Mercy Street Church of Christ
Abilene, TX
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There arose no little dissension and debate

There arose no little dissension and debate. (Acts 15:2)

Now thatís an understatement! The question of how to integrate Gentile converts into the almost exclusively Jewish Church was probably the most hotly debated issue the first disciples faced. When some Jewish believers from Judea came to Antioch teaching that circumcision was necessary for salvation, the need for an answer became immediate. Letís take a look at the details.

Faithful Jews who had embraced Jesus as the Messiah valued the Mosaic law. It set them apart as Godís chosen people. Their special covenant with God was precious: it demonstrated their commitment to him and his commitment to them. Itís no wonder the Jewish Christians expected Gentile believers to embrace the Mosaic Law before they became part of the Church.

But Paul and Barnabas had seen dramatic conversions of Gentiles. They had seen that God ďopened the door of faithĒ to a people who had been outside of Godís covenant with Israel (Acts 14:27). Lives were changing, and miraculous healings were taking placeóall demonstrating that the Holy Spirit was at work. In light of that, it didnít seem necessary for Gentiles to convert to Judaism first.

These were challenging waters for the new church to navigate. What did they do? Paul and Barnabas, along with representatives from the Jewish Christians, went to Jerusalem to consult with the apostles and elders. They knew the question was bigger than their own preferences, and they trusted the apostles to help them sort it out. Because the answer would affect the entire church, they didnít want to rely on only their own inclinations.

Maybe youíre facing a complex situation or a thorny problem. You might pray and think you know what the Holy Spirit is saying on the issue. But how do you confirm it? The first way is to hear what scripture has to say on the matter, if any thing. Another way is to talk to your minister or a trusted Shepherd. Either one is more than qualified. Or talk it over with your spouse or another good friend whose Christian maturity you respect. The Holy Spirit can bring you clarityóand sometimes he does it through the advice of a trusted person. So donít hesitate to seek out that advice!

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