If you are like me, you probably tend to “idealize” the early church. It is so exciting to read about Jews and Gentiles coming to be transformed by the Gospel, and how the Word of God spread like a wildfire across such a broad geographic area. We see bold and courageous men and women on fire for the Lord, a church exploding with growth, and the Holy Spirit moving powerfully in their presence. In view of these characteristics and qualities, it is easy for us to “idealize” this period of time, and yearn the same for ourselves.
I would offer the possibility to us that perhaps the paragraph above is why chapter 15 comes as almost a surprise, for in it we learn that even the early church faced its problems and disagreements. It may have been the “ideal” church in many ways, but it was not the “perfect” church and it too had conflicts. In fact, this chapter will detail two such instances, one involving the church as a whole (15:1-35) and a second concerning individuals engaged in missions (15:36-41). In both, we see that things were not always “perfect” and as disagreements developed, reconciliation became a necessity.
How would God use such disagreements, and what might we learn about dealing with such problems even today? Those questions, and many others, will be probed in detail this time as we review chapter 15 in our sermon titled “Conflict Among Christians.”