What’s At Stake In Controversy?

The history of the Christian Church has often been a history of controversy. Through the years Christians have had to confront evil and false teachers who want to move the church from the message of God’s grace to a message of legalism.

Acts 15 contains the story of the Jerusalem Council, a meeting necessitated by Jews from Jerusalem who traveled to Antioch of Syria to dispute the doctrine of salvation.

How does a person come to faith in Christ? Does a person have to become a Jew before he can become a Christian? Is the Christian faith the faith of a few or the faith of the masses? Is salvation by legalism, heritage, or faith in Christ alone?

What was at stake in this debate?

First, the understanding of salvation was at stake. Legalists always seem to abound. These are people who want to put restrictions on who can come to Christ and how. The Jews who came to Antioch wanted to demand circumcision (and thus Judaism) for all believers. They believed circumcision was necessary for salvation.

Today, few people demand circumcision, but they emphasize which church you attend or some other legalistic demand. What’s at stake is who can be saved and how a person comes to Christ. Paul’s letter to the Galatians had not been written at the time of the Jerusalem Council. When Paul wrote, he emphasized that salvation is by faith in Christ, plus nothing!

Second, the understanding 0f the missionary enterprise depended on the council of church leaders in Jerusalem. If these “Judaizers” were correct, Paul and Barnabas had been wrong in their ministry. The churches they founded in the first missionary journey (Acts 13-14) would have to change.

Paul and Barnabas saw the danger and confronted the issue (but in a kind manner).

God revealed that Paul should take the matter to the leaders of the Jerusalem church (Galatians 2:2). God used this meeting to deal with the controversy and advance the message of God to all the world.

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  1. Lonnie Wascom
    Sep 23, 2012

    That’s why Baptists formed associations! At least one of the reasons. Be blessed–

  2. Ed Matthew
    Sep 23, 2012

    The evidence of their actions, their fidelity to Christ, not being dependent on an outward physical change of circumcision made the argument. Galatians 2:7-9
    Did they not follow the prescription of taking a brother aside privately first, then with a witness before taking it to the next step? Galatians 2:2
    How gentle was 2:11? How two faced was James? 2:12
    All set ups for Galatians statement of Faith: 2:20
    Thanks be to God! AMEN
    Thank you!

  3. Rod Minor
    Sep 24, 2012

    Good word. I’ve been working through Acts in preparing to preach through it in the coming months. I found evangelism in every chapter of the book except for chapter 15. Nothing deterred those early believers from sharing the gosoel. Then the controversy. It needed to be addressed, but when the church leadersip turned their attention to addressing the distraction caused by this controversy and those who were focused on some less significant issues, evangelism – the passionate pursuit of the church – stalled. And I find it true today as well. There will always be a controversy to distract or a little fire to put out that can slow or keep us from the pursuit of the Great Commission if we are not careful.

    • Waylon
      Sep 25, 2012

      You have a good word as well. I have loved preaching in Acts. I will finish in two weeks (only nine weeks).

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I am the senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Covington, Louisiana, a position that I have held since 1989.

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For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. — 1 Timothy 2:5-6 (NIV)