6/17/16 The Letter Explaining The Decision

A meeting of the whole Jerusalem church is called, and the apostles tell everyone of their decision in the matter of the Gentiles being compelled to follow the Law of Moses.  James produces the draft of the letter to be sent to the churches in question, and the church as one body goes over all the details.  They discuss everything and reword some areas until everyone is satisfied with the letter.  Then, several of the elders begin to transcribe it, making multiple copies to send to all the churches in the areas in which Paul and Barnabas have been working.  They come together in prayer when all is completed, asking God to help them choose men to accompany Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch to help them distribute the letters.  “After all,” Peter says, “If the Jewish Christians there have had a problem with Paul and Barnabas’ authority and teaching, they will require some evidence other than these letters that this decision has come from all of us here.  Otherwise, they may accuse Paul and Barnabas of forging the letters themselves and discount everything we have worked so hard to establish over the past few days.”  After some deliberation, Judas Barsabbas, brother of Joseph Barsabbas, and Silas (also known as Silenus) are chosen to lead the delegation, being known as strong Christians who have been following Jesus since He was here on earth.  Several other men, also leaders in the Jerusalem church and known for their strong faith, are also chosen to accompany Paul and Barnabas on their return journey.  And this is the message of the letters they carry:  “The apostles, elders, and brothers and sisters of the Jerusalem church send greetings and wish joy to our Gentile brothers and sisters in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia.  It has come to our attention that a delegation of Jewish Christians from our community here arrived in Antioch claiming to have been sent from James, the brother of Jesus, and that they have wreaked havoc in your church in their teaching that you must be circumcised and follow all the Law of Moses in order to receive your salvation.  This is rather ironic, because those men are breaking the Law of Moses in their actions towards you, and, as James has stated in a previous letter, if one breaks any of the Law he is breaking the entire Law.  Let us assure you that these men were not sent by us, nor did they seek our blessing in their mission before leaving here.  After meeting together to discuss the matter, it has been decided that we should send elders in good standing from our Jerusalem church to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, bearing copies of this letter to be distributed among your churches.  As most of you well know, Barnabas and Paul have on multiple occasions risked their lives for you and for the establishment and nurture of your churches.  In order to show to all parties that the words of these letters are in fact ours, the men accompanying Barnabas and Paul, including Judas and Silas, are prepared to testify to this fact.  The decision that we have reached after much deliberation on this matter is that you should not be burdened with keeping the Law of Moses, nor with circumcision.  We therefore have decided that these four laws should be doctrine for all of the churches, and that all who wish to be members must abide by them:  To stay away from participation in anything related to idolatry, from sexual immorality, from eating meat that has been strangled, and from the consumption of blood.  If you can abide by these rules, you will be members in good standing in the Christian community.  Farewell, brothers and sisters.”

 

Acts 15:22-29

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