Summary: The Jerusalem council; sorting out the Big issue of how are we saved?
Acts 15.1- 21. The Big Issue.
A Big issue then and today is the question of right standing with God, how will we be saved?
How will we be accepted,how will we be forgiven and what is it we have to do to be saved for eternity?
You can travel around the world and meet different people with different ideas you can join cults and sects with their own initiations you can see the religions of the world or proclaiming and showing the method in being saved. It can be as complicated as the Mormon Church with all its rituals or as bizarre and simple as lighting a candle! You can meet gurus,you can get books you can go to conferences all proclaiming the way to enlightenment it was no different for some of these 1st century believers coming from their Jewish roots so intrenched in ritual it became very difficult to let go!(ACTS 17. Athens the unknown god)
A problem arose which was a big issue for the 1st century believers was how are we saved for eternity?
1.Paul and Barnabas had completed first missionary journey.
2. Whilst In Antioch building and encouraging the church.
v1. A group from Judea travelled to Antioch and were saying unless gentile converts are circumcised and follow the law of Moses they cannot be saved.
Application: Is’nt it true today sects rise up amongest us in Christianity and are basically saying the same thing unless you do this that and the other you can’t be saved.
v2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them! This brought about them being sent to Jerusalem with others to see the Apostle and elders regarding this very issue.
Application: We must always engage with others who have differences - not ignore them. For instance the JW who knocks on your door, the mormon you meet in the city centre, if we are to win others for Christ we must engage with those who are mistaken.
3.At some time in Antioch Paul would rebuke Peter during a meal for sitting away from gentile believers sitting amongst the Judaziers who were saying that circumcision and following the law were imperative for salvation.Galations.2.11 -12.
4. Paul probably also wrote his letter to the Galatians A.D.48,49 Due to the content of the letter should gentile converts be required to follow Jewish law was not yet resolved. We see from Acts 15.
Hence the need for this conference.
(encouraging conferences ) Here we have the first Christian conference, Those present would be the Apostles v4, Jewish believers belonging to the pharisee group v5, The church and elders in Jerusalem delegates from Antioch. The conversion of gentile converts was raising an urgent question for the early church. The discussion would centre around whether the new Gentile converts needed to adhere to the laws of Moses and other Jewish traditions v5.
The two sides were converted gentiles through grace alone and the pharisees grace plus. firstly the Converted Pharisees.
Acts 2.5 Firstly many of these would have been saved on the day of Pentecost for on that day their was many God fearing Jews from every nation . Where Peter would address them through the Scriptures they new so well. Here 3,000 were added to their number v41.
The Pharisees, amongst them would prefer a legalistic religion rather than one based on faith alone. It was no mean thing that they were converted at all, because they were the Jesus’s worst critic whilst upon this earth, yet here were those who had embraced the Messiah and yet had not fully as yet let go of their Jewish observances. In the Torah ;The five books of Moses
These people believed the God of Scriptures (no NT) It was the same God that had sent Jesus the Jewish Messiah, the answer to the Jewish question the fulfilment to the law and prophets. So when people began to embrace the Messiah and the Father who sent Him and yet refused to embrace the other things God had given through His word. They believed gentile converts should become fully Jewish, following Gen.17.10. The covenant of circumcision given to Abram
How can we be saved ? Do you believe Salvation through Works. They obviously believed that a pre-requisite for salvation was circumcision and following the law of Moses v1.
What about you? How will you be saved?
Through observances, through confessional through good works,through Christian legalism, trying to earn salvation I hope not.
We have to see that these people were believers yet there picture of the truth had been tainted due to their upbringing and Jewish background. It’s not who we are or what we are or what we have done that will effect our salvation. But it is all what He has done for us. Many today are like these first century Jews mistaken believing other things.