Summary: It is living still, inspite of all that has come against it; inspite of all who have tried to pervert it. Keep the faith!
What an august gathering we would witness, if we were able to transport back in time and go to Jerusalem for this first official council on the doctrines of the faith.
All the big names are there. Paul and Barnabas, who have had much God-given success in ministry among the gentiles, which is the very reason this council is convening, Judas and Silas, who would accompany Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch with the results of this meeting, Simon Peter, James the brother of Jesus, and apparently a large gathering of Pharisees who had become believers.
These days, if some organization gets two or three guys together who have written books and gotten their name known, they’ll charge you hundreds of dollars to come to their city and hear these big names tell you what they know. In actuality, all they know, or think they know, is derived from what these early fathers left behind for them to learn from. In some cases, as we will see later, they deviate from what these great men determined to be true by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and we must be discerning.
I wonder how much folks would be willing to pay to be a fly on the wall at the Jerusalem council?
Now without the universal translators that they use on Star Trek imbedded in our heads we wouldn’t be able to understand a word they’re saying.
But just imagine that you could, or that you could hear the whole meeting in English. Wouldn’t that be amazing? You’d be witnessing possibly the most important meeting of the church there has ever been.
In recent weeks we’ve been studying the movement of the gospel through Samaria, the blossoming of the church in Antioch, spreading to Cyprus and then North to the various cities of Pisidia, Phrygia, Lycia, Pamphylia, going to the Gentiles as Jesus told His Apostles that it would, and later instructing Paul specifically to take the message to them.
It hasn’t been a joy ride, by any stretch of the imagination. Whenever God’s people determine to do God’s work in God’s way, the enemy will oppose that work. He won’t ultimately win, but he will stir up trouble and do his best to deceive and dissuade and discourage.
Nevertheless the spread of the gospel has been successful in those regions, churches have been started and the gentiles who have heard and responded to the call of God are rejoicing.
OPPOSITION FROM THE CHURCH
So as chapter 14 draws to a close Luke traces the steps of the evangelists back to Antioch. As they go, passing through Pisidia and Pamphylia and preaching in Perga and finally coming to Antioch, Luke says they
‘…began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles”.
That’s a tradition that still goes on in the church today, doesn’t it? Occasionally we have missionaries returning and visiting their home churches and maybe other churches that have been giving them support, and they’re given the floor for a worship service or two and they talk about the things the Lord has been doing in the place they serve.
It’s a good tradition. It strengthens and encourages the church. And so often, simply because of the locations in which they minister, these servants of God have undergone great hardship. Or perhaps they have witnessed great hardship and had opportunity to be a champion to people who cannot help themselves. But in great hardship the Holy Spirit works great miracles. It seems that very often God matches His involvement in a person’s life with the degree that they let Him be involved in their life.
I mean, if we go to church on Sunday but spend the rest of our time either chasing worldly goals or vegging on the sofa, we’re not going to see Him doing much in our lives, are we?
But when we’re devoting ourselves to Kingdom work and we’re out there boldly declaring the good news of Christ and telling people that there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, then Satan is going to oppose that, and that gives God opportunity to show His power and glory.
Paul is stoned to death for preaching the gospel, so God raises him back up. Miracle. Was Paul discouraged, or emboldened by the experience? He went back and preached some more. He was in a great position, there outside of Lystra, to stand up, brush the dust off his tunic, look around at his wide-eyed friends, and say, “Let’s just keep heading east and go back to Antioch. I need a rest”.
Listen. Until you have been under the enemy’s attack because you’re doing God’s work God’s way and ol’ Slewfoot doesn’t like that; until you’ve suffered some and then seen God take care of the problem His way, you can never understand why Paul said to the Corinthians, “I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”