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Antioch's Letter of Freedom

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The messengers went at once to Antioch, where they called a general meeting of the believers and delivered the letter. And there was great joy throughout the church that day as they read this encouraging message. (Acts 15:30-31 NLT)

What does God require of us in our daily lives as followers of Jesus? The early church was no stranger to this question. In fact, their answer in this letter sent to Antioch was one of the pivotal moments in early church history. The issue at hand was whether Gentile believers in Jesus needed to adopt parts of the Mosaic Law, including circumcision. Many of the churches were being challenged by Pharisees who believed in Jesus yet demanded “the Law” still be followed.  

Jesus had given a new commandment to love one another and fulfilled the Mosaic Law to make doing so possible (John 13:34-35). This is the fruit of what it means to “believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29). Believing in His finished work will naturally lead to loving others for whom He also finished the work. Jesus did not make heavier a yoke that was already impossible to bear (Acts 15:10). Any attempt to work for Him (like these Pharisees) rather than with Him will never bear fruit.  

The Pharisees couldn’t accept that following Jesus did not include a long checklist. Thankfully the Council at Jerusalem did not present a new list of rules that God demanded Gentiles to follow. Instead, the Council’s response was for Gentile believers to simply avoid idolatry and unholy covenants (Acts 15:20, 28). I don’t think we can overestimate the importance of the conclusion they came to and how it still impacts us nearly 2,000 years later. (I also don’t think we can overestimate the joy the men of Antioch expressed in learning circumcision was not required of them!)  

Personally, I can relate to the Pharisees trying to make relationship with God conditional upon following the law. Jesus has set me free from so much fruitless striving in my relationship with Him. For example, the church I attended as an undergraduate student was raising money to build a new sanctuary. When they were close to going over the goal, I cleared out my bank account and gave it to the pastor. Sounds generous, right? The problem was that this money had been set aside for a tuition payment, and the Holy Spirit was not leading me to give it. I was motivated in my heart by wanting to be commended by the church for putting us over the top and for my good works. You can imagine how unhappy my parents were when I shared what I had done, as they had to send money to pay my tuition a couple of days later! I look back on many of the things “I did for God” and shake my head at how fruitless they were because I was working a checklist. It was basically modern-day circumcision. 

Freedom in Christ means getting to walk in the Spirit, not having to. It means freedom from anything unholy that prevents us from loving one another. This is the message that caused “great joy throughout the church” in Antioch. Be encouraged today that God’s Spirit is flowing through you to love those around you. And if you’re depending on a Christian checklist for God rather than flowing in relationship with Him, He has a letter for you!  


Scripture is quoted from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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About The Author


Rich Miller is the Manager of Digital Interactions in the Prayer Center and has been with CBN since 2011. He and his wife live near Columbus, OH and enjoy the outdoors, watching crime dramas and playing video games. An avid history buff, Rich loves studying church history and the parallels we can draw to modern day Christianity.

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