“For it was the Holy Spirit’s decision – and ours – to put no greater burden on you than these necessary things.” (Acts 15:28)
All decisions are direction-changing, but some decisions have greater impact on direction.
No decision has had greater impact on the direction of the church as a whole than the one made at the Jerusalem Conference in Acts 15.
Pharisees who became believers brought their thinking and influence to the life of the church. They influenced theology toward the view that the full observance of the Law was a requirement for Christians. Their movement began in Jerusalem and spread soon to Antioch. Paul and Barnabas had just returned from the first missionary journey, however, and they entered into “serious debate” with these men. The question ended up in Jerusalem in a full conference of the church.
Paul and Barnabas gave a report of the great strides the gospel made during their journey, especially among the Gentiles. The Pharisee party members responded that the Gentiles must be circumcised and told to keep the Law. After much debate Peter stood and spoke against trying to force Gentile believers to be circumcised and keep the Law, on the basis that salvation is by grace through faith. Barnabas and Paul spoke again, and then James, the current leader of the Jerusalem church stood and agreed with Paul, Barnabas, and Peter, and suggested that they simply make Gentile believers aware of certain practices they felt would bring peace. Thus the decision was made, and the understanding the church had about this decision is that it came first from the Holy Spirit, followed by their affirmation.
This decision began the momentum for moving the church away from Judaism as its primary practice and toward the practice of freedom in Christ. It marked a change in direction that picked up greater and greater momentum as time went by.
What major decisions in your life have been direction-changing?
We need to first hear the Holy Spirit as we wrangle with issues that call for a decision, whether personal or corporate, and then affirm what we believe He is saying.
Lord, May all our decisions each day come from the leadership of Your Spirit. Amen.