Sermon: All the Prophets Agree (Acts 15:6-21)

All the Prophets Agree

Acts 15:6-21

Introduction

We find ourselves back with the Apostles and Elders at the Jerusalem Council.  As they meet, they are in fact sorting out doctrine from the recent events, namely, God saving and moving among the Gentiles.  Notice how James, the Lord’s brother, quickly moves to the Scriptures to see what God is doing and how it is the Bible that determines his ruling on the matter.  Also notice how all of God’s appointed men are in complete agreement on the issue of the circumcision of the Gentiles for salvation.

TT- God’s written Word is holy, authoritative, altogether trustworthy.
Human need met by text

How vital is God’s Word to you?  How much weight do you give it?  Does it determine how you live?  Our great need today, is to literally feel the weight of God’s Word found in the Bible.  To only believe it but that it would dictate how we live our lives…

Isaiah 66:2 (ESV)
2 All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

 

Acts 15:6-21 (ESV)
6 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter.
7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.
8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us,
9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.
10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?
11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
12 And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.
13 After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me.
14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name.
15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,
16 “‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it,
17 that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things
18 known from of old.’
19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God,
20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.
21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

1.  The Apostles Agree

The Apostles are God’s spokesmen.  What they say God says.  It’s important that we realize that the words of Scripture recorded for us are just as binding as if God declared these things to us directly.  All the Apostles agree, God is moving among the Gentiles in an amazing way.

A. Peter’s Testimony

7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.
8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us,
9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.
We won’t spend much time here since we looked to this passage last week, but I want us to see how the reports of the Apostles are in complete agreement, God is at work saving Gentiles.  Peter declares that God chose to use Peter and Peter’s message to convert Gentiles.  We remember how he went to Cornelius’ home and explained the Gospel and they believed.  God sent His Spirit and they were sealed.

B. Barnabas and Paul’s Testimony

12 And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.

Notice how in each case, the focus is not on what missionaries did but on what God did.  God had done signs and wonders through them.  God did it not Barnabas and Paul.  All the amazing things they witnessed God did.  They no doubt relayed how God had worked in their presence to save the Gentiles, blinding false prophets, granting power to preach, healing from near death, conversion of many Gentiles.

So, the Apostles conclude that God is approving their message and who they are giving it to.

2. The Prophets Agree

13 After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me.
14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name.
15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,
16 “‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it,
17 that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things
18 known from of old.’

After Barnabas and Paul speak, James the senior pastor of the Church in Jerusalem speaks…

James is the half brother of Jesus.  Probably, next to Peter, there is no man with greater authority in the church.

Those who came down from Judea demanding that Gentiles be circumcised and legalistic when it comes to the Mosaic Law were for the most part silenced when Peter gave his address.  However, if Peter did not convince any, they now hear from Pastor James.  Now James is noted to be one who is completely convinced that the Law of Moses is still very important to the Christians.  He, in fact, has been noted to be one who strives to keep the Law as we too should.  So, if anyone would agree with those of the Pharisees it would be James…

James looks back to the Law of God and proves that what the Apostles are now experiencing was really something God had ordained from the beginning of time…He would save Gentiles as well as Jews.  The Law and the Prophets agree that God would someday call a remnant for Himself from among the Gentiles.  James is out to show how these recent events are to be seen within the context of redemptive history… These recent events are what the prophets wrote about.
How did James view the OT writings?  What the prophets say, God says.

Even though Peter, Barnabas and Paul are sharing their experiences, James still wants to compare those to the Word of God.  All experiences should submit to God’s Word.

There is a very interesting phrase that James uses to summarize what Peter has shared.  14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name.
This phrase is to show us that God took the initiative to spare some…a remnant for Himself.  God visited them and saved them.  He didn’t visit them to pour out wrath upon them but to extend mercy to them.
Exodus 3:16-17 (ESV)
16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt,
17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’
Luke 1:67-69 (ESV)
67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,

Literally, James is telling the others that God visited (epescipsato)the Gentiles and brought them up out of the land of slavery to be His people.  There was, in a very real sense, a Gentile Exodus.  God visits and saves from out of all the pagans in the world a remnant, a people for Himself.

