The First Great Church Council - Acts 15

The First Great Church Council

Acts 15:1-41

Most believers in the Antioch church were Gentiles.  In sharp contrast, the Jerusalem church was Jewish.  Some Jews from Judea went to Antioch and taught, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."  Barnabas and Paul had just returned from their missionary ministry to the Gentiles, and had reported all that God had done among them.  So a conflict arose between the Jewish brethren from Judea, and Barnabas and Paul.  In order to resolve this dispute they were sent to the church leadership in Jerusalem.

Peter was the first one to address this issue at the first great church council.  He shared his testimony regarding his experience at the house of Cornelius.  See Acts 10.  He argued, "So God...acknowledged them by giving them (the Gentiles) the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith."  He concluded, "We believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they."  The Jewish believers themselves, though circumcised, had not been saved by works, but rather by grace through faith.

A great silence fell over the church council, as Barnabas and Paul declared "how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles."  No doubt they testified of the conversion of Sergius Paulus on the island of Paphos, and of the Gentile response to their preaching at Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. 

James, the brother of Jesus, presided over the first Council of Jerusalem.  He had the final word: "Men and brethren, listen to me: Simon (Peter) has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.  And with this the words of the prophets agree...."  The last word was the word of God as recorded by the Old Testament prophets.  He then quoted the prophet Amos.  See Amos 9:11, 12.  He alluded to a plurality of prophets who predicted the salvation of the Gentiles.

The church in Jerusalem composed a letter for the church in Antioch, informing the Gentile believers that those who taught circumcision as a condition of salvation had received no such commandment from them.  In reaching their conclusion they could write, "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us...."  A wrong decision would have been devastating to the early church.  Spirit-filled leadership will always resolve spiritual problems through the testimony of the holy Scriptures.


Lord, thank You for the guidance that You provide in Your Word.  Thank You for good news of saving grace that does not discriminate by race or gender or nationality.  Open our eyes and hearts that we might follow Your leading.  In Jesus' name.  Amen!


The Macedonian Call - Acts 16


All About God

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