Jerusalem Council: Facing Conflict
Explore the Bible Series
July 27, 2008
Background Passage: Acts
Lesson Passage: Acts
15:1-2, 6-15, 22-23a, 27-28
Conflict is inevitable, even in the best of churches and
among the best of people. †The question
of Godís people is not ďWhy does conflict arise?Ē; rather, they should focus on
how to resolve conflict in an appropriate manner, when it occurs. This passage
gives some invaluable counsel for the resolution of disputes that occur among
the Lordís people.
identify the point of disagreement:†
The early church, in this important case, centered its attention on
a single issue, the circumcision of Gentile converts to the Christian
faith. Often, church conflicts take place in the context of long-term,
personal resentments; indeed, old issues tend to resurface in periods of
dissention.† The conflict becomes
difficult, therefore, to resolve because emotional impulses take control.† These apostolic leaders did not allow
peripheral issues to divide the church and distract their attention of the
single, critical issue of circumcision.
all sides in the debate: As the leaders sought to resolve the conflict,
they determined to allow an open dialog about the issue at stake.† †Many
do not find this kind of discussion pleasant (I certainly fall in this category!),
but the apostles found it wise and necessary.† In Acts, the discussion grew intense,
and I feel certain many of the participants experienced some discomfort;
nevertheless, they determined to hear out all perspectives.†
kindness and grace: The discussion, though intense, apparently did not
degenerate into unkindness and division.†
Intense passions gave way to a genuine willingness to resolve the
problem.† Something had to give, and
the church found a way to settle the issue that divided them.† Pardon my Southern way of stating this,
but it seems that these men remained gentlemen despite the visceral
emotions they felt.
by Christian convictions: Paul, Barnabas, and Peter did not come to this council
to compromise on the issue of circumcision.† Sometimes, compromise is wrong, and
circumcision was such a situation.†
Some people, by nature (or nurture), come to the conclusion that
the church should reach peace at any cost. These well-meaning folks seek
to preserve peace by unseemly compromise. In doing so, they may concede at
the cost of righteousness and enable ungodly people to dominate the
church.† Not only do they ham the
long-tern health of the church, but people with these tendencies may do
irreparable damage to their own dignity and sense of self-worth.† We do not serve the interests of the Kingdom of God by becoming spineless
doormats.† Exercise some caution
here.† Make certain that the cause
is right and your position reflects the will and purpose of God.
Conflict in the Early Church (vv. 1-3)
arrival of the Judaizers in Antioch
(v. 1a): The events recorded in the chapter, according to Curtis Vaughan,
occurred in 48 or 49 A.D. A group of men came to Antioch,
from Jerusalem.† Acts 15:24 implies they came to Antioch without the approval of the church in Jerusalem, and they
brought a message that deeply troubled Paul and Barnabas.† Salvation, according to these false teachers,
hinged on the willingness of Gentile converts to submit to circumcision.
concern of the apostles (vv. 1b-2): Paul and Barnabas challenged these men, and
the conflict intensified to the point that the church in Antioch
commissioned the apostles to go to Jerusalem
for a meeting with church leaders. Galatians 2:1f records that God directed the
apostles to take their case to Jerusalem,
and Titus, a Gentile convert, accompanied Paul and Barnabas on the journey.
journey to Jerusalem (v. 3): On the way to Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas encouraged the believers in Samaria and Phoenicia.† They recounted Godís mercy to the Gentiles,
and the believers greatly rejoiced at the message the apostles shared.
The Council of Jerusalem
in Jerusalem (vv. 4-5): When Paul and Barnabas
arrived in at their destination, the church leaders welcomed them warmly, and
the messengers from Antioch
recalled all that God had done among the Gentiles.† Immediately, the quarrel surfaced.† Certain believers, of the party of the
Pharisees, took exception to the claims that God had shown his mercy to
public debate (vv. 6-21): Galatians 2:3-10 reveal that, before this pubic
meeting, Paul met privately with influential church leaders, perhaps Peter and
James. Paul may have brought Titus to this private conference, and he
vigorously condemned the unworthy motives of the Judaizers who came to Antioch.
testimony (vv. 7-11): Peter gave a brief account of his experience with the
conversion of Cornelius, and the apostle concluded that God had shown mercy on
the Gentiles in just the same way as the Jewish Christians.
testimony of Paul and Barnabas (v. 12): †Luke
summarized the experiences of Paul and Barabbas, on their missionary journey in
Cyprus and Asia
Minor.† Again, they
testified that God had saved and bestowed the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles.
The judgment of James (vv. 3-21): After hearing the
evidence, James spoke for the church leaders and affirmed the testimony of
Peter, Paul, and Barnabas. James appealed to Amos 9:1 and 12 to confirm the
councilís decision.† The Jerusalem leader concluded his remarks by
encouraging the gentile converts to abstain from any remnants of idolatry,
sexual immorality, and eating meat from strangled animals or from blood.† James made these statements to protect the
Gentile believers from prevailing immorality and to keep from unnecessarily
offending Jewish Christians.
Conclusion: The Aftermath of the Jerusalem Council (vv.
The letter to the church at Antioch (vv. 22-29): As Paul and Barnabas planned to
return to Antioch,
the council leaders determined to send representatives, Judas Barsabas and
Silas, to deliver a letter explaining the resolution of the circumcision
controversy.† The brief epistle expressed
love and respect for Paul and Barnabas, and implied that the Judiazers had no
authority from the Jerusalem
church.† The believers in Antioch rejoiced in the
councilís decision. Luke further observed that Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch and continued to
minister the gospel.