Summary: Exposition of Acts 15:22-35 about the church’s implementation of the Apostle’s decision regarding the controversy from Antioch
Text: Acts 15:22-35, Title: Moving Right Along, Date/Place: NRBC, 8/24/08, AM
A. Opening illustration: Recount a little bit of the Conservative Resurgence conflict in the SBC, and now the Great Commission Resurgence that is beginning to take place
B. Background to passage: This meeting, known as the Jerusalem council, has concluded with Pastor James’ summary of biblical teaching and church position—that the Gentiles are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone, and sealed by the same Spirit as the Jews. The council now must implement the decision made, and to do so they send a letter by the hands of Paul and Barnabas to the churches in the regions surrounding Antioch (note that this included other regions, so that the controversy must have spread already).
C. Main thought: The church is now returning to its work now in the wake of the resolution of the conflict over Gentiles and law-keeping is resolved, and a solution implemented.
A. The Church Now Unified (v. 22, 25)
1. Now if they are really Baptists, we are really seeing the miracle in these two verses, another instance of complete unity. Nobody stormed out. Nobody left mad. Nobody attempted emotional blackmail. Nobody changed churches, organized a new church, or made phone calls afterward. They didn’t act like a bunch of high schoolers. It says that everyone was pleased! The letter says that everyone was in one accord! That means those that disagreed had either been convinced by the other side, or they just realized that it was an issue that was not crucial, or they simply submitted to the church for the greater purpose of the gospel. At any rate, the overarching stance was one of togetherness.
2. Acts 1:14, 2:1, 2:46, 4:32
3. Illustration: “The difference between spiritual and unspiritual community is not whether conflict exists, but is rather in our attitude toward it and our approach to handling it. When conflict is seen as an opportunity to draw more fully on spiritual resources, we have the makings of spiritual community.” SOURCE: Larry Crabb in "The Safest Place on Earth," It is like the man who was stranded all alone on the deserted island who was rescued. His rescuers asked him what the three structures were that he had built on the island. Three buildings seemed perplexing for just one man. He said one was his house, one was his church, and one was where he used to go to church before he got his feelings hurt! Give me 100 men that hate nothing but sin, and love nothing but Jesus Christ, and we’ll shake England for God.-Wesley
4. What if we could stand so unified immediately following controversy? Unity doesn’t mean that we are all cookie cutter clones of each other. But that we are allied around what is common to us and most important—Jesus Christ. And being unified around Christ means being unified around his teaching. Doctrine has the potential to divide, but it also has the potential to unify. And we must be in agreement on crucial points of doctrine; the most important of which is the gospel. And once we reach agreement, we must put our shoulders to the plow together and work diligently for the kingdom of God.
B. The Church Now Inspired (v. 26)
1. The apostles and elders sent the letter by way of Paul and Barnabas to endorse their position in the disagreement. They also sent delegates from the Jerusalem church to authenticate the message in the letter. But the apostles and elders were so impressed with Paul and Barnabas that they included a testimony about them in the letter—“those who risked their lives for Jesus.” What a testimony!
2. Rev 6:11, Philip 3:8, John 12:24,
3. Illustration: Where are the Judson’s that labored for 33 years in a country where no missionaries made it? Where are the Caudill’s who were willing to rot in a jail in Communist Cuba? Where are the pharmacists like Mike from Maine who would risk losing their job rather that sell the abortion pill? 1885, three Christian boys had shed their blood for Christ in Uganda. About l500 Christians were martyred in the year 100. By the mid-1990s there were some 156,000 Christian martyrs. Since the crucifixion of Christ, some 40 million Christians have been martyred. Martyrdom has been a standard accompaniment of Christian mission because Christians inevitably arouse hostilities, and they pay the price. One-third of all martyrs are female. That means some 52,000 women were killed last year because of their faith. One in every 200 Christians can expect to be martyred in his lifetime. Tell about the kid in the stands at ATFire in MA,
4. Where are the men that risk their lives for the gospel? We live American lives of comfort and security, oblivious to the fact that the gospel guarantees neither. We must know that the gospel is worth our lives. It is normally the young people who rise up a shame an older generation for the timidity. Where is our inspiration? Where are those that will go to Peru and beyond? Where are those that will not settle for status quo, but live radically sold out lives for Christ.