The early church leaders made up their minds in last week’s devotion that the Gentiles did not have to keep the Jewish laws but rather they were saved by grace through faith. Now they write a letter to the Gentile churches and send their counsel. Let’s read this together.
Acts 15: 22 Then the apostles and elders together with the whole church in Jerusalem chose delegates, and they sent them to Antioch of Syria with Paul and Barnabas to report on this decision. The men chosen were two of the church leaders—Judas (also called Barsabbas) and Silas. 23 This is the letter they took with them: "This letter is from the apostles and elders, your brothers in Jerusalem. It is written to the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. Greetings! 24 "We understand that some men from here have troubled you and upset you with their teaching, but we did not send them! 25 So we decided, having come to complete agreement, to send you official representatives, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We are sending Judas and Silas to confirm what we have decided concerning your question.28 "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no greater burden on you than these few requirements: 29 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."
It’s amazing to me how people take spiritual oversight in a person or in a group of people’s lives without proper spiritual authority. In verse 24 we read that these who troubled the Gentiles and tried to bring them back into bondage were not even sent by the early church leaders. Friends, we must be careful whom we let speak into our lives. I’ve learned that many times those who want to have spiritual authority over others almost never operate under proper spiritual authority themselves and many times their family and their house is out of order.
If I’m going to follow someone, I want to know their fruits. I want to know how they react to the authority they are under. The men who stirred up this trouble were not under proper authority but yet spoke as if they were. The Bible plainly teaches authority in the church and if churches are to see a major move of God then that authority must be set up and adhered to.
Eph 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: KJV
This is the way Father God set up the church and I still believe in the five fold ministry of the church He set up. The ministry of the apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher was to oversee, train and equip the believers so they could build the Kingdom. The deacons in Acts were set up to assist the ministers in the vision God has for the local body. The first deacon’s duties were to serve tables and help pass out food while the ministers prayed, studied and sought the Lord on behalf of the church. Many churches today are set up so unscriptural, that the Lord won’t send a major move of God in that local body because of the chaos which would happen.
30 The messengers went at once to Antioch, where they called a general meeting of the believers and delivered the letter. 31 And there was great joy throughout the church that day as they read this encouraging message. 32 Then Judas and Silas, both being prophets, spoke at length to the believers, encouraging and strengthening their faith. 33 They stayed for a while, and then the believers sent them back to the church in Jerusalem with a blessing of peace. 35 Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch. They and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord there.
So they went immediately and called the Gentile believers together and read the letter to them. Immediately there was joy and freedom experienced among the new believers. God-assigned authority brings freedom and joy while also bringing correction and rebuke when needed. Friends, it so important to stay under the proper authority Father God has set for the local church.
Always remember this about scriptural authority: to be in authority you have to be under authority. I learned a long time ago to stay under the authority God placed over me without murmuring and grumbling, so His anointing can rest upon my life. My responsibility is to help cover those above me in prayer, fasting and also to honor them as a gift from Father God to me.
Prayer Points: 1. Pray for those whom God has put in spiritual authority in your life. Pray that the Holy Spirit will use you to bring freedom and life to those around you.
Acts 14:21 After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia,
What remarkable courage the apostles demonstrated going back to the very places they had been persecuted and stoned. The welfare of the infant churches they deemed of more consequence than their own safety; and they threw themselves again into the midst of danger, to comfort and strengthen those just converted to God. There are times when ministers and leaders should not count their own lives dear to them (Acts 20:24), but when they should fearlessly throw themselves into the midst of danger, confiding only in the protecting care of their God and Savior. We must remember that this is at the beginning of the early church which still had no New Testament, just the apostle’s teachings when they would come through their town preaching and ministering.
22 where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.
Remember these were young converts; that they were surrounded by enemies, and exposed to temptations and to dangers because the religious system of that time hated the truth of Jesus being the Messiah. They had very little knowledge with the truths of the gospel, and that it was therefore important that they should be further instructed in the truth, and established in the faith of the gospel.
When we stand for the full gospel, we will suffer hardship in the 21st Century because there is still a spirit of religion that operates in every region that hates the truth of the Gospel. Every day someone in countries around the world give their lives for the gospel.
Hardship, which means troubles, pressure, persecution, is a word that most in America does not want to hear. We want an easy gospel but friends there is a cost to being a disciple for Jesus Christ. It will cost you your personal desires. We are still commanded to take up a cross and follow Jesus but the price is so worth the pressure!
23 Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every church. With prayer and fasting, they turned the elders over to the care of the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.
The KJV version said they ordained the elders; the meaning of the word ordained here is appointed and the word elder here is simply the aged and mature. The implication is this; the early elders were to take charge of the churches during the absence of the apostles. The apostles were about to leave them. They were just organized into churches and many in the early church were young and inexperienced; they needed counsel and direction; they were exposed to dangers; and it was necessary that persons should be designated to watch over the spiritual interests of the each church. The probability is that they performed all the functions that were required in the infant and feeble churches such as exhorting, instructing, governing, etc. The more experienced and able would most likely be active in exhorting and instructing the brethren; and all would be useful in counseling and guiding the flock.
Notice they took the example Jesus gave them, making important decision through prayer and fasting.
24 Then they traveled back through Pisidia to Pamphylia. 25 They preached the word in Perga, then went down to Attalia.
26 Finally, they returned by ship to Antioch of Syria, where their journey had begun. The believers there had entrusted them to the grace of God to do the work they had now completed. 27 Upon arriving in Antioch, they called the church together and reported everything God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles, too. 28 And they stayed there with the believers for a long time.
We see this as some of the first missionary efforts of the early church. Jesus commanded them to go into all the world and they were accomplishing this commission and the power of the Lord was there to empower them for this mission.
Prayer Points: Father help us carry out your purposes in our lives regardless of the price it might cost us because someone’s eternity is based on the purpose you created me with.