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Guarding the Gospel, Pt. 2 (Acts 15:22-35)

January 12, 2015

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 expands on the declaration of the Jerusalem council. Pastor Carter contends for the declaration of integration, which states Salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ alone. The focus of this sermon is on the three instructive elements (a Pronouncement of Unity, a Denouncement of Error, and an Encouragement to All) of the letter the Jerusalem council wrote to the Gentile believers.

Pronouncement of Unity

Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, with the following letter: The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings (Acts 15:22-24;ESV).

Ethical and racial lines should not divide the Church. Pastor Carter explains the significance of the Council addressing Gentile believers as brothers and sisters rather than strangers (cf. Leviticus 19:34). God made an everlasting covenant with Abraham to bring forth a Seed who would inherit the earth, who would be a blessing to the nations, namely, Jesus Christ (cf. Genesis 15; Galatians 3). Perhaps, the Council at this moment contemplated the faithfulness of God in sending His Eternal Son to conquer not with sword or spear, but by doing the unthinkable and unexpected, laying down His life to unite His people, a treacherous people, unto Himself (John 12:23-32; Ephesians 2:1-9). In other words, the Council realized that their brothers and sisters were not those who looked to Abraham, but looked through Abraham to see the fulfillment of the promise in Jesus and place their faith in Him alone (Matthew 12:46-50; John 5:39-47).

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Denouncement of Error

Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell (Acts 15:24-29; ESV).”

The greatest temptation to gospel proclamation is to complicate the Gospel with the philosophy and tradition of men (Colossians 2:6-23). Ironically, Jesus faced this same error in His ministry, when the religious men of His day elevated the tradition of men higher than the Word of God, to which these men laid heavy burdens on those who followed after them (cf. Matthew 15:1-14. 23:4, 13). Now, the Council had to address this same anti-Christ spirit in their letter to the Gentiles by warning these believers not to take heed to these false teachings, considering those who taught these things did not have any authority. Interestingly, in this letter the Council’s main concern was to not only rebuke these men who sought to sow discord among the body of Christ, but to make sure these Gentile believers were on one accord. In fact, to assure these believers of their unity in Christ, the Holy Spirit led them to send Paul and Barnabas, men who risked their lives to guard the good news of Jesus Christ, to deliver this letter personally.

Encouragement to All

So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words. And after they had spent some time, they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them. But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also (Acts 15:30-35; ESV).”

The Law of God is good, and if used lawfully it should humble sinners before the sheer holiness and righteousness of God (1 Timothy 1:7-17). Apart from the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, humanity is left in a most miserable state, without hope, and under the wrath of God (John 3:36; 1 Corinthians 15). However, God being rich in mercy, sent Christ to die for sinners, raised Him from the dead, and gave all authority unto Him, so that all who place their trust in Him would inherit eternal life. This is amazing news for the Jews and Gentiles because Jesus has made a Way for them both to partake in His benefits. Therefore, these Gentile believers need not be dismayed or discouraged by those who are troubling them, but remember they too received the same Spirit, when they heard and believed His Word (1 Corinthians 12:13).

Do you have Jesus Christ?

The great deception is to equate our preferences, opinions, and traditions to the Word of God. By doing so, we not only deceive ourselves, we offer men and women the bread of deceit, a gospel without the power to save, instead of the Bread of Life (Proverbs 20:17). If the Gospel we preach is not one that declares humanity’s need of a risen Christ who continues to unite His followers through the proclamation of His Word and the power of His Spirit, we are blind to the Truth and lead others to fall in the ditch of hell fire (cf. Matthew 15:12-14; Galatians 1:3-12).

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

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