Acts Chapter 15

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INTRODUCTION
∗ The church leaders have always met to settle doctrinal issues.
∗ In the early history there were seven councils in the churches.
∗ Yet the most important council was the first one, the Jerusalem Council because it established the answer to the most vital doctrinal question of all: What a person must do to be saved?
∗ The apostles and elders defied the efforts to impose legalism and ritualism as necessary prerequisites for salvation.
∗ The apostles and leaders forever affirmed that Salvation is totally by grace through faith in Christ alone.
∗ Some from Judea taught the Gentile converts at Antioch, that they could not be saved, unless they observed the whole ceremonial law as given by Moses; and thus they sought to destroy Christian liberty.
∗ There is a strange proneness in us to think that all do wrong who do not just as we do.
∗ Their doctrine was very discouraging.

∗ Wise and good men desired to avoid contests and disputes as far as they could; yet when false teachers opposed the main truths of the gospel, or brought in hurtful doctrines, we must not decline to oppose them.

CONFLICT OVER CIRCUMCISION
∗ Certain false teachers, who were self appointed guardians of legalism, teaching a doctrine of Salvation – Unless you are circumcised. ….. you are not saved.
∗ So Paul and Barnabas came to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders, about that question.
∗ Paul and Barnabas and others went into great detail to report the many work of God was accomplishing through their efforts.
∗ No doubt, they provided sufficient evidence to verify the genunity of the Gentiles’ Salvation.
∗ We see from the words “purifying their hearts by faith,” and the address of St. Peter, that justification by faith, and sanctification by the Holy Ghost, cannot be separated; and that both are the gift of God.
∗ Then our hearts and consciences will be purified from the guilt of sin, and we shall be freed from the burdens some try to lay upon the disciples of Christ.
∗ We have great cause to praise God that we have heard the gospel.

JERUSALEM COUNCIL
Through the speeches to the council, the disciples strongly defended that the Salvation is received by the grace through the faith alone.

FIRST SPEECH – Peter’s
∗ Peter again defended how God saved the Gentiles in the early days of the church with out a requirement of circumcision, law keeping or ritual.
∗ He referred to the salvation of Cornelius and his household.
∗ If God doesn’t require any additional qualifications for salvation neither should the legalistic believers.
∗ If Gentiles believed what Jesus spoke, then the Gospel reached them and they were the believers.
∗ The council would have argued that Cornelius and others wouldn’t have been saved because they didn’t meet the legalistic requirements.
∗ Peter explained to them saying that God gave them the Holy Spirit purified hearts with faith and proved to Judaziars the genunity of their salvation.
∗ Why God be tested, when He sent His only Son to the world to save the people through His grace.
∗ Therefore to press that law upon them, was to undo what God had done.

SECOND SPEECH – Barnabas’ and Peter’s
∗ The multitude was silent listening to Barnabas and Paul.
∗ Then they talked about the miracles and wonders of God.
∗ Paul and Barnabas related to the signs and wonders which they witnessed what God had performed among the Gentiles in the various places they had been.
∗ The emphasis was not on their efforts, but on God’s work.

THIRD SPEECH James’
∗ James declared the third speech in defence of salvation by faith alone by relating how God’s future plans for Gentile Salvation agree with his current work.
∗ James quoted Amos’ prophecy to prove that Gentile Salvation was not contrary to God’s plan for Israel.
So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. 12 And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.” (Acts 9 : 11&12)
∗ In fact in the kingdom, God’s messengers would announce the salvation to the Gentiles.
“Thus says the Lord of hosts:
‘Peoples shall yet come,
Inhabitants of many cities;
21 The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying,
“Let us continue to go and pray before the Lord,
And seek the Lord of hosts.
I myself will go also.”
22 Yes, many peoples and strong nations
Shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem,
And to pray before the Lord.’
23 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” (Zechariah 8 : 20-23)

∗ James made no mention of Gentiles becoming Jewish pro-styles.
∗ But the Gentiles called upon the name of God.
∗ If Gentiles believed in God who created every thing in the world, there would be no doubt that the people of the present would believe God for their salvation.
∗ The decision of the Jerusalem Council , after considering all the evidence was that keeping the law and observing rituals were not the requirements of salvation.
∗ Then Judaizers stopped annoying the Gentiles.
∗ James and other leaders did not want the Gentiles to revel in their freedom in Christ.
∗ Because the Jewish believers would follow the same liberty and violate their conscience.
∗ So James advised the Gentiles to abstain from four idolatrous practices that were violations of the Law of Moses so as to not to offend Jews.
∗ To abstain from
1. Food polluted by idols
2. Sexual immorality
3. The meat of strangled animals.
4. And from blood.
∗ This had been preached in every city by Moses and read in every Synagogue on every Sabbath.
∗ So James cautioned them to use Christian liberty with moderation and prudence.

THE LETTER FROM THE COUNCIL
∗ The disciples directed the Gentiles by the immediate influence of the Holy Ghost.
∗ They assured that it seemed good unto God the Holy Spirit, as well as to them, to lay upon the converts no other burden than the things before mentioned, which were necessary, either on their own account, or from present circumstances.
∗ It was a comfort to hear that carnal ordinances were no longer imposed on them, which perplexed the conscience, but could not purify or pacify it.
∗ Those who troubled in their minds were silenced, so that the peace of the church was restored, and that which threatened division was removed.
∗ All this was consolation for which they blessed God.
∗ Many others were at Antioch, where many labour in the word and doctrine, yet there may be opportunity for us: the zeal and usefulness of others should stir us up, not lay us asleep.

DIVISION OVER JOHN MARK
∗ Here we had a private quarrel between two ministers, no less than Paul and Barnabas, yet made to end well.
∗ Barnabas wished his nephew John Mark to go with them. 
∗ Paul did not think him worthy of the honour, nor fit for the service, who had departed from them without their knowledge, or without their consent:
“And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me:” Verse 13.

Neither would yield, therefore there was no remedy but they must part.
∗ We see that the best of men are but men, subject to like passions as we are.
∗ Perhaps there were faults on both sides, as usual in such contentions.
∗ Christ’s example alone, is a copy without a blot.
∗ Yet we are not to think it strange, if there are differences among wise and good men.
∗ It will be so while we are in this imperfect state; we shall never be all of one mind till we come to heaven.
∗ But what mischief the remainders of pride and passion which are found even in good men, do in the world, and do in the church!
∗ Believers must be constant in prayer, that they may never be led by the allowance of unholy tempers, to hurt the cause they really desire to serve.
∗ Paul speaks with esteem and affection both of Barnabas and Mark, in his epistles, written after this event.
∗ May all who profess thy name, O loving Saviour, be thoroughly reconciled by that love derived from thee which is not easily provoked, and which soon forgets and buries injuries.

Let’s pray
Our Holy and Heavenly Father, let’s all the time, bury the injuries of one another and forgive one another to live in harmony with Your peace and love. Amen.
Glory be to God

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