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Acts 15 records the Council of Jerusalem, a meeting in about 50AD of early Church leaders regarding whether Gentiles could be Christians without first becoming Jews. "After much discussion" (15:7) they decide to write a letter to say that converts need not follow the practices of Judaism. What interests me is the terms in which they describe the decision in their letter; verse 28 says (NIV):

It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements.

On the face of it, this looks a little like the statement attributed to Bernard Montgomery, "God said, and I agree with him..."!

It could be that the text is simply giving emphasis to the determination of the apostles and elders to carry out what the Holy Spirit has indicated. But the way it's phrased, and the context of the meeting, seem to point to the church having authority in this moment; that there's something special about these people being gathered together, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which gives them the right to make the decision and send the letter. They are acting jointly with the Spirit in a way that goes beyond mere acquiescence.

I'm sure that Catholic and Orthodox readers would have no trouble at all here. However, I think that from a Reformed perspective it would be more difficult to admit special authority of this kind. When Calvin writes about later Church councils, for example, he seems to regard them as existing merely for practical "convenience" (Institutes 4.9.13), to elucidate the contents of Scripture, and always in a strictly subordinate role ("it is the right of Christ to preside over all councils, and not share the honour with any man", Institutes 4.9.1). How can that be squared with the "and to us" here in Acts?

In short, from a Reformed point of view, what is the point of mentioning "and to us", and what relationship do Reformed theologians envisage existing between the Spirit and the Church at this moment?

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What is your understanding of what "Reformed Theology" means? You seem to believe that it is synonymous with Calvinism, which it isn't. reformedtheology.org/SiteFiles/WhatIsRT.html RT isn't so easy to pigeonhole, and some reformed thinkers also would have no problem with the idea that man has some authority, so long as it doesn't deign to usurp or contradict God's authority. –  David Stratton Nov 19 '12 at 13:27
    
Not sure what the question is here. This incident took place before there was a canon of Christian scripture. No Christian at that time could possibly consider that church decision making consisted solely of carrying out the edicts of scripture. –  DJClayworth Nov 19 '12 at 14:29
    
I'm asking about the apparent difference between (1) a council is just a group of people gathered together, trying to discern God's will, but qualitatively no different from any other such group, and (2) there's something special about the Church, acting as a body, empowered by the authority of the Holy Spirit. I associate (1) with "(at least some) people who consider themselves part of the Reformed tradition" and this passage has more of a (2) flavour to me. –  James T Nov 19 '12 at 17:00
    
The question of whether the church in Antioch wrote to the church in Jerusalem asking advice from a more established but fundamentally equal church, or asking for a doctrinal ruling from the 'head church', has exercised the minds of theologians for many centuries. –  DJClayworth Nov 20 '12 at 14:18
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But the way [Acts 15:28 is] phrased, and the context of the meeting, seem to point to the church having authority in this moment; that there's something special about these people being gathered together, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which gives them the right to make the decision and send the letter.

Yes. The early church leaders had the authority to decide what was and what wasn't Christianity. Paul's letters were not merely good advice. They were guidance for the various congregations.

Today, whether a church is part of a large denomination or an independent entity, somebody or some group runs the church. Administratively and doctrinally.

Hopefully, this leadership group runs the church with the counsel and guidance of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is willing to guide the leadership group in harmony with God's will.

John 16:13-15 (NRSV):

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

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