How God visits us today? Come into David's Rebuilt Tent
Dear Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Alien outside power - comes to our world - scary ask what are they up to - friendly inquisitive like ET, or hostile take over like war of the Worlds. Ender’s Game - realize that miscommunication misunderstand - embedded at end of war, a message they could understand hope for different future. Well congregation imagine if the living god who made all this, who loves the world he created, justly desires to stop the evil and suffering, imagine if he were to visit this world! Well this is the central of message and good news of the Bible.
In OT, approximately 3500 years ago God visited this planet in a most remarkable way. A tiny oppressed enslaved people were in terrible troulbe and he chose them and then he visited them - in the Exodus - … Just like chose and visited Abraham and Sarah!
And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.
what was he upto? Took them to Mt Sinai - form them into a most unique kingdom - holy law, of justice and love, but a kingdom of priests, desire all would be prophets - have a king - who reign with grace - but climax of the book that this whole nation worshipped at tent where living God visited , tabernacled.
But that tent even though it became a beautiful temple - destroyed torn down, though rebuilt - no king sat on David’s throne, and God’s Spirit had not returned to his Temple, his tabernacle. Rabbis of Jesus day acknowledge still in exile with David’s tent of praise still broken down. So the NT begins with a second visitation of God - Son of God came to earth - tabernacled among dwelt among us - he said destroy the temple, and I will rebuild it in three days - he was called what? The Son of David - people recognized, in this visitation - especially after the Cross and the Resurrection - Here is the greater Son of David, restoring a kingdom, He’s come with salvation for Israel and has been raised to an everlasting throne - and from a Jewish perspective they even noticed that this time God was here an there including non-Jews.
And now not just individual Gentiles and their families, but whole cities of Gentiles it would seem. Soon accuse Paul of turning the world upside down. God is blessing the Gentile mission in this first half of the book of Acts, but now it brings a crisis which is at the centre of the Books of Acts. The question is a watershed in the advance of the gospel to not just Jerusalem, Judea, some Samaritans” but the gospel to the ends of the earth! If that were to happen is it just going to be by making Gentiles who came to know jesus - follow the Jewish ritual law and customs? Has God just visited in Jesus Christ - to fix a broken OT religion? Some Jewish believers from Judea come up to Antioch and make an ultimatum:
But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”
Understand they were saying, that unless these Gentiles become Jews they are not saved by God from their sins, they are not kingdom of God . And while we must look at the three answers given by Peter, Barnabas & Paul, and James. IT is James’ that stands at the heart of the answer. Since Jesus has been set up as great Messianic Davidic King, worked salvation, since he risen again and sent his gospel and Spirit into the world - God is doing a new thing - he has visited a third time - and this is at visitation that is lasting until this very day. Visitation of God into this world. James quoting the prophecy of Amos says: Now God has returned tot his world and is rebuilding the tent of David that has fallen down. James sees the Gentiles, ETHNE - and he actually uses the LXX version of the quote - expands the meaning - God had promised that when Messiah came, and the LORD returned to rebuild his church - that Israel would possess Edom, but expanded meaning - Adam all mankind… and the rebuilding worded a little differently as he say other prophets attest to is for the purpose of that a part of all humankind will not just be possed but one letter difference they will seek the LORD!
that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things
That didn’t happen right away in jesus Christ’s first coming, first just Jewish Christians. But now in God’s coming in the Spirit to the nations - now a new age, a church age - James recognizes what that God is visiting us in this world through the church - and we need to be all about the purpose of his visitation.
