A Letter to Gentiles Who Had Faith
22The apostles, the leaders, and all the church members decided to send some men to Antioch along with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Silas and Judas Barsabbas, who were two leaders of the Lord's followers. 23They wrote a letter that said:
We apostles and leaders send friendly greetings to all of you Gentiles who are followers of the Lord in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia.
24We have heard that some people from here have terribly upset you by what they said. But we did not send them! 25So we met together and decided to choose some men and to send them to you along with our good friends Barnabas and Paul. 26These men have risked their lives for our Lord Jesus Christ. 27We are also sending Judas and Silas, who will tell you in person the same things that we are writing.
28The Holy Spirit has shown us that we should not place any extra burden on you. 29 But you should not eat anything offered to idols. You should not eat any meat that still has the blood in it or any meat of any animal that has been strangled. You must also not commit any terrible sexual sins. If you follow these instructions, you will do well.
We send our best wishes.
30The four men left Jerusalem and went to Antioch. Then they called the church members together and gave them the letter. 31When the letter was read, everyone was pleased and greatly encouraged. 32Judas and Silas were prophets, and they spoke a long time, encouraging and helping the Lord's followers.
33The men from Jerusalem stayed on in Antioch for a while. And when they left to return to the ones who had sent them, the followers wished them well. 34-35But Paul and Barnabas stayed on in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached about the Lord.
I wish I could have been there at the so-called Jerusalem Council! I would have liked to hear just how they all interacted with the issues and each other. What Luke does tell us about the meeting can help churches in our day work through conflict.
They took time to gather the facts. Peter, Paul, and Barnabas shared how God had been on the move. James, and the other leaders, listened carefully.
They took time to search the Scriptures. Not just a few texts, looking for support for their various positions, but the whole Story, the Big Story, the wider sweep of God’s passions and purposes.
They took time to listen to the Holy Spirit. James makes an amazing statement: “the Holy Spirit has shown us” (verse 28). Other translations put it more literally: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us …” Again, I wish I had been there; I want to know how they came to know “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit.”
They sought to build up one another. They wanted to arrive at a solution that encouraged the people who had been troubled by those who did not know grace.
The resolution is a model for us in our time. They took their stand on grace; they agreed with Peter (15:11) that both Jews and Gentiles are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus. But that grace is not license for any old moral choices or life-styles. So the council calls for a minimum of a grace-led life, more fully developed in other places in the New Testament (Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 6-8).
Father, You are the great Reconciler. When we face conflict in our churches, will you help us find resolution that “seems good to the Holy Spirit”? This we pray in Jesus’ name, for the glory of his name in the world. Amen.