Summary: What if trouble arises in the Church? It is not what if, but more like when.
Trouble in the Church
I. Decision 15:1-4
A. Men 15:1
B. Method 15:2
C. Messages 15:3-4
II. Demand 15:5-6
A. Demands 15:5
B. Deliberations 15:6
III. Declaration 15:7-12
A. Choice 15:7
B. Comparison 15:8-9
C. Conversion 15:10-12
Peter had seen the grace of God fall upon the Gentile believers when he went to minister at the home of Cornelius, the Roman centurion in Caesarea. He did not demand that they keep the Mosaic Law, and this had generated opposition from Judaizers in Jerusalem (Acts 10:1-18). Paul and Barnabas had seen the grace of God fall upon Gentile believers when they ministered in many lands during their first missionary journey (Acts 13:42-43, 48; 14:23).
The Judiazers, who came up from Jerusalem to harass Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria threatened to split the church there. A delegation composed of Paul, Barnabas, and others were chosen to go to Jerusalem to get a ruling from the apostles and elders on this matter. The church council which resulted produced a clear decision favoring salvation by faith alone, apart from the works of the law. Gentiles have benefited from it ever since.
Do you realize that most Christians in the world today are Gentiles? That was not the case in the early days of the church. Most believers at that time were Jews who had been convinced that Jesus was their long-awaited Messiah and Savior. It was through the ministry of men like Paul, Barnabas, and others that Gentile converts began to outnumber Jewish converts. Controversy was bound to happen and it would take a decision by the church leaders in Jerusalem to resolve it.
I. DECISION 15:1-4
A. Men: 1 And certain men which came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
Paul and Barnabas had just returned and finished giving their report of the hundreds of souls saved and the starting of many churches.
Satan heard what was going on and did not this progress to continue and did everything in his power to hinder this work that had begun.
At this point “certain men came down from Jerusalem” and tried to pull everyone else down with them.
Who were these men? Jews from Jerusalem labeled Judaizers, meaning that they expected even Gentile believers to be governed by Judaism (law). They taught that physical circumcision after the Jewish manner and Mosaic Law was required for men to be saved from their sins.
This was an attempt to mix law with grace and works and faith. They said, ”Except ye be circumcised, ye cannot be saved.” (v1)
Where did these “certain men” come up with this idea? God Himself. Exodus 12:48 – “And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.”
To share in the Passover, one had to make themselves part of the people of Israel. Receiving the covenant of circumcision and taking Passover were all part of the same package.
Perhaps these men from Jerusalem were sincere and devout. They may have said, “This is the way we have always done it, and we are not about to change now!” To these “certain men” the way into the Church led through the door of Judaism.
The most unspiritual are usually the greatest sticklers about form and ritual. There counterparts can be found in the world today, and we need to be on guard against them.
These nameless men, which disturbed the peace of the church with this controversy, were the forefathers of a group still in existence, who are not known for their spirituality or success in the Lord’s work, but who are ever-ready to put those in their place who ARE being greatly used and blessed by God.
Today we have those who are saying, "Unless you have been baptized after the manner of the Church of Christ, you are not saved." Others who are saying, "Unless you have been baptized in the name of Jesus only, you are not saved."
These are the same types of people as came to the church in Antioch.
a. The one is preaching circumcisional regeneration.
b. The other is teaching baptismal regeneration.
c. Both are teaching salvation by rituals.
A ritual is a work, thus both teach salvation by works.
There are those who say that if you do not worship on Saturday, you are not saved. They declare that Sunday worship is the mark of the beast. This also is salvation by works.
Here is the pivot point. Must I do something other than believe and repent in order to be saved? God alone has the power to save us from our sin. There is nothing we can do to merit salvation.