It is exciting to see what the Holy Spirit is doing in this world. There are men and women who are starting to believe in Jesus Christ. There are children who are hearing stories about Abraham, David, and Peter. There are youth who are confirming their faith in Jesus. There are poor who are receiving from God through God’s people. If that doesn’t fill you with joy, then your wood is wet.
Everywhere that God is worshiped; people are learning to follow Jesus Christ. We learn what we give up, namely our sin and our own personal preferences. We learn what we gain, namely forgiveness for our sins and joy from seeing God work in our lives. We learn how to love the people in the church and the people who are not in the church yet. Folks, this is what being part of the church is about.
The Holy Spirit has imposed on us the essentials. Anything else that people want to have a fight about is a distraction from making disciples. Just as the early church had a council to examine a conflict, we have a council to remind us to live the Holy Spirit-given essentials. The one thing I read the early church learning is that we disciples of Jesus are together. We got to be together in living as disciples.
A. How did the early church figure out we are together in living as disciples? (15:1-21)
1. One group in Antioch insisted on circumcision in order to be saved
2. One group in Jerusalem insisted on circumcision so as to follow the law of Moses
3. While these two groups were caught up with this idea, the Holy Spirit was being poured out upon new believers!
4. Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to confer on these matters
5. Peter reminded the council about the Gentiles and Jews being saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus
6. Paul and Barnabas told about the signs and wonders God was doing
7. James reminded the council what the scriptures tell about all people seeking God
8. James points to Leviticus 17 and 18 about instructions for Jews and Gentiles together
9. The early church learned that we are together in living as disciples. God is working in this world. Jews and Gentiles are receiving faith through the grace of the Lord Jesus. It is not a matter of following the Law of Moses. It is a matter of receiving the good that God has for us. So, the Jerusalem council decided to let the rest of the church know this information.
B. The council sends a letter 15:22-29
1. Apostles, elders, and the whole church – consented!
2. Paul & Barnabas to take the decision to Galatia
a. Along with Judas and Silas
b. What is in the letter from the council?
o Other people were not sent
o These people were agreed upon to be sent
o The Holy Spirit has placed no further burden on you
• Abstain from things polluted by idols (also strangled food)
• Abstain from fornication
• Abstain from blood
3. Followers of Jesus are known for certain things. As the Holy Spirit has made our hearts pure, we do not defile our hearts. So, abstaining from food sacrificed to idols, abstain from sexual sin, and abstain from eating blood, then is how we live as followers of Jesus. The Jerusalem council seems to have come to a good decision. I think this decision is still good for today. We don’t have much sacrificing of animals to idols today. So, we can go along with that idea. The only blood we Christians drink is the blood of Christ, which he freely gave to us. We can go along with this idea. In our society, we have free access to sexualized material, we have folks living together outside of marriage, and we have the SCOTUS encouraging fornication by making homosexual marriage legal. So, we followers of Jesus have some work to do in abstaining from fornication. This may be hard to hear. How did the church in Antioch receive this letter?
C. How did the Gentile church receive the letter? 15:30-35
1. They rejoiced at the exhortation!
2. Judas & Silas also encouraged and strengthened the believers
o Sent away peacefully
3. Paul & Barnabas remained in Antioch to teach and preach about Jesus Christ
4. Wouldn’t it be great to see such joy in our church! Wouldn’t it be great to agree on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ! We can agree that faith in Jesus Christ brings us forgiveness and eternal life.
There have been arguments in churches over the color of the carpet, the shape of a church building, and which music is best. After reading and studying Acts 15, all of these arguments are just like arguing what brand of toilet paper is needed. We need toilet paper, so just make sure there is some available. For none of these other issues matter. What matters is people coming to know Jesus Christ.
We got to be together in living as disciples. It is faith in Jesus Christ which brings us together. Whether we are Jew or Gentile, business owner or employee, teacher or administrator, male or female, it is God who makes our hearts clean through the grace of the Lord Jesus.
May you be encouraged to live the essentials the Holy Spirit has placed upon us. If there is food offered to idols, then don’t eat it. If there is blood in the food, then don’t eat it. If there is fornication going on, then avoid it. For when we avoid these things, we will do well. Who knows, more people may get to know about Jesus by our living holy lives.