Chapter 15 of the Acts of the Apostles begins with the first Church Council the Catholic Church has ever had. The Council of Jerusalem made a major pivotal decision on the issue of circumcision. Circumcision was established by God as mandatory for all Jewish men in order to partake of the covenant God offered to Abraham (Lv 12:3 &Gen 17:1-14). But in this process, the people are becoming more and more aware that they are not a sect of the Jewish faith. Peter challenges those present to put their faith in the promise of the grace of Jesus the Christ (Acts 15:7 & 11).
James deals with the issues of dietary laws from the Jewish faith. The conclusion again is to not enforce these laws on the gentiles who became Christian. They send a letter out to the people to make the clarification on what the Church teaches. This letter can be read from verse 23 through 29. In the letter, you can see an official declaration, as if they are giving it formally. They give this declaration stating that it is under the Holy Spirit. The Church has always believed that their official declarations are guided by the Holy Spirit. It is not simply that someone wrote these things down to be in the Bible guided by the Holy Spirit. It was an action of the Church that was guided by the Holy Spirit, so they wrote this down as an official document to be read to the people.
This whole idea is a much more refined idea than most people give credit to the Church for. If that were not enough, verse 30 tells us that the specific people who are delegated to deliver the message, call an assembly together so that it may be read to the people publicly. So, there you see in Jerusalem, the magisterium makes a decision as the people wait for the answer. The people do not assume the role of decision makers. There is no voting. The Church is not a democracy. The Apostles are in full authority of the Church and the people recognize this. On top of that, there is a structure to communicate their decision to the people in a way that does not allow for more confusion or for the people to stray. The people saw this as a good thing.
From verse 36 through 40, we start to see some politics enter into the Church. Yet, they still work things out and the ministry of the Church is not hindered. Paul later changes his mind and works with Mark. This is the same Mark that wrote the Gospel of Mark. It just goes to show the humanity of the Apostles and their own sinfulness. But, the sins of the Apostles do not make void God’s fruitfulness. This chapter illustrates to us well that dogma of the infallibility of the Pope with the magisterium. They make the decision by the Holy Spirit in an infallible way. The decision is correct. Yet, soon after, they sin. Infallibility of the Pope does not mean the Pope is sinless, it just means that what he teaches will not be false. This is where we point to in scripture that the Pope is, in fact, infallible. Here is the official statement on the infallibility of the Pope.
“When, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.”
Thank God that we can have certitude in the true teachings of Jesus Christ. Otherwise, we would be “like sheep without a shepherd.” If we believe in the Bible alone, how would we know which interpretation is correct? We would have to figure it out ourselves. No, Jesus has not left us alone. Thank you Jesus!