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Purpose: Acts 15:22-36's Biblical exposition highlights the need of proper communication in creating and maintaing good relationships. These are true for church discussions but also for marriages, friendships and good working situations (Part 7 of 7).
Decisions Acts 15:1-36 | Make Acts 15:1-5 | Discuss Acts 15:6-12 |
Scripture Acts 15:13-18 | Decision 15:19-21 | Council Acts 15:13-21 | Communicate Acts 15:22-36 | Acts 15 Video Making Significant Decisions
People love to make decisions but few communicate them well. Perhaps the worse offenders are husbands. The wife asks and asks, but the husband just ignores her. He could have simply helped her know what he was thinking. In his mind he knows, but he neglects to communicate it. Life could be so much more enriching if the wife was treated as a genuine helpmate.
The church has a similar problem. Leaders do not communicate how they are thinking. They believe that decisions are made and do not see the importance of communicating them for consistent and healthy church life.
These leaders of the early church excelled in communication. Wow! Without the high tech advantages of today, they rightly handled this situation. Sometimes those involved in the decision making process are so intensely focused that they assume once their precious decision has been made that everyone will know it! They knew better, and the church greatly benefitted from their wisdom.
Note their unity. They did not go on before it ‘seemed good to the apostles and the elders, and with the whole church.’ The leaders including the apostles and elders along with the whole church saw this solution as best. This unity on such a point of tension is remarkable. This first church council was a miracle. The Holy Spirit was here as much as in the other wonders and signs.
They chose the appropriate representatives from the Jerusalem council to accompany Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch. They chose two current well-known leaders from the Jerusalem church: Judas (Barsabbas) and Silas. They would be trusted as accurate messengers as to what happened during the important council.
They drew up a letter than cemented their position in writing. The first part of the letter included the individuals who has agreed to this commendable decision, namely: the apostles, brethren and elders.
The Letter from Jerusalem Council
“And they sent this letter by them, “The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings. “Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls, it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. “
Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth. “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell” (Acts 15:23-29).
“And they sent this letter by them, “The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings. “Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls, it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth. “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell” (Acts 15:23-29).
The letter also noted the four representatives (Paul Barnabas, Silas and Judas). They would have the authority to communicate this decision to the church at large.
Lastly, they summarized the directions to the Gentiles as earlier written. The Jews were not to lay any greater burden upon the Gentiles regarding the Law. However, the Gentiles were to abstain from the three earlier mentioned acts. No one was better than the other. Both would sacrifice some of their preferences to keep harmony in the church. Most importantly, though still not clearly spoken, is the resolution that separated the Followers of the Way as separate from the Jewish community. This decision had a huge impact on the church. God was doing something new in the earth!
“So, when they were sent away, they went down to Antioch; and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. And Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message. And after they had spent time there, they were sent away from the brethren in peace to those who had sent them out. [But it seemed good to Silas to remain there.]
But Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, teaching and preaching, with many others also, the word of the Lord. And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” (Acts 15:30-36).
The same leaders went down (Jerusalem was on a mountain) to Antioch. They gathered the congregation together and delivered the letter. Everyone was happy. It was something that meet the need at the moment. Judas and Silas, also being prophets, encouraged the brethren by their messages. How long was a lengthy message?
We do not know but if it was especially mentioned it was probably well over two hours and probably more than three.
The Delivery of the Message
Paul, Barnabas and Silas remained there while Judas returned to Jerusalem. The problem was resolved. The Gentiles were full members of the church. The Jews were free from the Law. They had guidelines to help them have the Lord’s supper together. The church was happy and Paul, Barnabas and others kept teaching the Word of the Lord. It would be interesting to see whether this phrase ‘word of the Lord’ was specially used to refer to Jesus’ words (Him being Lord) or more generally the scriptures which is probably the case.
Soon after this, Paul and Barnabas would go off to the churches they had previously started. They probably had the idea that they would communicate the content of this letter to them too. This would be what is known as Paul’s second missionary journey.
Having problems and misunderstandings is common. Never be afraid of the truth, it leads you to God.
Don’t let life rotate around a problem (anxiety and fears). It is only a small matter. Keep perspective. We make a bigger difference of moral and amoral than they. We consider that the dietary laws to be amoral but in fact when one is under the Law, all the laws are moral. All of God’s commands are important. Perhaps we should allow greater freedom and respect as taught in Romans 13 and 14. Let the Lord be judge (Still remember the many commands of love given in Romans 12!).
Focus on harmonious living rather than fitting people into your standards as a judge. The special way that the leaders handled this tense issue was overseen no doubt by the Holy Spirit. The evil one would love to get in, but they kept focused on their goal of pleasing the Lord and living in harmony.
God’s grace should keep us all humbly serving.
Remember it is Jesus who sets free, not our works. The grace of the Gospel was clearly set apart, even though it was not pointed out in the summary. The issue must be more important to us than them. The focus was allowing the Gentiles believe in Jesus without first becoming Jews.
Point people to follow Jesus in their own contexts. They do not need to dress, talk or listen to music like you. we need to allow some freedom for those of other cultures to become followers of Jesus without becoming just like a Western Christian.
Care about others. Genuinely listen to them.
Love the truth. Meditate on God’s Word.
Next -> Video Podcast on (Acts 15:1-36) on 'Making Significant Decisions.'
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Acts_01:1-11 Bible Study Questions
Acts 1:6-11 The Kingdom Plan and Purpose | Video podcast
Acts 2:14-40 Be Saved! | Video podcast
Acts 6-7 Motivation | Acts 6:5-8 | Acts 6:9-15 | Act 6-7 Video podcast
Acts 7 Affirming motivation
Acts_7 Stephen's Defense
Acts_8.2-25 Persecution & Evangelism
Acts_8.14-24 Simon & Gnosticism
Acts_8.25-40 Ethiopean Eunuch
Acts_9:1-22 Saul the Terrorist
Acts_8-9 Perspectives on Conversion
Acts_10:1-48: Intersecting in Time: Vision #1
Acts_10:9-16 Vision #2 Peter
Acts_10:17-48 The Meeting that Changed History
Acts_10:34-44 The Christian Historical Message
Acts_13-14 Paul's First Missionary Journey
Acts 13: 1-3 A Model for our Church
Leadership - Diversity - God-seeking - Mission-minded
Acts_13:1-3 Sending Out Missionary Church
Acts_13:4-12 Power Encounter in Cyprus
Acts_13:13-50 Gospel Message in Antioch
Acts_13:51-14:28 Other Missionary Stops
Acts 20:28-30 Detecting Error in the Church
Acts 21:4 Discerning God's will