“Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.” After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the Gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that He accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as He did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for He purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No, We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15:1,5, 7-11)
The tendency within mankind’s heart to control others has always been prevalent, but even more so in those who claim to know Jesus. This is one of the reasons why Believers–those who believe the work on the Cross and the Divinity of Jesus Christ–must know for themselves the plan of God for all men and women.
When we are in relationship with God and know and understand His Word–we won’t allow anyone to hogtie us to traditions and rituals that by themselves mean absolutely nothing. That is not to say that all traditions and rituals are worthless, but we must check our motivation for doing certain things, especially if we think they have any power to save us. We are saved by grace and that by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing we do–no observance of ritual or tradition–can save us–other than believing that Jesus rose from the dead, after being made the sacrifice for the atonement of sin. We repent of our sins–turn away from them and allowing them to control us–and allow Holy Spirit to guide us in all things. He does not “take control” of us; we must give Him control and when we do, we will see the blessings of God in our lives.
Notice how we are told that “certain people” started a campaign to control others and then how the Pharisees (those supposedly now Believers) also wanted to control the new converts. We are not told who the certain people were, but we can guess these were the “religious” sect that converted, but wanted to hold onto to the Law–not fully understanding “grace” because their hearts did not fully belong to God.
Peter reminds them–“God knows their hearts” referencing the Gentiles and He had no thought to keep them in bondage to a law that Jews could not and had not kept. Funny, how no one likes to be reminded of their shortcomings and they all became silent. This reminded me of those who wanted to stone the woman supposedly caught in the “act of adultery” but no man was brought to judgment with her. After Jesus reminded them that all had sinned, they dropped their rocks and left–not one stone being hurled at the woman.
But perhaps a more important lesson gleaned from this chapter of Acts is the fact that the Believers met to discuss what was going on and decided upon a course of action. No one person made a determination as to how they should proceed, but the group as a whole made the decision. “Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (call Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the Believers.” (Acts 15:22 NIV)
Are we choosing men and women who are leaders among us or are we simply allowing one or two people to control the masses and making messes of what should be an environment conducive to all to learn how to live, pleasing God, not man? Do we pray and ask God’s directions for all we do in the church or do we allow others to control what we do? Do we seek God’s directions to make decisions in our homes and everywhere else?
We ought to always pray and seek God’s directions in order to stay on the path He desires us to travel and never allow any one person–to control what we do. For when that happens, they become dictators and we become puppets–dancing to their dictates, instead of living our best lives–guided by Holy Spirit.
Let those with their religious spirits control themselves before trying to control others. Allow Holy Spirit to guide all matters and know that we cannot err when we do.