Paul and Barnabas received a great welcome from the church in Jerusalem. Many years had passed since they had been there and there was much to tell, especially about what God had done in Antioch and in their first missionary journey. If all church reunions were like this, well…
But since it was an assembly with a decision to make, it was inevitable that an alternative view would surface. It is surprising and sad to see where this view came from. How was it possible that some believers still retained a connection to the party of the Pharisees, a group that were not well-disposed to the progress of the gospel? Perhaps it was the size of the number of converts that caused this allegiance to be overlooked! Or maybe those in charge assumed that this allegiance would peter out with the passing of time! Whatever the reason for tolerating it, trouble came eventually.
After much debate, Peter reminded the gathering of how they had previously realised that he had been given a special commission to bring the gospel to Gentiles. They had also discovered through his ministry at that time that God blessed Gentile converts with the same privileges that Jewish converts had received, and that no mention had been made of requiring conformity to the ceremonial law. One would have assumed that spiritual logic would have led them straight to the right conclusion, that they would continue on the path that God had guided them on to in his previous providence.
Peter also points out that consideration of this matter of whether or not Gentile converts should be circumcised was not merely an interesting theological discussion about a disputed point. Instead those who were suggesting that the ceremonial law should be practised were putting God to the test! They were in great danger of displeasing him, and in any gathering for discussion it is his opinion that counts.
After Barnabas and Paul had spoken (one assumes that this is the order in which they spoke) about their work among the Gentiles, James who seems to have the position of decision maker gave his opinion. He drew their attention to a prophecy in Amos which described the ingathering of the Gentiles into the recovered kingdom of David’s royal family. That prophecy was now being fulfilled, so there was no need for them to make up their own rules about what the Gentiles should be doing.
The point that James stresses is that we should have biblical support for whatever decision we make at any time about the kingdom of Jesus. James had more to say, which we will think about tomorrow. In the meantime we can think about the necessity of biblical support for our decisions.