When I bake, I definitely need a recipe, so I go to a cookbook—or Pinterest. When a lawyer is facing a difficult case, he goes to his law books. When a student is studying, they go to textbooks. Pastors use commentaries in their studies. An authoritative manual or book is needed by most people at some point. Not every question can be answered by google. (smile) As believers, our reference for life is Scripture.
Last week we talked a lot about the power of words and encouragement. This week we are looking at a scriptural affirmation/response to a disagreement or debate. The difference between encourage and affirm is that encourage is to mentally support; to motivate, give courage, or hope while affirmation is to agree, verify or concur; to answer positively. We have a prime example of scriptural affirmation in Acts 15.
Here we see a great debate between the apostles and elders due to “some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees” who wanted the new Gentile believers to be circumcised to keep the law of Moses. We see Paul, Barnabas, and Peter in verses 8 and 9 reminding this group that “God who knows the heart, gave the Gentiles the Holy Spirit just as he did the Jews.” In vs 11, they summarize by saying “we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” Then in verse 15-18, James addresses the assembly with words from Old Testament Scripture that conclude with this:
“God said it and now he’s doing it. It’s no afterthought; he’s always known he would do this.” (Acts 15: 18 The Message)
Or in the NIV “… says the Lord, who does these things— things known from long ago.”
So, I think of James as the closer of the debate. He closes powerfully with the words of the prophets that affirm God’s plan of ages past which was taking place currently. The things known from long ago affirm that this new way revealed is really part of an old promise.
Disagreements are just part of life. The apostles even disagreed with each other but here we see a big decision that caused a huge debate, and, in the end, the final authority was Scripture. So, when we need affirmation that our position or decision is right, shouldn’t our handbook be the Bible as it was for the apostles? And maybe sometimes it is okay to agree to disagree or compromise. When life is just plain hard, Scripture is our source of personal affirmation, encouragement, and hope—and it is our final authority.
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