BSF Acts: Week 8, Day 4, Acts 15:13–35

Acts 15:13–35

Summary:

 The “Council of Jerusalem” meets to settle the disagreement within the church regarding circumcision.  The council decides that it is not a requirement but suggests/decrees 4 halakhah laws that new believers, regardless of background, should follow.  Silas and Judas are dispatched with Paul and Barnabas and the letter back to the church at Antioch and everyone is pleased and comforted.

Questions:

9. a. James suggested that believers within the Gentiles are also a people chosen by God and that they should not be burdened with additional requirements but instead should be encouraged.  He also suggested they abstain from certain practices that the Jewish Christians would be abhorring and vulgar.

b. He spoke as an authority of the church of Jerusalem (It is my judgment therefore), but everything he spoke and suggested was specifically stated in the scriptures where he quoted from Amos 9

10. a. Judas and Silas delivered the letter

b. Acts 15:31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message

11. a. (Challenge) The council provides a watershed moment because it becomes the launching point of a Christian faith separate from traditional Jewish faith.  As importantly it provided a means of unification within the church.  Prior to the council Messianic Jews would have been prohibited from many associations with Gentiles including breaking bread with them – thus no shared communion/eucharist.  Galatians 2:12 and Acts 10:28

It provided a model for any subsequent disputes within the church.  It empowered the ability for the Christian Church to grow during a time when the temple was destroyed.  It ordained a Christian church outside of Judaism.

In the short term, it also paired Silas with Paul for his return mission trip and who became a life-long companion.

b. My personal answer to this question will sound trite, but it has tugged at my heart a number of times.  I am willing to give up the words, “I hope” and replace them with real and actual prayer.  (more to follow in post entitled Hoping versus Praying)

Conclusion:

This division within the church and the method of resolution provided an opportunity for the church to stand or fall.  Through leaders empowered by the Holy Spirit the church stood on the scriptures, specifically Amos, and opened the door for unabated association, unity and communion within the church of believers regardless of background or foreskin.

There are 2 interesting points within this. 

The first is where did James come up with the 4 items within the letter?  These appear to be directly from Lev 17-18.  These rules were outlined by God to Moses and specifically call for them to be adhered to by “any Israelite or any alien living among them.”  There are other rules outlined in these chapters and under the Mosaic law, but these are the ones specifically for Israelites and aliens.

Second: are these items rules or guidelines?  James appears to view them as rules to be strictly followed, while Paul appears to be more in line with the men’s group in BSF seeing things as guidelines rather than rules.  In 1 Corinthians 8 Paul lays this out basically saying don’t get too hung up over the little things such as what you eat – that isn’t what brings you closer to God.  However, he also admonishes against doing anything that would cause another brother to fall into sin.

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