“The apostles and leaders called a special meeting to consider the matter. The arguments went on and on, back and forth, getting more and more heated. Then Peter took the floor. ‘Friends, you well know that from early on God made it quite plain that He wanted the pagans to hear the Message of this good news and embrace it — and not in any second-hand or roundabout way, but first-hand straight from my mouth. And God, who can’t be fooled by any pretense on our part but always knows a person’s thoughts, gave them the Holy Spirit exactly as He treated us, beginning at the very centre of who they were, cleaning up their lives as they trusted and believed Him.

“‘So why are you trying to out-god God, loading these new believers down with rules that crushed our ancestors and crushed us, too? Don’t we believe that we are saved because the Master Jesus amazingly and out of sheer generosity moved to save us just as He did those from beyond our nation? So what are we arguing about?'” Acts 15:6-11 (The Message).

Thank God, someone had the good sense to examine the simple facts instead of formulating doctrines based on reason and not truth!

We don’t know what they were arguing about but, whatever it was, it got them nowhere until Peter came up with his story. It is dangerous to make experience the criterion for a doctrine; for example, we know that Scripture is full of stories of miracles that God did then, but we cannot say that God no longer does miracles today simple because He may not have done a miracle for us.

At the same time, when we match our experience with Scripture, we know that we stand on solid ground, because God confirms His word to us through experience.

Peter had the wisdom to match his experience with God’s Word to realise that the answer to their dilemma was right there for them. God Himself had supplied the answer by giving the Gentiles the gift of the Holy Spirit in the same way He had fallen on them so that they would be in no doubt about their salvation. This was God’s confirmation that salvation comes by faith alone and not by any additions to faith with which the Pharisees wanted to burden the Gentiles.

They themselves had not fully understood the complete and final work of Jesus on the cross; otherwise they would not have made this such an issue that it warranted a church council to settle it. In spite of the fact that it was settled there in Jerusalem in unity, the Judaisers continued to dog the footsteps of the apostles as they carried the gospel across the Gentile world.

It is still very much alive today and still robbing many people of the truth of Jesus’ simple invitation, ‘Follow me!’ He did not come to set up a new religion and He certainly did not burden His followers with the rules and rituals that we see in so many denominations today.

For example, for whole groups of people, the church is a building — not the people who are the temple in which God dwells by His Spirit, and is treated with superstitious reverence as though bricks, stones and mortar are somehow holy. Priests and ministers are the professionals and the laity subject to them and their superior knowledge and wisdom. Where do we find this in God’s Word? All God’s people together are a royal priesthood.

I suspect that many sections of the church are still enslaved to the old covenant with its rules and rigmarole; altars, sacred garments, dietary laws, symbols, etc., and have never stepped into the freedom of God’s grace, resting in Christ alone for His gift of righteousness which no amount of effort on our part can earn.

What a tragedy that the spirit of the Pharisees is still very much alive in the church and doing what the Pharisees tried to do to Jesus — kill the truth!

Categories: Bible Study Tags: , ,

Luella Campbell

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