With the amount of upheaval and change occurring in the book of Acts, you’d expect major division. There is, of course, a huge rift between Jews and believers in Jesus which is evident throughout the book. But as I have been reading lately, I am struck by the agreement amongst those who have come to faith in Christ – both former Jews and the Gentiles.

For instance, after Peter’s vision of the sheet and encounter with Cornelius, the Gentile convert, in chapter 10, Peter reports at Jerusalem that God has granted that the Gentiles, and therefore all people, should receive salvation by faith in Jesus just like many Jews had. The magnitude of that shift in salvation history is amazing! While such worldwide salvation had been hinted at even to Abraham, to see the promised Messiah as Savior for all humanity, not just the Jews, would have been quite a shock. But Luke records that, “When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.'” While I’m sure there were those who dissented, and we see in the epistles that this issue would continue to be a sticking point for some, Luke emphasizes an amazing, Spirit-led unity. Peter was showing himself to be the rock Jesus had said he would be, and the church was of one mind.

Such unity is seen in Acts 15 as well. Some in Antioch began teaching the necessity of circumcision for salvation, contrary to the teachings of Paul and Barnabas. So a council gets together in Jerusalem, and with the help of Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and James, they sent a letter stipulating what new believers should and should not be doing, rejecting the notion that circumcision was part of a person’s salvation. So when this letter got to Antioch, you would expect some kind of rebellion, or people splitting off to form the “First Church of Circumcision is Necessary for Salvation.” But Acts 15:31 says that the Christians in Antioch, “when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement.” Again, people probably dissented and left, but Luke emphasizes a Spirit-led, miraculous unity.

With all of that said, this is the way I pray our churches function. Much of it is surely tied to leadership – Peter, Paul, and others spoke with authority because it was obvious to the people that they were seeking God’s glory and the church’s good. Also, much of it had to be tied to the people as well – they were focused on what God was doing, not what they wanted. They trusted their leaders while discerning whether or not their words were from God. So, grounded in the authority of God’s word, submitted to His Spirit, this is the way I desire to lead and follow. May my church and other churches be known, not for blind adherence to whatever people say or by a rebellious spirit that rejects thoughts contrary to my status quo, but by Spirit-led unity that rejoices whenever and however God is glorified.

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