Year 2 Day 33
Read - Acts 15v22-41
Message - Scott Woodburn
Jesus plus anything is not the Gospel and it is certainly not good news. Imagine your minister standing next Sunday declaring that Christ has done it all but now you need to do your bit. What a burden! Imagine an evangelist who urges you to trust in Christ and then keep the commandments fully to be saved. Who can do it? Not me and despite your good intentions, not you either. Jesus plus anything is not the Gospel and it is certainly not good news.
Thankfully the letter sent from Jerusalem was full of good news. It acknowledged that some, who had no authority, had gone out and troubled the minds of the church (v24). They had sought to insist on law observance and circumcision as a necessity for salvation. Instead the letter offered no greater advice than "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." (v29)
The wisdom offered was not a path to salvation. Instead Christians were to be sensitive to one another and to flee from even a whiff of idolatry. They would do well to practice such things but they were to be clear that the Gospel was all of grace and did not require zealous law observance or circumcision. Luke tells us that when the letter was read in Antioch, the people rejoiced (v31).
I think we have lost some of this in the modern church. We have become so accustomed to hearing the Gospel that it no longer thrills us as it should. Let me remind you brothers and sisters of why the church in Antioch rejoiced. The Gospel is not about what you have done or will do. The Gospel does not focus on your obedience. The Gospel has nothing to do with how good or how bad you are. The Gospel lifts our eyes to Christ and declares "Look to Jesus! Look to Jesus! He has done it all. His obedience was perfect. His sacrifice was enough. His blood has paid the price. Look to Jesus! Look to Jesus!"
As this chapter closes we catch a wee glimpse of contention between Paul and Barnabas. John Mark had previously left Paul in the lurch and gone home (v38). Paul doesn't want John Mark to return whilst Barnabas wants John Mark (his cousin) to be brought back into the fold. The brothers go their separate ways with Barnabas going to Cyprus and Paul heading for Syria and Cilicia. Disagreements are not new in the church and they're always tragic but we can be thankful that the relationship is restored eventually (Colossians 4v10).
We finish today by reminding ourselves that restoration is at the heart of the Gospel. We were once enemies of God but now we have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Here's a wee challenge for you. Tomorrow morning get yourself to your church. I know all about Covid and there may seem to be thousands of reasons why you have yet to return to live worship, but tomorrow, go to your church. It is in that place that you hear the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not Christ plus, but Christ alone. Go to church, listen to the Gospel and rejoice at this extraordinary good news.
We may have lost some of the wonder but may the Lord restore it to us when the morning comes. The Gospel stands true...Christ died for sinners! Rejoice!
Q45 Which is the first commandment? The first commandment is, Thou shalt have no other gods before me.