Faithlife Sermons

Acts 15:1-35 Salvation and Community

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Today we will be dealing with 2 questions that rocked the early church and today still cause pain and division. Who are the saved? What are the rules for Christian partnership and fellowship?
As the world gets smaller thanks to technology we encounter people from diverse cultures and world views. It is easy to assume my culture is the perfect culture, it holds the truth undefiled. And therefore, when we encounter others from a vastly different culture, it becomes difficult for us to accept them, embrace them, and partner with them unless, they become just like me.
In todays passage of Acts the early church is dealing with this very thing.
The world has been made open to the Gospel of Jesus. Salvation is spreading to the Gentiles thanks to the missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas. Great news! But this great news comes with sincere questions by the Jewish believes.
Are the Gentiles really saved without the mark and laws of God’s covenant family?
As a Jewish believer in the messiah how can we have fellowship with the Gentiles whose culture is overwhelmingly centered on the worship of false gods?
Lets pray
Acts 15:1–35 ESV
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.” 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. 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. 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. 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.” 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. 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? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” 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. After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, “ ‘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, 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 known from of old.’ Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 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. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.” 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, with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, 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, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 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.” So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words. And after they had spent some time, they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them. But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

The Wisdom of the Church Counsel

Saved through the grace of our Lord Jesus, both Jew and Gentile

Acts 15:11 ESV
But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
Galatians 3:23–29 ESV
Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.


Ephesians 1:3–14 ESV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
God elected the Jewish people to bring salvation to the world.
Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise and election.
Therefore salvation comes by being in His family and taking upon His yoke.
In Jesus all the nations are saved in the same way - By hearing the Gospel and Believing.
Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.


Acts 15:8–9 ESV
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.
Galatians 5:16–18 ESV
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Circumsicion and the law could not keep you from sinning against God.
Bu the Holy Spirit as the seal of our covenant when obeyed empowers us to live free from sin.
Both Jewish and Gentile believers have a better covenant - the blood of Jesus, completed through faith, and sealed by God himself, the Holy Spirit.

Finally, James asks of the Gentile community to abstain from cultural idolatry.

abstain from Food sacrificed in pagan temples to false gods
Sexual immorality -

James is asking the Gentile believers to

walk away from cultural idolatry
Reconfigure the sexual ethic in the pattern of God’s model as opposed to the pagan model
And to honor the life of the animal used as food rather than the pagan belief of assuming the life force of the dead.
These cultural prohibitions will allow for Jewish and Gentile fellowship in Christ.
James has given 2 Jewish cerimonial laws and one moral law as the method of Christian fellowship between believers of two different cultures.

How Can We Apply This Today?

There is no pretext to Salvation in Jesus by grace through faith!

You can’t be a Gentile and be saved, you must first be a part of the Jewish family through the law and circumcision.
You can’t be (The political party you dislike) and be saved, you must first join my party and then you can be saved.
You can’t be Gay and be saved, you must first get yourself delivered, fixed, set free and then Jesus will save you.
Galatians 5:4–5 ESV
You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.
Salvation is never about what you have done to be right with God! That is the Law!
Salvation is always about what God has done for us in Jesus!
Ephesians 2:1–5 ESV
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

Finally, Christian Fellowship in Christ Takes Three Important Steps.

Shun Idolatry -
Baal and Asherah - Sacrifice of children, sexual perversion. Odd how these two gods were worshipped together as mother and son and lovers - Today you will find sexual perversion and child sacrifice go hand in hand. Baal wants your children, Asherah wants your dignity and spirit.
Racism and Xenophobia -
Love of money -
Anything you place your hopes in that is not Yahweh.
Embrace the moral law of God - (Read Jesus and Paul and be willing to submit to their judgment).
The whole of God’s law to the Jewish people was split into three categories.
Cerimonial/ Temple- Worship law - This part of the law was a foreshadow of Jesus and fulfilled by him. You do not need to practice this as a Christian for salvation, however you are welcome to practice the feasts and etc, to better understand and appreciate what Jesus has accomplished.)
Civic - This was the portion of the law for Israel as a nation. We as Gentile believers and even Jews today cannot and do not need to participate in this. We have been set free of it through Jesus.
Moral law - This portion of the law predates the other portions - This part of the law existed before Israel and is still to be honored and lived out today. Moral law will not get you saved but real salvation (sealed by the Spirit) will always lead to living out the oral law. The moral law brings Shalom - Peace, unity, things in their right place working together.
Limit Your Liberty For Love -
Jews for Jesus - take him out to Piggy back for some pork. Bad idea!
Romans 14:13–23 ESV
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
Table fellowship is only made possible if we are willing to limit our liberties for the sake of our brothers and sisters.
See your brother and sisters and more important than your own rights and liberties.
Maybe you can drink with out it leading to drunkardness but, your brother or sister cannot, do not cause them to stumble because of your liberty.
Table fellowship depends on mutual love not individual freedoms and rights.
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