40 Days of Discipline

40 Days of Discipline:  Day 7 – Bible Study

6 Comments

1Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them. Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.” The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” 12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. 14 Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: 16 “‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, 17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’— 18things known from long ago. 19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” (Acts 15:1 – 21, New International Version)

Theme:  The Local Church

Context:

Our passage is a bit long today, but that shouldn’t be a problem when we are considering Bible Study, right 😊?  As we consider today’s passage, we are reminded that biblical interpretation is an essential component of Bible study. Differing biblical interpretations can result in serious differences amongst believers and also between believers and non-believers. We encounter such a situation in today’s passage. 

Scripture Passage:

The passage is from Acts 15:1 – 21 (presented above) and embedded in the story is a very important role for the local church where biblical interpretation is concerned.  Please prayerfully read the passage and note how the local church functioned under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in interpreting Scripture. 

Questions:

  • What role did the local church play in addressing the clash of interpretations?
  • How do you see this role being displayed in your local church?    

6 thoughts on “40 Days of Discipline:  Day 7 – Bible Study

  1. Short version – The church convened, had a discussion, then attempted to “bridge the gap” of understanding by explaining and interpreting what one group of people wanted to “impose” on another group. They emphasized what was important, rather than what was just a ritual of things to do.

    The above passage reminds me of when believers get into arguments about whether someone is really a Christian if they eat certain meats, if they listen certain types of music, if they wear jewelry, etc. Paul and Barnabas pointed out what was important, because they realized that sometimes the “restrictions” may actually turn away potential believers.

    This role of pointing out what is important for being children of God, is displayed in the local church when a pastor reminds us that we are saved by grace and not by works, and by reminding us that many Christians who grow in the Lord may naturally turn away from things that may have seemed like restrictions in the past anyway.

  2. Today’s reading is very instructive. It speaks to the church’s established structure, the local church and the community. When the challenge was presented there was dispute and debate. Then those of the local church sought clarity from the established structure. The issue was again discussed, the historical evidence was presented for consideration and the guidance of the Holy Spirit was sought. Having reached a consensus, a ruling was presented that was not burdensome but required ‘Walking by faith’.

    The take away for us is:
    Be open to respectfully discussing our differences
    Seek common ground on those matters
    Seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the way forward

    The local church is a living growing organism,which must always be adapting the method by which the message is delivered without compromising ‘The Word’.

  3. I was struck by one minor detail in vs 7 – after much discussion. God never drops seems to drop His answer straight into our laps. Instead He uses our humanness to work through the problem to arrive at the solution. Once we are willing to have the Holy Spirit be our guide then we will get there. I’ve had this happen on several occasions and it helps one appreciate the diversity we have while ensuring the unity that God brings.

  4. This is indeed a truly instructive passage for our given context of “the local church”.

    Quite a few wise principles stand out.
    1) There is a consistent demonstration of mutual submission (per Rom.12:5, “each member belongs to all the others”), shown throughout the passage (v.2,3,4,6,12…).
    2) Notwithstanding, there is a clearly differentiated role for the “apostles and elders” (v.2,6).
    3) And within that context, resolution still took “much discussion” (v.7, as Gordon also points out), and via the critical contributions of multiple individuals (mentioned are Peter, v.7; Paul & Barbabas, v.12; James, v.13).

    We would do well always to follow this model in all matters of church governance.

  5. This passage is too rich and instructive to miss so playing catch up. A couple more Scriptures come to mind that complement and what is happening in the early church. The first, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility” (Ephesians 2:11-16) and the second, “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph 3:10-11). It is so easy to lose sight of God’s purpose, power and ways that WILL accomplish HIS plan if we the church trust Him and walk in obedience to Him.

  6. God is The Master Planner and Builder of His Church, His Body of Which He is The Head.. In the Book of Acts, He established the local Church Through His Gifts- “.. He gave some apostles, and some prophets,, and some evangelists, and some pastors, and some teachers ” His purpose and will for His Church-“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry for the edifying of the Body of Christ, Till we all come to the unity of the Faith and the knowledge of The Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of stature of the fulness of Christ.. “Eph 4:11-13
    God is clear on the structure and organisation of His Church- Jesus Christ, His Church leaders and the congregation.. and His ordained purpose/ will for His Church- of evangelism through the Great Commission.
    God’s Almighty Power was manifest in the early church through many signs and wonders, because of adherence to God’s command among early believers, disputes were settled through Gods leaders by their submission to God’s Word and divine wisdom led by The Spirit of God. Members of the congregation were respectful to their leaders and held them in high esteem as God’s servant , and accepted their counsel as God inspired.

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