two people with conflict November 21 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Acts 15:1-35

Conflict Resolution

What is one thing a mother or teacher is called upon to do with growing children? Settle conflicts. How does she settle conflicts between them? Does she referee, or does she lead them to work it out amongst themselves? How do we do it? Today, we will look at how a conflict was resolved in a church. The same principles could apply to a family, friendship, business, or other organization.

Resolving church conflicts are different than resolving personal conflicts. Many churches are independent and self-governing (autonomous). In a fellowship of autonomous churches, when one church does not act with purity of doctrine and there is no repentance, the most the other churches can do is to not include them in their fellowship. Antioch was an autonomous and independent church from her mother church in Jerusalem.

Shortly after Paul writes a letter to the people in the southern region of Galatia (Turkey), a group of Jews from Jerusalem come to the church in Antioch (Antioch is composed of many Gentile (non-Jewish) believers). The Jews start spouting the same errors in doctrine which were deceiving the Galatian believers, namely that the Gentile believers must keep the Law of Moses and be circumcised to become Christians.

This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question (Acts 15:2, NIV).

This brings us to our first principle in Conflict Resolution:

If Possible, Handle the Situation Personally

Misunderstandings can arise from texts, e-mails, conference calls, snail mail, or telephone conversations. Rumors starting from poor communication can be devastating to a relationship. Love is shown when you think enough of a person to give him or her your personal time. You cannot look into the face of those who are sharing their opinions, or observe their body language to judge their reactions if you cannot see them. Therefore, if at all possible, handle conflicts personally. If they cannot be handled in person, choose individuals who are good listeners and who can make wise, reasonable decisions.


Have Open Communications and Listen

Immediately after the conference begins, the believers who belong to the party of the Pharisees (Jewish religious leaders) present their case, saying the Gentiles must be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses to be saved. The apostles and elders meet to discuss this question. After much discussion, the Apostle Peter reminds the believers how God showed him by a sign from heaven to accept Gentiles (Acts 10). He then testifies that God “made no distinction between us [Jews] and them [Gentiles], for he purified their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9, NIV). Afterward, Paul and Barnabas share testimonies with the congregation about the “miraculous signs and wonders God has done among the Gentiles through them” (Acts 15:12, NIV). The second principle we can learn about conflict resolution is to have open communications with all who are involved and seek the truth.


Be Sensitive, and if Possible, Seek a Compromise

After hearing all testimonies, James, the brother of Jesus, a leader and perhaps the pastor of the church in Jerusalem, seeks a compromise. He recognizes the truth of the doctrine of salvation by faith in Christ alone but suggested some concessions so the Gentiles will not offend Jewish Christians in their synagogues. James says,

It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath (Acts 15:19-21, NIV).


Come to a Consensus and Implement It

The assembly agrees upon this resolution. The messengers gladly take the decision to their congregation in Antioch and give a report. Then on a second missionary journey, Paul and Silas share the decision of the elders of the mother church in Jerusalem with all the other churches in Asia Minor (Turkey). In resolving conflicts, it is important to show good leadership—come to a consensus and implement it, but do everything in love.

Lessons to Live By: Principles in conflict resolution

  • Salvation is by God's grace through faith in his Son, not by any works of righteousness (Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5-6). Jesus offers us forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...)
  • If at all possible, we should handle conflicts personally.
  • We should have open communications with all who are involved and seek the truth.
  • Let us be sensitive to the feelings of both parties, and if possible seek some compromises to remove offenses.
  • It is best to demonstrate good leadership—come to a consensus and implement it, but do everything in love. Handling conflicts are best done with a mixture of grace and truth.

Focus Verse

Colossians 4:6 (NIV) “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Watch a video of today's Bible lesson here. Begin at 1:37:53 and end at 1:43:15

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A Look Ahead: We have made decisions. How can we know if we are Working with the Holy Spirit? Discover the nature of the Spirit's work in Paul's second missionary journey covered in our Next Lesson.

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