The Jerusalem Council
During Paul’s first missionary journey, He saw that God “opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27)
· Sergius Paulus Acts13:6-12
· Gentiles in Antioch of Pisidia Acts 13:42-49
· Greeks at Iconium Acts 14:1
It didn’t take long before questions arose about Gentiles in the church.
· Should they convert to Judaism first?
· Should they be circumcised?
· Should they keep the Law of Moses?
After two years at Antioch Paul and Barnabas were faced with a crisis!
I. THE PROBLEM IN ANTIOCH OF SYRIA
Acts 15:1 Some men came down from Judea and began to teach the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom prescribed by Moses, you cannot be saved!”
Imagine you belong to the church and all of a sudden some men come in and tell you that you aren’t really saved and that you have to go through a whole bunch of ceremonies and rituals to become accepted by Jews then go through a painful surgery.
What would you think ?
How Would you feel?
Then Paul and Barnabas come to your defense.
Acts 15:2 But after Paul and Barnabas had engaged them in serious argument and debate, they arranged for Paul and Barnabas and some others of them to go up to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem concerning this controversy.
So the decision is made for Paul, Barnabas and Titus (Galatians 2:1 (Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me.) go and meet with the church in Jerusalem and as usual with Paul he is telling everybody about all the gentiles that have been saved.
Acts 15:3-5 When they had been sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, explaining in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and they created great joy among all the brothers.
4 When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church, the apostles, and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. 5 But some of the believers from the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to command them to keep the law of Moses!”
So here go the Pharisees again. Now remember the Pharisees are the stricter of the religious classes and they are saying the Gentiles have to go through the religious rights.
I want to look at Paul’s own words about this meeting. Galatians 2:3-6 ESV But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek.
Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in-who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery-to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.
And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)-those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me
Truth of the gospel and the freedom we have in Christ. This freedom is freedom from sin not freedom to sin. Slavery is what the law would be doing to them. If being saved meant the keeping of the Law of Moses, we would be chained to the law. Our every thought would be okay the law says that we can’t do this, but we can do that. The Pharisee’s actually would sit down in meetings and discuss ways they could get around the law. There are a series of books called the Babylon Talmud. If you ever can’t sleep this are good to read. In them we see the teacher’s of the law discussing stuff like what you can do on the Sabbath before it would be considered work.
Obeying the law would make us look for loopholes in how we could get around obeying. Being free in Christ work’s different. One of the Early Church father’s Saint Augustine put it like this “Love Jesus, Do anything you want.”
Everyone in here loves their mother right? You would not do anything to intentionally hurt her right? Now sometimes we do upset our moms and they get on to us. Have you ever been in trouble and you are getting lectured and you feel really bad because you realize you have hurt your parents. This is what Augustine is talking about. If you love Jesus you want desire to do things that hurt Jesus.
So Paul gets to Jerusalem meets with the church and immediately the Pharisee’s start arguing. So they hold a public meeting.
B. THE PUBLIC MEETING…
Acts 15:6-11 Then the apostles and the elders assembled to consider this matter. After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them:
Peter has been sitting there listening to everyone argue back and forth, when he decides he needs to state his opinion.
“Brothers, you are aware that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the gospel message and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them by giving the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Why, then, are you now testing God by putting on the disciples’ necks a yoke that neither our forefathers nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way they are.”
In this short statement Peter is saying a lot
· First Peter reminds them how God gave him a vision telling him it was okay to preach to the gentiles. Acts 10:9-29
· Second Man has no way of knowing what is truly in the heart of man, but God gave these men the Holy Spirit. This tells us that they were truly saved.
· God did not say go get circumcised then I’ll give you the Holy Spirit.
· Then Peter asks the Pharisee why they would put a burden on the Gospel that they themselves couldn’t keep.
· Lastly Peter says we are saved by grace alone.
Now that Peter has spoken Paul and Barnabas speak. Acts 15:12-18
Then the whole assembly fell silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul describing all the signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they stopped speaking, James responded: “Brothers, listen to me! Simeon has reported how God first intervened to take from the Gentiles a people for His name. And the words of the prophets agree with this, as it is written:
After these things I will return
and will rebuild David’s tent, which has fallen down.
I will rebuild its ruins and will set it up again,
so that those who are left of mankind may seek the Lord—
even all the Gentiles who are called by My name,
says the Lord who does these things,
which have been known from long ago.
Now James reminds of the prophecy of Amos 9:11-12. This is proving that a Gentile can remain a Gentile a become a Christian. Acts 15:19-21
Therefore, in my judgment, we should not cause difficulties for those who turn to God from among the Gentiles, but instead we should write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from eating anything that has been strangled, and from blood. For since ancient times, Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, and he is read aloud in the synagogues every Sabbath day.”
James gives us four things to avoid.
· Meats offered to Idols
· Sexual Immorality
· Meat from Strangled Animals
· Drinking of Blood
All of these things are part of Pagan religious services. Avoiding them will keep them from falling back into the worship of false gods.
Now we will see the letter to be sent to the Gentile churches Acts 15:22-35
Then the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, decided to select men from among them and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas: Judas, called Barsabbas, and Silas, both leading men among the brothers. They wrote this letter to be delivered by them:
From the apostles and the elders, your brothers,
To the brothers from among the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:
Because we have heard that some to whom we gave no authorization went out from us and troubled you with their words and unsettled your hearts, we have unanimously decided to select men and send them to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who will personally report the same things by word of mouth. For it was the Holy Spirit’s decision—and ours—to put no greater burden on you than these necessary things: that you abstain from food offered to idols, from blood, from eating anything that has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these things, you will do well.
So let’s see what happens next
Then, being sent off, they went down to Antioch, and after gathering the assembly, they delivered the letter. When they read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. Both Judas and Silas, who were also prophets themselves, encouraged the brothers and strengthened them with a long message. After spending some time there, they were sent back in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them. But Paul and Barnabas, along with many others, remained in Antioch teaching and proclaiming the message of the Lord.
Everybody is happy and rejoicing Judas and Silas deliver a message. A little while later Judas and Silas leave but Paul and Barnabas stay preaching.