A short reading and prayers for today
“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no greater burden on you than these few requirements.”
Acts 15:28 NLT
It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of the Council of Jerusalem that we read about in Acts 15. The early church had hit upon a massive problem and they needed to find a way to resolve it. When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost, it came upon a huge gathering of Jews and so the first Christians brought with them the richness of their Jewish traditions. However, very quickly, the Gospel spread to people from a non-Jewish background. This set up enormous tensions because there were many Christians from a Jewish tradition who believed that non-Jews were welcome to Christian faith on the condition that the men were circumcised and that they all abided by Jewish law. The Council had to work out what to do, and it came to the peaceful and clear conclusion that those from a non-Jewish background did not need to accept all the law. They were simply urged to accept a few limited rules out of sensitivity to those from a Jewish background. In the beautiful words of today’s verse the settlement that they arrived at “seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.”
The Holy Spirit was driving the mission of the early church so everything that happened needed to be in step with what the Spirit was saying. Merely coming up with a good political compromise was not enough. They needed to know that the Spirit’s breath was inspiring and directing their journey together. That’s a great description of what we need to seek in the church today. We face huge challenges as we live for God in a society that has long since turned its back on him. As we make decisions together, we need to share in good debate just as they did in the Council of Jerusalem. We need to listen carefully to one another and weigh up the different opinions that are shared. Our continual prayer must be that, at the end of the day, we will be able to say with the early church “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.”
In what current issues do we particularly need to be seeking the Spirit’s guidance?
Lord God, we praise you for the gift of your Holy Spirit and we pray that he will lead us into all truth. Amen
O God, without you we are not able to please you; Mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord.