Advancing the Conversation of Jesus
Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue. Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren. When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.”
Talk about ADD-ONS. Circumcision would test out your faith for sure! Again, we see the nature of fallen man wanting to be right as opposed to everyone else. In a sense, it’s much like the NOT INVENTED HERE syndrome that frequently pops up in relationships. The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter.After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. “And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. “Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? “But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” All the people kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were relating what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.
Peter played a great role here among the leadership in Jerusalem and backed up the reports coming from Paul and Barnabas. NOTE he says, “And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.”Then he nails the point with, “We believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus.” By the way, this is how everyone is saved–through the GRACE OF GOD. The only way anyone will get into heaven will be through the grace of God and nothing else or as I like to say, JESUS PLUS NOTHING.
Therefore, there is nothing you can do nor is their any doctrinal system that you must believe or follow in order to get in, because it is ONLY THROUGH HIS GRACE. Do you see it? God will deal with each person fairly, knowing each person’s heart, and will appropriate His grace as He wills. Once understood, your pride will take a great beating!
James came to the conclusion that they should not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles. However, he did suggest and all agreed to encourage the Gentile believers to be most sensitive to the Jews and not unnecessarily offend them. So, they sent a letter by way of Silas and Judas which outlined 3 points of encouragement.
“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.”
So when they were sent away, they went down to Antioch; and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. When they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. I’ve got to believe that these new Gentile believers were greatly relieved that they were not going to be forced into the Law of Moses and especially to be circumcised. OUCH!
Now, while they were there something funny happens: Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message. You can count on it. Prophets with a word from God, itching to challenge these new believers went a little over time in their speaking. I intimately understand this!
After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.”
This spirit of always being concerned about the rest of the fellowship, to see how they are and encourage them to hang in there, is a vital evidence of the fellowship of Jesus. You don’t have to go on a “mission trip” or a “missionary journey” for this. It ought to be present in the local fellowship as well. We are family!
Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Here is one of those incidents that can be found frequently throughout the Bible, where things aren’t going so well, people aren’t getting along or people are acting wrongly toward God and one another. If you were the author of the Bible and you wanted people to be attracted to your message, most likely you wouldn’t include the underbelly of the church of Jesus. You would probably cover it up a bit. But here we have a strong disagreement between Paul and Barnabas as to personnel and they actually parted ways over it. Both were used mightily, but just in different directions! It’s almost like this incident happened in order to multiply their effectiveness in visiting and encouraging the disciples throughout the world.
In this chapter you can get a little clearer picture as to how the movement of Jesus multiplies through life-on-life ministry and encouragement in the name of Jesus. NOTE that there aren’t many mass gatherings so far as we observe the Acts of Jesus among his disciples. not many large crusades in stadiums, not many evangelistic blitzes, but in the power of the few the message of Jesus is spread in a viral manner. It’s catching! And, it’s interesting that neither Paul nor Barnabas set out to work alone, but went on their mission trips two-by-two. Maybe Jesus was on to something, when he sent his disciples out two-by-two. Evaluate the things you are presently doing for the Lord and be careful to take another or others along with you. I like to think of this strategy as JESUS FIELD TRIPS! Try it out!