Part of the church had misunderstood Jesus coming and the Spirit’s coming among the church - and they had said that Jesus came to make the world Jewish. For them the gospel had become Jesus PLUS law-keeping, Jewish distinctives. When Paul and Barnabas reach Jerusalem to have this resolved look how this misunderstanding of the gospel is summarized:
But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”
And while we may not be arguing for people to get circumcised, eat kosher food, avoid red meat - The danger is still here in the church the we turn the gospel into Jesus plus - our church traditions,. Jesus plus moral-ism, jesus plus social justice, Jesus plus charismatic gifts . But understand that Jesus plus anything is to end up with no gospel. Jesus doesn’t just fulfill our human efforts at religions, he fulfills them completely. And when His gospel and his Spirit come upon you, God is visiting you in a new way this third way and the result will be you and I becoming a new people with believing Israel - the new Israel of God, the kingdom of Christ, the church, rebuilt temple of praise!
Key Truth: The Lord is is visiting the remnant of mankind, to rebuild the tent of David by cleansing hearts by faith and giving them the Holy Spirit!
Let’s first consider how God is visiting and building today, by hearing Peter’s witness (vv.7-11).
A. Peter says God’s 3rd Visitation is about Cleansing through faith & the Spirit
Notice first that this was a matter which required much debate! There are things in life that don’t. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Wisdom to know what you would speak up for, debate, even die for, and what just let ride. Major on the majors. The Gentile Christians didn’t just say - well to each his own, we’ll have two branches of the church, with two different ideas about salvation. No, both the Jewish part of the church and the Gentile part - acknowledging each other as true followers of the Messiah - say we have got to get this right, how are saved. Both can’t be right, either saved faith in Jesus and his righteousness and His law keeping on our behalf, his death and resurrection - or we are saved by our efforts. No in between. Three times Peter emphasizes even though as Jewish as they come, that God made a choice to have Gentiles hear the gospel and to believe it. Speaking of 10 years before Cornelius. You know what happened when a Gentile started to believe in jesus to trust simple gospel - he received the Holy Spirit just like us! , end times gift of Spirit! One is saved by faith in the gospel not law keeping, one receives the Holy Spirit not by law keeping but as they are made one with Christ,
Q = Is this is the heart of our religion here? What is at the centre? -The way we do things trad, , the church activities, or faith in Jesus? Jesus’ person, his work, his teaching. And do we believe anyone from out there can receive the Spirit, hear the gospel and become one of us - just by faith in Jesus and not by first keeping all our rules and morals. Is this what we are first of all about. Jesus and faith in him. Look at v.9 the big deal is not ritual or ceremonial cleanness/purity. What is the big deal of how God visits a person now. If Jesus is visiting you in His church today by His Spirit how would you know?
and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.
Not purity laws, circumcision rituals, but a real cleansing of the heart - Dealing with real sin and applying real forgiveness - blood of Jesus does that. People who know how to deal with sin. People who forgive as we are forgiven - can testify and live with clear conscience. Cleansed in reality spiritually, and with a resulting repentance! progressively living free from the power of our sins. not holier than thou attitude… but person truly loved forgiven, endeavoring to be good - That’s what happened to the Gentiles as trusted in jesus, and without all the ritual laws!
People need to see that in our lives - not a society of different rules first of all, but of live by powerful lifechanging grace. Do people see that in your life - it is not some ritual laws that empowers and motivates you - but God’s grace in Christ, by His Spirit that enables you live the new life! In some ways seems easier to make poeople follow your rules, but doesn’t work, can’t even keep them yourself by lawkeeping - God’s provided another way to be truly transformed and to serve Him and love others - Way of Grace, and if not trumpeting it, you are testing God!
Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?
Is that fulness of cleansing in our lives, is what we desire for our children, our neighbours…not just happy if they go to church, or if they live pretty decent lives. Peter concludes simply: answer is no not become Jewish but live by grace! Acts 15:11
But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
Peter says, listen if you don’t get this new vistation of God in Jesus, you know the only thing your religion is doing? You may think you’re making them better moral people, more religiou - but really you are just putting aheavy yoke onthier necks that they can’ bear and yo can’t bear! But God’s work in this church age is to go to people who can’t do religion perfectly all those ceremonies, that ultimately aren’t the reality anyway - just shadows, can’t deliver from sin; go to people who can’t keep all the laws in their own strength… and like Jesus to says to them: Listen got to get to God the Father, only through me. I will bear your burden for you. I have a different yoke and I bear it up - learn my way, Way of grace!
