“All the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. Ater they finished speaking, James replied, ‘Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. With this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, “After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.” ‘Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood'” (
I’ve been to this room, Lord! At least it’s the room in which they claim amazing things happened. This is where You reportedly had Your last meal prior to offering Yourself as a sacrifice for mankind. This is a possible location where You appeared to Your disciples after Your resurrection. Traditionally, this is thought to be the place where the apostles and first elders of the church met for council, administration and prayer.
I confess, I’m not impressed with the location. Even if the facts are accurate, it seems dark and lacking, probably because of the physical renovations that have taken place since.
On the other hand, regardless of where these things happened, they were amazing occurrences; which leads me, Master, to be highly focused today on the last example mentioned—the discussion by the apostles of embracing Gentiles…non-Jews…and inviting them into the faith. What an astounding historical and spiritual event! There in the same room (wherever that might have been) were your faithful—Peter, James, John, Paul, Silas, Barnabas , Luke—the Who’s Who of New Testament leaders goes on and on; but that’s not what impresses me, Adonai. Most significantly…You were there, in Spirit.
You were at work, beginning something I believe no one in the room was anticipating would a big deal. I’ve missed it repeatedly in my reading of this passage…until now. How astounding it is to have You, Elohim, open my eyes! Let me write out what I’m now seeing—please, Lord, coach me if I’m not getting this right.
Setting the stage, there appeared to be a division between the church fathers at that time about the rules of membership into Christianity. After all, most were Jewish and it was very clear to that segment that one could not be a follower of God without being circumcised. Paul, Barnabas and some of the others argued convincingly that—from the time that You, Lamb of God, were sacrificed and resurrected—it is now by the cleansing of our hearts through faith that we are brought into community with Father YHWH.
OK, so that’s all great news. I’ve read this text and been blessed by the message many times before. It’s what happened next that I had missed: After Paul’s passionate plea, the brothers were absolutely silent—they must have been absolutely convicted and moved by You—then James spoke out and suggested something absolutely incredible. To paraphrase, “Let’s write letters to the Gentiles.”
I know You were there and were active in this conversation; but I, Ancient of Days, am just now wrapping my head around this spiritual stepping stone. Here are all the heavy hitters of the early church in one room, and someone suggested a very innocent idea for practical communication. I can almost visualize Paul, Luke, Peter, John and company all looking at James, tilting their heads in consideration and possibly either thinking or responding out loud, “Letters, hmmm, good suggestion—we’ll try that!”
So began an extraordinary journey, not by foot or by cart, but by Your written Word. The world might have forgotten a speech in a synagogue or a testimony in a town center, but deeply personal letters, sent to newly formed groups of believers, read in meetings, in private houses or public places…churches…would forever change the hearts of nations.
I look at my Bible so differently now, Adonai. Having traveled to the land of Israel, the words now have become alive: Each scribed message, a picture in my mind, embellished by what I witnessed on site, spurring me to live out that picture in hope of inspiring others.
Today, You’ve gifted me with a new picture: A writer, sitting down at his or her desk, applying pen to paper, or laying hands to a keyboard; the writer prays and then begins to share a message breathed in from Another, confirmed in Scripture, tested by experience with fellow believers. The writer’s location matters not, only the dwelling place of his or her heart is at issue; and when one’s spirit is set right, Your Spirit speaks, preparing new readers to be changed through each jot and tittle…
“…Dear friends, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…”