Speaker: Jerry Cisar
Elizabeth Elliot, widow of missionary Jim Elliott who had been killed on their first contact with the indigenous tribes of the east Andes, tells of two explorers who came to see her. Packed and ready to head for the rain forests of the east Andes, they desired to know phrases with which to talk to the indigenous tribes. Elizabeth relates that they sought no advice, just some phrases.
I’m often tempted to treat Acts 15 similarly in my devotional reading. Not seeking to understand it; just grabbing a few phrases I can work with, then moving on thinking I’ve got what I need. Given the importance of this chapter to God’s message to us in Acts, I cannot commend this approach to you.
H. Marshall: Acts 15 “forms the centre of Acts both structurally and theologically.” The theological center of Acts? That means it is very important. However, even a half-serious reading of this chapter raises several questions for even a well-studied Bible student. Some initial questions might be:
- Is the Law of Moses still valid or isn’t it? How is the believer to treat it?
- Didn’t James die in Acts 12? Who is this James and why is he running things?
- What is David’s tent, why did it fall, and what does its restoration have to do with this conflict about circumcision and the law of Moses?
- Am I not allowed to eat rare steak? (That’s often our biggest concern.) Do the restrictions which Gentiles were given apply to us? Some of them, none of them, all of them?
For those more familiar with Paul’s writings: Does Paul basically ignore this letter though it appears here that he was all in favor?
Honestly, Acts 15 isn’t a preacher’s go-to text! It doesn’t feel culturally relevant to the preacher or the audience. There are some phrases, some talking points, like being saved through the grace of our Lord Jesus, but we may often miss their true meaning and relevance because we don’t want to wrestle with what the people in the story itself had to wrestle with. Acts 15 commands our attention. Acts 15 is arguably one of the most significant chapters in the whole book.