Thursday: The Letter from Jerusalem

Read Acts 15:22-29. What additional measures were taken by the Jerusalem church concerning the council’s decision?

The first measure was to write a letter to the Gentile believers in order to inform them of what had been decided. The letter, written in the name of the apostles and elders of Jerusalem, was an official document that reflected the ascendancy of the Jerusalem church—certainly because of the apostles’ leadership—over the other Christian communities. Written in A.D. 49, which is the most probable date of the council, this letter is one of the earliest Christian documents we have.

Jerusalem Council

Image © Providence Coll. Goodsalt.com

The Jerusalem church also decided to appoint two delegates, Judas Barsabas and Silas, to accompany Paul and Barnabas to Antioch; their assignment was to carry the letter and confirm its content.

Read Acts 15:30-33. How did the church in Antioch react to the letter?

When the letter was read, the church was filled with great joy because of the encouraging message: circumcision was not to be required from Gentile converts. They also raised no objection to the demands of the letter (the fourfold apostolic decree). The first most serious division in the early church was thus reconciled, at least in theory.

At the close of the council, Paul’s gospel was fully recognized by the church leaders in Jerusalem, who extended to him and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship as a sign of acceptance and trust (Gal. 2:9). Yet, those Jewish Christians who continued to live by the Jewish law would still find it highly problematic to have table fellowship with the Gentiles, who, for all intents and purposes, did remain ritually unclean.

This issue is shown, for example, by the incident involving Peter in Galatians 2:11-14. “Even the disciples”, says Ellen G. White, “were not all prepared to accept willingly the decision of the council.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 197.

Be honest with yourself: how difficult is it for you to have fellowship with believers from other races, cultures, and even social classes? How can you be purged of this decidedly anti-gospel attitude

?

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Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons