Focal Passages: Acts 15:1-2; 6-21
Some say listening is an art. Some say it is a “lost” art.
One of my personal favorite sayings is “God gave us two ears
and one mouth, therefore, we ought to listen twice as much as we speak.”
If we concede, however, that this is a valid and beneficial
principle, we must also ask, “Who are we to listen to?”
The series of lessons for the month of June deal with the
topic of “Listening to God.”
We should always make sure we’re listening to God.
When we hear ideas and hopes from others, we should question
whether these are godly plans, and if they will benefit the Kingdom
The passage in Acts 15 is all about leadership and
John Maxwell famously says, “Everything rises and falls on
And leadership is certainly most needed in times of crisis.
This passage describes what I believe was the most important
church business meeting of the first century.
The result of this meeting, called the Jerusalem Council,
would determine the future of the fledgling church.
There were many issues at stake, but the most significant
was whether the church would stay stuck in tradition, or would it have the
flexibility to meet the spiritual needs of the broader world.
Furthermore, would the church come together in a measure of
consensus, or would it splinter into various factions. If the church would
listen to the right voices within the larger community of faith, there was the
promise of many doors being opened for the gospel.
The key leaders in this dialog about the church’s future
were Paul, Barnabas, Peter, and James.
The basic issue was whether church growth would follow the
Jerusalem model or the Antioch model.
church was primarily Jewish.
It largely held to the basic rites, regulations, and
traditions of Jewish law that had guided devoted Jews since the days of Moses.
Of most importance was the rite of circumcision. For Jewish
men, circumcision was not optional (15:1); and for Gentile converts, ditto.
Then there were the protocols for animal sacrifice,
festivals, tithing, and the list could go on.
Conversely, the Antioch
church was not so traditional. It had many more Gentile members, and it was
more noted for its missionary and benevolence work.
Barnabas and Paul had heavily invested in this congregation,
and it had sent them forth to a ministry that involved church planting,
mentoring, and discipleship.
In summary, at this watershed council the church reached
agreement. They listened to the missionary component, to the apostolic, and to
the practical, and the Kingdom won.
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