This Sunday in our Tentmakers class, I asked why it is important for us to know who we are in Christ. If you were there, then you know that, in the moments after the question was asked, we could have heard crickets chirping – if that is I played nature soundtracks during class … which I don’t. I posed the question in the first place because – in starting a new year … and thinking about the direction God has led (is leading) this ministry – I wanted to thank Him for Who He is and also for Who I am in Him, but (embarrassingly for Sunday School leader and Christian blogger) I had a hard time remembering all of what the Bible tells me about who I am in Christ. So this past Sunday we continued following Paul down his ministry journey … only this week we looked through a new lens. And just like a new pair of glasses, this new lens can help us clarify what we’re seeing and learning, especially when things seem fuzzy from our own eyes.
So where are we down the path of Paul’s ministry journey? Well, we traveled with Paul as well as with Barnabas, Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but an early church apostle who happened to bear the same name), and Silas back to Antioch of Syria with the letter from the early church leaders both in their hands and on their lips. Judas and Silas were sent by the church at Jerusalem to read the letter explaining their position regarding the issue causing so much unrest in the Gentile church at Antioch. Do you remember what that issue was? If not, look back at Acts 15:1-2… Even if you do remember, go there anyway; we’ll be looking at some nearby verses soon enough.
The issue? Was circumcision really a requirement for salvation as some men from the church in Jerusalem were teaching? Acts 15:30 tells us that the congregation was assembled to hear the reading of the letter, and I’m sure each one was anxiously waiting to hear the answer to the question of circumcision. Interestingly, when you read the letter recorded in verses 24-29, circumcision isn’t mentioned specifically; rather it is implied as an unnecessary burden (Acts 15:28) that the church leaders refused to place on the body of Christ.
And there’s our lens for today’s lesson. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:29-30 that “… no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and carefully protects and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of His body.” (Amplified). Placing an unnecessary burden placed on one member of the body ultimately causes all parts to suffer (1 Cor 12:26). What happens when you run on a sore foot? You change your stride to help with pain, and then your knee starts hurting because it has had to change what it does to help the foot. And then the hip because of the knee and so on. Instead of additionally burdening the body of Christ with Jewish traditions – showing hatred and contempt for their Gentile brothers – they followed Christ’s example of nourishing and protecting and cherishing the members of His body by (1) sending trusted representatives, Judas and Silas, to minister to the needs of that congregation and (2) identifying what was really important to keep the church at Antioch heading in the right direction.
I’ll leave you with two questions for you to consider today:
(1) Who is/has been part of your life … a person you know that God Himself sent as His trusted representative to minister to your needs? If you don’t have faces popping into your head, ask God to bring them to mind. You are a part of the body of His Son. He cares for you!
(2) What practices/traditions is God revealing to you as unnecessary burdens that you are attempting to carry? Remember that we are to stay in step with the Holy Spirit – not running ahead or falling behind. Unnecessary burdens will only slow us down. (Oooh, look up Hebrews 12:1 … one of my favorites!)
You are a member of the body of Christ! Now what are you going to do with that?
… I guess that’s three questions.