Today we see how the apostles handled a major dispute. Some Jewish Christians from Jerusalem traveled north to Antioch and told the non-Jewish Christians that they needed to be circumcised and obey the law of Moses to be saved ("saved" means to be right with God). Paul and Barnabas, back from Turkey, opposed this message, which led to a sharp dispute. Both sides agreed to take this debate south and get opinions from the apostles.
There are two groups that weigh in on this debate. In the "Circumcise Now" party are former Pharisees who strongly believe that the law of Moses still needs to be followed; after all, God did set it up. In the "Freedom From Circumcision" party are Paul and Barnabas, who share the message of justification' by Jesus blood that they preached to the Gentiles. After the rebuttals, Peter (called "Simon" here) reminds everyone of his experience in Samaria where the Holy Spirit was given to Gentiles when they trusted in Jesus.
In concluding the debate, James (Jesus’ brother) decides that a letter needs to go to all the Gentile believers explaining that they don’t have to be circumcised. However, they give them guidance to abstain from four practices:
- eating food sacrificed to idols
- eating meat from strangled animals
- consuming meat that contains blood
- sexual immorality
After a productive meeting the chapter ends with Barnabas and Paul splitting because of a disagreement. Barnabas, the encourager, wanted to take Mark on the next missionary trip even though he bailed halfway through the last one. Paul, on the other hand, wanted to avoid a repeat performance. As the church began to spread to different peoples and cultures, the message of salvation became more focused and caused disagreement among the believers.
How do you handle sharp disagreement? In today’s chapter we saw two solutions for disagreements:
- hearing all arguments and implementing a solution
- parting ways with those who disagree with you
- Written for Verve by Mike Zimmerman