We have just finished seeing the first really big fight in church history. And we saw that this fight revolved around whether salvation is through grace by faith, or does it require works? This question and the fight that it caused led to meeting being called of all the early church leaders, and, thankfully, their decision, guided by the Holy Spirit and Scriptures, was that salvation is only through grace by faith. What we are going to see today is the Jerusalem council putting this decision into writing for the Gentile believers who were being harassed by those who wanted them to become practicing Jews before they could be saved.
Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. With them they sent the following letter:
The apostles and elders, your brothers,
To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:
We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
The letter states that the original Judaizers never had the blessing or the approval of the Jerusalem church. Furthermore, the church was united against the Judaizers’ teaching. No other burden was necessary for Gentiles except the prescriptions from verse 20 about breaking away from idolatry and immorality. As a whole, the letter is a brief but profound renunciation of the Judaizers’ doctrine, that we will get into in more detail when we get to the book of Galatians.
So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. [ ] But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.—15:30-35
The return to Antioch featured the reading of the letter, as well as the confirmation of Judas and Silas as promised in the letter. They are called prophets, and their act of prophecy was a lengthy message, for prophecy includes both foretelling and preaching. And we will pick from here tomorrow as we see Paul and Barnabas part ways and the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
Ezra 3:1-4:23, 1 Corinthians 2:6-3:4, Psalm 28:1-9 and Proverbs 20:24-25
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