All About That Grace, bout that grace, bout that grace
For those of who you haven’t been with us on Sunday nights....we have travelled through the book of Acts over the past year and have made our way through chapter 14
And chapter 14 ended with Paul being stoned by opponents to the gospel…but him and Barnabas pressing on and continuing in their evangelistic missional crusade
The Great Commission in action, if you will
Which brings us to chapter 15, which if you turn there in your Bibles you’ll see this chapter is titled “The Jerusalem Council”…which we’ll read about in just a minute…but what we’re gonna see is Paul and Barnabas now being opposed by people inside of the church
As you are turning there, I want to ask you a question....and this is a very important and a very foundational question to everything we believe in as Christians....a question that we should all know the answer to
Are you ready for it? Are you sure?
What is grace?
Us receiving something that we do not deserve
A.W. Tozer - “Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines Him to bestow benefits upon the undeserving. Its use to us sinful men is to save us and make us sit together in heavenly places to demonstrate to the ages the exceeding riches of God’s kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
And I want you to hold onto that thought as we read through this passage this morning…because what I hope to show you this morning is why grace is so foundational, and why messing with it can be absolutely devastating
Now if you remember back through Acts, what we saw was the gospel message of Jesus Christ spreading through the Jews out of Judaism, right?
People who were Jews were putting their faith in Jesus and no longer putting it in the OT Law of Moses…which they couldn’t keep…which only showed them their sinfulness
And as we tracked through, we read about Peter and the vision of the animals on the sheet, and how God had led him to share the Gospel with Gentiles (non-Jews), and how they too had been saved the same exact way that the Jews had been
And we saw Paul and Barnabas continue to carry that message to both Jews and Gentiles
And so what we have seen is that all people have been saved in the same way, regardless of their race or people group…and that it has all been by the grace of God
The gentiles had never followed the Law of Moses, they had never been circumcised (eww), and so with what we just read we are seeing the early church trying to figure out how to navigate all of these things.
Remember, for 1000 + years, Jews have followed the Law of Moses....and so having Gentiles come in and share in the gift of salvation with them, while they were “unclean” according to Levitical law…was a big issue for them
So here’s the scoop, Paul and Barnabas are in Antioch, and these believers from Judea arrive, and they are teaching in the synagogue
And so what is happening I imagine, is Paul and Barnabas are settling in to listen to them, and right off the bat these believers (who had received the gift of grace through salvation), out of their mouths comes this:
“You can only be a Christian if you get circumcised as well as believe in Jesus Christ”
And picture it with me, Paul and Barnabas’ mouths hit the floor, like Tom in Tom & Jerry…that’s what I imagine
And why? Because they are attacking grace…they are actually teaching that salvation only comes when we do something
and what was the definition of grace that we landed on?
Us receiving something that we do not deserve
Us receiving something for which we had no part in, for us to receive something that we did not earn
You know what we can do on our own? Sin....that’s it. So to say that us actually doing something ourselves to assist in us getting to salvation is absolutely preposterous
And verse 2 tells us Paul and Barnabas had no small argument with them....and rightfully so
So they stopped these believers right there and started going at it with them…in defense of grace
And I want you to realize, that if they had not done this…we most likely wouldn’t be here today…because grace is absolutely pivotal to our salvation
And if you mess with grace…you mess with everything. Again…if we are left to ourselves to achieve salvation....we are left to utter destruction…because of sin
But here’s a side point for you just for free…this one’s on me....In the church, there are things worth fighting over and things not worth fighting over:
For example: the color of the carpet in the new sanctuary…not worth it
However, people teaching false doctrine…absolutely
And if I ever stand up here and teach something that this book doesn’t say…or if anyone ever does...then you should absolutely, 100% stop me or them mid sentence and defend this
But…how are you gonna know false doctrine? You’ve got to be in here…how you doing?
Verse 3 tells us that Paul & Barnabas and some others, after some heated debate, were sent to Jerusalem…to get an answer to this question from the super apostles (a little slight on Paul there)
And verse 6 tells us that there again was much debate among the apostles over this question
And then verse 7, Peter stands up, the Peter…the one whom Jesus said he would build his church upon, the one who had led Cornelius the roman gentile to salvation, Peter…the head honcho, he stands up and he says this:
“Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 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? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
There are three things we can see in Peter’s response that I want you guys to learn and remember about grace.
First....Grace is a decision by God
God decided on grace, and God, the creator, the one who gets to determine these things....determined that He would save us from our sins through grace....from before the foundation of the world…this was his plan, and as created beings…we don’t get to determine that. we don’t get to say we need to play a part because we’re arrogant people
Secondly, Grace is a gift from God
Question: What is the 8th book of the Bible? Bring up the person who answers first
Alright…I’ve got this chickfila coupon for a free milkshake....and , would you like to have this?
Awesome, here you go, it’s all yours
Oh, by the way, when you get a chance, you oh me $3.25, just when you get a second okay?
You guys see…grace is a gift, grace isn’t something we have to pay for, can pay for, or ever will be able to pay for....circumcision won’t do it, following the law of Moses won’t do it, coming to church every Sunday won’t do it, memorizing Scripture won’t do it…none of that
Grace is a gift from God to believers, in order for them to receive salvation
end of story
And thirdly and finally, Grace will get us to God
The believers from Judea said that unless the Gentiles got circumcised they cannot be saved, and they couldn’t be more wrong
What they were teaching was downright heresy
Grace is the only thing that will get us to God…it’s the only thing that will bring us into eternity with Him
So what has happened here is Peter, as well as Paul and Barnabas, has come out in staunch defense of grace
Why? Because without grace we have nothing.
Without grace we are hopeless
If our salvation was dependent on ourselves at all…then Christ was unnecessary
James, the brother of Jesus, even pipes in here in verse 13…and he flexes his OT memory muscle and quotes from the book of Amos (anyone in here ever read Amos?) in verse 16 & 17....read it
And encourages the council to encourage the Gentiles not to focus on or go through circumcision…but instead to abstain from food polluted by idols, to abstain from sexual immorality, and from eating the blood of animals
Pretty much what James is saying is they don’t need to be circumcised…what they need to do, it’s the same as us, to strive to live lives that are pure and God-honoring
To take God’s grace and strive to glorify Him by living in that grace and pursuing righteousness…not to earn…but because we now finally can!
You guys…don’t miss the enormity of what we read here today
Grace is foundational to our salvation…and we only receive salvation because God gave it to us
You can do nothing to earn your salvation....and if you’re here this morning and you think you can…you think to yourself, when I die…God will see I tried to do good things and He’ll let me in
You couldn’t me more wrong…and you’ll die in your self-righteousness and go to Hell
But also....don’t forget that if you mess with grace you mess with salvation…and so you must be wary of false teachers and of people who teach something different
Catholics, Mormons, Buddhists, Hindus, JH, Anglican…and on and on and on..they all teach that we, humans, can do something to earn salvation, and we must do something
they’re wrong peeps
And finally...you won’t know false teaching if you don’t know this....be in the Word…read about God, read about Jesus, see the grace He’s given…and worship Him because of it
And if you don’t know this…well, make plans to join us on Wednesday nights....Gospel Project
People…embrace the grace that God has given you or has on offer to you....and go out this week and live a life that glorifies Him because of it.
He’s your only hope....let other’s see that!