“Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God.”
The churches were faced with how to deal with the problem of some doctrinal error. False teachers were permeating the churches and proclaiming the heresy that circumcision was necessary for salvation. Paul and Barnabas brought this question to the church at Jerusalem to discuss the matter before the leadership there. In a meeting of the apostles and elders, Peter testified concerning the conversion of the Gentiles, and how they were saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, as all men are. Barnabas and Paul gave their comments, recalling how God had performed miracles among the Gentiles. After they concluded, James answered with these words, “my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God.”
This was James’ decision. What right did James have to have the final say and make such a decision? The answer is simple. James was clearly the pastor of the church in Jerusalem. This meeting in Jerusalem gives us an illustration of how to deal with issues of disagreement. These were some of the godliest spiritual leaders of all time. Paul, Barnabas, James, and Peter all added to the discussion. Yet it was James who eventually made the decision. There was no vote to determine the will of the majority. Paul was one of the mightiest men of God to ever live, but he was not the pastor of the church in Jerusalem.
One of the basic lessons of life is that someone has to be in charge. It is true in the home, the business world, the government, and the church. Leaders should listen to capable advisors or counselors and value their input. However, that does not mean the leader will always follow their advice. If the advisors’ opinions were always followed, why would there be a need for a leader? Who wants a leader who always follows what others tell him to do? God works through a chain of command or authority. Nowhere in the Bible does God give the authority to lead to a group or a council.
We need to see leaders in places of responsibility who are humble and willing to listen to the advice of others, while also being ready to make the decision they think is best. Moreover, we also need followers who, after offering their view, are willing to accept the decision of the one God has placed in charge.