About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
Acts 15:28 reads:
"It seemed good
to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the
The context of Acts
15:28 is this. The first
challenging issue that divided the infant church concerned how Gentile
Christians should relate to the Old Testament Jewish Law.
This led to the first recorded gathering of church leaders to solve
a divisive doctrinal dilemma. The
meeting included Paul, Barnabas, Peter, James, and others, men who
represented both extremes of the debate.
Understanding the personalities of these men, as limited as I do,
leads me to believe their gathering got quite heated before a well
thought-out, corporate conclusion was agreed upon.
With a well thought-out
conclusion in mind, the words "seemed good" in the phrase
"seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us" become important.
Seems good is translated from the Greek verb "dokeo,"
which implies the making of a well thought-out opinion.
The well thought-out opinion agreed upon by leaders with differing
opinions, guided by the Holy Spirit, exhibited a collaborative debate
resulting in a corporate conclusion.
Another thing to note
here is that a team of men, not one man, balanced the intellectual with
the spiritual in their deliberation. They
presented their varying intellectual arguments as well as seeking the
spiritual guidance of the Holy Spirit in the pursuit of a resolution.
The resolution, was thus, a product of plurality of leadership;
leaders with varying opinions in collaborative dialogue. This led to
corporate consensus that preserved unity in the midst of diversity, which is
central to the nature of church.
The conclusion agreed
upon by the team of leaders stated that Gentile believers did not have to
concern themselves with the Old Testament Law.
It was, however, recommended that they abstain from meat sacrificed
to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual
immorality. These requirements
were meant to relieve Gentile believers of burdensome laws that were never
directed to them, and in the process, restore unity to a fractured church.
Even with the above agreed-upon recommendations, it appears that the individuals who came to the corporate collaborative conclusion, still held to their personal autonomous opinions. Paul, for example, had no problem eating meat sacrificed to an idol as long as his eating did not harm the conscience of a fellow believer. If meat was offered him, he'd thank God and eat it without asking if it had been first offered to an idol (1 Corinthians 10:14 - 33). Unlike Paul, James, who appeared to uphold his Jewish heritage would have asked if the meat offered him was sacrificed to an idol, and if it was, he would have refused to eat it.
debate among leaders with varying opinions is meant to produce a corporate
consensus that preserves unity in the midst of a diverse Christian