Acts 15:1-3 – The Dispute
Paul and Barnabas just finished an amazing journey preaching the gospel. Many Gentiles were saved and the church grew. But when a church is growing, you can always count on opposition. The Jewish Christians didn’t like the fact that the Gentiles accepted salvation and did not have to do anything for it. The Jerusalem Christians wanted them to obey the Law of Moses, which commanded circumcision. They were also concerned that they would be overrun by Gentiles and their customs since they had very different backgrounds. The men from Judea were called Judaizers and insisted the Gentile converts be circumcised.
It would have been easy for Paul and Barnabas to just ignore this issue. If they had, the church would have a large crack in it and there would be no absolute truth. The gospel of Jesus plus anything else is not the true gospel. If you find yourself in a controversy, be prepared. Speak with God and spend time with Him. This way you will grow closer to God. We should also keep a joyful heart during controversy. You worship God in the mist of it, which is a great defense. We need to speak up when something attacks sound doctrine of the church not just for things that don’t really matter. Don’t dwell on the small things and don’t get tied up in it - let the main thing be the main thing.
1. Conflict dealt with according to scripture through the power of the Holy Spirit leads to spiritual growth.
What conflict are you avoiding? Will you ask God to be bold and speak out for you? (1 Peter 3:15-16) – “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
Acts 15:4-21 – The Discussion
Some believe that Galatians 2:1-10 is a picture of the meeting Paul, Barnabas and the others had with the Jewish council. Paul opposed the circumcision of the Gentile Christians, because he was trying to teach them that Jesus was the only way to salvation - not the outward appearance of circumcision. Peter told the brothers that God chose long ago the Gentiles would hear from his lips the message of the gospel and believe. God made no distinction between Jews and Gentiles. He purified their hearts by faith.
2. Salvation comes only through faith in Jesus Christ.
Are you serving God just in case? As you serve God examine your motives. There is nothing we can do to earn a place in heaven.
Acts 15:22-35 – The Decision
James spoke to the council quoting scripture. (Amos 9:11-12) He suggested they not make it difficult for the Gentles, but to compromise. Instead, he suggested they write the Gentiles at Antioch and tell them to abstain from food polluted by idols, abstain from sexual immorality, and from eating meat of strangled animals and from blood. They agreed and sent Judas and Silas with the letter. When the letter was read, they were glad for its encouragement and Judas and Silas said much to encourage the believers. Then they were sent back with blessings of peace. (Acts 15:19-34)
(Galatians 2:11-21) Peter lived with the Gentiles and ate with them, but when the Jews came from Jerusalem, he was in a dilemma. He knew they would disapprove of his actions. So he refrained from eating with the Gentiles. This caused confusion and was setting a bad example for new Christians. Paul called him out on it and called him a hypocrite. Peter was quick to see that Paul was prompted by the Holy Spirit and accepted his wisdom. He received his rebuke with maturity for the sake of immature Christians.
How do you take public rebuke? Will you receive it graciously? How do we know when to speak up? What’s your Motive? Is it a Bible truth or your personal preference?
3. Christian should strive for unity so that we can serve the Lord as one body.
The Holy Spirit is the same, but made each one of us different. How much could you let go with the power of the Holy Spirit? Ask God to help you see the bigger picture and let it go. Ask God for boldness to speak to someone. What can you give up for the sake of someone’s salvation? It is a matter of life and death.