Summary: The first church proclaimed that salvation is by grace.
Salvation by Grace
Jeffery Anselmi / General
Proclaim-The Gospel Has Come / Grace / Acts 15:1–21
The first church proclaimed that salvation is by grace.
• When the Reformer Martin Luther nailed the Ninety-Five Theses to the church door in Wittenberg and set the world on fire, he wasn’t inventing anything new.
• Point 62 stated, “The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.”
• Though it may have shocked people who were not aware of what the Bible taught, Luther’s theses were right in line with the first church council, the council of Jerusalem.
• This amazing, historical event is recorded in chapter 15 of Acts.
• It’s the debate that took place there to which we now turn in the fifth week of our series on the proclamations of the early church.
• This time, the proclamation is both a literal proclamation and a defense made at the church council.
• The question at hand boils down to what one must do to be saved.
• This is a question that still plagues many churches yet today.
• The question of how one is saved is still important today.
• It was an important question during the time of the first church too.
• What we can gather from the writings of Paul (for example, Galatians 2:14) and here in Acts 15 Certain Jewish believers in Jesus were following Paul around, and after he left, they would tell the gentile converts that they weren’t fully saved unless they were circumcised and started to follow the Law of Moses.
• Paul and Barnabas disagree with this, so they take their argument to the church's leaders in Jerusalem.
• The leaders gather and debate the matter at length until Peter stands and makes a speech (Acts 15:1–7).
• What’s clear here is that there wasn’t uniformity of thought on all matters in the early church.
• But the church had come to a unified position of what the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus meant for believers.
• Even though today we do not face the Jew/Gentile issue, we still need to know how one is saved, and we need to be able to articulate what needs to be done lest we add or subtract to God’s Word and make salvation something it is not.
• Let’s turn to Acts 15:1-10 to as we begin our dive into the Word!
Acts 15:1–10 (CSB)
1 Some men came down from Judea and began to teach the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom prescribed by Moses, you cannot be saved.”
2 After Paul and Barnabas had engaged them in serious argument and debate, Paul and Barnabas and some others were appointed to go up to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem about this issue.
3 When they had been sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and they brought great joy to all the brothers and sisters.
4 When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church, the apostles, and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them.
5 But some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”
6 The apostles and the elders gathered to consider this matter.
7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you are aware that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the gospel message and believe.
8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he also did to us.
9 He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.
10 Now then, why are you testing God by putting a yoke on the disciples’ necks that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?
I. A joyless system.
• Have you had a moment of joy in your life, and not five minutes after the moment, someone comes in and throws water on the fire?
• You have to remember that after Jesus ascended into heaven in the beginning, the gospel was mainly being offered to the nation of Israel.
• Peter changed that in his ministry with the household of Cornelius in Acts 10, then the ministry of Paul and Barnabas, which placed focus on the gentiles.
• Once the gospel was taken to the gentiles, God’s church grew even more.
• The people who were once the enemies of the people of God were now coming to God through Jesus!