Acts 15:30-35 (NIV)
The men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers. After spending some time there, they were sent off by the brothers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.
The letter from the Jerusalem leadership was one of the key moments in the expansion of the Church. If the council had sided with the Judaizers, Christianity would have remained a sect of Judaism, and its outreach efforts would have been directed at Jews alone, stunting its growth, if not stopping it altogether.
But God guided the thoughts of the leadership, providing them with abundant examples and Scriptures to show clearly that the gospel was meant for a much wider group – literally the whole world. And those Spirit-filled, Spirit-led believers listened and followed.
Now the people in the Antioch Church, many of whom were gentiles, got to hear that the Church leadership accepted their salvation as real, and confirmed their status as brothers and sisters in Christ. Silas, one of the two preachers/prophets who encouraged the Church, will reenter the story soon as Paul’s companion on his second missionary journey to both Jews and gentiles in the Roman Empire.
For Paul and Barnabas, as well as for the other teachers and prophets in Antioch, this whole event became an impetus to redouble their efforts in expanding the reach of the gospel in and around Antioch, and in helping those in the faith to grow in their understanding of the kingdom of God.
Father, it is fascinating to see how You kept the plan moving forward, at each step clarifying the steps necessary to grow the kingdom and knocking the roadblocks down. And I am thankful to all those leaders, including Paul and Barnabas, who listened and heard, then followed and obeyed. Lord, help me to be of like mind with them, so that Your plan can continue to move forward where I am, and so that more and more people can be brought into Your kingdom. Amen.
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