Leadership Devotion: Sharing Our Vision

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Read Acts 15:1-2, 5-12, 19-21

Christianity was birthed out of the Jewish faith. Jesus and the disciples were Jews. In the early days of the church, Christians were still praying at the Jewish temple (Acts 3:1). When Paul and Barnabas went evangelising the Roman world, they almost always started at the Jewish synagogue where they were welcomed as Jews. No wonder early Christianity was seen as a Jewish cult rather than a brand-new religion.

But these Jewish origins left the Christian church with a dilemma. How much Jewishness was necessary to be a Christian? This didn’t matter a lot at the beginning. Believers in Jesus were almost all Jews who were circumcised and who practised a Jewish way of life. They could be both Jews and Christians. But as the gospel spread among the Gentiles, it became a really big issue. Did the laws and practices that God laid out for his people in the Scripture (Old Testament) apply to all Christians?

For some (especially those who had been very strict Jews) the answer was clear. They argued that God didn’t change his mind. Their whole life had been built around obeying Yahweh (God) and following his laws. To them, it was obvious that Christians would need to be circumcised and follow the Jewish laws. They believed that this was what God asked of all his people. To them, it was an open and shut case.

But Peter and Paul and Barnabas had a faith vision. God had revealed to them that the Gentile Christians did not need to become Jews. Peter had seen this in a vision. Peter, Paul and Barnabas had found that God saved pagans and filled them with the Spirit without any need to live like Jews. They wanted to share this revelation with the whole church.

That’s what the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 was all about. The mother church had to decide on the faith vision for the whole church. They needed to discern what God was saying. Peter spoke from his own experience. Barnabas and Paul shared stories of the powerful work of God among Gentiles. After much discussion, James (the brother of Jesus and probable leader of the Jerusalem church) summarised what God was saying. Gentiles could receive God’s grace with no strings attached. They had their faith vision. God has spoken. Christianity was now a Gentile faith as well as a Jewish faith. Gentiles just had to do a few minor things (15:20) to preserve their relationship with Jews.

Calling people to the faith vision you carry from God can be challenging. It took words from Peter, Barnabas and Paul, and James to convince the Jerusalem elders that the Gentiles didn’t need to become Jews to follow Jesus. Our role as leaders is to galvanise people into believing and pursuing God’s revelation. We need to effectively share our faith visions with those we lead.