BEING SENSITIVE TO ONE ANOTHER’S CONSCIENCES

Scripture Reading: Acts 15:22-29

“For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements:  that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.  If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.  Farewell.”  (Acts 15:28,29)

The conclusions of the Jerusalem Council set the course for the rest of the history of the church.  The unanimous decision of the council liberated the message of the gospel and it gave the Jewish-Gentile church an identity as the reconciled people of God, the one body of Christ.

It is clear from our passage that the Holy Spirit directed those who participated in the council.  Upon reaching their conclusions under His direction, the apostles and elders chose representatives who would go with Paul and Barnabas and deliver a letter to the church in Antioch explaining the actions of the council.

In essence the letter consisted of the following findings.  First, the apostles and elders confirmed that salvation is by grace alone, not grace plus circumcision.  Of course, this is the core of the gospel — that we are saved by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ.  No other burden was to be placed upon those who believe in Jesus Christ.  Second, the church leaders exhorted the Gentile believers to be sensitive to the consciences of their Jewish brethren.  Some of the Jewish believers continued to observe the dietary rules found in the Old Testament.  The other exhortations to the Gentile believers were necessary because many Gentiles’ consciences had been corrupted by the pagan culture they had lived in and been influenced by.

Christians are called to be sensitive to the consciences of other believers.  Paul wrote these words:  “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother” (Romans 14:13).  This is a good reminder to all of us.  Though salvation is by grace alone, we must be careful not to be stumbling blocks to other believers.  We need to be sensitive to the consciences of others.  It is better to refrain from some of our freedom than to hinder another believer.

Lord Jesus, give me a sensitivity to the consciences of my fellow brothers and sisters.  May I never be a stumbling block to them.  Grant me wisdom and enable me to live out the grace of the gospel in my dealings with others.

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