The Holy Spirit’s Clarifying Ministry
Paul and Barnabas continued their travels, and eventually ended up back in Jerusalem, where they met with the believers, the elders, as well as the apostles. A discussion followed whether or not Gentile believers were required to obey the law of Moses, as we can read in Acts 15:4-6
When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them. Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.” The apostles and elders met to consider their question.
Peter spoke up, and shared with them his experience at the house of Cornelius, where he had learned that God accepted Jewish believers as well Gentile believers, as we can read in Acts 15:7-11
Peter got up and addressed them, “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the Gospel and believe. God who knows the heart, showed that He accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as He did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for He purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
Based on Peter’s words the church decided not to make it difficult for Gentiles to become believers. Led by the Holy Spirit, they proposed the following guidelines, which we can read in Acts 15:20
Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.
A letter was prepared with these guidelines in mind, and this letter was sent to the church at Antioch, as we can read in Acts 15:30
The men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter.