They had seen the Spirit of God poured out on people without the obedience to the law. How could they not be saved? The church in Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to ask some of the original Apostles and elders about the matter. James, the brother of Jesus, was the spokesman for the Jerusalem group.

After Paul and Barnabas presented the issue, there was much debate. Finally, reminding them of Peter's testimony of the Gentiles that received the Holy Spirit, James made what seemed to be a consensus decision. Their letter to Gentile believers stated, "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us..." This was the first of many church council meetings over the centuries to decide on matters of doctrine. They reached a consensus decision with the help of the Holy Spirit and had a witness in their hearts of His will. Here is our Biblical way of dealing with "sharp debate" that arises in the church.

They asked the believers to keep the barest essentials of Jewish law so as not to offend the Jewish people. That was not required for their salvation, but was done merely to keep from offending others.

Consider: The true spirit of Christianity is to give up our rights and freedoms and not offend others. Then we may have the opportunity to share more effectively.