Clarifying The Message
Book of Acts Chapter 15
We will see today that Satan had so far not been able to stop the spread of the “Gospel”. Just as God uses people to spread the “Gospel”, Satan will use everything in his means including people to hinder the spread of the “Gospel”!
AND, there will always be those who stand in front of open doors just to block the way of others from coming to the Lord!
We must remember what Jesus told to the Philadelphian church:
Rev 3:8 says “behold, I have set before thee an [open door] that no man can shut”
We cannot ever allow those false brethren, who are amongst us, to stand in front of that door!
God has already given us all this command:
Act 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
We do not need any other command to make us move in obedience of this command to witness.
If this means we must go without the support of our local church then we must still go!
We also have this warning to the church:
Col 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, [and not after Christ].
God has given us the only the means of salvation.
We must beware of anyone adding to or subtracting from, God’s plan of salvation!
This is the main thing we must insist on!
The Bible says:
Act 2:21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
All other matters must be left it the guidance of the Holy Spirit!
And, the Holy Spirit will always lead us to Jesus.
Joh 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send [in my name], he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, [whatsoever I have said unto you].
So let’s begin:
*****Act 15:1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
The question we need to answer within ourselves is whether Christianity is merely an extension of Judaism or a New Dispensation that has taken its place.
We do not have to guess!
Jesus had these words to answer this question for us:
Luk 22:20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the [new testament in my blood], which is shed for you.
So who were these certain men?
The Bible teaches us:
Gal 2:4 And that because of “false brethren unawares” [brought in], “who came in privily to spy” out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, “that they might bring us into bondage”:
These were Christians in name only!
These men were not brought in from any of the established church!
They were brought in to the Christian brotherhood to which they did not rightfully belong!
These were really some evil Jews, Satan’s messengers, trying to hinder the spread of the “Gospel”!
*****Act 15:2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.
These men were called “Judaizers” who became a real problem to the early church!
This is a form of legalism, and legalism is still prevalent today in many places of worship!
The Bible is specific:
Eph 2:8 [For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God]:
Eph 2:9 “Not of works”, lest any man should boast.
Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
The church of Antioch of Syria, which was a mission minded church, this church decided that it would be best for a council of the apostles and the elders of the church in Jerusalem to provide the guidelines. Remember the New Testament had not been written at this time.
We now have the completed Word of God and it is the Word of God that has replaced any need for apostles, and any need for further councils. The Bible is our counsellor!
But remember the New Testament that we have is the same as the doctrine of Jesus that He gave to the apostles!
Eph 2:20 [And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone];
Eph 2:21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
Eph 2:22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
*****Act 15:3 And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.
Notice “it was the church that wanted answers” and it was the church at Antioch that decided it would be best to send Paul and Barnabas and “certain others that believed as Paul”.
The Apostle Paul knew the old Mosaic system better than most other men and who better to seek the answers to these questions!
We can determine that the early church certainly wanted to go in the direction set forth by Christ Jesus.
They did not want to make up their own rules or their own doctrine!
AND, Old Testament tradition has no place in the New Testament Church!
The Apostle Peter wrote:
1Pe 1:18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
1Pe 1:19 “But with the precious blood of Christ”, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
1Pe 1:20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
1Pe 1:21 Who “by him” do believe in God, that raised “him” up from the dead, and gave “him” glory; that your faith and hope might be “in God”.
Just what is the “Gospel” the “Good News”?
1Co 15:1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
1Co 15:2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
1Co 15:3 For I delivered unto you [first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins] according to the scriptures;
1Co 15:4 And that [he was buried], and that [he rose again the third day according to the scriptures]:
If Jesus Christ did not do these things then there can be no salvation for anyone!
Paul did not miss this opportunity to tell the Phoenicians and the Samaritans, that even the Gentiles could be converted and this brought great joy unto all the “true brethren” that heard this “good news”.
You see the “Gospel” would not be believable if it did not include “whosoever” will believe!
*****Act 15:4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, “they were received of the church”, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.
This group of believers from Antioch were first received by the believers of the Church at Jerusalem.
We must always welcome our brothers and sisters in Christ no matter where they come from.
Only then was there a meeting with the Apostles and the elders of the Church.
BUT, before any questions were asked, a report of how the “Gospel” was spreading was first made.
Paul told them of the wonderful things that had happened in Galatia.
In Galatia “they did not know anything about Mosaic Law”, they just believed in the work of Jesus Christ!
You see God must first get the glory!
It was not what Paul had done.
It was not what Barnabas had done.
And it was not what the sending church of Antioch had done.
IT WAS WHAT GOD HAD DONE WITH THEM ALL!
It takes the entire Body of Christ to spread the “Gospel” of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Rom 12:5 So we, being many, “are one body in Christ”, and every one members one of another.
And then Paul explained it had nothing to do with Judaism or the Laws of Moses.
All true believers understand this!
*****Act 15:5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
Why is there always “a certain group” of people that have to have things their way?
Any believer that has been converted to the “Gospel” of Jesus Christ “must” release themselves to Him!
