Everyone listened quietly as Barnabas and Paul told about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. When they had finished, James stood and said, “Brothers, listen to me. Peter has told you about the time God first visited the Gentiles to take from them a people for himself. And this conversion of Gentiles is exactly what the prophets predicted. As it is written: ‘Afterward I will return and restore the fallen house of David. I will rebuild its ruins and restore it, so that the rest of humanity might seek the LORD, including the Gentiles— all those I have called to be mine. The LORD has spoken— he who made these things known so long ago.’ “And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood. For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations.” (Acts of the Apostles 15:12-21 NLT)
This meeting is called "The Jerusalem Council" and is the first official meeting of the church collectively to address a matter of controversy. A few days ago, we saw that some people from Judea had gone to the church in Antioch of Syria to proclaim that the Gentiles had to be circumcised just like the Jews in order to be saved. Paul and Barnabas vehemently argued against the idea. Now, we must remember that Paul was a staunch Pharisee in his past. He was even circumcised as a Jewish child himself (see Philippians 3:5-6). It was then determined that they would send Paul and Barnabas, along with some local church people, to Jerusalem to meet with the church leaders to discuss the problem. On their way, they stopped in Phoenicia and Samaria to visit the believers there. They told them the good news of the Gentile's reception of the gospel and they were joyous. When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were gladly received by the church laity (non-leadership) as well as the apostles and elders.
After Peter had rehearsed the details of his own experience concerning the Gentiles reception by God in Acts 10, Paul and Barnabas took the floor. They, too, rehearsed the miracles and wonders God did among the Gentiles on their first missionary journey. The apostles and elders in the audience were listening intently. Finally, after hearing the various speakers, James, the pastor of the church in Jerusalem (the first New Testament church and seat of authority) stood to address the apostles and elders. There are three James mentioned in Acts; James (the son of Alphaeus) James (the brother of John, sons of Zebedee) and James the brother of Jesus. This James was the younger brother of Jesus (see Matthew 13:55). He was born to Joseph and Mary following the firstborn birth of Jesus. Jesus was born by Divine conception. His father was God.
As James addressed the gathering, he quoted Isaiah 45:21 and Amos 9:11-12 in order to connect the happenings of their time with Old Testament prophecy. He was verifying the authenticity of the Gentile's reception of God and by God. He made a decree concerning the matter at hand. His decision was that the Gentiles not be unnecessarily burdened with circumcision and other requirements of the law of Moses (Jewish regulations). The only thing he expected the Gentiles to do was to stay away from idol worship, food offered to idols, sexual immorality, and from consuming blood from strangled animals. Any pagan practice was forbidden, sexual purity was to be observed, and there was to be, absolutely, no consuming of blood.
This conduct would be honorable to God and also show respect toward the Jewish people. Anything we do must be under those two things: Honorable to God and respectful of others.
Rev. Curtis Norris