Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Handling Contention in the Family

(Reposted from 2/8/09 and 7/15/12)
Today’s Bible Reading:  Leviticus 7-9, Acts 15
Topic: Disputing

SCRIPTURE: Acts 15 – particularly verses 1-2, 6-11, 22-29, 36-41 – highlighting verses 2,7,39)

1 And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question. (Acts 15:1-2 NKJV emphasis mine)

6 Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. 7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” (Acts 15:6-11 NKJV emphasis mine)

22 Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren. 23 They wrote this, letter by them:

The apostles, the elders, and the brethren,
To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:


24 Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law”—to whom we gave no such commandment— 25 it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.

(Acts 15:22-29 NKJV)

36 Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” 37 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (Acts 15:36-41 NKJV emphasis mine)


Acts 15 is filled with a lot of dispute and contention. Only this time the quarreling is within Christ’s Church between believers (see the emphasized verses above). After reading of the conflicts encountered by Paul in Acts 14 (yesterday’s reading), we can make the obvious observation that these quarrels ended much better (no one was stoned). If fact, we can see that differences of opinion, which are bound to occur among human beings even if they are saved, can be handled in a civil manner when the parties sincerely seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Jerusalem decree written out in the letter to be delivered to the Gentiles, acknowledges this: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us…”


When we see differences of opinion, it is natural to think someone is right and someone is wrong in the matter. But the lesson we should be learning has nothing to do with assigning blame or patting someone’s back. Disagreements are inevitable and the act of sincere debate is not wrong, but can indeed be helpful toward reaching greater understanding. Indeed, we see the Lord using the honest disputing in Acts 15 to bring about important advancements to the building His kingdom. Gentiles are embraced as brothers and sisters in the faith rather than disenfranchised. Even the dispute between Paul and Barnabas had a good result—two missions team sent out instead of just one.


Lord, may I not shun disputes, but rather see them as opportunities to find guidance from Your Holy Spirit.
For the sake of Christ and His Church. Amen. -AP

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