Here is almost an entire chapter about people who don’t agree with each other, people with different opinions. In fact there is even a split amongst people who had ministered together. Sound familiar? This is ripe amongst Christians today. Let’s take a look at what Acts chapter 15 has to say.
First of all we have the issue of circumcision. Some were saying that the Gentiles should be circumcised and others were saying that they didn’t. If you replace the circumcision with just about any other ‘religious practise’, it sounds very similar to the kinds of discussions that go on today. I have said before that Christians will sooner accept non-Believers into church (which they should) than fellow believers with a different theology. We don’t like it when other believers don’t agree with us, do we? This is also a tug of war between grace and works. Grace that Jesus has given us by dying for us, and the works that we are called to do. Now I am pro works and grace. You may have heard one of my favourite sayings, “God’s Power, Our Actions”. Unfortunately, some people think that we don’t need to do anything, and others underestimate God’s grace. This is also about being ‘religious’. Religious, not as in being a Christian, but as in doing what were told to do just because we have been told to do it. There are things that we have been told to do, which I do. I do these things because I understand why we do it, and why God has called us to do it, not just because ‘that’s what we do’.
Peter gives what I believe to be the best answer in verses 8 – 11, So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” The law was there to show us that we fell well short of God’s standard. Then Jesus came and made a way for us to get to God, through faith in Him. We now do what pleases God because we love Him, not because we have to do it to get to heaven.
Then we see a common modern day experience. Paul and Barnabas had been doing ministry together for a while, and then they split. Over a disagreement. Now this passage doesn’t really give too many details, but they split because Barnabas wanted to take a guy John, called Mark along, and Paul didn’t. Verses 39 and 40 say, “Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God.” Sad, but I guess that it happens.
What do you think about situations like this? I personally think that it is better to go your separate ways and partner with people that you agree with. I think that we are called to love each other, but we probably won’t agree with everyone all of the time. I don’t think that this is a huge problem, as long as we deal with it correctly. The thing to remember is that even after this ‘sharp contention’, God still used them. God wants to use us, and wants what is good for us, no matter what we do. Us doing the wrong thing may stop us from receiving what God has for us, but it doesn’t stop Him from providing it. It may effect us and the way that we see God, it doesn’t effect God and the way that He sees us. When He looks at me He sees what Jesus died for, and for that I am eternally grateful!