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Chairman James

The role of chairman is an important one where discussion is involved. Among other things he should exercise control, weigh up both sides, get to the point at issue and lead the meeting to a decision. An able chairman can find out areas of agreement and disagreement and thereafter move forward the discussion. Although there is no mention of "chairman" as such among the gifts listed in 1 Cor. 12 and Eph. 4, nonetheless, at oversight meetings, etc., a chairman is needed. In Acts 15 James emerges as such.

Which James is this? All the evidence would seem to point to James, the Lord's brother (Gal. 1:19), who was also a leader in Jerusalem (Acts 12:17). The James of Acts 15 was the writer of the epistle of James and one to whom the Lord appeared personally (1 Cor. 15:7). It may be of interest to mention that a second century historian, Hegesippus, identified him as "James the Just" - a man of prayer, who, because of his Christ-like character was called "the bulwark of the people". This would certainly agree with Gal. 2:9 where James is described as a pillar in the church.

In order to appreciate the message of Acts 15 we would do well to remember the remarkable growth of the first church of God in Jerusalem and for easy reference we append the relative verses in the Acts. The thousands of Jewish disciples were a united testimony, but this unity was threatened when Gentiles were reached with the gospel. Both Jew and Gentile &e saved on the basis of faith alone. Should further conditions be imposed on Gentile disciples as postulated by the sect of the Pharisees who believed (v.5)? To answer this question a meeting of the apostles and the elders at Jerusalem was convened. James acted as chairman at that historic meeting. The sequence of this meeting is full of interest. After much questioning by the believing Pharisees, Peter had his say; next, Barnabas and Paul explained their position; then James summed up:

1.He recalled what Peter had lust said and confirmed the fact that God had visited the Gentiles to take out from them a people for His Name.

2.He then quoted the closing verses of Amos and applied the words to the point under discussion, namely that Gentiles are now involved in building a dwelling-place for God.

3.James brought Peter's and Paul's views into balance, giving his judgement that the Gentile disciples were not to be troubled.

4.He suggested the writing of a letter - possibly James framed it (verse 20) which in practical terms meant that Gentile disciples should conform to the moral standards obtaining under God's law in Old Testament times.

5.The decision reached was a right one - "it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us" (verse 28).

In short, James knew the Scriptures. His judgement was positive. And what appeals specially to me, he was able to translate doctrine into practice - this aspect of James' ministry is again brought into prominence in his epistle. A man who was obviously in touch with God, James knew the spiritual needs of His people.

Brethren, could it be that Chairman James has a lot to teach us today?


Acts 2:41About 3,000 souls believed, were baptized and added.

2:47Other disciples were added daily.

4:4Many believed - about 5,000 men.

5:14Multitudes of believers were added.

6:7Number of disciples multiplied exceedingly: a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.

21:20Many thousands (myriads) among the Jews who believed were zealous for the law.

N.B.What must it have been like in the Church in Jerusalem with Pharisees, priests, zealots, Hebrews and Grecian Jews together in testimony under the shepherd care of men like James? They met in Solomon's Porch (Acts 5:12) but, as their numbers grew, there would be other meeting places, too, e.g. the house of Mary the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12).