Year 2 Day 31
Read - Acts 15v1-21
Message - Scott Woodburn
We've already seen in Acts that the church was not going through a golden age in the years after Christ's Ascension. They knew problems, splits, false teaching and theological debates. As a new chapter begins we see once again some from a Jewish background stating that “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” (v1). Paul and Barnabas completely disagreed (v2a) but it was arranged for them to travel to Jerusalem to put this question to the Apostles and elders (v2b).
As they travelled and told many about the conversion of the Gentiles there was great rejoicing (v3), but still when they arrived in Jerusalem some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.” (v5). So the stage is set. The question is clear. To be saved does someone have to keep the law of Moses? Do we need Jesus plus?
Peter stood first and reminded the council that he had been chosen to take the Gospel to the Gentiles (v7). Indeed God had given the Gentiles the gift of the Holy Spirit and had cleansed their hearts by faith (v9). Peter understood the Gospel. It was by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. To add anything to the Gospel was to put God to the test and to place a yoke on the necks of Christians that no one has ever been able to bear (v10).
Paul and Barnabas were able to testify about the great work that had been done among the Gentiles (v12) and then James stood and took the council into the Word of God. Quoting directly from Amos 9v11-12, James was clear that the prophets had predicted the calling of the Gentiles (v12). Therefore new Christians shouldn't be troubled with keeping the law of Moses for their salvation.
Practically new converts should be encouraged not to have anything to do with idol worship (v20a). They should remain sexually pure (v20b). They shouldn't eat animals that have been strangled to death (v20c). This seems strange to us but James knows that such an animal will not have all of its blood drained. To eat such food would potentially cause division among Jewish and Gentile believers and therefore sensitivity to one another should be essential. Moses is read weekly in the synagogues (v21) and so the church should be sensitive to the culture it found itself in.
James' response is mature in seeking to bring harmony to a multicultural church but the council at Jerusalem couldn't be more clear. The Gospel is all of grace and no barriers should be placed in front of new converts. Brothers and sisters nothing has changed. The Gospel says that Christ died for sinners and was raised for their justification. The response to the Gospel is to repent of sin and trust in Christ. We should act towards other Christians with grace and sensitivity but we should never compromise the Gospel.
Jesus plus anything is not the Gospel. "Do this and live" is not the Gospel. "Do more" is not the Gospel. Here is the Gospel "For our sake God made Jesus to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Christ we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5v21)
Q43 What is the preface to the ten commandments? The preface to the ten commandments is in these words, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.