2018-11-04 – Acts 15.1-21 – Great Debate – Burdens of Faith 1
- 2018-11-04 – Acts 15.1-21 – Great Debate – Burdens of Faith 1
Good morning everyone. It is so nice to be able to spend some time with you all in fellowship with the Lord. Thank you and God bless you for being with us.
I hope you all had a great busy week. Amy and I thought that this week would be a relief after the 175th Anniversary celebration. It just didn’t turn out that way, with the Halloween parade and the funeral preparations for Dora Hassler, it was quite busy indeed.
I read this week of a father who was in his study reading when he heard a commotion outside the window. It was his daughter as she was playing with a few of her friends. Soon the activity got louder, more heated and more argumentative. The father could restrain himself no longer. He pushed open the window and said, "Stop it! Honey, what’s wrong?" After the reprimand, the daughter immediately responded, "But Daddy, we were just playing church."
If your anything like me, I like a good debate. When I say good debate, I mean where different people put forth their opinions and talking points, then they challenge each other’s position. In doing that, you can hear the pros and cons, and maybe even the flaws in their arguments. I like a healthy debate as it allows for me to understand the opposing viewpoints so as I might make a better informed decision. Today’s message is entitled Great Debate – Burdens of Faith. It is a two part message and it deals with most of this whole chapter 15 in Acts.
Please turn to Acts 15, verse 1, page 981 in your pew Bibles, which is the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God. But first let us pray..
Last week we read where Paul and Barnabas had returned to their home church in Antioch, and they told every one of all the adventures they experienced while serving on their first of three missionary journeys. As a recap, as shown in Acts 13 & 14, Barnabas and Paul first visited Barnabas’s home region of Cyprus before sailing to the southern region of Asia Minor. When they reached the town of Perga in Pamphylia, John Mark left the group and returned to Jerusalem. Then after starting churches in Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, Paul and Barnabas were driven out of each city by jealous Jewish religious leaders. Later they returned by the same route, strengthening the new churches as they went. From Attalia they set sail back to their home in Antioch of Syria.
The story today takes off from there. They are back in Antioch, working at the church when a dispute breaks out about some fundamental issues of our faith and it was causing confusion and angst among the members.
Please read with me now Acts 15, starting with verse 1, entitled
Dispute in Antioch.
15 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.” 2 After Paul and Barnabas had engaged them in serious argument and debate, Paul and Barnabas and some others were appointed to go up to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem about this issue. 3 When they had been sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and they brought great joy to all the brothers and sisters.
Our verses here never indicate exactly who were these Judaizers that was causing all the confusion and trouble in Galatia. But Paul and Barnabas were not going to let them distort the faith-alone stance that they had been working so hard to promote in these new churches. One great lesson here is that as a church, we need to quickly address disputes as they occur, especially if it deals with the fundamentals of our faith. We shouldn’t let things fester as it can lead to a lot of problems. Satan loves to put wedges in the heart of churches.
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 who belonged to 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.”
Now we don’t know if these were the same folks that stirred up the disputes up in Galatia or not, but you can see that there is a strong difference of opinion regarding the non-jewish believers and what was “required” to be a Christian. From their perspective, for thousands of years, any man who wanted to part of the Jewish religion had to get circumcised, as was commanded by God through Moses. The Jewish Christians recognized that they were fast becoming the minority. The non-Jewish Christians were growing rapidly in number.
Now from here I want to take you down a different path. I am going to attempt to do something I haven’t yet done in a church before. Everyone please turn in your Bibles to the Galatians 1. This is an actual letter that Paul wrote to the new churches in Galatia about this issue that they were debating. I found a good recording of this Galatians book, and we are going to listen to Paul’s words to better understand his argument. There is only six short chapters in this letter, we will listen to half of it today and half next week. Afterwards we will show the results of this great debate argument. Galatians (CSB) Read Chapters 1-3.
Again, that is the first half of Paul’s debate argument. You have been presented his case and you heard his impassioned argument, probably similar to what he told the Jerusalem Council. So now let’s turn back to Acts 16, starting at verse 6, to see the results:
6 The apostles and the elders gathered to consider this matter. 7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them: “Brothers and sisters, 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. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he also did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why are you testing God by putting a yoke on the disciples’ necks that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11 On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in the same way they are.”
Notice that even though Paul was very emotional about this topic, he didn’t cut them down. Paul trusted that his leadership companions were reasonable servants, they too wanted God’s will to be done, and he relied upon the Holy Spirit to lead them all in the results. That is a great model for debate. We all know through experience, when you lose your head, you lose your case.
12 The whole assembly became silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul describe all the signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13 After they stopped speaking, James responded: “Brothers and sisters, listen to me. 14 Simeon has reported how God first intervened to take from the Gentiles a people for his name. 15 And the words of the prophets agree with this, as it is written:
16 After these things I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
I will rebuild its ruins and set it up again, 17 so the rest of humanity
may seek the Lord— even all the Gentiles who are called by my name—declares the Lord who makes these things 18 known from long ago.
19 Therefore, in my judgment, we should not cause difficulties for those among the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 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. 21 For since ancient times, Moses has had those who proclaim him in every city, and every Sabbath day he is read aloud in the synagogues.”
James here is the half-brother of Jesus. James used Old Testament scripture to support his position. And through that, Paul and Barnabas had effectively won their debate. We are going to stop here for this first part of our sermon message.
There are a few things I wish you to take away from this message:
- As Paul stated in that Galatians letter over and over again, we are saved by Grace through Faith Alone; Repeat; Repeat.
- As Christians, we can debate anything. God has given us this Bible, His Word for us to chew on and deliberate upon. Much of it is plain and simple to understand, but much of it is challenging. It is a joy to deliberate and debate the issues before us. Those debates should never lead to blows, physical or verbal. God wants you to dig deep into the well of His word. But we should always blanket those efforts with grace and peace and wisdom.
- When we have disputes, we need to address them as soon as possible. Now I will be the first to suggest that a good pause sometimes is also necessary, but there is a difference between a strategic pause and a lazy/uncaring pause. But especially for divisive issues, we need to bring the people together, allow the opponents to clearly state their case, and consult with scripture, blanketed with prayer, then make a final determination.
- God has given us His Word for us to lean upon and to better know His will when controversial issues arise. We should all be digging deep into the well of His Word. Let the Bible and the Holy Spirit with love be your standard.
So weather you are at church, at home, or at work, or just out with friends, we should value each other’s opinions and look to find reason and understanding, showing Gods light and love as we go.
Next week, we will conclude this message. This lesson here shows us how Christians should debate upon godly issues. Everything we do should be blanketed in love and respect, and of course prayer J
Would you please stand with me now, as we close with an invitation..
“A FRIENDLY CHURCH IN A FRIENDLY TOWN”