Speaker: Sean Palmer
Their peace was disturbed, however, when certain Judeans came with this teaching: "Unless you are circumcised according to Mosaic custom, you cannot be saved. Paul and Barnabas argued against this teaching and debated with the Judeans vehemently, so the church selected several people - including Paul and Barnabas - to travel to Jerusalem to dialogue about this issue with the apostles and elders there. The church sent them on their way. They passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, stopping to report to the groups of believers there that outsiders were now being converted. This brought great joy to them all. Upon arrival in Jerusalem, the church, the apostles, and the elders welcomed them warmly; and they reported all they had seen God do. But there were some believers present who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees. They stood up and asserted,
Pharisees: No, this is not acceptable. These people must be circumcised, and we must require them to keep the whole Mosaic law.
Acts 15:1-5 The Voice
The early church was asking the same question that we have been asking through the centuries:
How do we navigate our differences? Who is in and who is out? Who or what decides who is in and who is out?
In this passage, the church leaders are trying to navigate how Jews and Gentiles were supposed to live and worship together.
This passage starts with : "Their peace was disturbed".
What was disturbing their peace? How do our differences disturb us today?
When you look at our world and even our city today, what difference are disturbing us?
The Judeans were saying that outsiders must become like them before they could come to Jesus.
What barriers can be put up even today before outsiders are accepted into the faith or into our community?
Read Acts 15:6-9 (preferably from The Voice)
Just a few chapters before this, Peter was sent by the Holy Spirit to the house of Cornelius. Before then, he had only heard about the Gentiles. Now he was face to face with someone who could not be more different than him. Now he knew him. He saw his heart. He saw the Holy Spirit at work in this Gentile without becoming like him. Peter then concludes:
"By cleansing their hearts by faith, God has made no distinction between them and us." (verse 9)
Peter sees that these Gentiles had come to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit and not by the power of the law and Jewish customs.
What is the significance of that realization?
How can we make coming to Jesus more complicated then simply coming to him in faith?
Read Acts 15:10-31
"The community rejoiced at the resolution to the controversy." (verse 31)
Those who were right rejoiced, because ALL could come to faith in Christ just as they are. Those who were wrong rejoiced, because ALL could come to faith in Christ just as they are.
In what ways do we need to see resolution in our hearts, in our churches, in our city, in our country, and in our world today?
Are there ways that you have discovered that you have been slow in accepting differences and longing for people to be more like you?
As we go out this week to serve our city, how can we go with humble hearts that doesn't make us feel or appear superior?
They passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, stopping to report to the groups of believers there that outsiders were now being converted. This brought great joy to them all. Acts 15:3
May we come back together rejoicing as those outside of the church catch a glimpse of Jesus in their midst through us!