By way of application - do we speak of these things - forgiveness, of the Holy Spirit, of the endless burden of trying to be right with God through law or religion but never getting there .. do we examplifyi ewhat life oof faith . that’s the big deal of what happens when God visits us today!
B. Barnabas & Paul say God’s 3rd Visitation is accompanied by Wonders
At first there must have been people on both sides, saying “Come on, can’t we just get along” - two different kinds of church. Jewish one that insists on cleansing, Gentile oe where tinged by idolatry and sex immorality because of their culture. But this passionate plea by peter, leaves everyone in silence. Then Baranabas and Paul stand up and recount how this is exactly what is going on as they share the gospel to the nations. Specifically they recount not only what Peter has said, being saved by faith, granted the Spirit - but signs and wonders not done by them, but by God - not Benny Hinn I have power to heal, cast out demons, … as if reside in me office of exorcist, or faith healer … In the apostolic age before have NT Scriptures - message back up - just like in days of Moses with WONDERS - not just supernatural miracles - but miracles that backed up the word - Make you seeing people - physical wonder blind see. Make you healed people - watch snake with all poison - supernatural healing - God can do that to you inwardly transformed by the gospel!
It is not that the truth of the gospel is first of all about and based on peronsal experience. Its based on Jesus, but that has to be experienced in our lives! Sign of the kingdom verify this. I wonder if people see not apostolic and wonders - but God’s activity in us - how we are healed emotionally, deliverance through difficult time - have peace. Our lives are to become light, a an open book of God’s activity to the world:
Wonder if they see wisdom of God’s word applied guiding us through tough decision. Barnabas did not hesitate to point to how the gospel was transforming lives. POwerful promise of Jesus to us. As He sent htem to the world, we would do greater works than he had done because now the Spirit would come on all of us as it had on him. Not just speaking of wonders of the apostolic age - but of transfomed lives around the world:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.
Indeed Jesus would say that people would see your good deeds, and glorifying your Father who is in heaven. Paul would go on to say to the churches in Corinth:
You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.
He goes on to say: You are a letter, written ot with pen and ink but with the spirit of the living God! Our lives motivated and lived out by the gospel - are to be signs and wonders to Christ’s grace that others see!
As an aside: Must also see in B&S how God wants the church to operate, not claiming some special revelation from God beyond his word, that trumps the wisdom and the experience of the rest of the church. But church like today a deliberative body -gather together and prayerfully deliberate. See that don’t just take this decision and bring it back to Antioch, But just like they were willing to submit to the wisdom of the elders God had appointed in the church and the apostles, so too they submit this decision to all the churches. letter for everyone. Look even in the next chapter
As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem.
We live in such an age of individualism - sure church - but no one is going to tell me what to decide, or what to believe, .. so easy to pull away from people who have a different experience, background, different theological outlook - but if we just say to each his own - really saying God’s Word, God;s Spirit isn’t big enough . dare to seek the good of the whole church bring God’s whole gospel, his whole word to bear on the topics of our day. dare to listen dare to speak.
C. James says God’s 3rd Visitation is about God’s Grace Welcoming Outsiders and Being Built Together with Them
C. But then James, the brother of Jesus, an elder and leader in the church of Jerusaelm. At first didn’t believe but then jesus appeared to him after the resurrection. Then he wrote beautiful epistle to jewish Christians. This James says that Simeon, jewish name for Peter, he had made the case that God in visiting the Getntiles, the nations, was taking for himself in this world,in this morment of history “a people for his name.” That is Jewish term People not just crowd, or coutnries.. but a people speciall term for a the nation, sparatered , treasured psossession - now is the moment in history when the Gentiles who are chosen to bear God’s name - that they will be rebuilt with Israel. This is the third thing God is doing when he visits peole today - not jsut faith that cleanses and saves;n or just lives that are signs and wonders to the nations of what jesus does, but James pulls out the authorittive prphesy that interprets God’s action in his church today. James gives God’s game plan for the churhc among the nations until Christ comes again.
