Note from Jesus
Dear Precious Disciple,
The conference that you read about in the verses below occurred in Jerusalem. The focus of that conference was what should be done about Gentiles becoming Christians. There was a controversy concerning whether Gentile Christians would have to follow the law of Moses fully to be accepted into My family. The decision was crucial for the future of the mission of My church. At risk was the worldwide mission to the nations, the mission I had given before I ascended back to the Father. The wrong answer at this point in the development of the early church would have limited My movement to being nothing more than another sect of Judaism. However, the disciples at the conference came to the correct answer because they trusted in the leading of the Holy Spirit.
I had promised My disciples that I would send the Holy Spirit to them to be with them and to empower them to be My witnesses all over the world (Acts 1:8), and they believed it!
I promised them that the Holy Spirit would be their Helper and their Counselor Who would guide them into all truth (John 16:13), and they trusted that what I told them was true.
They had experienced the Holy Spirit responding to their worship of prayer and fasting by calling Barnabas and Paul into the mission field (Acts 13:1-3), and they sent out these great disciples as missionaries.
So when it came time to make this huge decision about Gentile Christians, what did they do? They relied on the Holy Spirit to lead them. Peter said that Cornelius’ conversion happened because “God decided” to include Gentiles, and He confirmed their inclusion by sending the Holy Spirit to Cornelius and his household. So they described the final decision they reached this way: “It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” They were confident that the Holy Spirit was helping to provide them a clear path forward as they prayed and worked together on a resolution of their controversy.
So here’s My point: You need to trust in the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit as you seek to live out My mission in your world. The power and the guidance of the Holy Spirit are gifts I have left you as you wait for My return!
Verses to Live
These words that Luke wrote in Acts show how My disciples in the early church relied on the Holy Spirit to help them make a crucial decision. They made this monumental decision with certainty because they were convicted that the Holy Spirit was guiding them. I want you to trust that the Holy Spirit will also guide you in your decisions as you seek to live out My mission to reach the lost world.
Upon arrival [of Paul, Barnabas, and others from Antioch] in Jerusalem, the church, the apostles, and the elders welcomed them warmly; and they reported all they had seen God do. But there were some believers present who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees. They stood up and asserted,
No, this is not acceptable. These people must be circumcised, and we must require them to keep the whole Mosaic law.
The apostles and elders met privately to discuss how this issue should be resolved. There was a lot of debate, and finally Peter stood up.
My brothers, you all know that in the early days of our movement, God decided that I should be the one through whom the first outsiders would hear the good news and become believers. God knows the human heart, and He showed approval of their hearts by giving them the Holy Spirit just as He did for us. In cleansing their hearts by faith, God has made no distinction between them and us. So it makes no sense to me that some of you are testing God by burdening His disciples with a load that neither our forefathers nor we have been able to carry. No, we all believe that we will be liberated through the grace of the Lord Jesus — they also will be rescued in the same way.
There was silence among them while Barnabas and Paul reported all the miraculous signs and wonders God had done through them among outsiders.
When they finished, James spoke.
My brothers, hear me. Simon Peter reminded us how God first included outsiders in His favor, taking people from among them for His name. This resonates with the words of the prophets:
“After this, I will return and rebuild the house of David, which has fallen into ruins. From its wreckage I will rebuild it; so all the nations may seek the Eternal One — including every person among the outsiders who has been called by My name.”
This is the word of the Lord, Who has been revealing these things since ancient times. So here is my counsel: we should not burden these outsiders who are turning to God. We should instead write a letter, instructing them to abstain from four things: first, things associated with idol worship; second, sexual immorality; third, food killed by strangling; and fourth, blood. My reason for these four exceptions is that in every city there are Jewish communities where, for generations, the laws of Moses have been proclaimed; and on every Sabbath, Moses is read in synagogues everywhere.
This seemed like a good idea to the apostles, the elders, and the entire church. They commissioned men from among them and sent them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent two prominent men among the believers, Judas (also known as Barsabbas) and Silas, to deliver this letter:
The brotherhood, including the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, send greetings to the outsider believers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. We have heard that certain people from among us — without authorization from us — have said things that, in turn, upset you and unsettle your minds. We have decided unanimously to choose and send two representatives, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul who, as you know, have risked their lives for our Lord Jesus the Anointed. These representatives, Judas and Silas, will confirm verbally what you will read in this letter. It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to keep you free from all burdens except these four: abstain from anything sacrificed to idols, from blood, from food killed by strangling, and from sexual immorality. Avoid these things, and you will be just fine. Farewell.
So the men were sent to Antioch. When they arrived, they gathered the community together and read the letter. The community rejoiced at the resolution to the controversy.
Response in Prayer
O Father, bless the leaders in our churches today. Give them hearts that yearn for Your will and a passion to lead us to live out Your mission to our lost world. Give them a willingness to work together to achieve that mission and a commitment to rely on Your Spirit to lead them to consensus and to clarity about the directions that they are to lead us. We need Your wisdom, guidance, and direction for our lives and for our churches. We ask for Your leading through the influence of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.