Summary: Exercise our freedom in Christ wisely and with love. Our care for the weak and love for the lost should guide and restrain our liberty in Christ, for the sake of the Gospel.
• We are going to read Acts 15 (the 2nd part) today. The title is, exercise freedom wisely. The Gentile believers were urged to exercise their freedom in Christ wisely.
• Acts 15:22-35. We will start at verse 19, the concluding remarks of James, the leader of the Council, at the end of their meeting in Jerusalem.
• Let us pray before we read.
We are blessed to be able to come before You again, Lord.
We praise You, and thank you for another week of your grace and blessings. Thank you for the hope we have in tough times, for the peace in times of trouble, and for the strength that we receive in our trials.
Remind us of all that you have given us. Help us to set our eyes and our hearts on you always.
And thank you for this moment when we can sit in your presence and listen to what you have to say to us from your Word.
Renew our minds with your Word. This we pray, in Jesus’ Name, AMEN.
Let’s read the Word of God. Acts 15:19-35
19 "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath."
22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers. 23 With them they sent the following letter:
The apostles and elders, your brothers,
To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings.
24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul- 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.
30 The men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. 31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.
32 Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers. 33 After spending some time there, they were sent off by the brothers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.
The decision of the Jerusalem Council was clear, salvation is a gift of God’s grace, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.
• No one is justified by their works. Jesus bore our sin and judgment on the cross.
• Both the Jews and Gentiles believers are made righteous before God because of their faith in Jesus Christ.
Peter, Barnabas and Paul, and James testified to the actions of God and the Word of God that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
• The Council came to that conviction. This is the will of God. And this is the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no other.
Hence James said they would write to the churches in the region and make this clear, that Gentile believers would not need to be circumcised or follow the Mosaic Law.
• And to bear witness of this decision of the Council, some leaders from Jerusalem church would return with Barnabas and Paul to Antioch and share this news.
• This was particularly necessary because some men had earlier gone from among them (Jerusalem) and without their authorization and preached a false Gospel.
• So Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, both gifted prophets, were chosen to go.
With this doctrinal issue of justification by faith settled, James also saw the need for some practical instructions. There remain some social problems.
• He explained in 15:21 “For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”