Monday, January 15, 2018

The Jerusalem Council And Sola Scriptura

  • Introduction:
          -Roman Catholic apologists sometimes cite the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 as proof against the doctrine of Sola Scriptura to demonstrate the necessity of an infallible Magisterium. They believe that since men convened to settle a doctrinal dispute, that this passage affirms the church needing to submit to an infallible interpreter of Scripture (Roman Catholic Church hierarchy).
  • The Council Of Jerusalem Gives The Roman Catholic Apologist No Support In Proving The Papacy From Scripture:
          -Paul and Barnabas went up to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles and elders, and Peter is included but not singled out or accorded any primacy (Acts 15:2). Indeed, it was the apostles and elders who got together to look into the issue (Acts 15:6). Once again Peter is included but not singled out. While Peter speaks, his words are clearly not the end of the matter. James shows that Peter's words accord with the prophets, and he goes on to then give his judgment. If the Apostle Peter's word was final, then there would be no need for James to add his words at all.
          -It needs to be understood that the Jerusalem Council (which primarily discussed the irrelevance of circumcision to justification before God) had subjugated itself to the supreme authority of Scripture. Notice how the text of Acts 15:15-18 begins, "The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written..." That statement is clearly an appeal to the Scriptures as the final court of authority in a doctrinal dispute, and is a quotation of Amos 9:11-12. This of speaking of the inclusion of the Gentiles into the Gospel. It is de-emphasizing Jewish ceremonial laws such as circumcision. The Scripture teaches circumcision of the heart (Leviticus 26:41; Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 9:25-26; Romans 2:28-29). Also, note the fact that God had reckoned the righteousness of faith to Abraham (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:9-11) prior to his circumcision (Genesis 17:10). Circumcision was never necessary for salvation, even though it was a God-ordained act. So the Jerusalem Council had indeed based its rulings on Scripture. 
          -The doctrine of Sola Scriptura means that Scripture alone is the ultimate standard of authority in spiritual matters (not that Scripture is the only authority). Nobody is denying the importance of ministers. We are simply saying that they are subject to the judgment of Scripture. Thus, a church council is not incompatible with a Sola Scriptura church model. The Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 is only supportive of the supremacy of scriptural authority.
          -It was James who had presided over the Jerusalem Council, not "Pope Peter" (Acts 15:19). It was he who had made the final declarations of the matter (in accordance with Scripture). This event was not by any means based on the "Tradition of the Fathers." It was not governed by an ex-cathedra statement uttered by the pope. This text says nothing concerning Papal supremacy. In fact, an epistle which was written and circulated to the churches as a result of the heresies promoted by the Judaizers made no mention of "Pope Peter" at all (Acts 15:23-29). Verse 22 says, "Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church." Verse 23 says, "The apostles and elders, your brothers." The primitive Christian congregations were governed by pluralities of elders, not by a single human arbitrator headquartered in Rome.

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