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Freedom in Christ Jesus

Act 15  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction

Good Morning! For those of you who don’t know me my name is Danny Watton. I am your service pastor and I am absolutely humbled to be here with you. I think its amazing that my job allows me to dive into the Word and learn more about our God.
I think as Christians we should all feel that way. Excited to dive into the Word and learn more about who we are as Christ followers. I remember when I was a new Christian I thought that I knew everything! I knew what it meant to be a Christian and how to behave in order to prove to others that I was serious about my faith.
If you asked me how I knew I was a Christian I would start off telling you I wouldn’t do certain things and of course I would read my Bible, be kind to others and go to church. But what should have alarmed me that I had a problem was when Lauren and I traveled to Vancouver Canada with my family. I found myself getting irritated and mad at her for having a glass of wine. I was being super judgy that she was drinking a glass of wine and that she was not 21 yet. It was legal in Canada to drink at 18 so she was within her legal right to have a glass of wine in Canada even though in the US it was 21 of course.
I was acting and communicating to my future wife that she was not really a Christian because she was not abiding in the standard that I set as the golden standard for being a Christian. If I had a time machine and I would go back in time a slap myself because I love me a good glass of wine.
What I was doing was I was adding to the Gospel with man made rules on how to obtain salvation. I was telling Lauren that she was not really a Christian because she was not truly a follower of Christ.
Now I was absolutely wrong and Lauren was within her rights to have a glass of wine. Even though she was not 21, Canada’s legal age to drink was 18. So she was not breaking the law in Canada even though she would have been breaking the Law in the US.
And she was absolutely a Christian because she believed in Jesus as her Christ. So the problem that I had was I was adding requirements to the Gospel. I was telling her it was Jesus’ death plus following these certain rules.
And that is exactly what is happening in . The question arose if the Gentiles could be granted full salvation through grace if they did not obey the Mosaic Law. Specifically, circumcision and Jewish customs.
Lets Pray

The Jerusalem Council

The Jerusalem Council

Antioch was the first place that believers were called Christians
Paul and Barnabas traveled all over and they were preaching the Gospel. And at the end of Chapter 14
“27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they remained no little time with the disciples.”
Paul and Barnabas were seeing the Holy Spirit move as Gentiles were believing in Jesus Christ. The harvest was plenty and God granted them success as they were on their mission. Everything is going great.
But what did we talk about last week?
Satan knows he has been defeated and even though Gods plan will not and cannot fail, it doesn’t stop Satan from continuing to try and torment the church. We see this in verse one of
The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “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. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 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.”
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.
That’s was the message that they began teaching. They essentially said “goodbye grace”……Jesus isn’t enough!!! The Bible calls these men Judiazers. They didn’t deny that one isn’t saved by grace but rather they believed that you were saved by grace and following the customs of Moses i.e. circumcision
Verse 2
2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.
We see here that Paul and Barnabas had a strong debate with them. It seems hear that there was arguing and things were heated and shouting was taking place. The Judiazaers said to Paul and Barnabas you are wrong.
We have the support from the main office in Jerusalem.
So what any good church would do is seek counsel. They all agreed that they would travel to Jerusalem to seek counsel from the Apostles. So Paul and Barnabas and some other witnesses went to Jerusalem
Verse 3 & 4
12 And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13 After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,
3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers.
4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. 5 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.”
So they arrive in Jerusalem and they are tired but excited to put this debate to rest. But immediately the pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them to order them to keep the law of Moses”
Now at first as I was reading this passage I said to myself, well of course the Pharisee’s are at it again. Causing trouble for the church.
But as I went back to read this verse again I see that these Pharisees were believers.
So these pharisees where not evil people as I initially thought. They were committed and they have given up a lot to be were they were in their Christian faith.
It cost them everything.
They had to give up their positions within society and their families. What I realized was that these Pharisees were brought up in the scholarly study of the Mosaic Law. They worked hard to gain position as a Pharisee and they were no doubt honored by their family because of their achievement.
So looking at this I realized that even though these Pharisees who stood up and said they had to obey the Law of Moses I thought to myself that these men were a product of their up brining. Not being able to let go of the Law of Moses.
But when they accepted Jesus a civil war broke out inside of these men as they were trying to reconcile everything that they had learned. But these men were not evil men. But their view was a problem. They were new believers so this question and debate that they are about to have is super important.
So I began to understand where they were coming from and sympathized with them a little because they are a product of their up brining.
As we are all who were are because of the family and up bringing we have.
This is an important point in the church history. If they came to the wrong decision then Christianity would not be what it is today. The doctrine of salvation through grace was at stake here in the Jerusalem Counsel.
16 “‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, 17 that the remnant[b] of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things 18 known from of old.’
The counsel has been in hot debate. They have been yelling and screaming so their point or position would be heard. I am sure things were said that some of the regretted. Again I see this scene as a law being debated or trying to be passed into law in Washington. And we see here that no conclusion looks to be in sight. I can just see Paul sitting there getting fed up with this display of division.
And in verse 7-11 we see Paul jump up to speak. Now remember that Paul has mad quite the reputation in his life. He was the Pharisee of Pharisee and he had been given authority from the risen Christ to deliver the message to the Gentiles. So when he rose up to speak everyone quieted to hear what he had to say.
7-11 Peter
7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “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.
Paul was of course talking about the conversion of Cornelius and the gentiles. That God gave them salvation freely as He did with them. And Paul then goes on to give a declaration.
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.
He was perplexed on how they could lay the burden of the law on new gentile converts necks. They could not keep it themselves so why would they place that burden on them.
19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. 21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”
Pauls conclusion was grace alone is the only way that we are saved. Not through rituals, not through anything other than grace.
So today if you are a Christian no matter what your background, your position in rank or your intellectual resume…..you all have come to Christ the same way. Through the grace and love of Jesus Christ only.
I think this message can never be spoken of too much. We need to be constantly reminded that we are all saved only through the sacrifice Christ made on the cross. And nothing else.
You might be sitting here today hearing this for the thousandth time but today it actually made sense.
But we see at the end of Paul’s speech that the crowd is silent. And in my experience when people are silent they actually are listening.
I went on a date with Lauren my wife two nights ago. And at the end of the date she said I cant believe that you didn’t at all through the night turned our conversation towards you. That I actually listened. And I was able to encourage and take interest into what was going on in her life. You see when I stop talking I know I can actually hear what is being said to me.

