sermon:Good News From Jerusalem (Acts 15:22-35)

Good News From Jerusalem

Acts 15:22-35

Introduction

Throughout the history of the church there have been those who would burden believers with theological and doctrinal extras.  They invent concepts for themselves and then expect everyone else to abide by them.  In essence these theological extras are burdens and actually confuse the true Gospel and even at times turn it into something entirely different, not good news but perhaps even bad news.  Works salvation will always glorify people and never God.  When people impose a certain standard required for salvation that is not required by God then these are works.

The Gospel was just beginning to expand to other places and almost immediately there were people who felt there wasn’t enough hard work, strict regulations, and struggling involved.

Human need met by text

By far, the most common view of salvation on earth is the view that man must accomplish good works in order to find favor with God.  Our need is to fight against such a view and embrace the biblical view of salvation.

Why does man always want to add works to the Gospel?

Why is it that we must always be guarding against a salvation by works?
The simple answer is that salvation by works seems right in the eyes of man. One of man’s basic desires is to be in control of his own destiny, and that includes his eternal destiny. Salvation by works appeals to man’s pride and his desire to be in control. Being saved by works appeals to that desire far more than the idea of being saved by faith alone.
Salvation by works appeals to man’s sinful nature, it forms the basis of almost every religion except for biblical Christianity. Proverbs 14:12tells us that: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Salvation by works seems right to men, which is why it is the predominantly held viewpoint.
Another reason why salvation by works is the predominantly held viewpoint is that natural or unregenerate man does not fully understand the extent of his own sinfulness or of God’s holiness. Man’s heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9) and God is infinitely holy (Isaiah 6:3). The deceit of our hearts is the very thing that colors our perception of the extent of that deceit and is what prevents us from seeing our true state before a God whose holiness we are also not able to fully comprehend. But the truth remains that our sinfulness and God’s holiness combine together to make our best efforts as “filthy rags” before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6,6:1-5).
While salvation by works might be the predominantly held viewpoint, it is not an accurate one biblically. The Bible contains abundant evidence of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).[1]

We too must always examine our motives.  Why do we seek to serve God and others?

This idea of salvation through works had to be silenced quickly…that’s why, Good News came from Jerusalem.
TT- Salvation is by grace through faith and not by works, this is the Good News that must be preserved and declared to others.

Hear today what God has for us at GCC…
Acts 15:22-35 (ESV)
22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers,
23 with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings.
24 Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions,
25 it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth.
28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements:
29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”
30 So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter.
31 And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement.
32 And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words.
33 And after they had spent some time, they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them.
35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

1.  It Seemed Good
22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers,
23 with the following letter:
The decision had been made.  As they deliberated and prayed together and listened to the accounts of Gentiles being saved by the same Gospel message that the Jews heard at Pentecost, they knew that the Good News had reached the ears of the Gentiles and that God was saving them.  They were in full agreement.  The Apostles, Elders, OT, current events, and God Himself all testified to this fact.
Now came the question of how to handle it.  Again, we read Luke’s theme of unity.  It seemed good to everyone present.  This phrase, it seemed good, comes from the Greek word, edoke…everyone completely agreed together and saw the good in it.  Here their agreement was for the church to send messengers carrying the decision of the council.  With this in mind, it is vital for the church leadership to reach an agreement on a matter and this agreement between leaders must also agree with what God has already laid out.  Not only must the church agree but they must agree with the method as well.  Here they agreed together to send certain men to carry the news of their decision.
One question that had to be on their minds was, how will the Gentile Church in Antioch receive a ruling from the church in Jerusalem?  Will they rebel or agree?  Will there be complete unity now between the church universal?
2.  God’s Letter to Antioch

23 with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings.
24 Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions,
25 it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth.
28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements:
29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”
These verses begin with a very revealing two sentences.  James’ letter to Antioch first addressed the fact that the Church in Jerusalem viewed the Gentiles in Antioch as brothers… The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings.

Isn’t it good when you meet a fellow Christian who lives somewhere else?  Isn’t it good when social and racial barriers fall to the Gospel?  We share with every other Christian in the world the same God and Father, the same Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the same Holy Spirit, and the same Gospel message.  No matter if we have nothing else in common at all, we can be best friends because we share Christ.

Then James addresses the reason for his letter and the reason the Council met in the first place… 24 Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions,

There has been more damage to the Christian faith through self-appointed preachers and teachers than from anything else.  Not everyone is called to teach and not everyone has made the necessary preparation.  Paul was called and then received the appropriate training some three years spent with the Lord Himself.  Not everyone has to go to Bible College or seminary to be prepared but everyone needs training.

You’ve probably heard men (or women) preach who were uneducated and spoke heresy.  Unfortunately, many people today are not biblically literate enough to separate truth from fiction.  So, these self-appointed preachers are led astray and lead everyone with them…the blind leading the blind.

The Jerusalem Council was called because self-appointed men began preaching!  Luke wants us to see the infinite difference between those who go out on there own untrained by the church and not sent by the church to those godly men who the church sanctions, trains, and sends.

With this letter, the Apostles, elders, and the Church in Jerusalem are declaring the self-appointed teacher (Judaizers) to be false and they are declaring that the Antioch Christians should not listen to these teachers any more.  They were to also understand that the Apostles were distancing themselves from them.

28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements:
Luke shows us that the assembly was guided by the Holy Spirit.  They were fully aware of His presence and leading in the council.

Then comes the requirements…

29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”
Avoid everything associated with your former life of idolatry.  Do not associate any longer with pagan worship and keep yourself sexually pure.  That’s it.

How will the Gentile Church react?  Will they be unified together and will they be in accord with the Apostles?

3. It Seemed Great
30 So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter.
31 And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement.
32 And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words.
33 And after they had spent some time, they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them.
35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

Again we read that the Church in full agreement sent them off.  Once they arrive in Antioch the church is gathered and the letter is read aloud.  As short as the letter is, it brings to the disciples of Antioch great comfort.  Luke reports that the Gentile Church is free from Jewish legalism.  No one can demand from these new believers more than what is contained in the letter from James.  After reading the letter, the church rejoices and the unity expands.  Literally, it seemed great to them.  Luke’s logical movement through the text goes from…it seemed go to the leaders…it seemed good to the Holy Spirit…it seemed good or great to those in Antioch.  The church’s unity is maintained.

While they are their, Judas and Silas preach many sermons encouraging and strengthening the faith of the new believers…then, notice they were sent off in peace by the church in Antioch.  What wonderful harmony exists within the church when self-appointed teachers are told to be quiet.  There are a lot of teachers today that need to be told to be quiet.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ and salvation by grace through faith is preserved.  Stop idol worship and stay sexually pure…and love Jesus Christ.

Additional Application

The Jerusalem Council sends out messengers with the true Gospel.  Because of this council’s ruling, we here today believe along with the ancient church that salvation is by grace through faith.  This true Gospel has been challenged and is being challenged today.  All world religions and many claiming to be Christian promote a works salvation.  Mankind desires a pat on the back in salvation.  We must fight to maintain the true Gospel that Jesus and Paul preached.

Why is it that we must always be guarding against a salvation by works?
The simple answer is that salvation by works seems right in the eyes of man. One of man’s basic desires is to be in control of his own destiny, and that includes his eternal destiny. Salvation by works appeals to man’s pride and his desire to be in control. Being saved by works appeals to that desire far more than the idea of being saved by faith alone.
Salvation by works appeals to man’s sinful nature, it forms the basis of almost every religion except for biblical Christianity. Proverbs 14:12tells us that: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

TT- Salvation is by grace through faith and not by works, this is the Good News that must be preserved and declared to others.

 

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