Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
It is always neat to hear of a wonderful story of God’s work in someone’s life. Sometimes these stories are told from the pulpit to a congregation and God uses it to stir fervency in the hearts of believers. When the Spirit fills a believer, especially when that believer is telling of God’s amazing work, the listeners are inspired to do God’s Will and God is glorified.
Paul and Barnabas had this kind of opportunity. The leaders in Jerusalem asked them to share what the Lord had done through them during their missionary journey. They told of the believing Gentiles and their receiving of the Holy Spirit. James, the Lord’s brother and head of the church in Jerusalem, summarized their meeting with reasoning with the Jerusalem church that God instructed Peter (Simeon) to take the gospel to the Gentiles. James then refers to Amos 9:11-12 which prophesied that salvation would come to the Gentiles without them becoming proselytes (converted to Jews). The goal was not to frustrate the new Gentile believers by making them jump through their Jewish preferences but also to ask them to abstain from pagan activities that offended the Jewish conscience: eating meat previously offered to idols, sexual immorality, things strangled and from blood. (You have to love that immorality is right in there with dietary restrictions, but that was the issues of the day pertaining to the believers’ testimony and reputation.) These were major points taught at synagogues on the Sabbath.
This is a beautiful example of how the church handled a major issue. The leaders kept God at the center of their discussion and used Old Testament prophesy to base their decisions. They also recalled how God had previously instructed Peter about the Gentiles, and Paul and Barnabas gave testimony of the Gentiles’ filling of the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, the Jerusalem church decided to send out Paul, Barnabas, Judas and Silas to encourage the churches and to send them with letters settling the circumcision debate.
How do you handle problems that arise in your thought process? Do you stick to your experience or upbringing? Or do you ask the Holy Spirit to guide you through scripture to help you make decisions? God wants us to choose the right path and to keep Him center of all our choices. Are you choosing God in your issues?
Written by Kaye Dee Richards. Kaye Dee lives with her husband Colin in Morrison, CO. They have 4 children, Joshua, Amelia, Victoria, and Julia.
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