Resolving Conflict

MEMORY SELECTION: “There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.” —Romans 10:12

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Acts 15:1, 2, 22-31

THIS was a very difficult period for the Early Church. For centuries the Jews had been instructed in the Law. Proselytes were required to conform strictly to the terms of the Law. And it was a matter of concern to sincere Jews that the Gentile converts were accepted into the Christian faith free from the yoke of the Law. Yet there was indisputable evidence that God had blessed Gentile converts with receiving the Holy Spirit in the same manner as it had been received by the Jews. It was a time of transition between the Law Covenant, which had served its usefulness, and the covenant of sacrifice—the Sarah feature of the Abrahamic Covenant. This feature of the Abrahamic Covenant had been dormant down through the Jewish Age but was activated by Jesus, who was the long-promised Seed of the Abrahamic Covenant.—Gal. 3:16

The early Church was sharply divided on this question. There were those among the Jewish converts who were called Judaizers who “taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1) But the Apostle Paul taught that Christians accepting Christ as their Savior were justified by faith and were thus freed from the futility of attempting to secure justification by works under the Law.

In the 2nd verse of the 15th chapter of Acts we read of the reaction of Paul and Barnabas to the efforts of the Judaizers to counter Paul’s teaching. “When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.”

The decision to resolve this very serious point of difference by a discussion of the Scriptures and evaluating the facts of the matter was, and is still, useful to the church in providing an example as to how differences should be resolved.

The account of this meeting, which is obviously only a synopsis of what really occurred, is recorded in verses 4 to 29 of the 15th chapter of Acts. When Paul and his delegation arrived in Jerusalem, they recounted to the brethren all their experiences showing how God had blessed the Gentiles with the Holy Spirit. “But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the Law of Moses.”—vs. 5

The apostles and elders then came together to consider the matter. There was considerable discussion and disputing among them, and it seems reasonable that the prophecies, such as Hosea 1:10, were discussed. “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them. Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.”

Peter then rose up and related his experience, how God had designated him to be the one who would first bring the Word of God to the Gentiles. Peter must have told in some detail how Cornelius and his family received the Gospel and how God indicated, by giving them the Holy Spirit, that he “put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” (vs. 9) Then Paul and Barnabas related their many experiences, “declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them,” and the text (vs. 12) states that “the multitude kept silence, and gave audience.”

The Apostle James then summarized their findings in that wonderful statement in the 13th through the 18th verses.

We see (vss. 19-31) that the approved method to resolve doctrinal differences in the church is for the parties first to go to the Word of God and determine what the scriptural answer to the question seems to be; and secondly, to relate the scriptural conclusion to the facts. If the facts support the scriptural conclusion, then without question it is the Lord’s will.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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