Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What is the significance of the decision made at the Jerusalem “Council” in Acts 15?

The first of all Church councils, the Jerusalem Council, was important as it dealt primarily with the question of what one must do to be saved. MacArthur agrees and notes that, “The apostles and elders defied efforts to impose legalism and ritualism as necessary prerequisites for salvation. They forever affirmed that salvation is totally by grace through faith in Christ alone.” Bock points out that the receipt of the Spirit and Peter’s conclusion regarding the matter demonstrate that “God accepted Gentiles as they were when the Spirit came…God equally receives both Jews and Gentiles…There is no distinction between them when it comes to access to salvation.”
So, it seems quite evident that rendering a decision regarding the issue of salvation in light of the Law amongst Jews and Gentiles was absolutely necessary. This decision was made to help deter the nationalistic pride of Israel detrimental to the spread of God’s kingdom, the badgering of Gentile believers by the Judaizers, and to encourage the proclamation of the Gospel amongst unreached Jews and Gentiles within the Roman Empire. With this decision, the only restrictions made related to holy living in relationship with God: Idolatry, consumption of blood and strangled animals, and fornication.

How did Paul share his faith with the Athenians in Acts 17?
In his customary fashion, Paul was in the synagogue at Athens reasoning with the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles. He also took the opportunity to share his faith in the marketplace, defending his views amongst the Epicureans and Stoics as well. With this new teaching to the Athenians, Paul was brought to the Areopagus in order to defend his views before the city’s philosophers and authorities. Henry notes that the Areopagus was “the town-house, or guildhall of their city, where the magistrates met upon public business, and the courts of justice were kept; and it was as the theatre in the university, or the schools, where learned men met to communicate their notions.”
Using this most important site in the city, Paul took advantage of the opportunity to share his faith by means of appealing to the supernatural nature of the Athenians. Their concern for pleasing the gods extended to the point of making an altar to an unknown god, for fear of offending any they may have forgotten. Because of this, Paul was able to use the altar as a springboard to share the Gospel of the one true God. Beginning with Creation, Paul moved forward addressing the idolatry of the Athenians and ending ultimately with the resurrection of Christ. As usual, Paul’s message met mixed reviews, with some believing, some scoffing, and some desiring to learn more.

MacArthur, John F. The MacArthur Study Bible. Thomas Nelson: La Habra, 2006.
Bock, Darrell L. Acts. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand
Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007.
Henry, Matthew. Complete Commentary on Acts 17. Matthew Henry Complete
Commentary on the Whole Bible". com/view.cgi?book=ac&chapter=017>. 1706.

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