For Testimony’s Sake


We live in a world where people have many differing opinions. Sometimes there is clearly a right or wrong. At other times, it is not so easy to decide. This can present a thorny problem for believers. I have a friend who tries to follow kosher eating standards and the Jewish calendar and festivals. We differ, and sometimes it starts to lead to contention. That was the issue here for the Jerusalem church when Paul arrived, and the issue extended beyond the church to the larger community of unbelievers as well.

  • Remember a time when you and another brother or sister in Christ disagreed on a point of faith. How did you handle the conflict?


18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, 21 and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. 22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23 Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; 24 take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law. 25 But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.” 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. Identify the various people (individuals and groups) mentioned in this passage.
  2. To whom did Paul give credit for his ministry among the Gentiles? How did the Jerusalem church leadership respond when they heard his story?
  3. What was the counter-story that was being told about Paul’s ministry? Why do you think people would tell others something like this?
  4. What was at issue here for the church as a whole?
  5. How should we to respond to Christians who worship God differently from our practice?


Paul had already written the Romans about Christian liberty (Romans 13:8-15:7). The crux of this issue was keeping the Mosaic Law. Is it wrong? Apparently not, especially for Jews. Church leaders reiterated  that Gentiles were not under Levitical Code, so, this was more cultural than critical. On their advice, Paul chose to practice what he preached—to care about hurting a weaker brother’s faith walk. For the benefit of others, he acted in keeping with his Jewish heritage. Following Christ’s example, he gave up his rights for the sake of others.

How do we handle differences in doctrine? If we agree on salvation by faith alone in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, we are God’s children. Beyond that, we should “look… to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).

  • Lord, help me to live out your example, to serve the good of others in all that I do.