by Barry Newton
Voices. Too many voices. Those who value the direction of the church can find their ire rising when conflicting voices emerge.
In Acts 15, such a time arose in Antioch spilling over into Jerusalem. The question of requiring Gentile converts to submit to Jewish regulations might at first seem odd to us. But regardless of the Jerusalem meeting’s conclusion, their addressing of this question would create a doctrinal watershed.
To me some intriguing aspects about that meeting in Jerusalem involve their methodology, focus and result. First there was much discussion. Different voices were heard.
Then Peter focused on how God had already been at work accepting Gentiles, without requiring them to first become Jews. James quoted scripture to reveal God’s plan to one day take from the Gentiles a people belonging to Himself. After these steps, we discover a refreshing statement of solidarity with a clarity of direction: “the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided …” (Acts 15:22).
What stands out to me is that Luke gives no indication that the Pharisee believers stomped off nor that defiant egos were in play. Rather, everyone’s goal seems to have been to discover God’s will. Once the evidence was placed on the table, “the whole church” acknowledged what God wanted. To be sure, some were shocked.
Today, there are many voices crying out for attention: Conflicting voices; Politically correct viewpoints demanding to be followed; Cultural fads, beliefs and fears insisting on having a hand in shaping the church. The list goes on and on.
Like those early Christians, we would do well to focus upon conforming ourselves to God’s will as revealed in Scripture. I guess if the focus is to follow God and not just what I think is best, then it is easier to be shaped by God into the community He is building and through which he is working in this world.
by Barry Newton