Faithlife Sermons

By Grace Alone

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Transcript
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Acts 15:1–21 NKJV
1 And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question. 3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren. 4 And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them. 5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” 6 Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. 7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” 12 Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. 13 And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: 14 Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: 16After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; 17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the Lord who does all these things.’ 18 “Known to God from eternity are all His works. 19 Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”
Introduction:
Some things are not worth fighting for.
A hound dog can lick a skunk any day but it just isn’t worth it.
This is not a hill I’m willing to die on.
However… some things are worth fighting for.
Paul and Barnabas understood this to be one of those things!f
“No small dissension.”

The great question: How will we have right standing before God? Is it through grace? Is it through our deeds? Or is it a little of both?

The debate is not ultimately about circumcision but law or grace or law plus grace.

1. The problem started with problem people. (vs 1-2 & 5)

Luke identifies their character.
Acts 15:24 NKJV
24 Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law”—to whom we gave no such commandment—

1. They were dishonest.

2. They were destructive.

Certain men came down from Judea and taught a lie.
They were teaching that you needed a little grace and you needed to keep the law.
Some of the Pharisees who were believers couldn’t shake their past and jumped in with them.
Some would say that Paul’s writing in Galatians was in reference to this meeting. Others would disagree.
Either way… what he wrote was applicable.
Galatians 1:6–9 NKJV
6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
Paul identifies false teaching...

1. They preached a different gospel. (Gal. 1:6)

2. They ultimately preached no gospel at all. (Gal. 1:7a)

3. They perverted the gospel. (Gal. 1:7b)

Change is hard! It was hard for the Jews to change their thinking on something they had been taught their entire lives.
Yet the old way of thinking was not good news.
We must be extremely careful that we stay away from legalism.
We need to guard against false teachers.
We need to know the truth.
Know what God’s Word says.
False profits will become more abundant.
2 Timothy 4:3–5 NKJV
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Be careful as “prophets” or those with “a word from the lord”
Hebrews 1:1–2 NKJV
1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;

2. Paul and Barnabas caused great joy on their journey to confront false teaching. (vs 3-4)

Paul and Barnabas had great things to share.
The gospel was spreading quickly through the gentiles and the church was growing.
Remember that when there are struggles, we can still find joy.

3. The church leaders struggled to agree. (vs 6-7)

This was a lifestyle change for them.
People don’t like change.
This was changing not just a tradition but a law of God.
Circumcision was outward proof that you were part of God’s chosen people.

4. Faithful men boldly defended the gospel. (vs 7-21)

Peter.

Acts 15:7–11 NKJV
7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”
First… there had been much dispute.
Change is hard.
They didn’t have the New Testament.
Peter tells them God is laying a new foundation.
You KNOW GOD CHOSE by my mouth.
Peter is saying you can’t argue with God’s plan.
Once Jews were defiled when they simply went into the home of a Gentile.
That foundation is verified by the giving of the Holy Spirit.
So Peter says we can know there is no difference between the Jews and the Greeks.
In vs 10 he reminds them that THEY couldn’t keep the law.
Acts 15:10 NKJV
10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
The law was never intended to save people, but to point out their shortcoming.
Peter dismantles the old approval process.
He reminds them it never worked in the first place!
Galatians 3:11 NKJV
11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.”
The just shall live by what?
Faith not the Law!
Galatians 3:24–25 NKJV
24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
This is why Jesus calls us to come to HIM because HIS yoke is easy.
Matthew 11:28–30 NKJV
28 Come to Me, all you 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.”
Peter is telling them that the deal is already done!
God has made HIS decision.
He is already saving Gentiles by grace through faith.
It is as if the Pharisees were standing on the sidewalk arguing about wether or not their new neighbor had met the requirements for a mortgage all the while they are moving in.
Peter moves the focus from the centrality of the law to the centrality of Christ.

Barnabas and Paul

Acts 15:12 NKJV
12 Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles.
God was validating their ministry to the gentiles through the signs and wonders.
It is believed that Luke did not record this in detail because he just wrote about it.
So we will move on!
However, did you notice Luke’s order as he listed the men?
Barnabas first?
Barnabas was well known in Jerusalem.
Originally sent out from them.
Paul was not as known.

James

What James is this?
James the son of Zebedee and brother of John was killed by Herod back Acts 12.
This is James the brother of Jesus and established leader of the Jerusalem church.
Acts 15:13–21 NKJV
13 And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: 14 Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: 16After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; 17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the Lord who does all these things.’ 18 “Known to God from eternity are all His works. 19 Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”
James agrees with Peter and backs it up with scripture.
The prophet Amos.
Yet James understands the difficulty and seems to have a compromise of sorts.
James gives three areas the Gentile believers are to comply.
Yet this is not a yoke.
He says: “we should not make it difficult”
Abstain from meat polluted by idols
from sexual immorality
from meat of strangled animals and from blood.
This comes from James’ spiritual wisdom.
He calls them to abstain from outright sin.
He calls them to put their Jewish brother’s first.
1 Corinthians 8:9–13 NKJV
9 But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? 11 And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
Conclusion: Four questions to ask when disputes arise in the church.
Are we keeping Christ central?
Is it outright sin?
Is it an act that causes someone to stumble?
Is it idolatry?
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