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Guarding the Gospel (Acts 15:1-21)

December 13, 2014

Reflecting on the Passage:

Here at East Point Church, we have begun a new sermon series entitled “Acts: The Spirit and the Church in the World“. This week’s sermon unfolds with a dispute over the essentials of the Christian faith. Pastor Carter explains why the Church should earnestly contend for the faith, which was once delivered to the saints. The focus of this sermon is on how the Apostles and elders gathered together to consider the most important issue, which is who can be saved?

Saved by Works

But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved. And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question (Acts 15:1, 2;ESV).

The greatest temptation with the Gospel is to add to or take away from what God has made explicitly clear (cf. Genesis 3:1-5; 2 Corinthians 11:3). These men from Judea, probably with good intention, sincerely believed that the Gentiles had to be circumcised according to the custom of Moses in order to be saved. However, they did not understand the magnitude of the issue at hand, namely, how one receives salvation. Thankfully, Paul and Barnabas held fast to the core teaching of the Gospel, mainly, salvation is not by works, but by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone (cf. Matthew 19:16-22).

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Saved by Grace Alone

And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will (Acts 15:7-11; ESV).”

Furthermore, what these men misunderstood was that circumcision was merely a sign pointing to a greater reality, which was the circumcision of the heart (Deuteronomy 30:6). By doing this, these men were laying heavy burdens on those under their teaching by the implicit, misuse, and abuse of the law of God (cf. Matthew 23:2-4, 13). On the other hand, the Apostles remembered the teachings of Christ. He gave them the charge to make disciples according to His teachings, not laying heavy burdens on others, but declaring that He is able to set them free to live for Him and trust Him freely (Matthew 11:25-30, 28:18-20; Luke 4:14-19; John 8:31-36).

Do you see your need of Jesus?

Salvation is the one thing in this world that you and I cannot earn. If you admit that you need Jesus, then you can be saved.

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

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