The Gospel Plain and Simple
Book of Acts Chapter 15
What does God say about the “Gospel of Jesus Christ”? God says to keep it simple.
What upsets God the most? Changing the meaning of His words!
Rev 22:18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
Rev 22:19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
This passage is ignored more than any other passage in all the Bible by those who want to argue over the Word of God.
People are always saying; God did not mean what He said, but God always means what He says, and God also says what He means!
While most of the Apostles were still living and even some of the family of Jesus were still living, there was a council called in Jerusalem by the first church that was established in Jerusalem.
What was the end result of this great council?
That mankind is saved by the “Grace” of God through “Faith” alone, period!
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.
There is to be nothing added to the Grace of God or it would not be “Grace”!
These certain men, Pharisees, were not opposing the Apostle Paul, though it was Paul they pointed their fingers, they were opposed to the Lord Jesus Christ.
They were opposed to Christianity!
If you are opposed to the Lord Jesus Christ, then you cannot be saved!
Is a ritual or ceremony necessary to be saved? No! Salvation is by “Grace”.
Does each individual have to accept the whole Law of Moses before they can be saved? No! Salvation is by “Grace”.
No matter how solid the Church congregation is, Satan will do his best to cause confusion in the Church.
If even one false preacher is allowed to preach in a Christian Church and he preaches a false doctrine, there will be someone in that group of Christians who then have doubt in some doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ and they will cause confusion in the Church.
1) All preachers must be screened before they are allowed to preach because some are false prophets.
2) All God’s people must be settled on the Word of God and the Doctrine of Grace!
What is the “Doctrine of Grace”?
Grace is the unmerited, undeserved favor of God toward all mankind and is displayed in His care for us.
In reality by the operations of the Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit) exercises moral influence on man through His special revelation, that sin is restrained, order is maintained in life, and righteousness is of God.
It is by God’s “Grace” those general blessings, such as rain and sunshine, food and drink, clothing, and shelter, which God imparts “indiscriminately” in what manner seems good to Him.
Mat 5:45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
Psa 145:8 The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.
Psa 145:9 “The LORD is good to all”: and his tender mercies are over all his works.
This same Grace and goodness of God extends to all mankind.
God does not play the “bias” or the “race” game!
Those that believe that God has a part in all the bad things that go on in this world should know that God is good to all people!
Rom 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
It is the “Goodness” of God that allows the “Grace” of God, so there can be only one Savior.
1Ti 4:10 For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.
It is the same Holy Spirit who holds back the unrelenting sin in the world until all mankind gets an opportunity to be saved!
2Th 2:6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
2Th 2:7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
When the Holy Spirit is removed at the Rapture of the Church, then the “Grace of God” will cease for seven years and those who rejected the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ will begin to understand just what “Grace” meant.
The “Grace of God” is an opportunity for us to claim God’s “Goodness”! We may not have this opportunity for very much longer!
“Grace” involves the truth of the Word of God!
Rom 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
In our Chapter today we get to see the first battle of Satan trying to make a mockery of God’s Grace.
We get to see how “legalism” first stuck its ugly head up trying to enter the Church and it did.
*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.
If legalism had infiltrated the early Church the whole character of Christianity would have been changed and the Church would certainly have failed!
Legalism destroys the love of God!
Gal 5:2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
Gal 5:3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
Gal 5:4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
Gal 5:5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
Gal 5:6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
1) There had already been problems with the unbelieving Jews and we will see this continue.
2) There had already been problems with unbelieving Gentiles and this will continue and we see that it has.
3) Now we get to see problems within the Church by members who get confused by false preachers.
Confusion destroys churches!
The Church began to have problems between the Jews and the Gentiles.
These Jews, these Pharisees, had accepted the true Messiah, the Savior of the world but under the one condition that the Gentile nations would become Jews.
Judaism is full of “ritual” and “ceremony”. In Christianity, salvation is by “the “Grace” of God with no ritual and no ceremony.
Even today this false doctrine still creates havoc in many churches!
These men from Judea came to the Church in Antioch Syria and mixed with true believers and taught their own ideas because these ideas are not in the Word of God.
There are far too many false preachers today who preach their own ideas of salvation and who reject salvation is an act of God’s Grace.
We are wrong to teach any doctrine not in the Word of God!
We are wrong to listen to the doctrines of some man!
God has made sure that a Bible is available to every Christian so we can know the Word of God ourselves!
These false preachers and false teachers were Pharisees so, they were well versed in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, but the New Testament was just being written as the Church grew.
The Apostle Paul wrote about half of the New Testament, with the Apostle John and Luke both writing a good bit of the New Testament and a few other writers including Peter, Jude, and James both the stepbrothers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If what these men said was considered to be important, it would certainly cause confusion in this young Church and they would certainly be upset.
It is these things that cause churches to split and many have over these very things.
Legalism can destroy the Church!
When we feel like our eternal fate is at stake, we can get confused if we ignore “salvation by Grace”.
Notice, these men did not say the all Christians should undergo these rituals to be obedient to Scripture, or to please God, or to the please the Church, or to show your love for God, or some other things.
These men said we must all go through these rituals and be circumcised “to be saved”!
They said it was these rituals that brought salvation and not the “Blood of Jesus Christ”.
God’s “Grace” plus any ritual is false teaching.
God’s “Grace” plus man’s own hand is false teaching.
God’s “Grace” plus man’s own work is false teaching.
God’s “Grace” plus anything is false teaching!
Grace saves us, because of God’s love!
God’s love brings God’s “Grace”.
Circumcision was only a “physical sign” that a Jewish man was a follower of the One True God.
It was a “sign” that Jewish man believed the promises God made to Abraham and to Israel.
Circumcision is just “a sign” and has no salvation value!
Faith had to come before circumcision!
Rom 4:11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:
Rom 4:12 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.
Even Abraham had faith before he was circumcised!
The Jews made much more out of circumcision than God intended, and this is what ritual and ceremony can cause.
Circumcision was never a sign of righteousness!
Gal 6:15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
Col 2:11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
Col 2:12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
Any man, woman, or child, who is “Born Again” by the Spirit of God, then become God’s New Creatures!
Joh 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
2Co 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
2Pe 1:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
God saves only those whose, body, mind, and soul, are focused upon His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ!
Baptism is just being obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ and has nothing to do with salvation!
We are all baptized by the Holy Spirit to be “Born Again”!
Every Christian must stand up against any teaching that goes against salvation by the “Grace” of God through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ!
*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.
Many of the Jewish converts were still zealous for the Law.
In reality, the Laws given to the Jews are good to live by.
The Ten Commandments are still considered the moral law and we should observe them.
The Jews were given 613 laws that pertained to every facet of their lives and those laws have not been rescinded.
These laws were given to the Jews and God has never said they would lead to salvation!
It is true that if someone could keep all 613 of these laws, they would be considered righteous, and righteousness is part of salvation.
The fact is, that there has never been a single human being that has kept all 613 of those laws and to break even one brings the sentence of death.
Rom 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
Rom 3:11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
Rom 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
The Lord Jesus Christ is the only person who kept all 613 of those laws, proving His own righteousness.
Because most of the Apostles were still alive at this time and still in Jerusalem, then Jerusalem was the place where these things would be settled.
We should understand that this issue was critical to Paul because he was the Apostle to the Gentiles.
Paul’s commitment to the Lord would not allow him to waste time in useless argument and neither are Christians to argue the Word of God with non-believers!
2Ti 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
2Ti 2:16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.
There must never be useless arguments over what God has said!
2Pe_1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
All arguments over what God has given to us in His Word are useless!
The Church at Antioch was not seeking for the Church at Jerusalem to enlighten them on the Doctrine of Salvation, they already knew where they stood and this church would have separated itself from the church at Jerusalem rather than give in to false doctrine!
The Church at Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas:
1) Because all the Apostles needed to be on the same page.
2) If the Apostles agreed it would carry a great weight in spreading the Gospel.
3) A declaration by the Church at Jerusalem would provide a great weapon in evangelism.
Many rituals were observed at the Church at Jerusalem because it was a church full of converted Jews, but if the Church would reject ritual salvation with a strong verdict, then salvation by “Grace” alone would be greatly strengthened.
Tit 3:4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,
Tit 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
Tit 3:6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;
Tit 3:7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Tit 3:8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
Titus, a Gentile did travel with Paul and Barnabas and Titus completely understood the outcome of this council was particularly important.
The Church won this first battle because the Church adhered to the truth of God!
The Church can win every battle if we all just cling to the truth of the Word of God!
As Paul traveled to Jerusalem he preached in as many churches as he could.
*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.
It is important for us to consider that when the new Churches had witnessed the preaching of the Apostle Paul they knew they needed to use great effort to keep him preaching in as many places as possible.
It is the same for any church that has a great preacher, that church needs to help in getting his sermons to as many other places as possible.
We do this well here at Gethsemane but we can still do better.
Obviously we need to help all our missionaries as best we can!
Persecution had driven many believers to Phenicia.
Act 11:19 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.
There may have been a church there, but they were not involved in missions.
The Church at Samaria had been established by Philip and Peter, and John.
Act 8:5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
Act 8:24 Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.
Act 8:25 And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.
Still these churches were not involved with missions and were excited to hear what the Lord had done on Paul’s first journey.
There was excitement even in Jerusalem.
*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.
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.
Salvation by the Lord Jesus Christ is certainly enough to cause excitement in any church, it is certainly “Good News”.
This excitement is what the “Good News” of the Gospel can cause.
There are always questions about the simplicity of salvation and there will always be those who reject this simplicity.
Rom_12:8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
2Co_1:12 For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.
2Co_11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
It is by a lack of “faith” in the truth of God that people want to add to the Word of God!
These Pharisees who had accepted the Lord Jesus as the true Messiah was a natural result after the Scriptures were explained to them!
Once their eyes were opened to the truth of Christ they were bound to see the evidence in the Old Testament Scriptures.
If they were honest and open in their hearts, then the Holy Spirit would certainly have convicted them, and they could have been converted from Judaism to Christianity.
