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By Pastor Earl Herr

Thought for the Week

Trouble from Within


March 28, 2019

Christians and the Church should expect trouble, opposition and even persecution from the world around them. But nobody ever hopes trouble will come from within the Church. Jesus, in His "high-priestly-prayer" prayed His followers would be one even as He and His Father were, are and always will be one. He said Church members would be identified by how they loved one another. Paul wrote to the Ephesian Church (4:3ff) " keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. And there is one body, one Spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all...."

The Church is known as the Body of Christ, one body with many members, many duties, many functions, many responsibilities and a lot more, but the overall goal is to be one. In Acts 15, a challenge arises. Men, who were from the group known as Pharisees had become Christians. They came to Syrian Antioch and began to teach Gentile Christians needed to be circumcised and keep the Law as presented by Moses in order to be saved. This was not what Paul and Barnabas believed, nor was it what they taught. So, there arose a great contention, described in verse 2 as "no small dissension and disputation." If we understand the Greek it means they had a hot and heavy argument. It was so bad a decision was made to send a delegation to the "Mother Church" in Jerusalem to see if some sort of ruling could be made to settle the question.

I think we should examine just a bit what exactly this teaching was all about: First of all, circumcision did not begin with the law as given by Moses. Circumcision was a covenant made between God and Abraham and his natural descendents. It signified family membership. The operation was done with a flint knife, by the father, a priest, or other leader but never by a Gentile. The Law as passed down by Moses added some other coding but originally it came from Abraham. The secondary issue required the keeping the Law as passed down from Moses with additional requirements and refinements made by Jewish priests, rabbis, and teachers of the Law. These two would be required in order for a person to be saved.

Paul and Barnabas taught salvation was a gift of God and given by His grace. It could not be earned or merited by any works of man. Paul later writes: "For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not of works lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). As we can see, there is a wide divergence of understandings here. So, a Church Council is called.

Now, there have been multiple Church Councils over the history of the Church. They have decided serious issues. A true council needs to have broad representation, so the issue can be seen with many sets of eyes and broad understandings. That was true here. But there is something even more important and we will look at that next time. Councils must be bathed in much prayer.

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