Summary: Deliverance is by grace through faith alone.
DELIVERED BY GRACE
Scripture Text: Acts 15:1-13
Introduction: What special custom or tradition do we hold so dear that it prevents the truth from being proclaimed and practiced? What prevents some from hearing and responding to the gospel message that we are delivered by grace?
An article from an online page of the associated press says, “(updated 8:42 p.m. PT, Sat., July. 26, 2008)
NEWARK, Texas - Here in the gentle hills of north Texas, televangelist Kenneth Copeland has built a religious empire teaching that God wants his followers to prosper.
Another says, “ATHENS - Greece’s holiest pilgrimage site on the Aegean island of Tinos has launched an e-mail service allowing those too poor or sick to visit in person to have their prayers read to its icon of the Virgin Mary.
Tinos, part of the Cycladic archipelago some 120 km (75 miles) from Athens, attracts around 1 million visitors a year to its church of the Virgin Mary, whose icon is revered in Greece’s Orthodox Church for its reputed healing powers.
Many pilgrims, especially at the August 15 height of the pilgrimage, crawl nearly a kilometer from the ferry wharf to the church on their hands and knees as a sign of devotion. Many fulfill a pledge to light a candle as tall as themselves.”
CANTERBURY, England - The head of the Anglican Communion said Sunday that the global fellowship faces "one of the most severe challenges" in its history, and he urged bishops at their once-a-decade Lambeth Conference to do the hard work of finding solutions.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said the Anglican family’s most immediate need is for "transformed relationships" so they don’t break apart over homosexuality and the Bible.
--The essence of legalism is trusting in the religious activity rather than trusting in God. It is putting our confidence in a practice rather than in a Person. And without fail this will lead us to love the practice more than the Person. (Jack Deer, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, p. 151).
When the gospel was first preached in Jerusalem and Antioch; there was much competition between people. Was it better to be Jew? Greek? Hellenized? Gentile? And because of the primacy of the message first being given to the Jews and then the Gentiles; there was competition here too! Not only that, many of the Jews had maintained their rules, laws, and customs. Matthew Henry says, ““they therefore kept them up after they were by baptism admitted into the Christian church, kept up the distinction of meats, and used the ceremonial purifyings from ceremonial pollutions, attend the temple service, and celebrated the feasts of the Jews.”
Special consideration and thought was given to the idea that men should be circumcised in order to be saved.
Propositional Statement: Salvation is by grace through faith alone.
I. Looking into the Matter (v. 6)
A. The ones that asserted that salvation required circumcision also held that they were believers. One might consider what makes you a believer. Many had said that they were saved and yet they did not have the Holy Spirit. God had not worked a miracle in their hearts. Some Jewish believers; who claimed belief were saying that circumcision was necessary to be saved because they had some affinity towards the customs of Moses. In this case for the Jews, circumcision represented cutting away sin and being purified or cleansed. In my study, I came across the idea that there is a difference between a command that is given by God and a law that is enforced by human beings. Matthew Henry says, “The difference between ‘a law’ and ‘a command’ is that a law is enforced by sanctions from a society, while a command carries only the sanctions of the individual who commands. When, however, the people of Israel accepted the commands of God as the rules which they would follow and enforce, these became their laws.” Henry also follows up with some comments about why men enforce these customs and traditions. He says, “….it is common for proud impostors to enforce their own inventions under pain of damnation; and to tell people that unless they believe just as they would have them believe, and do just as they would have them do, they cannot be saved, it is impossible they should; not only their case is hazardous, but it is desperate. Thus the Jews tell their brethren that except they be of their church, and come into their communion, and conform to the ceremonies of their worship, though otherwise good men and believers in Christ, yet they cannot be saved; salvation itself cannot save them.’’
B. The message that these supposed believers were trying to bring was contrasted by the gospel message that Peter would later convey in these passages. (v.6 the ‘matter’). The key here is: the key elements of the saving gospel cannot be changed. Galations 1:8 says, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed.” How many world religions preach that angels were bringing another way of salvation because the prior method just did not work. Paul Washer gave this illustration about world religions: