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Scripture Reading: Acts 15:1-5
1. Satan does not leave God’s people alone! We have already seen that during Paul’s first preaching journey (Acts 13-14).
2. Judaizing teachers from Jerusalem church came to Antioch, teaching Gentiles must be circumcised and keep LOM to be saved, Acts 15:1.
3. Immediate and large dispute, 15:2; cf. Gal. 2:4-5.
I. THE JERUSALEM MEETING.
A. Why Did these Brethren Go to Jerusalem?
1. Not in order to decide what the truth was on the subject.
2. Not because the Jerusalem church was the “Mother Church” or “Metropolitan Church” for all of “Christendom” (Pulpit Comm.).
3. Not to convene a worldwide council of churches.
4. Not to write a creed for the church.
* 5. To know whether the brethren in Jerusalem were teaching the same gospel that was being taught among the Gentiles, Gal. 2:1-2; cf. Acts 15:4-7.
a. God said to go to Jerusalem, Gal. 2:2 (15:2-3). Barnabas, Paul and others (including Titus, Gal. 2:3) went.
b. They were in agreement, Gal. 2:6-9.
c. Judaizers were not sent to Gentiles by the Jerusalem church or by God!
II. ADDRESSING A DOCTRINAL PROBLEM.
A. Distinguish between Necessary and Unnecessary Things.
1. Not Necessary for Salvation: Circumcision and keeping the Law of Moses, Acts 15:1-11.
a. No justification from sins by LOM, Acts 13:38-39. Gal. 2:16-19; 3:10-14.
1) No distinction between Jews and Gentiles: Both cleansed by faith, 15:7-9.
2) The law was a yoke that could not be borne, 15:10 (Gal. 5:1).
b. All saved through the grace of Christ, 15:11; cf. Gal. 5:4.
c. Salvation of Gentiles without the Law of Moses was validated as correct by God Himself, 15:8, 12-19.
1) Holy Spirit poured out on Cornelius and house, 15:8; 11:17.
2) Miracles attended the work of Barnabas and Paul, 15:12. Showed God approved of their preaching, Acts 14:3; 15:3.
3) Prophets, 15:13-19. They predicted the ruling monarchy (house) of David (Messiah) would include Gentiles. Including Gentiles in the Messiah’s kingdom was the work of God, 15:18.
d. How to establish and apply God’s authority, Acts 15:6-19.
1) Apostolic approved example, 15:7-11.
2) Necessary inference, 15:12.
3) Direct statement, 15:13-19.
4) Our pattern to follow, Col. 3:17.
2. Necessary Things: Moral and religious purity, Acts 15:20, 28-29.
a. “The things forbidden are all practices not looked upon as sins by Gentiles…” (Pulpit Comm.) See parallel in Acts 21:25
b. Idolatry, fornication, things strangled and blood: Impose “only those necessary things which were necessary independent of the Mosaic law.” (J. W. McGarvey, Original Comm. on Acts, 185-186)
B. Clarify the Record so there is No Doubt, Acts 15:22-32.
1. Make the truth clear and plain, and identify false teachers.
2. Engender confidence in the gospel truth and its authority.
3. Strength found in common faith and ongoing work, 15:31-33.
-Unity thrives when brethren accept and stand in the truth of God, 15:25; Eph. 4:1-6 (Amos 3:3)
III. ADDRESSING A PROBLEM ARISING OVER PERSONAL JUDGMENT, Acts 15:36-41.
A. Paul and Barnabas Agreed on Work to be Done, 15:36.
B. Sharp Disagreement over taking John Mark, 15:37-40.
1. Back story: Acts 13:13 and perhaps, Gal. 2:11-13.
2. Barnabas: Determined to take John Mark along.
3. Paul: Did not consider John Mark fit (equipped) to go with them.
4. Result: Dispute that led to separate arenas of work, 15:39-40.
5. Not a lasting, irreparable separation, Col. 4:10; 2 Tim. 4:11.
C. Lesson: Do not Let Personal Judgments Hinder Gospel Work!
1. Too often rivalries form when differences of judgment occur; need not be so.
2. Ongoing commitment to gospel work, 15:39-40.
1. Acts 15 is a pivotal chapter: Unity in the universal nature of the gospel affirmed and spread; Opponents identified and resisted.
2. Person judgments may differ among faithful brethren. The ability to identify the nature of such differences is crucial to avoid lasting damage to brotherly relations, to souls and to the cause of Christ.
3. Paul and Silas begin the second preaching trip (15:41-18:22).
By: Joe R. Price
Posted: August 28, 2013