What Happened at the “Jerusalem Conference?”

The events of Acts 15 have been of great interest to many over the years. This meeting of the apostles and elders of Jerusalem has been called many things, but most common is the “Jerusalem Conference.” Unfortunately, there have also been many false ideas that have stemmed from the events in this chapter. Some have used it as a rationale for holding conferences today to determine what we should believe about matters. Others have said that it shows a lack of unity among brethren, even the apostles, in the first century and therefore shows that true unity is impossible. So, what really happened at this meeting in Jerusalem? Can we know what God intended for us to take from this event, and if so, what is it?

Before delving knee-deep into the discussions, there are a few background points that need to be understood by the reader.

  1. The argument in question is over whether the Gentiles must be circumcised in order to be saved (Vs. 1). There were some Jewish Christians, with whom the church in Antioch was having to deal, who were teaching that this was absolutely necessary.  It is to answer the questions surrounding this issue that is the purpose of the meeting. It will also be as a result of this doctrine that the books of Romans and Galatians will be written.
  2. The meeting takes place in the period of time after Paul and Barnabas return from their first missionary journey (Acts 14:26-28). This is of importance because many of those who are present at the meeting have not heard the results of the journey. Remember, there was no e-mail, postal service, or instant messenger in those days. All news had to travel by word of mouth and personal messenger if it was to be relayed at all. Therefore, the brethren in Judea and Samaria had little or no knowledge of all that had occurred during the 3-5 years of the first mission trip as recorded in chapters 13 and 14 (cf. 15:2-3).
  3. It should be understood that, in all likelihood, Paul and Barnabas were not the only ones who had to travel a distance to make it to this meeting. The apostles were given the commandment by the Lord to go into all the world and preach the Gospel (Mat. 28:18), this was not accomplished by sending Paul to Asia Minor and the rest of the apostles sitting at home in Jerusalem. We know that the rest of the apostles were also out proclaiming the Gospel and few, if any, of them would have been present at Jerusalem throughout that entire period of the first missionary journey. Therefore, it is quite likely that the apostles have come long distances, from the various directions of their work, to be at this meeting.
  4. We need to recognize who are the disputants in this case. It has often been surmised that this is a problem between the apostles or between the apostles and the elders of Jerusalem. However, consider what is actually said in the text. The problem originates when brethren from Judea (the region in which Jerusalem resides, but not necessarily Jerusalem itself) come to Antioch and begin teaching this doctrine (Vs. 1). It is also seen in the church at Jerusalem when some believers, who were Pharisees by Jewish party affiliation, are spouting the same doctrine (Vs. 5). Therefore, the problem did not originate with the apostles or elders, but with other members of the church in the region.

With these facts in mind, consider the events of the meeting.

  1. The apostles and elders came together to “consider” this matter (Vs. 6). The word translated “consider” comes from the Greek word idein meaning “to see, to know, to discern.” It does not mean that they came together to discuss their varying beliefs on the situation, but rather that they had come together “to see for themselves” what was the situation as it pertained to this teaching. It is rather obvious that, because of the fact-finding nature of this meeting, it was held in Jerusalem, central to the area from which this teaching has been disseminated, so that first-hand knowledge of what was being taught and by whom could be understood.
  2. While in the English translations there is the appearance of discord among the apostles, based upon the word “disputing” or “debate” in verse 7, the reality in the Greek is somewhat clearer. The word translated thus is the Greek word suzeteseos. While it does carry with it the possibility of debate in the meaning, the meaning also bears within it the idea of questioning and discussing to get to an answer. Within this context, the term would better be translated as “questioning;” understanding that the process likely included the apostles and elders inviting and allowing various individuals who were teaching such (Vs. 5) to speak in the presence of the apostles and elders to get the full scope of the teachings and beliefs.
  3. After the fact-finding has been completed, Peter begins to speak about the events of Acts 10-11 and what they showed as it pertained to God’s work among the Gentiles. He then asks why “ye” (not the other apostles, but those who had spoken in favor of requiring circumcision – for we know others besides the apostles and elders were present because of the use of the term “multitude” in verse 12) tempt God (Vs. 10). Paul and Barnabas follow that up by relating their works among the Gentiles on their journey (Vs. 12). Finally, James (half-brother of Jesus, author of the book of James, and elder in Jerusalem) speaks in agreement with Peter, Paul, and Barnabas (Vs. 13-21). He recommends that letters be prepared, to be sent to the Gentile Christians, that show the unity of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem; that those letters should report that the Judaizing proclaimers are not teaching the truth in regard to circumcision; and that such commands are not necessary for salvation: and this they do (Vs. 19-29).

