Feb. 10th, 2010
Acts 15:28-29 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no greater burden on you than these few requirements. You must abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. If you do
this, you will do well. Farewell. This is the first recorded Church Council Meeting, commonly called the Jerusalem Council. The debate was about whether or not Gentiles had to first become Jews before they could become believers in Jesus. There were apparently some Pharisees who were co
nverted (5) who believed this to be the case, and Paul and Barnabas; those who were actually working with the Gentiles, who disagreed vehemently. The debate was recorded as civil, which is refreshing, and the results were that no added constrictions ought be placed on the Gentiles except some food laws (which were likely practical as well as spiritual in nature) and the prohibition to abstain from sexual immorality. Interesting aside; that last one is not defined or enumerated at all…as if the people surely would know what sexual immorality is/was. (I have a hunch that with so many church councils and denominational debates currently centered on sexual issues…we know too what sexual immorality is and isn’t!)
Well the point is clear to me; there are no additional requirements to receive, follow and believe in Jesus, but faith. We don’t have to cut our long hair, or belong to a certain church. We don’t have to clean up our act, just honestly confess our sins. We don’t have to subscribe to this or that particular theological statement of belief. We don’t have to be a member of the Republican or Democratic parties or a card-carrying NRA adherent. We don’t have be baptized or dedicated. We don’t have to sing hymns or choruses…we just have to put our faith in Jesus, and obediently follow.
One last observation from this chapter. There is much to be learned from the civility and discernment exercised and experienced at this council. Many of our churches and denominations would profit from such deep reliance on the Holy Spirit. Most of our churches would be greatly empowered to leave so many of the peripheral petty personal preferences that require of ‘new’ or ‘other’ believers more than Jesus requires! And Lord, help me to be acutely aware today of whatever I might be inappropriately adding to my own relationship with you. Help me exercise simple faith.