-The Jerusalem Council is the focus of this important biblical chapter. It was vital for the early church to come to some kind of understanding as to the requirements of those coming to faith in Messiah Jesus from Gentile backgrounds and cultural customs. Obviously, there were some important differences pertaining to what Moses had laid out under the direction of a Holy God on Mt. Sinai. Pharisaical believers were convinced that new converts must keep all the requirements of Mosaic Law to fully come into salvific faith, but the disciples lead by Peter, Barnabas, and Paul who had actually ministered to the Gentiles, expressed a different viewpoint and emphasized belief over the requirements of the Law. James, the elder, brings the council into agreement with four basic requirements that deal primarily with the idolatry Gentiles were being saved from. The council sends out the edict that they should abstain from: 1) things sacrificed to idols [a requirement Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 8], 2) things from blood (the life is in the blood, Leviticus 17:14), 3) things strangled, and 4) fornication (any sexual sin, it related to many of the nations’ idolatrous pagan practices). These requirements were accepted with great joy because they encouraged the Gentile brothers with a light load in regards to following the extensive demands of the Mosaic Law (Acts 15:1-31). *Application* Jesus said that He came to fulfill the Law, not to abolish it (Matthew 5:17). The fact remains that God’s Law is perfect and there is no contradiction in it for life, love, and happiness. If a society could ever carry out this Law of the Lord, there would be a utopia. But, the reality is that we are marred, corrupted, and have essentially no hope for ever faithfully keeping God’s perfect commands. This is the point that Peter makes here to the council in stating that the yoke of the Law no man can bear. It is Christ and His work on the cross that makes a way to God, and we grasp that by faith (Acts 15:10-11). For a more detailed look at this theology see Galatians 3:5-29 and the entire book of Romans.
-The church continues to grow and prosper under this new directive in Antioch. Judas and Silas make their way to this developing center of Christianity as prophets, preaching the Word of God. After some time, Barnabas and Paul determine to go back out west to the churches they had planted on a second missionary journey to see how things were going. This is where a sharp disagreement occurs over John Mark and his usefulness to the mission, since he had abandoned them on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:13). Barnabas and Paul end up separating over the matter as Barnabas takes John Mark to Cyprus, and Paul takes Silas along the land route through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches (Acts 15:32-41). *Application* Sometimes it is best to separate when there is dissension and disagreement. Both sides felt they were in the right in this case, and it proved to be the will of God that they branch out and go different directions in the Lord’s work. In time, they were able to reconcile their differences and accept each other’s position (2 Timothy 4:11). If you are having trouble agreeing with a particular spiritual viewpoint, there are times when it makes sense to break apart and find like-minded believers that are better connected to the things that are important to you. However, we always need to maintain the greater unity in the body of Christ and work in love in all situations. Say good and do good. Love one another (John 13:34-35).
Verses to Memorize: Acts 15:10-11