What James says is extremely significant in how we are to understand this passage…God visits the nations (ethnos) and call from the nations a remnant for Himself, a chosen and called people.

James goes on to quote from the OT Prophets to prove this is always been God’s plan.

From all the nations, God had called out one particular nation…Israel to be His people.  Now, from out of all the nations God is calling individuals to be His people as well.  From these two chosen groups, He is forming a new people for His namesake.  This new people or nation will be birthed through the blood of Jesus Christ.

14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name.
Can you believe that this new nation includes us?  We have no ties to the OT nation of Israel at all.  We are not people of the original covenant…we have been included in the New Covenant.  Just as Israel never deserved God’s grace, neither do we.  Yet, God is doing a work, He’s forming a new people for His name.  For His name, means a people who will make His name famous.  A people who will love God for who He is and serve Him and be devoted to Him, a people for His name.

15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,
Apostles and Elders agree.  James tells the group that all the OT agrees.  Gentiles were decreed to be God’s people and the OT Prophets wrote of this day.  Apostles have witnessed it themselves… just as it is written

James is saying that what I’m about to quote is what God said through the Prophets…Here, he quotes from Amos.
Amos 9:11-12 (ESV)
11 “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old,
12 that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name,” declares the LORD who does this.

James quoting of Amos 9 helps us see what Amos was writing about.  Amos prophetically saw a day when God would rebuild the fallen tent of David, literally David’s Kingdom.  It was fallen and God is going to rebuild it.  When God rebuilds David’s house, it will include Jews and all the Gentiles called from among the nations.  Then Amos finishes this section by saying, it’s the LORD who does this.

Bringing the nations into His Kingdom and connecting them to the nation of Israel through Jesus Christ is how God is rebuilding the House of David.  King Jesus is reigning upon the Davidic throne and calling the nations to Himself.
3.  Judgment is Passed
19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God,
20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.
21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

James agrees with Peter who agrees with Barnabas who agrees with Paul who agrees with Amos who agrees with what God is doing.  This ruling is God’s ruling.  James rejects the self-appointed teachers who were demanding that Gentiles be circumcised and become adherents to the Law of Moses in order to be saved.   Submission to circumcision cannot be demanded of the Gentiles who are coming to God through Jesus Christ.

What James does demand is that Gentiles abstain from the spiritual defilement of idolatry, eating any meat with the blood still in it (which was part of idol worship), and sexual immorality which practically all writers comment on.

Then he closes by saying that what these Gentile Christians should understand is that within the Law of Moses come these same basic principles, namely, avoid spiritual adultery and sexual adultery…21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

The OT has been read for centuries and these are the two basic restrictions…

Additional Application

Since we have been focusing on God’s Word and its various forms and its authority today, it’s important to see what James thought about God’s Word.  How did he view the OT prophets?

James saw what was going on with the Gentiles as a work of God, not based on the amazing miracles that were occurring but based on the fact that the Bible, God’s Written Word, said this is what will happen.  For James, the Bible held supreme authority.  So, he turned there and assessed the situation through a biblical lens.

This shows us how important the Bible is today.  We don’t have the liberty to look at events and say, oh that was what the Bible was talking about when… because we are not God’s Apostles.  We must look to Scripture as God’s Word which carries authority.  What the Bible says, God says.

Hebrews 1:1-2 (ESV)
1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,
2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

Where do we learn about God’s Son?  Where do we learn about the commands God’s Son has given us?

God has included Gentiles in His perfect plan…

Zechariah 2:10-11 (ESV)
10 Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the LORD.
11 And many nations shall join themselves to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.

Because God has decreed that Gentiles will be numbered among His people, we are here.  We are those called out from among the nations.  We are those called by His name.  Rejoice those who had no hope, rejoice, those who lived in the valley of doom, God has visited us and has taken us from the kingdom of darkness and translated us to His Kingdom!

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