“So we have sent Judas and Silas, who will report by word of mouth the same things [that we decided in our meeting].
For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to place on you any greater burden than these essentials:
that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols, and from [consuming] blood, and from [eating the meat of] things that have been strangled, and from sexual impurity. If you keep yourselves from these things, you will do well. Farewell.” Acts 15:27-29
These early church leaders are gathered together at the first church council/SYNOD to discuss and make decisions about the direction of the church under the Holy Spirit.
Luke does not tell us how the Spirit made His wisdom known to the church. We simply know that He did.
And less anybody reading the letter miss the point, the Holy Spirit is mentioned first in who the ruling seemed good to. The Holy Spirit is God, and thus omniscient and all-perfect, and anything that “seems good” to him may be taken as most definitively good. – Jimmy Akin
This is at the core of what is going on in the letter found in Acts 15 this morning. A letter written by the early Jewish-Christian elders in Jerusalem, to the new non-Jewish believers in Antioch discerning the question “what do we do with the Gentile Christians among us”? The letter addresses the emerging issue of whether or not the new believers should be expected to keep all of the Jewish religious laws – most notably circumcision – “principles or people”? Remember from Acts 1 to Acts 15 the church had grown by some estimates 1,000%! But in Acts 11 something happened which had always been on the heart of God since the very beginning but was completely unexpected by the Jewish Christian early church – “Gentile believes”. Principles or People? Letter of the Law or the Spirit of the law? And after much debate earlier in the chapter this is the Spirit led discerned response.
The Spirit is as personal as the “us.”
Mainstream Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is a person. The also believe the Holy Spirit is fully divine, being a part of God along with “the Father” and “the Son” (Jesus). In terms of right living and obedience to the gospel, theists will believe that worshiping God rather than some other entity is important. The question of whether the Holy Spirit is a person is significant then, because depending on one’s theory of reference (inter alia), an individually denying the person-hood of the Holy Spirit, is plausibly denying an essential property of God. Consequently, the object of their worship and affection is not God but something else entirely.
How about us today? What self imposed requirements hinder our ability to empower leaders to go out and impact our world for Jesus?
This is a remarkable reminder of the power of the Holy Spirit to work within a group of people seeking to honour God. There were radically different opinions on what should be done. Some of those opinions were wrong. Others were right. But as God’s leaders — in the presence of the other members of Jesus’ church in Jerusalem — prayed and discussed and listened, they came to a conviction they understood as the word of the Holy Spirit. Why is it so hard for us to come to such consensus and to a similar conviction?