"The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter." Acts 15:5
It is always dangerous to take a fragment of Scripture upon which to base a theology, a sermon, or even just an article for the Connection but if you will bear with me, there is a method in my madness.
Our daily Bible reading these past days has taken us through one of the first struggles the Church encountered within itself as the Gospel spread beyond Jerusalem and Judea and even Samaria. As the Gospel encountered the gentile world dominated by the Greek culture that was not particularly fond of Jewish traditions, persons who were receiving the message of the disciples were also experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit. This development created some consternation among the Jewish believers—especially those who were devout followers of the Law but who had also become followers of Jesus.
One of the first conflicts that developed in the Church was what you do with people whose culture and experience did not square with its Jewish origins. When Paul and Barnabas came back to Jerusalem to share what God had done among the Gentiles, where they had received the Holy Spirit and been baptized, there were those in Jerusalem who believed they had to fulfill the Law of Moses by becoming circumcised as well. It mad perfect sense to the Jewish believers—not so much for the Gentiles.
How were they to resolve this conflict? What were the guidelines? Jesus had ascended into heaven so they could not just sit down and have a long conversation with him.
What they did was they held a gathering of the leaders of the Church at which Peter stood up and shared with the leaders what had happened when he had been called to the house of Cornelius, how the Holy Spirit had come upon them even though they were Gentiles. His statement to the leaders became the tipping point for their decision with regard to the obligations upon the new Gentile believers.
The thing that strikes me as critically important for us is that, in the context of leaders gathered “to consider…” they were given wisdom, guidance, and ultimately they were able to render a decision. Within the context of our Presbyterian governance our elders are called upon to “represent the mind of Christ” which means they are called to discern God’s call to us as the congregation. It is not for one individual, one pastor, one elder to discern; we are called to discern together.
The disciples “…considered the matter…” within the context of their duties and they rendered a judgment they believed they were called to deliver. But they did it—not one—all. Pray for those who are in leadership; they are seeking to discern the wisdom of God for the church.
With deep affection,