Things were going well for the Apostles in their mission of reaching the Gentiles. They were engaging new people. They were telling about the hope that can be found in Jesus Christ. They were seeing lives transformed through accepting the gift of faith.
Everything was going well, which meant that trouble was on the horizon. This time the trouble would come from within their own ranks. A group of believers, some who had been Pharisees, said for Gentiles to truly be saved they had to be circumcised. In other words, this group of believers wanted additional requirements placed upon the Gentiles in order for them to be accepted as “true” believers.
Sadly, this is an all too familiar story for the church. We often only accept new people into our communities once they do additional things that have little to do with faith. Most of these “additional things” are hidden rules to make sure a new person looks more like us than they do a person transformed by Christ’s love. These “rules” become a stumbling block in a new person’s faith, because they distract from Christ’s love instead of helping the person grow in faith.
So, what happens in Acts 15? The case is brought before the Jerusalem Council, where the Apostles deliberated what to do with the Gentile believers. It was ultimately decided that nothing should be expected of the new believers that they would not expect of themselves. Truly, nothing should hinder their acceptance of Christ and their new walk with the Lord. We cannot add things that Christ would not expect of us.
This is a lesson for the church. Our primary focus should be to help someone grow in faith and their acceptance of the Lord. We must place nothing before a believer that takes them away from true discipleship.
All of us have, from time to time, added additional tasks to a believer than growing in faith and seeking to become more like Christ. The challenge for us is this: How do we lessen our own desires, so that the life of Christ can become more real in the life of a believer? How do we, as a church, seek to make disciples that look like Christ and less like us?