And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. Acts 15:2
Jewish Christians come from Judea to Antioch (the headquarters of non-Jewish converts to Christianity) teaching that unless the Gentile (non-Jewish) believers are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, they could not be saved. Basically, they felt Gentiles had to first become Jews before they could become Christians. They clung tightly to the Jewish people being God’s exclusively chosen people. Naturally, this was a hard thing for them to break free from. It was such a big part of their life and culture for generations. They had no problem with Jesus... as long as they also followed Jewish laws and rituals to be saved.
Paul and Barnabas initially attempt to persuade them otherwise; to help them see and understand that it is faith in the grace and work of Jesus ALONE that saves us. But their persuasion falls on deaf ears, and they can’t let it go. This was no insignificant issue…this had to do with SALVATION. This was about the core of Christianity. It wasn’t a nuanced belief or preference, but the essence of Christianity. A matter that needed to be elevated, addressed and resolved.
A decision is made to go to Jerusalem to have the matter settled by the apostles and the elders. The question at hand: Are Christians saved by faith in Jesus alone or by faith PLUS obeying the law of Moses? Is the work of Jesus enough, or do we also need our own works?
After warm greetings and much discussion and debate, Peter rises to reflect on what God had been doing and how He had given the Gentiles the gift of the Holy Spirit just as they had received it. James also responds, pointing to Scripture to confirm what Peter, Paul, and Barnabas were saying. Through what is referred to as the Jerusalem Council…bringing people together, discussions, debating, listening, and most importantly reflecting on the work of God and the word of God, the issue is settled. Jesus alone saves us.
Questions: How can different ideas divide us and drive us off course? How do we know what the big things are that need unity and agreement?