Some of these were men who felt that Christianity was just an extension of Judaism and they were severely wrong!
Christianity is not the extension of Judaism, Christianity is the fulfillment of the Word of God.
These were people who wanted to add something to the “Gospel”.
But the only way to approach the Lord Jesus is by “Faith”!
In John 14:6, Jesus says, He is the only way to Heaven and we must believe Him!
God only has one question for all of us:
God ask, “What are you going to do with my Son Jesus”?
We must answer this question before we die a physical death!
Php 2:9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
Php 2:10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
Php 2:11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
*****Act 15:6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
The answers could not come from the public or from that certain group of men, who wanted things their way.
The answers had to come from the Apostles of Jesus and the church elders and the Body of Christ.
This was an important issue that had to be resolved or the early church would fail.
God had already said that this was impossible!
*****Act 15:7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago “God made choice among us”, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
We now see the rest of the lesson that the Apostle Peter had learned from his time spent with Simon the tanner and Cornelius and his vision.
Let’s look at how God had used Peter already:
1.) God had chosen Peter to present the “Gospel” to the Gentiles, [“Note” Cornelius and his family and some others].
Act 10:45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.
2.) Jesus had given Peter the keys to the Kingdom to build the Church on the “Rock of Jesus”:
Mat 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Mat 16:19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
3.) Peter had opened the door of “faith” to the Jews:
Act 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
4.) Peter had opened the door of “Faith” to the Samaritans:
Act 8:14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
Peter had made it very clear that all these had been saved by the hearing and believing of the “Gospel” of the Lord Jesus Christ.
AND, None of these things had anything to do with the Mosaic Laws or any other man-made laws!
*****Act 15:8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
God had made it very clear “by sending the Holy Spirit” to the Gentiles just as He had done on the day of Pentecost to the Jews.
God was truly no respecter of persons!
The message was to “whosoever believes on the Lord Jesus Christ”!
The message was not to “whosoever believes on the Lord Jesus Christ and obey the Laws of Moses” or any other man-made laws!
*****Act 15:9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
It is by “faith” that the heart is purified!
Not by works!
Not by ceremonies!
Not by traditions!
You see we are all sinners and saved only by the “Grace” of God!
1Co 6:11 And “such were some of you”: [but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God].
There is no other means of salvation!
Salvation has been about “faith” from the time of Adam!
Salvation has never been about any law!
Rom 4:16 Therefore “it is of faith”, that “it might be by grace”; [to the end the promise might be sure] to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
*****Act 15:10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of “the disciples”, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
Why do people, even in our day tempt God, by trying to add works to His plan of salvation and just as bad, why are there those that tempt God by taking away the blood, or the virgin birth or the bodily resurrection or the truth of the cross or anything else from the Lord Jesus Christ?
It was a fact that not one Jew, but Jesus, was ever able to keep all the Laws of Moses!
We see that the Apostle Peter stood boldly with the Apostle Paul and Barnabas!
How can this world associate Peter with any of the false doctrine of Rome and read these scriptures?
*****Act 15:11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [we shall be saved, even as they].
Notice that Peter says the Jew will be saved just like the Gentiles are saved!
Peter does not say the Gentiles will be saved just as the Jews!
The Gentile never had the Law and are saved by “faith” in The Lord Jesus Christ which brings the “Grace” of God!
The Jew will also be saved just as though they never had the Laws of Moses, “by faith” which then brings “Grace”!
Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is the gift of God]:
It is a “GIFT” that cannot be bought by any means!
Skip to verse 14 to the words of Paul:
*****Act 15:14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, “to take out of them” a people for his name.
We see that this verse makes no mention of circumcision.
This verse also indicates that the saving of Gentiles was part of God’s plan from the beginning, in fact before the beginning!
We know that “whosoever” believes will be saved BUT this verse indicates that only a portion of Gentiles will be believers, taken out of a large group of Gentiles, not all.
It is not that God would not save them all, but that most Gentiles will still reject the truth of the “Gospel”.
Jesus had said:
Luk 21:24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, [until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled].
The time fulfilled would be the end of what we call the “Church Age”.
Again Paul explained it like this to the Jewish believers:
Rom 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, “until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in”.
The Apostle Peter added:
1Pe 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
1Pe 2:10 Which in time past [were not a people], “but are now the people of God”: which had not obtained mercy, “but now have obtained mercy”.
The time of the Gentiles is slowly coming to an end! AND “after this”, God says:
*****Act 15:16 “After this” [I will return], and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:
This the prophesy of Amos 9:11-12.
In other words after the time of the Gentiles, the Church Age is over, The literal kingdom of Israel, “on this Earth”, will indeed be restored under the Messiah, at the second coming of the Lord to this Earth.
The Church composed of Jews and Gentiles will already be “Raptured” out of this Earth when Jesus comes in the clouds as a thief.
*****Act 15:17 That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.
These are things that the rest of the world will take notice of after the “Rapture” of the Church.
Today, God is calling out a people, which is the Body of Christ.
