2018-11-11 – Acts 15.22-35 – Great Debate – Burdens of Faith 2
Bible Text: Acts 15:22-35, Galatians 3 | Preacher: Pastor Jerry Higdon | Series: Acts | 2018-11-11 – Acts 15.22-35 – Great Debate – Burdens of Faith 2
(Veterans; Gazette Article; Pastor’s Conference; Baptism; Lord’s Supper)
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.
Anyone here ever play the game Trivial Pursuit? It is a board game centered on answering “trivial questions.” I think you would agree that life is full of trivia. Whether you know the answer in a board game is trivial itself. However, the answer to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” is vital for us to know.
It is a question we cannot afford to miss. That is what we will address in this second part of a message entitled Great Debate – Burdens of Faith.
Please turn to Acts 15, verse 22, page 981 in your pew Bibles, which is the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God. But first let us pray..
Last week I introduced the message by giving the first verses in Acts 15, where Dr. Luke wrote about how the Jewish Christians were demanding that the new Gentile believers should get circumcised as a requirement for membership. Paul was confronting this issue directly as he knew it could really hurt the new churchs they had just started. Paul was angry and hurt at the same time, so he decided to go back down to Jerusalem to meet with the elders on this matter. In the meanwhile, he wrote to the Galatian churches that He and Barnabas had established, pleading with them not to fall prey to these false demands. The book or letter called Galatians has six short chapters. It is really a heartfelt letter by Paul that expresses well his thoughts and feelings about this issue. We listened to the first part of that letter last week, and we will listen to the remaining three chapters today. This letter paints well the situation that Paul is now going to debate with the first Christian church leaders in Jerusalem. We will listen now to that second half of Galatians, then we will see the final outcome of this debate in this 15th chapter of Acts. If you wish you can follow along in your bibles Galatians (NLT) Chapters 3-6, page 1033 of the pew Bibles. (Listen starting at 12:15)
Could you sense the poignant struggle of Paul’s heart in that letter?
He really was hurt and resolute at the same time in his message. He said he wrote with Large Letters in his closing words; it is almost like he knew we would be reading it from text later and wanted us to know without a shadow of doubt that it was him who wrote it with sincere and deliberate intent. He cared for the new churches, and he cared for us too I would argue.
Now looking back to the book of Acts chapter 15, after hearing Paul’s side of the situation, Peter and then James stood up and defended Paul’s position. In that they decided to make clear that they agreed that we are saved by grace through faith alone. Nothing else was required. Then starting in verse 22, it describes a letter they wrote to the new Gentile believers in this regard;
22 Then the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, decided to select men who were among them and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas: Judas, called Barsabbas, and Silas, both leading men among the brothers. 23 They wrote:
“From the apostles and the elders, your brothers, To the brothers and sisters among the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings.
24 Since we have heard that some without our authorization went out from us and troubled you with their words and unsettled your hearts, 25 we have unanimously decided to select men and send them to you along with our dearly loved Barnabas and Paul, 26 who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who will personally report the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it was the Holy Spirit’s decision—and ours—not to place further burdens on you beyond these requirements:29 that you abstain from food offered to idols, from blood, from eating anything that has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. You will do well if you keep yourselves from these things. Farewell.”
So again, they all agreed that it was not Jesus’s intent that His followers to go back to the requirements of the Law. The whole purpose of the Law given to Moses in the Old Testament by God, was simply to point out clearly that we are all sinners, and we are incapable of keeping all the laws perfectly on our own. Therefore God sent His one and only Son, so that whosoever believes in Him shall have everlasting life. (John 3:16). We are saved by grace through faith alone. Faith, in that God’s grace and mercy given to us through Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross was enough to pay for all our sin. When Jesus said His last dyeing words, “It is Finished”, He meant that everything He intended to accomplish was accomplished. And in that Jesus paved a new path for us to get into Heaven. He paid our ransom, His blood was shed for me. “It is Finished” means now, that anyone who accepts His sacrificial gift, Him dying on the cross for our sins, will go to Heaven. Amen? Anything we add to that free and blessed offering, diminishes the value of what Jesus did on the cross. He offers us a perfect and complete sacrifice, not a partial sacrifice that we have to compliment with additional works. That is what this debate argument was all about.
However, having said that, this letter did put some requirements on them, but these additional rules were not for salvation. These rules were instead to address cultural sensitivities.
Abstain or stay away from idols, as it goes against God Himself.
Abstain from blood, as it carries bacteria and is repulsive by some;
From eating anything that has been strangled, as it is repulsive by some;
and from sexual immorality, as it leads to all kinds of disease and sin.
These are mostly common sense guidelines that we should all consider. Again, they were not suggesting that this was required to get into heaven, but we should all strive to be sensitive to the culture, and to protect us from defiling our witness as Christ followers. So our final verses here starting at verse 30 says:
30 So they were sent off and went down to Antioch, and after gathering the assembly, they delivered the letter. 31 When they read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. 32 Both Judas and Silas, who were also prophets themselves, encouraged the brothers and sisters and strengthened them with a long message.33 After spending some time there, they were sent back in peace by the brothers and sisters to those who had sent them. 35 But Paul and Barnabas, along with many others, remained in Antioch, teaching and proclaiming the word of the Lord.
Harmony was restored. They rejoiced, they were encouraged, and they had peace. Praise the Lord. The takeaways for today’s message are:
Don’t let anyone add to the requirements of salvation. We are saved by grace through faith alone.
Stand up for what you believe, but know what you know. Study God’s word.
2 Tim 2:15 says “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” God gave us His Holy Word so that we can study it, and for us to know His good will. Then stand up and defend it like Paul and Barnabas did.
Finally, be encouraged dear Christ Follower, because God loves you so much, that He sent His Son, the perfect sacrifice to die for you. It is Finished, It is Finished indeed.
Would you please stand with me now, as we close with an invitation..
“A FRIENDLY CHURCH IN A FRIENDLY TOWN”