S (Scripture): Acts 15:22 The apostles and the elders, along with the entire church, agreed to send some delegates chosen from among themselves to Antioch, together with Paul and Barnabas. They selected Judas Barsabbas and Silas, who were leaders among the brothers and sisters. 23 They were to carry this letter:
The apostles and the elders, to the Gentile brothers and sisters in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. Greetings! 24 We’ve heard that some of our number have disturbed you with unsettling words we didn’t authorize. 25 We reached a united decision to select some delegates and send them to you along with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul. 26 These people have devoted their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore, we are sending Judas and Silas. They will confirm what we have written. 28 The Holy Spirit has led us to the decision that no burden should be placed on you other than these essentials: 29 refuse food offered to idols, blood, the meat from strangled animals, and sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid such things. Farewell.
O (Observation): The Jerusalem Council has met, discussed, and decided that Gentiles need only to follow a few basic life rules to set them apart as God’s people. This decision was written as a letter to several churches and was carried and read aloud by some of Jesus’ followers.
The letter points to a significant change in “church policy.” The situation was that a male would need to be baptized in order to be a part of God’s Kingdom. The church – in Peter and Paul’s time – decided that forcing Gentiles who believe in God and Jesus to be circumcised was a tradition out of its time and context. The sign was important to the Jews and their customs for eons. However, to new believers without a connection to the Jewish customs, circumcision became a stumbling block to their faith.
So, it was decided, and the news spread: one does not need to be baptized to be a follower of Christ. Yet, some identity markers would still be in place: “refuse food offered to idols, blood, the meat from strangled animals, and sexual immorality.”
So the Jerusalem Council decided that what one knew was not as important as who one was. Circumcision is not the identification marker; rather, an upright life (“who you are”) is most important.
A (Application): My mantra over these last several years has become: “Being a Christian is much more about who you are, rather than what you believe.”
If I’m only concerned about what I believe, but don’t let that belief change me, what is the transformation in that? I can argue all day long about my beliefs, but if that doesn’t change my character into Jesus’ character, then my actions do little to reflect my belief in Jesus.
Rather, when we live from our Christian beliefs, and our beliefs causes us to change who we are, then you have a faithful life lived out. That is why the Jerusalem Council focused more on “who you are” rather than what you believe (circumcision is the only way).
And yet, even in listing out the rules in that letter could become a new “Law” to define Christians. As soon as we set down a new set of rules to live by, we make THAT LIST into the new law, when all along, we were trying simply to extend grace. Thus, the conclusion: being a follower of Christ is much more about who you are rather than what you believe.
How does your faith in Christ affect your beliefs and your actions?
P (Prayer): Lord, shape me, make me. Amen.