The Council's Letter to Gentile Believers

In that silence Paul and Barnabus took that opportunity to share with them their experience as they were in Lystra and all there other travels. When they finished James stood to his feet. James was Jesus’ brother. So If they stopped to listen to Paul they absolutely stopped to listen to James.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians James had a personal interview with Christ. James was called “James the just by the church” His knees had calluses because he prayed so much. When James stood up the Pharisee secs were encouraged because they were ready for him to affirm their position.
James stated that the conversion of the Gentiles were in line with the Scriptures.
13-21 James Speech
Verses 14-18
22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, 23 with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers[c] who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. 24 Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you[d] with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, 25 it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”
Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,
16 “‘After this I will return, and
I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen;
I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it,
17 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
18 known from of old.’
30 So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31 And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. 32 And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words. 33 And after they had spent some time, they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them.[e] 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
James is talking about mainly through which talks about the restoration of Israel
11“In that day I will restore the fallen tent of David. I will repair its gaps, restore its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old, 12so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear My name,” declares the LORD, who will do this.
So all nations are the gentiles who will share in the messianic blessing.
But James then goes into the heart of what we need to take away today.
19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.
James says to the Jewish Christians, to leave the gentiles alone. Do not over burden them with the yoke that they could not bare themselves.

Paul and Barnabas Separate

And James said to the Gentiles.
abstain from the things polluted by idols
and from sexual immorality,
and from what has been strangled, and from blood.
Why did he put these restrictions on them?
It was usual practice for the Gentiles to use an idol’s temple for banquets and celebrations
36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Sexual immorality was such a common sin among the Gentiles that it was actually an accepted
Practice.
And lastly, God gave people the privilege of eating flesh but not eating and drinking blood.
For those who are under grace do not make unbiblical standards for believers to follow. We see this when Christians are trying to be Holyer than Jesus. Don’t drink even one drop of alcohol, don’t say certain things, don’t dress this way or you have to dress this way.

Application

What is our application today.
For the Christians that are sitting before me. Don’t place unbiblical standards of the new Christians around you.
We are free from the law and that through Christ we have abundant grace.
We have justification through faith alone in Christ alone. Because we are Christians we should be doing an about face.
Facing 180 in the other direction. We should be turn our back to the world and running towards the cross. We should be turning from sin and we should be loving our God, Loving our neighbors and telling people about Christ sacrifice on the cross.

Conclusion

Leave here today Christian knowing that Jesus said English Standard Version (ESV)
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The non Christians today who are still struggling. Know that Jesus died on the cross for your sins. He died for you. He loves you. You don’t have to do anything but accept the free gift He wants you to take. What Jesus has to offer you will be so much more…its indescribable the freedom in Him you will receive if you humble yourself and realize that He died for you.
If that is you please come talk to me after the service. Talk to any of the chaplains here and we will show you what it means to live in Christ.
Pray with me!!!
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