Pastors BLOG
July 3, 2018, 12:30 PM

The Adventure Begins 47: Lessons From the Early Church - Acts 15:1-35

Acts 15:1-35 (NIV)
1 Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved."
2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.
3 The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the brothers very glad.
4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.
5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses."
6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question.
7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe.
8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.
9 He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.
10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?
11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."

12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.
13 When they finished, James spoke up: "Brothers, listen to me.
14 Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself.
15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:
16 "'After this I will return and rebuild David's fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it,
17 that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things'
18 that have been known for ages.

19 "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.
20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.
21 For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath."
22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers.
23 With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings.
24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said.
25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul--
26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing.
28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:
29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.
30 The men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter.
31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.
32 Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers.
33 After spending some time there, they were sent off by the brothers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them.
35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.

We have been commissioned by God to…

Matthew 28:19 (NIV)
19 …go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

These Jewish brothers who came to Antioch no doubt were trying to do this although they were misguided and were putting a barrier between God and the Gentile believers.

Have you ever heard the expression; “This is an AB conversation now C your way out of it”? It probably applied in this scenario. They walked into a room and entered a conversation that was already in progress. They came in with their own assumption and agenda’s not really knowing the mission field or even the heart of God for these people.

Sometimes in situations we are quick to make judgments and set out to bring correction, rebuke or instruction not really understanding the mission we have been called to or the heartbeat of God for people.

Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)
1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children
2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

In discipling others you must make judgments slowly, carefully, prayerfully and humbly and only make judgments based on a loving willingness to serve a person in furthering their journey in the Lord.

In reading this passage we find that ultimately it took a counsel in Jerusalem to uncover the error in these individual’s motives and modes.

In the councils letter back to the Antioch church they wrote – 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…”

We need to ask the question: “Does this seem good to the Spirit as well as to us?”

We may be well intentioned, but apart from the wisdom of God for things we may make things more difficult, hearts more hardened, lives unchanged, simply because we are operating in our own judgment apart from the wisdom and the directing of God. In fact in many cases as in this one our agenda is really about making people become more like us when the object is for them to become more like Jesus. We unknowingly are calling people to conform to us rather than what they ought to be doing, which is to be conformed to Jesus.

Let’s look at the wisdom shown here in this particular case, because there are at least a couple principles that can guide us in our attempts to “Make Disciples” and to avoid hindering others faith.

  1. Don’t make it harder for people to come to Jesus.

Paul wrote –

1 Corinthians 1:22-23 (NIV)
22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,

The cross is hard enough by itself we don’t need to add anything to it.

Jesus said…

Matthew 18:6 (NIV)
6 …if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

We run the risk of damning ourselves and the people we are ministering to when we add our own agendas to the tasks and challenges of the Holy Spirit, which he is already actively pursuing in the life of our audience.

We need to allow the Holy Spirit to bring conviction and, in the meantime, listen to Him for cues as to how we can be a part of what He is doing. We need to recognize His activity in our lives…

John 16:13 (NIV)
13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

  1. Present basic moral truths as a foundation.

The council decided that there were probably some things that did need to be addressed…”29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.”

It is not that we don’t give guidance to people in their spiritual journey – we do need to help people navigate their way out of the entanglements of their lives before Christ. We can focus on basics that are applicable to their personal situations – asking God to once again direct us in what is critical and beneficial for them and for now.

God clearly does have a standard and does raise the bar on our lives when we surrender to Him in faith…

Ephesians 5:1-5, 8-14 (NIV)
1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children
2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people.
4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person--such a man is an idolater--has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God…

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light
9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)
10 and find out what pleases the Lord.
11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.
13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible,
14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."

Christ shining on you and directing you into new life. This is a work of the Holy Spirit – not of Christian Men and Woman alone. Although we do play a role when we are partnering with Him.

We do this best through our example…

1 Timothy 4:12-16 (NIV)
12 set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.
13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.
14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.
16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Jesus told us to…

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Ask - “God what are you doing?”

By Pastor Carl Friedel


07-03-2018 at 12:44 PM
Jo Ann
Thank you! Quite clear and reinforces what our lives should be like and in helping others to become like Jesus! We must always rely on the Holy Spirit and God’s wisdom...and prayer!!
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