After the Rapture of the Body of Christ there will be a great many turning to the Lord during the terrible time of the tribulation period:
*****Act 15:18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
God had revealed all these truths gradually to the world through His prophets, BUT now we have the entire Word of God which explains these things to us all.
BUT, this has been God’s Plan from the beginning of Genesis 1:1.
*****Act 15:19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
James, the half-brother of The Lord says, that since it is evident that this was God’s plan from the beginning, “it would be foolish of them” now to hinder God’s plan by insisting the Gentile should follow Jewish practices and traditions!
*****Act 15:20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
James added that the Gentiles “could have a better relationship to their Brother Jews and have their greater respect” IF:
1.) If they avoided food used in idolatrous practices of false religion.
2.) Rejected food that came from strangled animals.
“When an animal is strangled, some of the blood will stay in the animal and could make the meat unfit to eat”.
Every hunter knows to get a clean shot to keep the animal from being in a panicked state.
3.) Refusing to consume blood as food.
God had given this command before the Laws of Moses were ever written. Genesis 9:4 says that, Blood is used to make atonement for the “soul” and blood must be poured out before God.
Jesus shed His own blood on Calvary’s Cross. To drink of any blood, showed no respect for God’s Word!
4.) Abstain from sexual immorality.
God has also commanded this from the beginning. BUT the world has never considered this to be sin.
And even less in our day!
But God says to keep our bodies pure. God has called us to be a clean and a holy people.
1Th 4:7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.
These were things that would allow the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians to grow in harmony and these things pleased the early church.
Paul later wrote:
Rom 14:13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, [that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way].
*****Act 15:22 Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:
Act 15:23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:
We can see that it took a compromise on both the Jew and the Gentile in order for there to be harmony in the early church.
Though we can never compromise on the “Gospel” of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must be aware of cultural differences of the Body of Christ and all strive to be in one accord with all our brothers, no matter where they are located:
Php 2:1 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,
Php 2:2 Fulfil ye my joy, “that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind”.
*****Act 15:24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: [to whom we gave no such commandment]:
Those Judaizers that had shown up in Antioch of Syria had not been sent by the church in Jerusalem!
James also realized the turmoil that false doctrine could bring to the Church!
False doctrine could subvert the soul of the believer making them useless witnesses for the Lord!
James had finally understood the message of the Lord Jesus Christ, with whom he had spent so many years not understanding.
*****Act 15:25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, [to send chosen men] unto you with our “beloved” Barnabas and Paul,
Act 15:26 [Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ].
Things can happen when the local church is in one accord but even greater than that is when the entire “Body of Christ” can be in one accord.
Those Judaizers were considered to be deceivers.
“Chosen men”, these are men who chose to serve the Lord but also chose to not try to profit from their opportunities!
These two men would confirm the written letter sent from the Apostles and the Church at Jerusalem to those at the church of Antioch in Syria.
Barnabas’ name is mentioned first because he is the elder of Paul and more well known at the church in Jerusalem.
AND, the sufferings of Paul and Barnabas was recognized by the early church.
*****Act 15:27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.
Judas: Not a whole lot is known of Judas accept he is later called a prophet, which probably means he was preacher.
After preaching in Antioch for awhile he returned to Jerusalem.
It is possible that he was a family member to Joseph Barsabas who was one of the two selected by the apostles to replace Judas Iscariot.
[Act 1:23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.]
Silas: Silas became well know because he chose to travel with Paul on his mission trips. He is later known as Silvanus.
This does not make one man greater than the other because we know the Holy Spirit is the one that must guide all our lives.
*****Act 15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
Act 15:29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
We can see that we must allow the Holy Ghost guide us in every decision we make and we must follow His lead!
These things that are mentioned were given so that the Gentiles would not cause the Jews to fail.
Gentiles are never required to meet any demands of the Mosaic system, but they are to exercise courtesy to those that do!
And no one is to commit fornication, which is sexual behavior outside of marriage!
But it can also include placing an Idol before the Lord!
*****Act 15:30 So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle:
Act 15:31 Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.
These things that happened to the early church are written for us that we learn from them and not make the same mistakes.
We are never to become stumbling blocks to believers in our own place of worship but also to those of another culture!
There is only one means of salvation and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. (John 14:6)
But problems and differences of opinion are best brought before the church and be based on the Word of God and quickly resolved.
Most church problems are not caused by doctrinal differences but from headstrong leaders, or headstrong followers.
Listen to the prayer of Jesus:
Joh 17:9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, “but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine”.
Joh 17:20 Neither pray I for these alone, “but for them also which shall believe on me through their word”;
Joh 17:21 “That they all may be one”; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
It is when the entire “Body of Christ” is in one accord that the Church will have it’s real power in this world.
But this must happen in every local church at one time.
We cannot separate ourselves by denominations!
Every group of believers may be diverse but we must use this as a tool to make a unified church and this begins with Jesus and the work He did on the Cross.
If we cannot get to the Cross THEN we cannot get together.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus—–Sweetest name I know!