Because the church is filled with people, it won’t take long before conflict arrises. Here in Acts 15 we see a newly formed church, going through newly formed church issues as they try to understand what this new church is to look like.
Understanding the Conflict
We find Paul and Barnabas in Antioch of Syria doing a wonderful work among the Gentiles. Unfortunately a group of men from Judea showed up and started teaching the law of circumcision. Talk about bait and switch! I’m sure these newly converted Gentile men were more than a little concerned about the prospect of being circumcised for their faith. Of course Paul and Barnabas are against this idea all together. They understand that a physical act of consecration can compare to being consecrated by faith. However, what’s interesting to me is not what they they were arguing about, but rather, how this new formed church was going to resolve the conflict.
Examples of Conflict Resolution
There are multiple examples of conflict resolution throughout scripture. You can go back into the Old Testament and read how Moses handled conflict between the people of Israel. One of the most popular, and used for resolving conflict between believers, can be found in Matthew 18:15-17. It’s here that Jesus gives us step-by-step instructions that are meant to be followed in order, and on purpose. It’s here in Acts 15 we see another process for resolving conflict, except this time it’s between two churches.
Process for Conflict Resolution
So lets look at the step-by-step process these churches go through and see what we can learn for ourselves today:
- (15:3) The church in Antioch sent a delegation to find a solution
- (15:4-6) The Antioch delegation met with the church leaders in Jerusalem and reported everything God had done. After hearing the report, they set a time to meet and discuss the issue at hand in more detail.
- (15:7-12) Paul and Barnabas give their report.
- (15:13-18) James (the brother of Jesus) summarizes the report and makes a decision
- (15:20-21) James includes a compromise that is both fair and agreed upon by both parties.
- (15:22-29) Delegates were chosen among the assembly and a letter was drafted to communicate the new requirements.
- (15:30) The delegates head to Antioch where a general meeting is called to communicate the verdict.
As a result, and for obvious reasons, there was great joy throughout the church in Antioch.
This of course is not a one-size-fits-all scenario, but in my opinion, it is a one-size-fits-most. I could only hope when issues arise within the church that it would be handled with this much care, planning, and concern to get it right. Problems will arise within the church, it’s only human, but if gone unchecked these problems can lead to even bigger problems.
Everyone should be given the opportunity share their side, but it should always be in the presence of trustworthy leaders who show a higher level of spiritual maturity, and can make wise decisions. Most importantly, everyone needs to abide by the decision and trust God’s hand in the process.