Therefore, having noticed what actually occurred, what do we need to take from this text?

  1. It needs to be understood that there is no indication from Scripture of “dissention in the ranks” of the apostles. From the statements of the text it is evident that, in reality, the apostles were following the procedures the Lord had taught them in dealing with matters of brotherhood strife. There was a problem in the teaching of some of these Jewish Christians. Instead of looking from afar, without clear insight into what is being said and done, the apostles come together, in the center of the area from which this doctrine is being dispensed, to hear for themselves what is being promoted. Once they have a firm grasp on what is being proclaimed they issue a united, joint-letter with the elders in Jerusalem proclaiming a rejection of the claims of the Judaizing teachers.
  2. If anything, this event should be titled “the Jerusalem Hearing,” not “the Jerusalem Conference.” Men have often surmised that there were disagreements among the Christian leaders and they came together to decide what they were going to believe and practice (as many denominational groups do today); nothing could be further from the truth. They came together to deal with an issue in a united way, showing that they were all in agreement and making sure they all had the same information in dealing with the issue. It is interesting to note that nowhere in the chapter is there any statement of an apostle or elder speaking in favor of the philosophy of the Judaizing teachers. In fact, the wording of the letter to the Gentile Christians from the apostles and elders specifically states: “to whom we gave no such commandment” (Vs. 24).
  3. We need to carefully consider the things that Scripture says about events before concluding that we know all of the ins and outs of what occurred. Sometimes, though initial impressions may point us one direction, further investigation paints a different picture.

The events of Acts 15 are interesting and educational on a number of different levels. They teach us the lengths we should be willing to go to ensure we have all of the facts in a case; the importance of always keeping the Scriptures in the forefront of the decisions we make (as they did – Vs. 8-9, 15-18); and the unity that was present among the apostles, even in times of difficulty or adversity. Therefore, let us make sure we handle this beautiful passage of Scripture correctly, not twist it into something it is not, or make it say something it does not, for the purposes of promoting something for which it was never intended.

15 Comments

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15 responses to “What Happened at the “Jerusalem Conference?”

  1. Stephen Segrest

    Lunch break — I come to you as a “student” to a “teacher” (which you must know that I think of you). As a “student”, my heart is “exactly” what your last blog was about (milk vs. meat). Have patience with me when I say, I disagree with you — but also remember I am seeking in the spirit of student to teacher.

    I think the Jerusalem Council is huge as a lesson from God’s Word in addressing so many culture wars that are dividing Christ’s Church today — resulting in (among so many things) Millennials (Youth) rejecting Christianity in record numbers (never seen before).

    I quote Rachel Held Evans — “We’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there… Like every generation before ours and every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus.” Millennials want an end to culture wars; a truce between science and faith; positive rather than antagonistic values; the right to ask questions; kingdom of God over party politics and nationalism; LGBT rights; and holiness in matters of sex as well as social justice.

    But for many/most Conservative Churches (especially in the South), people will not “budge one inch” on so many culture issues. Every issue is defined (a paradigm) of either black or white, right versus wrong thinking. Compromise is a very “dirty word”. (as this is also tearing our Country apart politically)

    Since its my lunch break I can not do justice (with Biblical references) — I will follow up later on. But here is what I consider a very big “fatal flaw” in your argument today. The issue between Jew and Gentile wasn’t over “JUST” circumcision — it was over numerous issues of Jewish culture.

    And here is my key point — from the Jerusalem Council “COMPROMISE” was reached (over some aspects of food). It wasn’t a pure black/white ideological resolution. Gentiles were asked to compromise some, and they accepted it.

    Why would Gentiles budge/compromise ANY? (as I remember on things like blood in meat). Following Acts (Church organization “ONLY” at a local level), why would Gentiles even consider ANY such compromises?

