Paul at the Jerusalem Council

Read: Acts 15:1-31

So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. (v. 3)

Paul’s first missionary journey was a tremendous success, and it had brought great joy because non-Jewish people, the Gentiles, were coming to faith in Jesus. Paul was fulfilling his calling by carrying God’s name “before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15).

But this did not sit well with some of the believers in Jerusalem. They believed that observing the law of Moses (Torah) and practicing circumcision still needed to be included in following Jesus. Basically it came down to the question, “Do Gentiles who become believers in Jesus have to become Jews first?” Paul had not been requiring that of his Gentile converts.

So the early church gathered, in what we have come to call the Jerusalem Council, to settle this matter. Peter, and then James, the brother of Jesus, both well-respected apostles, won the day and sided with Paul, stating that they were not willing to place a yoke on the necks of these new non-Jewish believers that even they, the Jews, had been unable to bear. Fortunately, the church realized early on what Paul would later put so eloquently in words: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). —John Koedyker

As you pray, thank God for saving us by his grace alone.

About the Author

Rev. John Koedyker has been a pastor in the Reformed Church in America for more than forty years. His ministry began in Japan where he served as a missionary for ten years. After that he has served churches in Iowa and Michigan. He has served as the Stated Clerk of Muskegon Classis, RCA, for the past sixteen years and also presently serves as pastor of congregational care at First Reformed Church of Grand Haven, Michigan. John has written a number of times previously for Words of Hope and he has a bi-monthly religion column in the Grand Haven Tribune. He is married to Marilyn, and they have four grown children and seven grandchildren.

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