Daily Devotional: Thursday 30th April

by William Moody

Acts 15:5–29

But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”

The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

12 And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13 After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,

16   “‘After this I will return,
  and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen;
  I will rebuild its ruins,
     and I will restore it,
17   that the remnant1 of mankind may seek the Lord,
    and all the Gentiles who are called by my name,
    says the Lord, who makes these things 18 known from of old.’

19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. 21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

The Council's Letter to Gentile Believers

22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, 23 with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers2 who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. 24 Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you3 with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, 25 it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

Footnotes

[1] 15:17 Or rest
[2] 15:23 Or brothers and sisters; also verses 32, 33, 36
[3] 15:24 Some manuscripts some persons from us have troubled you

(ESV)

The discussion over whether the Gentiles needed to be circumcised began with a strong call for it to happen (v5). Peter though gives fresh direction by sharing Biblical truth about salvation being clearly through the grace of Christ for both Jew and Gentile (v7-11). Salvation was through grace and not through keeping the law, this was seen in the many Gentiles saved through Paul and Barnabas’ ministry (v12).

James, who was the leader of the church in Jerusalem and probably the brother of Jesus, joins in by quoting from Amos 9 v11-12 to show God’s desire for the Gentiles to be brought near and bear his name (v13-18). His conclusion is that nothing should be done to make it more difficult for Gentiles to come to Christ (v19). While Jewish believers were to be sensitive to the Gentiles, likewise the gentile believers needed to be sensitive to Jewish believers, hence the letter including the command to abstain from meat with blood in it (v20-29).

500 years ago Martin Luther took his stand by nailing 95 Theses or statements to the door of the Wittenberg church, starting the Reformation in Germany. At the heart of this was the same thing the apostles were fighting for here in Acts 15, the belief that salvation is in Christ alone, by grace alone and received through faith alone. We must continue to stand for this truth.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®),
copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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