Sermon: The New Wine in New Wineskins (Acts 15:1-11)

The New Wine in New Wineskins

Acts 15:1-11

Introduction

Jesus tells a parable in Luke 5 which shows the picture of the NT Church and OT Judaism.  He is very adamant that you cannot mix Old Covenant promises with New Covenant promises like you can’t place new wine in old wineskins not can you sew a new patch to an old garment.  New wine will burst old wineskins and a new un-shrunk patch will tear an old garment.  New wine must be placed in new wineskins.  This is the thrust of the Jerusalem Council.

We are looking today at what has come to be known as the Jerusalem Council.  The Council meeting at Jerusalem, as recorded in Acts 15, marks a turning point in the history of the Church. Before the Council, most Christians saw themselves as Jews who had found the Messiah; after the Council, it was clear that something very fundamental had changed with the resurrection of Christ and his giving of salvation to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews, that the new church was something very different and distinct from what had gone before.  Was Christianity a sect of Judaism or something totally new?  Did the new believers have to become Hebrews or God-fearers before they could be saved and called Christians?  What was really at stake?

What was the issue?

TT- Christianity is not an extension of Judaism but a new creation made of both Jews and Gentiles.

Acts 15:1-11 (ESV)
1 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”
2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.
3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers.
4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them.
5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”
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.”
1.  Self-Appointed Men Defy the Holy Spirit

1 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”
2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them,
We need to immediately understand that there were some people whom the church had not appointed to teach but took that upon themselves.  They were self-appointed teachers who came down from Judea and were teaching things that God did not approve of.
As we study this brief passage notice how these people from Judea took it upon themselves to teach and contrast this with how the church sent out Paul and Barnabas and the others.
One way to tell if someone is a false prophet or a false teacher is to compare what they teach with the clear teachings of Scripture.
The issue here was that some men had come down from Judea…they taught that you have to be circumcised to be saved.  Saying it in a negative way, if you’re not circumcised you cannot be saved.
They were promoting salvation by works or at least salvation with works included.  Either way, it was in opposition to the clear teaching of the Bible.  It was these types of conflicts that the early Church had to write down what the Gospel message is.
Titus 3:5 (ESV)
5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
These self appointed men were not in step with the Holy Spirit but walking and teachin in contrast.  Here’s what I mean…God was saving Gentiles who were not circumcised.  The Ethiopian Eunuch, Cornelius, and Many others were being saved.  Whenever great crowds were saved, the Holy Spirit was poured out and they were sealed.

I hope you see the problem.  God was saving uncircumcised Gentiles and at the same time there were self-appointed teachers tells the church that before you can be saved you must be circumcised.  They are teaching contrary to what God is doing.

Salvation is by faith not by works.  Circumcision is a work…keep the Law of Moses is a work…baptism is a work…setting up certain unbiblical standards are works.

These men were not in step with the Holy Spirit nor were they in step with the church.  It is the local church that appoints teachers and sends out missionaries.
Luke shows this multiple times in this passage.
Appointed by the ChurchPaul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.
Sent by the Church-
3 So, being sent on their way by the church

Welcomed by the Church- 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders,

This is a dynamic that is lacking in 21st century Christianity, the importance and authority of the Church.  When people say things like, I can be a Christian on my own and I can worship at home and have no need to join a local fellowship, they are placing themselves in a very dangerous situation.  The Church has much more authority than it is often given credit for.
We sometimes resist Ecclesiastical authority because our Catholic friends have at times taken it too far.  The Church has authority when it is functioning within the confines of Scripture.  Here, Luke shows a stark contrast between self-appointed teachers and God appointed teachers.  You might think that it was the church who appointed, sent and welcomed, and you would be right.  But it is the church’s job is to align itself with what God is about and is doing.  The church has authority to exercise discipline, appoint officers, preach the Gospel, engage in spiritual warfare, to be a dispenser of God’s grace through the sacraments, and to bind and loose using the Keys of the Kingdom.

Before the Church sanctions something, it needs to be examined according to the Scriptures to see if it lines up with God’s purposes.

In our text today we see that Gentiles were hearing the Gospel preached by those Apostles sent out by the church and God was moving in a visible way in order that all present would be witnesses to His work and power.  So, it is the job of the church to witness the work of God and align herself with it.

