Summary: This sermon is about the response that came from the Jerusalem Council.
The Christian brothers and sisters at Antioch had good reason to rejoice. They had been at the center of a great controversy concerning what they need to do to be saved. There were some who had set high requirements for these Gentile converts to Christ. However after much debate and prayer the Church in Jerusalem came to the right conclusion and sent a letter declaring the freedom that all believers have in Christ. Of course their freedom did not come as the result of the letter but rather because of Jesus redemptive work on the cross.
Because of God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness you are free from the…
1. Letter of the law – v.24
The law in and of itself is not a bad thing. The problem is that no one could keep it except for Jesus. Romans 3:19-20 shows plainly that the letter of the law is what proves us to be guilty before God. However; because of God’s grace we are no longer bound by the letter of the law (Romans 3:28). We are now under grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). The spirit of the law is what we are to live by through the power of the Holy Spirit.
2. Legalism of men – v.28
We have already seen that the law in and of itself is not bad. Legalism is not the byproduct of the law, it is the result of the self righteousness of man. The Jewish people of that day had lived under the legalistic oppression of the religious leaders for so long that they did not realize they were free from this legalism and were now trying to impose it on others. Peter rightly pointed out back in v. 10 that this was self righteousness at its core. The letter sent to the church at Antioch stands in contrast to this as shown in v. 28. Paul illustrates this new freedom in Galatians 5:1 and then reminds us in 5:14 of Jesus command to love one another.
3. Lusts of this world – v.29
The church at Jerusalem wisely exhorted the church at Antioch to live moral lives. Many of the Gentile converts to Christ had come from pagan religions who regularly practiced these things that were listed. These things would have been accepted culturally as normal. However; these were things that believers should not be involved in. Paul told the Corinthian church to “flee sexual immorality” in I Corinthians 6:18. Titus 2:14 tells us that Jesus redeemed us and wants to purify us. I Corinthians 10:13 tells us that with every temptation there is a way to escape it. We are not bound by these lusts and should therefore flee from them and abstain from those immoral things.
Today this message of freedom still rings true. Let’s rejoice in it’s encouragement.