Summary: After the Jerusalem Council decided to include the Gentiles without their having to become Jews, they needed to communicate that truth to them. The steps they took are a wonderful model of love in the church.
Passage: Acts 15:22-35
Intro: There he stood, leaning against the lockers.
1. it was “Shorts day” at Wheaton North H.S., and this young man, part of a group we called “greasers” or “hoods” must not have gotten the memo to ignore it.
2. black shoes and socks, white boxers, white t-shirt, but from his look of discomfort he might as well have been wearing nothing at all!
3. the loneliest man on earth, separated from his friends, but not part of the other group either, because no one else was wearing what he had on.
4. we are looking at a situation in this passage that was very similar.
5. Gentiles had come to Christ, left life of darkness to pursue the light.
6. but they weren’t quite ready for Jerusalem, (or Wheaton)
7. so they stood alone, having been told that if they cleaned up their act, obeyed the Law, they could be a part of the group.
8. saw last week the theological debate that raged, was settled in favor of grace.
9. but the communication of that inclusive decision was an outstanding miracle of God’s love.
10. and it serves as a wonderful model of love that we can practice every day.
11. let’s look at the parts of that model
I. Love Ministers in Person
1. as we saw back in Acts 10, it was against Jewish tradition for a Jew to enter the home of a Gentile, and especially to eat with them.
2. so the safest route would have been to send a letter with B and P, and be done with it.
3. V22, “whole church decided to choose their own men…” leaders
4. 3 times they say “we are sending”, vv22, 25. 27. 300 mile trip!
5. v27, “to confirm”
6. we have a hierarchy of value in communication, don’t we?
Il) email, form letter, phone call, hand-written note or card, personal visit over lunch.
7. guys, when you asked her to marry you, did you do it by email?
Il) several months ago, we got word that one of our former members was dying back east. Several wanted to send me there, but he died quickly. When our loved ones are sick or hurt, we tend to go.
8. personal involvement communicates a strong message of love
9. and to those Gentile believers wondering where they stood up in Antioch and Cilicia, it meant the world to have these personal emissaries, these Jews willing to travel 300 miles to eat with them, speak with them.
Il) we can never forget that God, who revealed Himself in creation and wrote us a very long letter, ultimately spoke to us by sending His own Son to become one of us.
10. love gets dirty, love isn’t afraid of contact, love isn’t afraid of what others might think.
11. there are a lot of ways to do ministry in our hi-tech age.
12. but from personal experience, nothing exhibits love like our physical presence in a person’s life.
13. and no ministry is as powerful as the one done face to face, hand to hand, person to person.
Il) “a person with skin on”
II. Love Takes the Side of Truth
1. there were plenty of forces that would push the church toward compromise.
2. people teaching adherence to the law were powerful
3. as we saw last week, the very gospel was at stake, whether we need to add to the sacrifice of Christ.
4. this passage is full of love, but sometimes love has to be very forceful.
5. v24, 3 very strong words to describe what some had been doing.
6. remember, this group had gone to Antioch and taught law was required.
7. here are the words used to describe their “ministry”
8. “without authorization/ permission”
Il) “We knew nothing about that.” (Sergeant Shultz, "Hogan’s Heroes")
9. “disturbed”=“to throw into confusion”
10. finally, “troubling your minds”=”to destroy”
11. 14 words for “destroy:, this one means “to reverse what has been done, to tear down what has been built.”
12. military used it to describe the plundering of a city.
Il) on my 2nd trip to Russia, class gave me this wonderful cup and saucer. But 3 different people “plundered” my suitcase during inspection, and it ended up getting broken.
13. in addition, they took the side of Paul and Barnabas very clearly, v25-26 “beloved”
14. they spoke of P and B in glowing terms, and clearly rejected the teaching of the Law-promoting Jews.
15. sometimes love has to be very tough, and even take sides!
Il) there are still those in America who would like to see the church white only, rich only, employed only, “like me” only
16. and sometimes the side we take costs us friends, church members.