Debate In The Church
But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.” — Acts 15:1-5
As long as churches have existed, so has debate and dissensions within them. I wish this weren’t the case, but I cannot see any way around not having challenges and debate within the church. There is always some issue. But in this situation, the debate was not over carpet colors, worship style, or the pastor’s salary. It was over whether or not males should be circumcised to be Christian.
So here’s the setting.
Luke just ended chapter 14 with Paul and Barnabas returning to their home church in Antioch. But chapter 15 begins in Jerusalem. The setting is the first gathering of leaders from across the region. And what is gathered is the first-ever council. Think of this council like a Church Leaders Conference. And the first main session is entitled — “The Cut Off Date For New Members.”
In this text, we see that some leaders are strong proponents of circumcision. This was stirred by the more conservative leaders trying to reconcile how to accept this new large Gentile contingency. Remember, all devout Jews were required to be circumcised on the 8th day of life. And even those non-believers who became converts according to the Old Testament Law were required to be circumcised regardless of age. Even Abraham, who was a pagan, and identified by Jews as the first Jew, was circumcised — at the ripe old age of 99, which I am sure left him with a much more vivid memory of this event than it did for those circumcised as infants. And because the Old Testament required it legally, some struggled to see how cutting out a longstanding ritual initiated by God could be canceled.
While this debate will not be resolved in verses one through five, we can learn something valuable here. And that is debate can be right and done righteously when we are not self-righteous. You see, God is the truth. He speaks the truth. And He reveals the truth. We are not the truth. We are merely humble followers of God’s truth. And when we approach every debate with this perspective, there is always only one winner — and that person is God.
ASK THIS: What debate is God trying to win in your life? (Share below.)
DO THIS: Let him win. And then follow his truth.
PRAY THIS: God, only you are truthful. I am not.
PLAY THIS: Spirit and Truth — Chris Sayburn.
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