Reading through the Bible together
The carefully recorded beginning of the organization of the early Christian Church indicates that human nature hasn’t changed much since then. Acts 15:1 introduces a problem that led to a conflict in the local church in Antioch, and a solution was needed. So they sent a small delegation to Jerusalem to the General Council for a resolution. Being welcomed by the elders and apostles, they explained their mission which, when considered, generated much discussion. Finally Peter stood up and said: “Why do you want to question the sincerity of these new Gentile believers? Do you doubt that God has accepted them? God promises salvation by grace through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8) and these new believers are accepted by God the same as the Jews.
Peter’s speech prepared the Council to listen to Paul and Barnabas . When they were through, James, the brother of Jesus who was chairing the Council, based his summary on Peter’s statement of God’s acceptance of these new believers into His church. He recognized that the conversion of the Gentiles had been prophesied (Amos 9:12), and was part of God’s plan. James spoke with some authority as he said, “My sentence is…” Then he proposed they not trouble these new believers but send them a letter detailing the decision of the Council and outlining the solution: abstain from pollutions of idols, from fornication, and from eating animals strangled and their blood. It was not necessary to mention the keeping of Sabbath which was part of the Law.
This was not a decree from James as a one-man decision but was accepted by the apostles, elders, and the General Council. The passage in verse 22 could be translated, “it was ordered” or “it was voted” and then accepted by the whole church. The “solution” letter was written assuring the new Christians that they and the leaders at Jerusalem were all brethren in Christ. It was sent by chosen representatives to the members in Antioch, and gratefully received! Following much prayer and discussion which respected the convictions of all involved, a crisis was averted. Significant steps in church organization were taken!
How much like the beginning of our church. James White stressed the need for church organization, delegates were gathered, the issue was brought to a vote, a name was chosen, a body of believers was established and God’s church was begun and grew. It is still God’s church today. After reading the book of Acts, don’t you want to become involved in your local church, in the neighborhood where you live, in the community, city, or in far-flung mission fields, to help finish the work of Matthew 24:14?
Retired Conference Education Worker
Currently with Adventist Heritage Ministry