The Bible account says that Paul and Barnabas were sent off to Jerusalem by the church, and on their arrival in Jerusalem ”they were welcomed by the church.”
The Apostles and presbyters debated the matter at great length. Then, Peter got up, describing how God from heaven ordered him to kill and eat animals the Jews thought of as unclean. Afterwards, Paul and Barnabas described how the Spirit visibly descended on Gentile converts.
After a lengthy debate, James, the cousin of Jesus, rose, announcing their joint decision that Gentile converts could become Christians without becoming Jews.
We read, “Then the Apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole church, decided on choosing representatives, and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.”
It is worth noting that it was the church at Antioch that originally sent Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journey. It was the church there that sent them off to Jerusalem. It was the church in Jerusalem that welcomed them there. Finally, we read that “the Apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole church “ decided on sending their representatives with the council’s final decisions.
We learn something about that early church when we see that their Greek word they used for “church” was ekklesia. That was made up of the two words: ek meaning “out” and klesia meaning “to call.” It was a word coined in democratic Athens to describe all of the citizens who were called out to vote on the city’s joint resolves. That Christian gatherings borrowed that word to describe themselves tells us that at the beginning we were a democratic organization.
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