It is written:
And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved. 2 Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question. (Acts 15:1-2)
Recently in my daily Bible reading, several intriguing lessons stood out to me from the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Acts. I would like to share som of those insights with you.
Acts 15 begins by reminding us about one of the most widespread disputes in the early church. There were many people in the first century who were Judaizers (i.e., people who tried to bind the Old Testament Law on believers in our day and age). A few things about this passage stand out to me.
First, it is interesting that there are many people in our day and age who (like the ancient Judaizers) try to bind the Old Testament Law on Christians. This was a common heresy that the early church faced. In fact, aside from the heretical threat of the Gnostics (i.e., the disciples who tried to combine Christianity with ancient paganism), Judaism was one of the greatest obstacles our brethren faced. Notice that these Judaizers were not teaching that the Old Testament Law is valuable and good (which is certainly true, as Paul himself maintains in several passages such as Romans 15:4 and 1 Corinthians 10:1-11), but that it was necessary for a convert to Christianity to keep the Law of Moses to be saved.
Like many people today, these Judaizers did not recognize that the Old Testament Law was designed to b temporary:
Galatians 3:19-What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.
Galatians 3:24-25-Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
The Judaizers did not understand that the New Testament is superior to the Old Testament:
Hebrews 7:22-by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant.
Hebrews 8:6-But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
Second, notice how Paul and the early church dealt with this matter: they reasoned together. We are told that Paul and Barnabas entered into a “dispute”with these believers. This reminds me of the many times in the Book of Acts where Paul “reasoned” with others (Acts 17:2, 17). The word used in these passages is dialegomai, and has an interesting definition:
“dialegomai means “to reason, argue, prove, persuade…If we are to emulate Paul’s preaching and teaching, we must do much more than just talk. dialegomai involves preaching and teaching that harnesses reason and logic into a defensive and positive exposition of God’s Word to persuade and edify.” (William D. Mounce (General Editor, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1103 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)
As Christians, we need to do our best to “reason” with our friends and neighbors; and we must be ready also to enter into “dispute” over matters of importance.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.