But then James, the brother of Jesus, an elder and leader in the church of Jerusalem. At first didn’t believe but then Jesus appeared to him after the resurrection. Then he wrote beautiful epistle to Jewish Christians. This James says that Simeon, Jewish name for Peter, he had made the case that God in visiting the Gentiles, the nations, was taking for himself in this world,in this moment of history “a people for his name.” That is Jewish term People not just crowd, or countries.. but a people special term for a separeate nation, separated because have become God’s treasured psossession - now is the moment in history when the Gentiles who are chosen to bear God’s name - that they will be rebuilt with Israel. This is the third thing God is doing when he visits peole today - not jsut faith that cleanses and saves;n or just lives that are signs and wonders to the nations of what jesus does, but James pulls out the authoritative prophesies of the OT that interprets God’s action in his church today. James gives God’s game plan for the church among the nations until Christ comes again.
God had said he would return, to rebuild the fallen tent, to restore it, - so that the remnant of all maknind may seek the LORD. All the Getniles in this world that are called by God’s name would come into this tent. And this was the big surprise for Jewish believers. Look upon their neighbour ethnic groups, as enemies. So they misunderstood Amos prophesy: Look at in the Hebrew version:
that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name,” declares the Lord who does this.
They thought take possession of their worst OT enemy Edom from whom also the Amelkites who were to be utterly wiped out meant to annihilate them. even though God had forbidden them to hate them since they were close relatives.. Esau but as the Gk translation makes clear Edom and all the nations would be taken possession of - not by military force - but in Christ by them too seeking the LORD. The moment had come for the river of God’s grace to overflow its banks from just one nation to all peoples.
James was used to changing his mind, and he is asking the Jewish church to do so and he is asking you mand me in terms of how we think of the lost world around us - to change our minds too! Think of the most radical way James had to change his mind - His borther, half borther - claimed to be the Son of God - didn’t believe him no matter how many miracles no matter how utterly astounding his teaching was - but when he rose from the dead, fulfilled all the prophecies of what coming Messiah king David - he changed his mind and said I will get with your program. I will give myself serving in your church.
But that congregation in Jerusalem had some problems - and they were going to add barrier after barrier to people really living in the grace of Jesus, no big deal is you become like us. - calls on the church to recognize God calling outsiders to come in - You got to look at them differently - not enemies to be defeated and then possession of by force - Some called by Messiah’s name not yet - need to go in love, need remove every barrier so we walk by pure faith in this Jesus. And so he gives the judgment:
Must believe the gospel alone. Not gospel and your ritual law. And beyond that no burden. But so interesting that though the gospel was at stake and clarified in this missionary moment. (Cleanness isn’t by the OT ritual laws.) But he also adds this doesn’t mean just just offend the backgrounds of those around you. It doesn't mean just live however you please. Can’t impose a law for salvation, but law of love still applies. It is one that says no to anything that would lead to idolatry and immorality!
You Gentile Christians, you know food isn’t really polluted if offered to idols before it hit the market place… but for one who is ethnically Jewish, recognize with weaker conscience may see that as paying homage to an idol, and so forgo giving offence like that. And you Gentile Christains sexual immorality is a big deal to God morally. It isn’t in your culture - in fact so common place that accepted part of marriage, adultery even homosexuality but no big deal. So much part of your culture that cult prostitutes for religious ceremonies allowed and even paid by the state. You need to be reminded that God’s moral law, though not how you are saved is still how we must live. Failing to do so will cause others to stumble. And finally meat with blood in it; nothing wrong with food, not unclean by eating it, but recognize Jewish Christians with weaker conscience, have a diet haven’t eaten that kind of meat their whole lives … like me with muscles squeamish. Not going to start to now. ; point isn’t that they are right - that James is some how modify the old ceremonial law, and updating it. He is not saying you must not eat red meat to be saved, but don’t offend them and cause them to stumble by insisting that they must eat red meat when with them. out of love abstain so a not to give offence. In things indifferent abstain out of love. In things immoral be careful not to live in sin. James wasn’t re instituting part of the ceremonial law, but declaring we are free from that burden to be saved, but the burden of love mean we will walk sensitive t others that because of their culture have certain stubling blocks:
Do you get this last part - free gospel of grace so important, that both sides of the church said - yes there are things in my life now, my culture, my way of doing religion, that are stubmling blocks to others. And for the sake of others walking in the freedom of the gospel I will give them up.
