It Seemed Good to the Holy Spirit and Us!

17 Dec

The phrase in Acts 15:28 seems a bit odd in our ears today, but I believe there is more to what Luke is saying than what might appear to us as an overly religious or even a presumptuous remark. “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us…” what does Luke intend for us to see?

The context of James’ phrase comes out of the Church’s first great controversy; namely, how are the gentiles to be received into a heretofore predominantly Jewish movement? The problem of understanding the true nature of the Church’s predicament is that we look at it, i.e. the Jerusalem Council, through the theological lens provided for us in Paul’s epistles. But, the truth be told, no letter by Paul has come down to us that predates the Jerusalem Council.

What Luke preserves for us is, no doubt, a much more peaceful and amicable record of that event than was actually experienced by the nascent Church. For example, Peter probably knew ahead of time after his rooftop vision in Acts 10 that whatever would occur in Caesarea would not be received well back in Jerusalem, and he was correct (Acts 11:1-3). This is why he brought with him six Jewish witnesses, brethren who resided in Joppa (Acts 11:12). If Peter hadn’t anticipated trouble from at least some in Jerusalem, why did he bring those six men with him to witness what would take place? Moreover, if trouble wasn’t anticipated in Jerusalem, why did the Jews from Joppa return to Jerusalem with Peter, if not to verify his claims to a doubting audience?

Although Luke doesn’t overtly describe the tension the Church experienced over the admittance of uncircumcised Gentiles, the fact that it took 10 years to finally resolve, is testimony enough to show the circumcision issue was not settled simply because six people witnessed what had taken place and supported Peter’s story. Nevertheless, what God had done in the Cornelius household at Caesarea was instrumental in how the Jerusalem Council came to its decision.

One of the issues, I believe, Luke wants us to see in the matter of controversy within the Church is not that the Church is an equal partner with the Holy Spirit, but that the decision that was finally made was not **forced** upon the Church by God, or for that matter by men vying for political power over the people. Rather, God made his will known in Caesarea 10 years before the Jerusalem Council took place. During this time the Church struggled with theoretical theology, but in the end, it was fellowship that emerged victorious. What seemed to threaten the unity of the nascent Church developed into a greater assurance that Jesus was committed to its leaders throughout the struggle, patiently permitting them (his unequal partners) to catch up to his will and confirm the decision he already made in Caesarea. I believe this is implicit in James’ words “And to this agree the words of the prophets…” (Acts 15:15), for not only must we agree with God but so, too, must the Scriptures be made to agree with what God does, and that without changing the wording of the Scriptures themselves.

I believe more than anything else, this is what Luke intends for us to see in what came out of the Jerusalem Council. Had he recorded the decade of uneasy debate that, no doubt, did occur, the peaceful and amicable grace provided the Church by the Lord, while he waited for his Bride to make herself ready (Revelation 19:7) for him, would not have been so evident as seems here. Luke’s record would have been too muddled with theological issues for anyone to see the peaceful and patient work of the Spirit that brought the Church strongly and decisively into communion her Lord on the issue of discrimination. God shows himself to be wholly receptive of all mankind, despite one’s ethnic culture, and so should the Church follow her Lord.


Posted by on December 17, 2012 in Gospel, Jerusalem Council


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4 responses to “It Seemed Good to the Holy Spirit and Us!

  1. Eddie

    December 21, 2012 at 12:34

    Thank you, Rebekah, and Lord bless you too! :-)

  2. Rebekah L

    December 21, 2012 at 12:15

    This is a very thought provoking post. I was just chatting with another blogger yesterday about how God is so patient with us. This is yet another example of that. God Bless!

  3. Eddie

    December 17, 2012 at 18:59

    Hello again Purnima, it is always a welcome event to find you here reading what I write, and to read such an encouraging comment brings a smile of satisfaction. You are concerned with your English, and I am concerned with my clarity. :-)

    In recent years I’ve had such a clear revelation in the Scriptures about the grace of God towards us. He just isn’t into forcing us to do anything—like you say—not corporately nor individually. I am astonished at his respect for our freedom. He has more respect for us (his creation) than we have for one another. And, he waits for us to catch up with him on how he already treats us.

    Concerning my last two lines, I didn’t always see things this way. I was more willing to see anger in God over things that I didn’t believe are true, but the more I recognized his grace, the more I saw his love for all men and his willingness to draw all to himself through Christ—I don’t mean ‘Christianizing’ everyone, although I am not against people becoming Christian. But, if what Christ did was for all mankind, then it is for all, just as we are. Like the rain and the sunshine are for all, whether or not one is able to see the sunshine or feel the rain, so is Christ.

  4. Purnimodo

    December 17, 2012 at 16:37

    Nice post! I’ve always found the mention of the Holy Spirit and the Fruit of the Holy Spirit in the Bible very interesting. I like how you explain this particular phrase. My English is not the best and I might interpret it wrong but when you say that that ‘the decisions that was finally made it was not forced’, I think believe this too. We’re but human with the choice to bear the Fruit but by no means equal partners – not individually or in an institutionalized form.

    As a child the stories of the struggles of the apostles and their violent deaths always had me think. To sacrifice your life and go through so much pain for what you believe in. For Peter to breath in and step towards, what he knew wasn’t going to be a cozy tea party… as a child I always thought hiding under the blankets was the best solution to everything ;)

    On a side note.. I’m not entirely familiar with Mesopotamian law but besides that Peter anticipated there was (logically) going to be some (a lot of) trouble I believe there was also a witness legal system present at that time. I could be wrong though..

    Wholeheartedly agree with the last two lines. :) This is one of the reasons I love Jesus and his teachings – He couldn’t care less from what ranks of life or which part of earth you hailed from. :)

    Thank for sharing!

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