Day 23 - Concord Student Journey
Read Acts 15:22-41
Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. 23 With them they sent the following letter:
The apostles and elders, your brothers,
To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:
24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
30 So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. 31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. 32 Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. 33 After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them.  [d] 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.
36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
As believers, we are called to walk in obedience and unity with one another, even amidst disagreement and conflict. In Acts Chapter 15, we see the early church grappling with a crucial issue: whether or not Gentile believers needed to be circumcised in order to be saved. Through prayer, discussion, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the apostles and elders came to a decision that upheld both the truth of the gospel and the unity of the church.
Verses 22-41 of this chapter detail how this decision was communicated to the wider body of believers. The letter sent to the Gentile churches affirmed their standing in Christ and clarified what was expected of them in terms of abstaining from certain practices. It also sent two trusted leaders, Paul and Barnabas, to deliver the news and encourage the believers in person.
This passage highlights several lessons that are relevant to us today as we seek to navigate difficult conversations and maintain unity in the body of Christ:
Seek guidance from the Holy Spirit through prayer and discernment. The apostles and elders did not rely solely on their own wisdom and experience to make this decision. They recognized the need for the Holy Spirit's guidance and sought Him earnestly in prayer.
Value the input of all members of the body of Christ. Throughout this chapter, we see different individuals and groups expressing their opinions and concerns. Rather than dismissing or silencing anyone, the apostles and elders listened attentively and considered each perspective.
Prioritize the gospel above personal preferences and cultural norms. The decision made by the apostles and elders upheld the truth of the gospel and removed unnecessary barriers to salvation. They recognized that what was important was not adherence to certain cultural practices, but faith in Jesus Christ.
Communicate decisions clearly and compassionately. The letter sent to the Gentile churches was not a cold, legalistic document, but a heartfelt expression of concern and care for their spiritual well-being. Paul and Barnabas were also sent to encourage and support these believers in person.
As we reflect on this passage, let us ask ourselves:
- Am I willing to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and listen to the perspectives of others, even when it challenges my own beliefs?
May we be a body of believers that values unity, embraces diversity, and upholds the truth of the gospel in all that we do.
- Am I willing to prioritize the gospel above my own personal preferences and cultural norms?
Disagreement Between Paul and Barnabas
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