Is it any different today - live in a culture and even within the church where sexual imorrality is rampant! whether pronogrpahy, sexual promiscuity adultuery -is getting int he way of gospel -
I was in Pittsburgh when the abuse scandal announcemd again - You can imagine if that’s gospel allows preists to do… Well what about a young adult used and abused by someone, and they see you indlging at the expense of some teenager enslaved; What about the one who’s marriage fell apart, see you running around - see you breaking your marriage vows - don’t think ; What about kids here so much argument about our shibboleth - what we wear to church or what time or whow often or what style, or what poticial postiion … may have a place to talk about these, may be ethical principles must apply - but not the major and not how we are saved - and must be willing to abstain in love on indifferent things for the sake of the gospel and it reaching into eachothers lives, and into the lives of those called by his Name, yet still immersed in this world!
Good friend of mine, in teenage years - got a tatoo - think ethical priciple behind cermenoial law of no tattoes inthe OT, but now the question is would I put my scrupples behind me, to accept that tatooed Xn berother in oorder to grow in the gospel, would he in rertrospect consider and not because had to cover up that tatoo for a Christa nn… Do we insist on things that are indifferent, in order to stand united inthe gospel? Do we refuse to give up clear moral evils we’ve become entangled in and won’t give up that will cause other to stumble. Or for the sake of the gospel, do we join with all Christians in keeping the gosepl, the grace of Jsus central and being rebuilt with them together! Will we with those we are trying to reach out in our neighbourhoods and schools and places of work!
For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements:
I have heard of one who lived a life of multiple and ongoing sexual impurity - who later became a Christian - said it wasn’t the major sin - that was thinking we can live with out God. But did say: I had to give up my sexual immorality to become a Christian . what have you given up. in a similar way - when you see the free-ness of the gospel of Grace, when yo consider the change that these Jewish believers made in their lives, to welcome the Gentiles and to be built with them into rebuilt tabernacle - when you think of the changes that these Gentiles had to make - giving up sexual immorality, - what would you give up in order to see someone grow in the gospel and in the grace of jesus?
You know what would happen if we got that involved with each others lives to know what offends, what in our life keeps someone else from following jesus and did something about it: Do we have the guts to say - this is what Christian living for all of us ought to look like - give up all these factions of hyphenated Xns - Jewish Gentile, meat eating, ceremnoial lawkeeping - but this is the way of grace - and we are going to walk in it together!
Look at the result as this judgment is carried not just to Antioch but to all the bleiver, both jewish and Gentile - Very different types of Christians united in building up this church. Very different types of people, reahcing out together witht he gospel.
And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement.
That’s remarkable, going to choose a diet restriction, nor more rare steak - becasue I ‘ll gllray restr4ict my freeom for the sake of others. And I won’t make a non-Biblical requirement into a law for other. Secondary cultural tradition. We will move on togeher a a church, actively being rebuilt with very different peole - but most unifying force in the world - community by Christ and His Spirit guided by His word, sent to outsiders in love. The church of Jesus Christ - what you and I are! Jesus not only accomlishing our salvation, but buidling us into the tabernacle not built with humn hands - that will fill the earth - that is what we are the end times temple of God on earth! Turning point, watershed in church going tot he nations. May it be so hear - as we unite are around the gospel of grace to see outsiders called by Christ name -join under David’s rebult temple here and in every corner of the earth!