6/15/16 The Dispute Is Taken To The Top

Paul seals his letter and sends it off with a messenger to circulate throughout the Galatian churches.  Just as the messenger leaves, a delegation of Jewish believers arrives from Jerusalem, claiming to have been sent by James, Jesus’ brother.  They greet Paul and Barnabas, telling them that they are here to teach the new believers.  Paul wonders to himself why the apostles think the people need more teachers.  Are he and Barnabas considered inadequate to the task?  But he welcomes the delegation and calls all the people to come and hear what the men have to say.  “You all must be circumcised as the Law of Moses demands.  Otherwise, you cannot gain salvation or eternal life in Heaven.”  These are the first words out of the mouth of the head of the delegation.  Paul bristles, hearing these words, as they go against everything he has taught his congregations.  He cannot remain silent – he just sent off a letter refuting this policy.  Standing up, he interrupts the man’s speech before he can speak another word.  “Excuse me, but this is false teaching.  We are saved by the blood of Jesus, by putting our faith in His sacrifice on our behalf.  If circumcision could save us, Jesus’ death would have been unnecessary.  You need to stop right now before you do irreparable damage to these, my brothers and sisters in faith.”  The men stare at Paul in surprise.  Paul takes the opportunity to speak to the people gathered.  “Please, go back home, and I will send word when this dispute is settled.  Don’t take this man’s words to heart, I beg you!”  The people, looking somewhat confused, file out of the building and make their way back home.  The men in the delegation speak to each other in low voices, huddled together, then turn back to address Paul and Barnabas.  “We feel that you need to take a delegation of your own and return with us to Jerusalem to settle this matter with the apostles there.”  Paul and Barnabas look at each other for a moment of silent conversation, then turn back and nod in assent.  “We will go, and we will take some of the elders of the Antioch church with us.  You are correct that we need to settle this matter now, before any further trouble comes of it.”  He and Barnabas spend the evening making plans for the journey, and in the morning they call another meeting of the church.  They explain the plan to the believers and call on some of the elders to accompany them on their journey to Jerusalem.  The believers come together to pray for a safe journey for all of them, for the matter to be settled in God’s will, and for Paul and Barnabas and the elders to return to them soon.  The little group sets off, and soon they are stopping in Phoenicia.  They meet with the believers there to share news of all that has been happening with the church east of them.  The Phoenician believers are especially excited to hear about all the Gentiles who have put their faith in Jesus.  After a short visit there, they move on to Samaria, where they have a similar visit with the Samarian church.  They go on to Jerusalem from there, and the apostles welcome them warmly.  They meet together for several hours, discussing all that has happened since Paul and Barnabas began their journey.  In the midst of this reunion, a group of Pharisee Christians enter indignantly, having received word of the reason for this visit.  “This is blasphemy!” they proclaim loudly.  “You need to be teaching these people that they must obey the Law of Moses, and especially that they must be circumcised.”

 

Acts 15:1-5

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