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Psalm 122 (ESV)
Let Us Go to the House of the Lord
122 I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
2 Our feet have been standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem!
3 Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together,
4 to which the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
5 There thrones for judgment were set,
the thrones of the house of David.
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
“May they be secure who love you!
7 Peace be within your walls
and security within your towers!”
8 For my brothers and companions’ sake
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.
Acts 15:1-6 (ESV)
The Jerusalem Council
15 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. 3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. 5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.” 6 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter.
“There arose no little dissension and debate” (Acts 15:2)
Now that’s an understatement! The question of how to integrate Gentile converts into the almost exclusively Jewish Church was probably the most hotly debated issue the first disciples faced. When some Jewish believers from Judea came to Antioch teaching that circumcision was necessary for salvation, the need for an answer became immediate. Let’s take a look at the details.
Faithful Jews who had embraced Jesus as the Messiah valued the Mosaic Law. It set them apart as God’s chosen people. Their special covenant with God was precious: it demonstrated their commitment to him and his commitment to them. It’s no wonder the Jewish Christians expected Gentile believers to embrace the Mosaic Law before they became part of the Church.
But Paul and Barnabas had seen dramatic conversions of Gentiles. They had seen that God “opened the door of faith” to a people who had been outside of God’s covenant with Israel (Acts 14:27). Lives were changing, and miraculous healings were taking place – all demonstrating that the Holy Spirit was at work. In light of that, it didn’t seem necessary for Gentiles to convert to Judaism first.
These were challenging waters for the new Church to navigate. What did they do? Paul and Barnabas, along with representatives from the Jewish Christians, went to Jerusalem to consult with the apostles and elders. They knew the question was bigger than their own preferences, and they trusted the apostles to help them sort it out. Because the answer would affect the entire Church, they didn’t want to rely on only their own inclinations.
Maybe you’re facing a complex situation or a thorny problem. You might pray and think you know what the Holy Spirit is saying on the issue. But how do you confirm it? One way is to seek out the counsel of those saints that you know are walking closely with the Lord. Or talk it over with your spouse. The Holy Spirit will always bring you clarity – and sometimes he does it through the advice of a trusted authority. So don’t hesitate to seek out that advice!
Lord, when I am confused, bring your clarity and peace to me. I trust your goodwill for your people. Amen.