Aim: Salvation (justification) comes from faith through grace alone and cannot be earned either by adherence or works
Introduction: You can’t afford the gift you are receiving. When I look around the room of children’s leaders in our class I am surrounded by business owners, executives, doctors, the chief legal counsel for a multimillion dollar company, accountants, law enforcement officers. Frankly the bill rate of the people I sit with for three hours every Saturday morning would be astounding. Yet, the gift of time is freely given in love, not only for the children and other men in the group, but more importantly for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Do not lessen the gift that you are being provided by even imagining that you could pay for it. You simply can’t afford it! There is no level or adherence to the law that could even provide a fraction of the cost that Christ paid in dying on that cross and to imply that it could is insulting to our master. (OK, this’ll preach!)
Division 1: Acts 15: 1-11 – A dispute over circumcision requires a decision by the church leadership. Peter, Paul and Barnabas testify to the Holy Spirit’s presence in Gentile believers.
Acts 15: 1-2 – P&B sent to Jerusalem to conclude: circumscision required or not
Acts 15 3-4 – P&B to Jerusalem, testify on the way, welcomed by apostles, they give a report.
Acts 15: 5 – Party of the Pharises states their belief: become Jewish to become christian
Acts 15:6 – Apostle and elders meet to consider this question
Acts 15: 7-11 – Peter presents: no distriction between J&G, through grace we are saved.
Principle: The rock stands strong in his testimony: Faith is sufficient
Illustration: I don’t agree. You say yes I say no. How do we resolve it? That was the question facing the new church. When disputes in belief or practice arise, what do we do? Go our own ways? Give in? In these verses we see step one. The dispute is presented to a body of leaders and elders who discuss it and look for the hand of God and the direction He is leading. We see that in the testimony of P, B and Peter. Look – see – There is God!
Applications: Are you watching for God’s hand moving in your life and your church? What disputes do you need to quit harboring and get resolved? Do you rely on your intellect first or do you first look to God?
Division 2: Act 15: 12-21 James states the judgment of the Jerusalem Council
Acts 15: 12-18 James reinforces the works of God by the word of God
Acts 15: 19 James judgment: remove difficulty from Gentile converts to Christ
Acts 15: 20-21 James directs Gentiles to follow the Mosaic laws specifically stated for Jews and Gentiles
Principle: God’s word is the final word
Illustration: In the United States, the Supreme Court is the ultimate decision on the interpretation of laws. If a judge rules against you, you can take it to the next higher court. But if the Suprement Court rules a certain way – it is done. In the same way, God’s word is the final word.
Applications: What do you want to be right or OK that God’s word says is wrong? Do you yield to the authority of the gospel or ignore it? Do the words of the bible hold weight to change your convictions or do you try to change the words to match your desires?
Division 3: 3 witnesses are sent back to testify to Antioch: P&B, S&J and the letter
Acts 15:22-23 – Judas and Silas are picked to go to Antioch with P&B and the letter
Acts 15: 24-29 – The letter: becoming a christian not a burden, but there are suggested restrictions
Acts 15: 30-31 – The letter is delivered and received with gladness
Acts: 15-32-35 – A time of peace, blessing and strengthening continues in Antioch
Principle: The is only one body of Christ on the earth – one church
Illustration: God describes His church on the earth as a body of believers. We can sit around in our big comfy chairs watching college football and our body will rot away. God tells us to do something different. To work. To go. To spread His news. But like any other work, sometimes the work of the body of the church causes strains and they can be painful. But we have the choice when our arm hurts from a strain or injury. I guess we could just lop it off. At least it wouldn’t hurt anymore, right? But we normally don’t do that. We nurse it. We tend to it. We protect it and we help it get stronger. That is the message God has for us as His church as well.
Application: Who among believers have you “lopped off”? What is dividing you from doing God’s work? What is wrong that you need to be bold about and cause it to stop?
This wasn’t easy for anyone. The Judaisers believed they had scripture behind them. Paul didn’t have a relationship with anyone in Jerusalem – he had only spent 15 days with them. Barnabas did, but he clearly could see both sides of the argument. And the leaders in Jerusalem had never faced a challenge like this before. But they did three very smart things: 1 they looked for God’s direction 2. they stood on the bible 3. they maintained their sights on the ultimate goal – spreading the good news of the gospel.