    Agape,
    Stephen

    • Stephen,
      I will try and present a reply without writing another article in the process. There are a few things that I would encourage you to consider in your evaluation of Acts 15 based upon what you said a few days ago. 1) While I would absolutely agree with you that the problems between the Jews and the Gentiles involved more than just circumcision, you must keep the actions and statements in their context. Verses 1 and 5 specifically state that the issue at hand that led to the meeting was the fact that some Jewish Christians were trying to require Gentiles to be circumcised and devote themselves to the law for salvation. The question under consideration is a salvation question, not a cultural one. Thus with Peter’s reply in verse 10 he asks why the Jews test God by putting more on the Gentiles than the Jews had ever been able to keep. This is not the only issue between Jew and Gentile (the books of Romans and Galatians were written with the express purpose of dealing with many of those other issues) but it is the primary purpose of this discussion at this time.
      2) I would caution you against trying to use Acts 15 as an authority for cultural compromise for a number of reasons. Because it is dealing with salvation, to consider it a compromise would require that man is dictating salvation based upon cultural issues, when the Scriptures show adamantly that one’s cultural backdrop has nothing to do with their eligibility for salvation (Gal. 3:27-29). God, through the apostles, is telling the Jews they have no right to force the Gentiles to accept their culture on such issues for salvation. However, and this is the emphasis of verse 20, the Gentiles do not have the right to retain cultural norms that are a part of the idolatrous natures of their cultures. All 4 of the things listed in verse 20 have direct correlations to the worship and offerings to idolatrous gods of the Gentiles (from temple prostitutes, to drinking of blood, to animal sacrifices). Just as the Jews cannot hold to the Old Law and the Law of Christ, so the Gentiles cannot hold to their old idolatrous habits and Christ as well. There is no compromise here. God, through the apostles, says this is the way it is; it is not open for discussion or negotiation.
      3) It has been my experience that, what you term the “culture wars,” is truly rooted in nothing but selfishness, personal passion, and pride. With all of the arguments over everything that you listed, the core of the issue comes back to the fact that people want to do what they want and are not interested in what God said. The “culture wars” will never be satisfied as long as people put their own opinions first and what God said last. If God and his Word are held as the only authoritative standard for belief and practice, the “culture wars” will be greatly diminished and removed from the forefront of discussion (as eventually happened in the first century church). The greatest lesson applicable to the culture wars from Acts 15, and many other passages, is that it does not matter what you or I think on a particular issue; what matters is what does God say about it. If God condemns it, then it is no longer a cultural issue, but a moral one. If God gives freedom (both in word and example) concerning it, then it does not matter and there is no sense fighting over it.
      Sorry for the length. I hope these thoughts help.

      Adam

  2. Stephen Segrest

    Please comment on Acts 15:20. Also, besides food, what specifically was being referenced by “sexual immorality” in this verse? What were Gentiles “specifically” doing that needed to be singled out? What if a Gentile didn’t abide with the 4 things referenced? Would the Gentile still be “saved”?

    In responding, please remember that the “context” of my question is the issue of “ABSOLUTES” versus “COMPROMISE”.

    Today, we “DISMISS” things like “Kosher” but 2,000 years ago this specific issue was “HUGE”.

    With conservative Christians, I often hear the phrase “You need to question your salvation” if one does not believe “X”.

    I’ll follow up with more scripture on this issue of compromise versus absolutes.

    • Stephen,
      Thanks for your attitude and questions. I will get to you with some answers, but I am swamped this weekend and it may be Monday before I can get any detailed answers to you. Thanks again!

  3. Stephen Segrest

    Adam — thanks for your last post. You said one thing that especially piqued my interest: “. . . the culture wars will be greatly diminished and removed from the forefront of discussion (AS EVENTUALLY HAPPENED IN THE FIRST CENTURY CHURCH)”. When you have time — could you write about the CAPITALIZED WORDS in your sentence above. What specific scripture are you referring to?

