THE EXAMPLE OF THE DECISION IN ACTS 15
Based upon this, we can see that the Judaizers, the Judaizing believers, tried to overcome the Gentile believers at Paul’s time. They tried to convert the Gentile believers to be Jewish. They attempted this strongly and this caused trouble. The regional work under Peter’s leadership was recorded in the first twelve chapters of Acts. From chapter thirteen of Acts, the record of the Lord’s New Testament ministry turned to Paul. This means that the ministry turned to the Gentile world from Antioch. Then Paul and his co-workers went out to the Gentile world to preach the gospel and to set up the churches. The Lord moved to establish His Body in the Gentile world to bear a testimony in the typical, heathen, pagan world. After chapters thirteen and fourteen of Acts, trouble came in chapter fifteen. This trouble came, not from the Gentile region, but from the Jewish region. It came not from the ministry under Paul’s leadership, but from the ministry under Peter’s leadership, which was much under the influence of James. Chapter fifteen of Acts tells us that the Judaizing believers came down to Antioch, which was the very origin of the ministry to the Gentile world, and they brought the problem there (v. 1). That became a real damage to the Lord’s ministry, His Body, and also His testimony.
Paul could not tolerate the situation. Under that situation, he could not go on with the Lord’s ministry to continue the Lord’s testimony among the heathen. Therefore, he and Barnabas went up to Jerusalem to have some fellowship to solve the problem. The decision made at the conference at Jerusalem should not be satisfactory to the readers and teachers of the Bible, who know God’s New Testament economy. The concluding word given by James was still under the influence of the Mosaic law, due to his heavy Judaic background. The influence of this background still remained, even at the time Paul paid his last visit to Jerusalem (21:20-26). One point, however, was established in Jerusalem. This point is that the Lord’s testimony is one, the Lord’s Body is one, the Lord’s ministry is one, and the Lord’s move is one. If the Lord’s move, the Lord’s ministry, the Lord’s Body, and the Lord’s testimony had not been one, Paul would not have needed to go to Jerusalem, and there would have been no need for them to make a decision which covered not only the Jewish believers but also the Gentile believers.
The decision in Acts 15 was not made merely by the Jewish region or merely by the Gentile region. Actually, it was a decision made above the regions and beyond the regions. The decision made covered all the churches, whether Jewish or Gentile. This does not mean that the churches in Judea can keep the law and the churches in the Gentile world do not need to keep the law. This also does not mean that the churches in Judea bear one kind of testimony and the churches in the Gentile world bear another testimony. It is not like the United States where every state has its own laws. According to the basic principle of the New Testament economy, the decision made in Acts 15 is not so satisfactory to us. However, no one can deny that a principle was established which covered all the churches. The American constitution allows every state to have its own laws, but this decision made at Jerusalem did not allow the churches in different regions to have their own law, which means to have their own testimony. We must see this.
(Elders' Training, Book 04: Other Crucial Matters Concerning the Practice of the Lord's Recovery, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)