Summary: The early church faced many crises that threatened its very existence but none greater than that posed by the Judaizers.
HOW THE EARLY CHURCH WEATHERED ITS FIRST CRISIS
“And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.” Acts 15:1-2
The early church faced many crises that threatened its very existence. Satan employed every device at his disposal in an attempt to eradicate the God-chosen vehicle for the proclamation of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul, Peter, James, Jude and John wrote of evil-doers who attempted, and to some degree temporarily succeeded, in inflicting great damage upon the fledgling faith.
One of those crises became so overwhelming to the dynamic church in Antioch that it had to be addressed. It was a challenge that could not be ignored; a threat that showed no sign of diminishing over time. Today’s message depicts that early crisis and how the church triumphed in it.
I. THE CONTROVERSY THAT PROMPTED THE CRISIS
Certain men from the church at Jerusalem, called “Judaizers”, went to Antioch where Paul and Barnabas were ministering and told the church that a person had to become a Jew first before they could become a Christian. Paul and Barnabas took such strong issue with them that the church commissioned Paul and Barnabas to take this matter to the Apostles in the church at Jerusalem.
“So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren.” Acts 15:3
II. CONFRONTING THE ISSUE HEAD-ON
“And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them. But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the Law of Moses.’" Acts 15:4-5.
There are instances when it is wise to let controversy work itself out over time, but the magnitude of this issue required taking action and the apostles did. “Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.” Acts 15:6.
III. AS THE CONTROVERSY INCREASED, PETER SPOKE.
“And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they."