    • Stephen,
      I am not necessarily referring to a single passage of Scripture, but to the tenor of the Scriptures themselves. The books of Galatians and Romans (both written about the mid-50’s AD), are among the first books of the New Testament written. They are written at a time when two very distinct cultures are colliding within the church and, as we have already discussed, there are those trying to make cultural differences matters of salvation (especially on the Jewish side).
      However, consider something rather intriguing that takes place after the writing of the Jerusalem letter in Acts 15, as well as Romans and Galatians (which mark such “Judaizers” as false teachers who were to be accursed – Gal. 1:8-9; 2:4). Within a few years after these letters are written and distributed, there are letters written to churches in Corinth, Philippi, Ephesus, Colosse, Thessalonica, and others as well (a letter to Laodicea is eluded to in Colossians, not to mention the personal letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon). In most, if not all, of these congregations, both Jews and Gentiles were members, yet Paul never again has to spend large amounts of time devoted to cultural differences within the congregations. Why? Because, based upon both historical and scriptural data, the Judaizing teachers, once they were proven to be working against God’s Will, were rejected by the overwhelming majority of Christians and removed themselves from these congregations that would not fall prey to their false teachings.
      Therefore, just a few years removed from the writing of these letters, you have Timothy (half-Jew, half-Gentile) and Titus (Gentile) being 2 among many of the companions of Paul (Jew) who worked with these congregations intimately and directly. Were there still cultural differences found within the congregations?Almost certainly: because of the backgrounds and social positions of the members of the body of Christ in that time; but they were, for the most part, non-issues because these people were more interested in listening to God and heeding his will than they were their own cultural backgrounds and selfish egos.
      Were there still moral questions that had to be understood and dealt with? Sure. Were there still problems that arose within the congregations? Yes, but such problems were not generally rooted in the areas of culture. Instead they were more focused in areas of temptation, persecution, and sin. I hope this helps clarify a little.

      Adam

  4. Stephen Segrest

    Adam — again, thank you as I come as a “student”. In the coming weeks, could you give us an Agape story or stories after Acts where Christians strongly disagreed about something they believed was MAJOR — yet, worked it out within the Church where one group wasn’t clearly wrong or the other group clearly right.

  5. Stephen Segrest

    Adam, please comment on this: The Gentiles were to abstain from meats sacrificed to idols, from fornication, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from blood. These were the four proscriptions found in Leviticus 17-18 which had applied to non-Jews living in Israel. Physical circumcision was not a requirement for those who wished to enter spiritual Israel, the Church.

    Thus, the Council at Jerusalem wasn’t coming up with anything “new” (to specifically address some Gentile practices as you stated). They were just applying Mosaic Law that had been around for centuries (including “Kosher”). And yes, Acts 15 is specifically addressing Salvation.

    My question still remains, why would Gentiles (and Paul) accept these 4 specific conditions (out of a gazillion things that would be or could be considered sin)? Sure looks like some compromising going to unite rather than divide people — focusing on “big picture” items.

    And this is my entire point. As Christ’s Church becomes more and more fractured in today’s world, don’t we need to have discussion on “what’s important and what’s not so important” as to the central issue of Salvation? One can disagree on topics x, y, or z but disagreement does not have to be divisive.

    • Stephen,
      I see where you are coming from, allow me to point out a couple of other considerations. You mentioned that the men at the meeting in Jerusalem were not coming up with something “new,” they were simply rehashing the Old Testament. I agree with part of that statement. They were not presenting something new, and I do not believe I ever insinuated such (if I did I apologize). Because with at least two aspects of their letter (pollutions – literally “condemnations” – of idols, and fornication) these laws have been moral laws of God from the beginning of time. The statement concerning pollutions of idols refers to the religious ceremonies of idols, not that they could not eat of any meat that had been offered to an idol. The laws of not worshiping idols and keeping oneself from fornication have always been present, they were nothing that had not been taught before.
      Nor do I believe that the statements concerning strangulation and blood were anything they had not already been told before (and even these things predated the Law of Moses). But your characterization of them as the “kosher” laws is incorrect, because there was no inclusion of clean/unclean animals, or preparatory laws in the statements; simply the necessity to refrain from ingesting blood (which also predates the Old Law – Gen. 9:3-4) which was common in the rituals of the Gentiles. Nevertheless, I am convinced the things stated in that letter were the same things Paul and Barnabas had already been teaching the Gentiles as it pertained to their coming out of idolatry and accepting the teachings and practices of Christianity.
      I agree with you that there were areas of compromise in lifestyle and interaction that were made on both sides. Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 10:18-33 give very clear teaching on this point. 1 Corinthians 10:32 sums it up nicely when Paul writes: “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.” In other words, do not let your pride and ego put up walls before anyone that would cause it to be harder for them to hear and obey the Gospel.
      There are many things that fall into that realm of matters of opinion. However, we must be careful not to lump things that do not fall into that category along with those that do. For instance, the means of my salvation is not a matter of opinion (as is illustrated by Acts 15). I cannot require more than God does (as the Judaizing teachers were), nor can I require less: but only what God has said is necessary. Therefore, there is no room for compromise there.
      Nor can I compromise on moral questions of right and wrong. Where God has said something is wrong, thus it is and if I am to stand with him I must stand where he stands.
      I cannot compromise on the principles of worship to God because he is the audience of worship and has declared what he considers to be acceptable; thus he seeks those who worship him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
      Therefore, we can, and should, be willing to recognize that “the little things” don’t matter in our differences. However, we must ensure that the things we consider to be the little things are the same things God considers to be such.

  6. Stephen Segrest

    Adam — Thanks. In my NIV Student Bible, the study notes both in Acts and Leviticus use the term “kosher” (in addition to using the term idolatry). But, my question remains: Why would the Gentile Churches even care about what the “NON LOCAL” Jerusalem Council said in their letter?” This is a big point on Church organization that conservative churches today constantly point to (organization must be all local with no outside authority). In Acts, it sure appears that problems were addressed at least two times at a non-local (central authority) level with the (1) Jerusalem Conference; (2) Problem of how Greek widdows were being treated (creation of the 7 over-seeers) to address this throughout early Churches.

    • Stephen,
      My apologies for not answering your core question in earlier posts. There were so many other things in consideration that it got put to the back burner in my mind and I forgot to pull it off. Remember two things in considering your question. First, the role of the Apostles in the first century was to be present and ready to take care of these very types of matters. The apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit, whose purpose was to “guide (them) into all truth” (John 16:13). They were commanded by Jesus to go and “teach all nations… to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Mat. 28:19-20). They were “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:20), a term that was used only in the context of the Apostles in the New Testament. Therefore, the Lord intended the Apostles to be his spokesmen, his deliverers of truth, in just such circumstances as the ones you mentioned. The office was not intended to be an ongoing or long-lasting one, because eventually the Word would be fully given and man would have what was needed; but in the early days of the church these men were the God-ordained authorities to confirm the truth.
      Second, remember the situation in the relationship between men and the New Testament at the time of these events. The New Testament was not written all at once, nor did it just spring into existence one day. It was delivered over a period of years, through books and letters dispersed among the congregations by the inspired writers. Chronologically, at the time of the events you mentioned in Acts 6, not a single book of the New Testament had yet been written. By the time of the events of Acts 15, only 1 or 2 of the books of the New Testament (if any, depending upon where one places the writing of certain books) were in existence. Therefore, the Apostles could not simply hand these people a Bible and say: “Figure it out for yourselves,” they had to directly dispense the authority of God in these matters.
      That being said, the reason the Gentile congregations would accept the things that were written to them was not because the “Jerusalem Council” had approved it, but because the Apostles (the hand-selected spokesmen of God) had authorized it, and they recognized and accepted that authority. Make no mistake, the elders at Jerusalem did not have to agree or put their signature to the statements made to make them valid or applicable. When the Apostles spoke as one, with the authority God had given them through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28), that was all the authority necessary. What the inclusion of the approval of the Jerusalem elders did accomplish, however, was to signal the Gentile Christians that everyone, who was truly concerned with what God said, was on the same page when it came to these matters.
      It is true that God did not establish a hierarchy greater than elders and deacons within the local congregation, and that they answer to only one individual – the Lord Jesus. However, it is also true that in the initial phases of the church he had men appointed to teach, train, direct, and troubleshoot the early church to set it out on the right path. That task was completed when the New Testament was in place, laying before us, “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3).
      I hope this helps answer your question.

      Adam

  7. Stephen Segrest

    Lunch time and thanks again to take time explaining God’s Word.

    But what about the “committee” formed to address the problem of Greek widows? My NIV Student Bible (study notes) says this “committee” was formed because the individual Apostles didn’t have enough time — as their main purpose was to bring the Gospel to the World. My NIV Bible study notes says that these men were not categorized as “Elders or Deacons”, nor do I get the impression that they were from only ONE specific Church, nor that their efforts were only directed with ONE specific Church.

    This sure looks like a central authority effort outside of Acts’ local authority Church organization structure (of people to work together inside and OUTSIDE of their specific local Church) to address a problem.

    Today what I see is by using the “ONLY LOCAL ORGANIZATION” argument, individual Churches become “isolated” to other Christians — to the point that nobody is even talking to others to resolve differences. Everything is ” We are right and you are wrong”.

