Summary: We are going to be talking about things that happened in what is called “The Great Jerusalem Council.”
JUL 14 2013PM Two Questions About Salvation
We have just gotten in from Paul’s first missionary journey. For the next three Sunday evenings, including tonight, we are going to be talking about things that happened in what is called “The Great Jerusalem Council.” How many of you have heard of it? In seminary, we spent some time on it and there were several questions on tests concerning this council. Why was it so great?
There are two reasons why the council is referred to as great. One was that all the apostles were involved in its discussion and decision. And the other is that the council declared forever that a man is saved apart from ritual, saved by the grace of God through faith alone. Can you see why it is important to us?
Do people today still tend to rely on ritual to be saved? Do we as Baptists? How?
Baptism. Lord’s Supper. Coming to church.
There are two questions that arose at the great Jerusalem council that we are going to look at tonight. The first question was a basic question that asked, “Is a ritual or ceremony necessary to be saved? READ Acts 15: 1-3. There are 5 points:
1. The disputers from the Judean churches were a powerful force; so powerful that their argument and emphasis have continued down through the centuries and are still disputed today. We need to note that the visitors from Jerusalem moved among the Antioch believers and taught their own ideas. So they were teachers and leaders, well-versed in the Scripture. They were esteemed.
So what they said was considered very important. The problem was if the disputers were allowed to continue, the believers of Antioch were bound to become upset and confused. The result would have been that the Antioch church would have been split and its ministry and witness made ineffective.
2. Second point. Scripture is clear on what the dispute was. They were saying, READ v. 1.
So a person’s eternal fate was at stake. They weren’t saying the believers had to perform the ritual to please God, or to please the church, or to show your love or anything like that. They were saying that the ritual had to be performed in order to be saved. In that, they were saying that the ritual itself is what saved them.
And, too, the issue was not whether a believer should be circumcised. Paul never said circumcision was wrong. He said that since Christ had come, circumcision was a personal matter and a matter of conscience. So circumcision was not the issue. The issue was whether the ritual of circumcision saved you. The answer was critical, affecting all generations of believers.
So the question is, is a person’s confrontation and saving experience to be focused upon Jesus Christ or upon Jesus Christ and something else? Is a person’s mind and attention, his faith, his profession, his testimony, his witness to be Jesus alone, or Jesus and a ritual? Does God save a person whose body, mind, and soul are focused on His Son alone or upon Jesus and some ritual?
The answer should be clear. God has only one Son who loves Him supremely, only one Son who has proven His love by obeying God, even to the point of death on the cross.
• Could God add anything to the plan of salvation?
• Could God want a person’s mind to be upon anything other than His Son?
• Is it possible that something else is needed other than Jesus Himself?
This doesn’t mean that a person shouldn’t be baptized or not to share in any other ritual or ordinance, like the Lord’s Supper. Even though the baptism doesn’t save you, you should follow Jesus’ example and be obedient to Him by being baptized. Even though the LS doesn’t save you, we are to be obedient to Christ and observe it until He comes back.
This argument about circumcision had been addressed by Paul and Barnabas before. Note that this was a sharp dispute and debate (v.2). The arguments were frequent and long. They involved the questioning and challenging of each other as well as sharp dissension. And they were unyielding with neither side giving an inch. (Almost sounds like one of our business meetings.)
This must have been a critical issue because Paul would not have wasted his time on some useless argument.
3. Point #3 is that there was a decision of the Antioch church to seek counsel from the Jerusalem church. The Antioch church was sure of its position. They were not looking for the Jerusalem church to enlighten them on the doctrine of salvation.
The church sent Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem for 3 reasons.
a. God told Paul to go. In Gal. 2:2 Paul says, “I went in response to a revelation.” God willed a great church council that would issue a great verdict proclaiming the truth to every generation.