Christianity is not a growth from Judaism! Christianity stands alone as the only means of salvation!
Most of these Pharisees saw Jesus as a fulfillment of Judaism and not a replacement.
Most of these Pharisees saw Jesus as an addition to the Law and not replacing the Law.
Most of these Pharisees saw Jesus as an addition to their rituals not replacing them.
Most of these Pharisees saw Jesus adding baptism to the ordinances and not replacing those ordinances.
The Pharisees who had a lifetime commitment to the Law would be very slow to give up the Law!
They would be slow to accept the “righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ”!
In Antioch, the question had been “does a man have to be circumcised to be saved”?
All of a sudden in Jerusalem, the question became “does a man have to keep the whole Law to be saved”?
This is the story of legalism!
These people are never content until they keep adding to the Word of God and the simplicity of God’s Grace making a mockery of the truth of God and His Son and even the Holy Spirit who declared the Word of God to be only from God and not from man.
2Ti_3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
**We should ask ourselves, what can we do to gain favor with God, when we know that God is no respecter of persons. We must accept His Son.
Act_10:34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
When we insist in a works doctrine, we call God a liar!
**We could ask ourselves what kind of work will make us righteous when God says that none of us are righteous nor can we be, again making God a liar.
Rom 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
Do we come to the Lord with or own package of works, or do we come seeking the “mercy” of God?
Do we come to the Lord to be praised for our works, or do we come to praise the Lord for what He has done for us?
Do we receive the glory of God because of our own goodness, or is God’s glory given to us because of the glory He has given to His Son?
When the Apostle Paul stood before these elders and the church, he declared what the Lord had done and not what he (Paul) had done.
God will only save mankind by “Grace through Faith” because God is the only One who can accept us into His family!
What were these Pharisees doing? They were tempting God!
“They had the gaul to ask God to declare Himself” when God has already given us His Word!
It was now time for the Church to act on these things.
The answer to these things would either stop the Church or the Church would grow in Spiritual Knowledge.
We already know that it is impossible for this world to stop the Lord’s Church!
*Act 15:6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
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.
Act 15:8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
Act 15:9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
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?
The Church at Jerusalem met together. The Apostles, the Elders, and the congregation, because the importance of this decision is far too important to ignore.
Notice the Apostles were not being Lords over the Church.
The Elders were not being Lords over the Church.
We see there was much disputing, so all sides were represented. No one was ignored or silenced!
The biggest problem with the Pharisees is that they had for many years been legalistic in their approach to God and they had caused much harm to Judaism.
The Apostle Peter hit the nail on the head when he said, “Why Tempt Ye God”.
It is God the Holy Spirit who moves into each child of God and brings salvation to each individual.
These Jews nor these Pharisees had ever been able to keep all those 613 laws, so why would they ever demand the Gentiles to be obedient to those same laws to gain salvation.
Those old laws were never about “Righteousness”.
Those laws were just a measuring stick to teach us all the path to righteousness.
Gal_3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
Gal_3:25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
Then the Apostle Peter speaks, and all the religious world need to listen to what he said.
*Act 15:11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
It was not the Law that saved all those in the church at Jerusalem, it was God’s “GRACE” and it is God’s “GRACE” that opens the door to salvation.
Peter said in so many words: “If our beliefs and hopes are the same as theirs, why should the Gentiles be urged to adopt observances which form to us no ground for our own hope of salvation”.
You see it was God alone who saved the Gentiles!
It was God alone who saved the Jews!
It is God alone who can forgive sin!
Salvation can come from no other source and this “Grace” comes only by the Lord Jesus Christ!
Cornelius and his house had believed the Word of God while Peter was still preaching and by “Faith” the Holy Spirit had moved into each believer.
No law was involved but the Law of Grace!
Only God knows our hearts.
Only God can bear witness to our faith.
Only God can send the Holy Spirit.
Only God could send the Holy Spirit to the Jews and to the Gentiles.
His name is Jehovah.
It is by “faith” that moves the hand of God! Not any ritual and not any ceremony and not anything called religion!
Peter knew that no Jew had been able to keep all those Laws and one failure brought the Judgment of God.
These Pharisees also knew this was true!
Peter knew one more thing, “Why do we question the Word of God”, it is extremely dangerous to question the actions of God!
All mankind is saved in the exact same way, and this is not ever going to change!
Rom 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Rom 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
Rom 3:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
Rom 3:26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
There is only one salvation source for the world God created and it is by the Lord Jesus Christ.
*Act 15:12 Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.
It was God alone who verified the message of salvation by “Grace” with miracles and wonders, not points and arguments!
Those miracles show clearly that God approved the message of the Apostle Paul and Barnabas.
God keeps the message of salvation simple because He does not want anyone to stand up in the Judgment saying, “God, you made salvation too difficult for me”.
It is the truth that makes us free!
Paul preached to these same people on a later date.
Gal 3:1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?
Gal 3:2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Gal 3:3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
Legalism runs rampant in many a church today because “false prophets” push it.
It is only the Church who can put a stop to this foolishness by trusting the Word of God!