    I think one of the greatest lessons in the NT is where Peter admitted he was wrong (in his initial beliefs on Gentile salvation) resulting from Peter (and other Apostles) going outside their “individual comfort zone” by constructively listening to others (Paul) that they didn’t initially agree with. In today’s world, I seriously doubt that this can happen.

    • Stephen,
      You are correct that these men were not called “elders” or “deacons” (though many erroneously confer the latter title upon them); that is, in part, because they were not given an “office” within the church. We do know that these things occurred within the church at Jerusalem because, at this time, it is the only place the church existed. The church will not begin to spread outside of Jerusalem until Acts 8:1-4 after the stoning of Stephen. In the preceding time (Acts 2-6) all events took place within Jerusalem in the early period after the day of Pentecost because that was where the church was established and its foundation was being laid. Therefore, we can confirm that all of these men were from the church at Jerusalem and worked within the confines of it with this task.
      Additionally, the work that they were given did not make them a “committee” in the sense of the term as we would use it. They were not an oversight group given the job of delegating the actions of others in regard to this work. Instead, they were men who were placed as servants to take care of the situation. Within the confines of the work the church was doing in taking care of those in need (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32), there was one group of Christians (Grecian Jewish widows) whose care, for whatever reason, had been overlooked. The men were chosen to see to their needs and take care of them. There was no office, because it wasn’t a position with a title: just a job that needed to be done. It would be much the same as asking for volunteers within a congregation to take care of something that needed to be done. Those individuals are not a governing committee or given honorific titles (nor should they be), just servants doing a job.
      As far as the “only local organization” you spoke of… the organization of the church, as God relayed it through the Apostles, is designed to keep the congregations of God’s people from answering to the whims and wishes of men (which is exactly what is seen in the vast majority of the denominational world). God designed the church to be answerable to one person only – the Lord (see Rev. 2-3). Each congregation is responsible for their own actions and will be held accountable for their own deeds; not what was done in some other location by some other group. However, this does not mean that the Lord’s church cannot work together, or have anything to do with one another outside of the congregational setting. It does not mean we cannot build up, strengthen, and encourage one another through our endeavors. It also does not mean that I should not be concerned at all with what happens in another congregation, because souls are at stake if God’s Word is not being upheld. It does mean, however, that no congregation answers to me, and my desires; but they will answer to the Lord and him alone.

  8. Stephen Segrest

    I have not communicated well when I generally refer to but don’t cite exact scripture. Acts 15:1 and the first part of v. 2 sets the stage of conflict. And here is my point — under “local authority only” this would have settled the matter with the church in Antioch due to Paul’s apostolic authority (1 Corinthians 9:1). But the church in Antioch didn’t do this, they sent Paul, Barnabas, others to Jerusalem. The question is “Why?” In today’s interpretation of “total local authority only”, I don’t see how this would have even happened.

    I continue to believe that the Council of Jerusalem provides us a clear lesson from God’s Word of the need for Christians to work together, listen to each other’s Elders, and not isolate themselves from other Christians.

    • I believe it did settle the question for the church at Antioch. It is interesting to note that the letter from the Apostles and elders was not just written to those in Antioch, but to congregations throughout Syria and Cilicia (15:23), thereby showing that it was intended to be helpful to the Gentile Christians throughout the region and not just those in Antioch. Also, it is interesting to me to see the response of those in Antioch when they receive the letter: they, “rejoiced for the consolation” (Vs. 31). In other words, they were happy that what they had been sent matched what they had already been told and believed.
      I believe we have been crossing signals when it comes to this discussion of “local authority,” and I believe it is in the definition of authority that this is occurring. There is nothing in Scripture prohibiting or discouraging going outside of the local congregation for help, advice, encouragement, and wisdom. In fact, going to members of the Lord’s church is exactly where we should be going for those things. However, there is a difference between seeking advice or wisdom and giving another individual or group in another location the authority to make decisions for you. When speaking of “local authority” or maybe as it is better stated – congregational autonomy, the point is that God did not set up layers of authority to which each congregation must answer for their actions. We can go for advice, teaching, strength, and even to work together to resolve issues; but we cannot put the congregation with which I work under the oversight of another congregation to allow/force them to make the decisions for us. We are responsible for our own work, decisions, and actions; therefore, we will not answer to any other congregation for whether or not we have fulfilled the Lord’s Will, but to him alone.
      I hope maybe I have helped to clarify some things. Keep studying!

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