Tuesday, 7 March 2023
Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. Acts 15:6
In the previous verse, some of the Pharisees rose and stated that it was necessary for the Gentiles to be circumcised and observe the Law of Moses. With this idea put forth, Luke continues with, “Now the apostles and elders.”
The words more correctly read, “Now the apostles and the elders.” They are two distinct categories that are being highlighted which are clearly separate offices at this time. Together, they “came together.”
Rather, the verb is imperfect and in the passive voice, they “were gathered together.” At someone’s direction or maybe through prayer and the leading of the Spirit, they were gathered together. And this occurrence was “to consider this matter.”
More literally it says, “to see about this matter.” They were going to look at it, evaluate it, and then decide what should be done. For those, like Paul, who understood the magnitude of the decision, it would shape the entire future of the church and set off the importance of the cross accordingly.
If the challenge by the Pharisees prevailed, the cross would become no more than an added key in the process of opening the door of entry into law observance under Judaism. The shed blood of Jesus Christ would be considered entirely ineffectual for salvation. This is because the Law of Moses had a high priest. It also had sacrifices, including the annual Day of Atonement.
If the Law of Moses had to be kept, it means that these Gentiles would be obligated to observe those sacrificial rites, thus placing the blood of bulls and goats over the blood of Christ. Further, it would thoroughly diminish innumerable passages found in their own Scriptures that pointed to God’s saving grace apart from the law.
For example, in Numbers 21, this short passage is seen –
“Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses: ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.’ 6 So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.
7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people.
8 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’ 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” Numbers 21:4-9
This account was partially given to show that faith, apart from the Law of Moses, healed the people. Jesus then spoke of it, equating what occurred to His own work –
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:14-17
Though the book of John was not yet written, the account of Jesus’ words was certainly known. But even if this were not true, the account stood as a witness of God’s acceptance of faith apart from law observance. If the apostles and elders could not see this matter through correctly, the entire point of faith alone in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sin would be nullified.
Life application: We don’t need to read the account any further to know that the right decision will be made concerning the issue at hand. This is because if God is behind the message of Jesus, that message will ultimately prevail. He would not have sent Christ into the world if He knew the offer would not continue to be properly considered.
We might say, “But there are Judaizers all over the world today, standing against the truth of the cross and reinserting the law. See, the message has failed.” This is incorrect. Now, with the completion of Scripture, the truth of God in Christ and the fully effectual work of the cross is recorded there. This council in Jerusalem is a part of that body of literature, and it stands as a witness to what God had determined.
The fault is not in God, nor is it a lack in the word of God. Rather, the fault is in those who ignore, misunderstand, or purposefully twist the word. God has made proper Christian theology and set doctrine fully obtainable. Now, it is up to each person to consider what the Bible says and to follow it, in context, according to how it is presented.
This is our immediate task, our daily task, and our lifelong task. We are to learn this word and then continue to consider it always. Hold fast to the word. It is our personal love letter from the God of the universe to keep us safe and close to Him until the day He brings us to Himself.
Glorious Lord God, how precious is Your word. How sacred are its contents. How immutable are the truths it contains. Help us to cherish Your word because it is what tells us about Your love for us in the giving of Jesus. May our hearts be carefully obedient in applying its precepts to our lives for all our days. Amen.
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