If you remember, Peter travelled to the home of Cornelius, a Gentile.  Cornelius and his family heard the Gospel proclaimed by Peter and believed.  They were not circumcised.  They were, however, baptized.  Peter, as God’s appointed messenger, was following God’s directive given in the Great Commission…Go, make disciples, baptize them, and teach them all that I (Christ) has commanded.  Nothing is said about circumcision or following the Law of Moses.  The two things mentioned are teaching them to follow Jesus’ commands or could we say the Laws of Jesus?  And baptism.

2. God’s Appointed Men Submit to the Holy Spirit

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.”
We notice very quickly, the two offices within the church carrying authority to make rulings, Apostles and Elders.  6 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter.

Finally, Peter stood up to speak. No doubt those who were on the side of circumcision before salvation expected Peter to champion their cause, because Peter, as apostle to the circumcision, was of necessity a strong proponent of adherence to the Law after salvation. For Jews living among and ministering to other Jews, this was an absolute necessity; and Peter was faithful to the Law both in his teaching and in his manner of living.
But Peter surprised the group by reminding them of something that most of them had no doubt forgotten: it was Peter, not Paul, who first received revelation that the way of salvation was now open to Gentiles as well as Jews, and it was Peter who first ministered salvation to a Gentile.[1]

Let’s look to some of Peter’s points…

God chose to include Gentiles- God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.

You see what Peter is getting at?  It was not his idea for God to save Gentiles.  In fact, if you remember the vision Peter had, he was all but against it at the beginning.  Remember God’s response?  Do not call something or someone unclean that I have called clean.  It was God who chose to include Gentiles in salvation through Jesus Christ.  His point is, we must align ourselves with what God is doing.

God gave them the Holy Spirit- 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us,
What Peter want s the church to remember is how God first poured out the Holy Spirit on them in Jerusalem.  His point is that God also poured out His Holy Spirit on the Gentiles at Caesarea.  So too, they believed and were saved in the same way the Jews were in Jerusalem.  Oh, and by the way, this all took place and not a one of them were circumcised.

God makes no distinction- 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.
One thing Peter is sharing is that He preached the same basic message to the Jews and the Gentiles.  In other words the message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ was the same.  God moved in the same way, giving them faith to believe and giving them each the Holy Spirit.  All were baptized the same way.  All were being discipled in the commands of Christ.  God makes no distinction; He cleansed their hearts by faith.

I hope we see the point… If God has accepted the Gentile believers as His own people, fellow Christians may not impose conditions that Gentiles must fulfill before they can obtain salvation.

Because God is extending grace and faith to Gentiles, nothing should be required to be saved than what God requires.  God requires saving faith and that is it.  Saving faith is something God requires and something God gives to whomever He chooses… having cleansed their hearts by faith.

To require more or less than God requires is to be a self-appointed false teacher.

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.”

Additional Application

Since salvation is by grace through faith apart from the works of the law…

Romans 3:20 (ESV)
20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Galatians 2:16 (ESV)
16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
If obeying God’s OT Law does not merit salvation, then how are we to view the Law of God?  God’s Law now for the Christian serves as the standard by which we live.  We do not attain salvation through the Law of God but we do try to uphold it because we are saved.  As we mature as believers we will better and better uphold God’s Law.  For example the Apostle Paul after completing his third missionary journey went to the temple, where Jews from Asia Minor accused him of teaching the people not to keep the Law…

Acts 21:28 (ESV)
28 crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.”
Do you see how when someone has certain ungodly self appointed standards that they work in opposition of God?  God was bringing Gentiles into the kingdom through Christ but they were still not welcomed in the Temple?

Paul would go on to say that he believed everything written in the Law of God…
Acts 24:14 (ESV)
14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets,
The Law is good and holy and still in effect.  It is how we are to live not to merit salvation but because we are saved.  The Law of God is His standard now and will be His standard in the future.  Someday, we will obey it perfectly.

Jews and Gentiles are truly one in Christ.  God is forming a new people who are brought to Him through His Son Jesus Christ…A new creation, new wine in new wineskins.

A new people who know God and in His Word, know His commandments.  I pray in the coming year, we work hard to keep everything God has commanded us.  Not for salvation but for His glory.

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