Summary: Biblical truth is easily misunderstood, especially when people have pre-existing agendas. The early church had to grapple with controversy and theological confusion, just as we do today.The issue at hand was this: do gentiles have to first become Jews bef

A Lot At Stake

(Acts 15:1-5)

1. This past week, the heating contractor came in to service the boiler that heats this auditorium.

2. My instructions. Turn off Wed. night. Best way: a single-fuse fuse box in boiler room.

3. But there were complications; the Security company called…11:30 and 3:30 a.m.

4. How often do we relearn the lesson: what seems simple is complex, and one action has several other unintended effects.

5. This is true in the realm of doctrine. Some people have simplistic ideas: as long as we all acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God, that’s all that matters.

6. But they are completely wrong. There is a whole lot more that matters, and the effects of what we believe reach in all directions & have all sorts of connections to many issues.

7. The first big dispute in the church was not over the deity of Christ, the atoning work of the cross, or the reality of the resurrection. It was over what was and was not necessary for salvation. All the players believed in Jesus as God and Savior; they all believed he died on the cross for our sins and rose again. But some truths mattered beyond those.

Main Idea: Biblical truth is easily misunderstood, especially when people have pre-existing agendas. The early church had to grapple with controversy and theological confusion, just as we do today.The issue at hand was this: do gentiles have to first become Jews before they can be saved?

I. Salvation by Grace Can Be UNDERMINED in All Sorts of Creative Ways (1)

A. Theological Reasons: Sincere But Wrong BELIEF

1. School of SHAMMAI: What he taught about salvation and the 18 measures to reduce contact with gentiles which was opposed by Hillel

2. Salvation by grace but only for JEWS

3. This debate PRECEDED Christianity

4. According to 15:24, these men were NOT authorized

5. CIRCUMCISION represents converting to Judaism and Law keeping (5)

• Bet Hillel practiced ritual immersion as the entrance ceremony into Judaism, and this was for both men and women, but it was considered separate from salvation.*

• Bet Shammai did not practice ritual immersion, but demanded circumcision for males and no ceremony for women converts. Shammai taught full conversion to Judaism necessary for salvation, Hillel did not.

B. Possible ULTERIOR motives behind this theological error

1. DESPISING gentiles

• We are to love and interact with lost people. Tempted to isolate ourselves from lost people, avoid conflict & messy situations. Lost people view us as hating them, looking down our noses in self-righteousness. Sometimes the case!

• Tricky to be in the world, participating in society & yet not be influenced by the world. If others take offense, it should be because they find the Gospel offensive.

2. Loss of CONTROL

• Control freaks have a hard time with grace

• Devil not only tries to lead us to live in unrestrained ways, he uses well-meaning people to take away our freedom in Christ if we let them.


Bundling, We can be tempted to try to conform others into our image

4. JEALOUSY: Paul and Barnabas were getting results

5. A man criticized D.L. Moody’s methods of evangelism. Moody said "Well, how do you win people to Christ?" The man said he never had. Moody said, "I like my method of doing it better than your method of not doing it."

C. The Issue was not about whether Jewish believers COULD observe the Law

D. The fact this was an issue proves that Jewish Christians CONTINUED being Jews

1. Later, Christian leaders taught Jews could not be saved unless he first become gentiles. This is a sad reversal of the pendulum.

2. Both legalism and not giving tolerating those stricter than us (movies, child-rearing, matters of conscience) are dangerous attitudes; the right boundaries…

II. Doctrinal Errors Must Be ADDRESSED Firmly (2)

A. They valued DOCTRINAL TRUTH above peace

1. Loyalty to CHRIST above loyalty to denomination, family heritage

2. PEACE is a priority, but not at the expense of major doctrines

• We need to fight over the important, not the trite

B. They determined a fair APPROACH

C. They expended great EFFORT to address the problem

1. A doctrinal crisis is also a LEADERSHIP crisis

• Paul could have ordered these men be excommunicated, but his own credibility would have been on the line.

• It was important that Paul perceived as a team player and not overly harsh… appearances count

2. Truth and error are DIVISIVE by nature (so let’s not be surprised at conflict)

III. Ministry Continues On, Even During TURBULENCE (3-5)

A. They shared and BUILT UP churches as they traveled to Jerusalem (3)

1. We can become too FOCUSED upon a problem

2. We can forfeit significant MINISTRY opportunities

• Harder to minister when a pastor has conflict in the church; but he must

• It is harder to be a mindful spouse when problems with kids or finances

• How often have you heard, "My spouse filed for divorce and I had no idea he or she was unhappy."

• A good portion of life happens while we are conflicted or stressed

• Les and Leslie Parrott document that happy people share this trait: the ability to adjust to situations beyond their control.

B. They greeted and fellowshipped with the church LEADERS (4)

C. It is inevitable that CONFLICT will interrupt ministry (5)

D. Continuing in the midst of conflict is the Christian LEGACY


1. Satan is strategic. If he can get us to fight over trivia, or turn us into people pleasers compromising truth, or if he preoccupies us with problems, he has neutralized us.

2. Are you seeking God throughout the week? Are you dangerous to the devil? If so, you can count on having lots of bullets to dodge. And centuries of believers will testify that God can give you the victory. *see Harvey Falk, Jesus the Pharisee, p. 151