Historically councils called by the church do not create or expose some new revelation. Revelations come to individuals, and those individuals were the founding apostles. The church is built on this revelation, as the foundation stones of the New Jerusalem mentioned in Revelation attest by the names printed thereon. They are strong rocks and have endured the test of time. Wise is the man who builds where God has laid a foundation.
Church councils are called to define revelations, and to announce to the church those definitions. They create nothing new, but rather, sift through the accumulated issues and come up with what God already said to an apostle. That which cannot be traced to an apostle needs to be thrown out in a true council.
Unfortunately, “church” and “council” have been redefined through the years. Undue authority has been given to subsequent councils. Often new ideas were made dogma. Things that could not trace their origin to the apostolic writings were lifted above the Word. It can happen today. Councils are not always inspired of God, even the most well-meaning of them.
What of that first council in Jerusalem? It was called because Judaizers were trying to put new believers under the Law… even Gentiles!
First, the false brothers made their case. They did not belong there, but had found a way in. They confronted Paul openly. But Paul did not cower. He openly fought these deceivers and ably defended himself and the gospel in this open forum (Galatians 2:5).
He was then backed up by the high-ranking apostles Peter and Peter’s assistant in Jerusalem, James, the Lord’s half-brother.
But Paul is not impressed with the persons of men, even his own friends in the Gospel (Galatians 2:6). He does not show disdain for his fellow apostles, but neither is he in awe of them. He is an equal, made so by Jesus Christ personally.
Martin Luther says: “I would honor the Pope, I would love his person, if he would leave my conscience alone, and not compel me to sin against God. But the Pope wants to be adored himself, and that cannot be done without offending God.”
Even the favorable conclusions of the Council added nothing to Paul! His truth was not up for a vote, albeit the vote was decidedly in his favor.
There would be conferences to come in the history of the church or pseudo-church, where truth would be mangled and twisted by men, but continue unabated.
As we said, councils are good for confirming truth already revealed, but never for creating new truth.