Defense of the Faith
Defense of the Faith
1. The Defense (Acts 15:6–18)
2. It appears that at least four different meetings were involved in this strategic conference:
a. a public welcome to Paul and his associates, Acts 15:4
b. a private meeting of Paul and the key leaders, Galatians 2:2
c. a second public meeting at which the Judaizers presented their case, Acts 15:5–6 and Galatians 2:3–5
d. the public discussion described in Acts 15:6
3. In this public discussion, four key leaders presented the case for keeping the doors of grace open to the lost Gentiles.
The Defense of the Faith
1. Review the Past (6–11)
-Peter sat patiently while the disputing (“questioning”) was going on, waiting for the Spirit to direct him.
-Proverbs 18:13 "He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him."
Proverbs 17:28 "Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding."
Peter reminded the church of four important ministries that God had performed for the Gentiles, ministries in which he had played an important part.
a. God chose (7)
i. That Peter should preach the Gospel to the Gentiles in Acts 10
ii. Preaching > Hearing > Believing (the gospel)
iii. Romans 10:17 "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
iv. The Apostles and brethren in Judea tried to correct Peter for visiting the Gentiles and eating with them, but he had satisfactorily defended himself (Acts 11:1–18).
v. Peter made it clear that Cornelius and his household were saved by hearing and believing, not by obeying the Law of Moses.
b. God knows (8)
i. Only God knows the heart…look at Judas
ii. Jeremiah 17:9-10 "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings."
c. God witnessed (8)
i. This was not a matter of feeling or emotion
ii. There are times when God moves and there is no denying His hand.
iii. Noah and the ark
iv. Everything about Acts 10..the men, the vision, the timing, and the Spirit all showed God’s royal seal of approval.
d. God gave (8)
i. The Holy Ghost
ii. As He did unto us
iii. Romans 8:9 "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."
e. God put no difference (9)
i. Jesus taught that the Jewish dietary laws had nothing to do with inner holiness (Mark 7:1–23), and Peter had learned that lesson again when he had that vision on the housetop in Joppa (Acts 10:1).
ii. Acts 10:15 "And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common."
iii. Romans 10:12 "For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him."
iv. There are no second class citizens in heaven.
f. God purified (9, 11)
i. Acts 10:43 "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins."
ii. Purified their hearts: who can cleanse and forgive?
iii. Mark 2:5-11 "When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only? And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house."
iv. Praise God My Sins Are Gone!!
v. Verse 11: They would have expected Peter to conclude his defense by saying, “They [the Gentiles] shall be saved even as we Jews,” but he said just the reverse! “We [Jews] shall be saved, even as they!”
g. Don’t tempt God
i. Not a smart thing to do!
ii. “Yoke upon the neck of the disciples”
1. Galatians 5:1 "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."
2. Jesus took that yoke away
3. Matthew 11:28-30 "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
4. Colossians 2:14-17 "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ."
iii. “Which neither our Fathers nor we were able to bear”
1. Who has kept the law?
2. Not you, your Dad, your Grand-Dad…
2. Report on the present (12)
-Peter’s witness made a great impact on the congregation because they sat in silence after he was finished.
-Then Paul and Barnabas stood up and told the group what God had done among the Gentiles through their witness.
-Only one summary sentence to their report since he had already given it in detail in Acts 13–14.
-Paul and Barnabas were greatly respected by the church and their testimony carried a great deal of weight.
-Acts 15:25-26 "It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
a. God’s work among the Gentiles (12)
i. Reviewing the record of the first missionary journey (Acts 13–14), you will see that the emphasis is on what God did in response to men’s faith. See Acts 13:8, 12, 39, 41, 48; 14:1, 22–23, 27.
ii. Note also the emphasis on grace (Acts 13:43; 14:3, 26).
iii. God opened for the Gentiles “the door of faith,” not “the door of Law.”
b. God’s Spirit witnessing by signs (12)
i. Hebrews 2:4 "God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?"
ii. These miracles were proof that God was working with them.
iii. Mark 16:20 "And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen."
iv. Both Peter and Paul received from God special visions directing them to go to the Gentiles (Acts 10:1; 22:21).
v. However, it was Paul whom God set apart as the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13; Gal. 2:6–10; Eph. 3:1–12).
vi. If Gentile sinners had to obey the Law of Moses in order to be saved, then why did God give Paul the Gospel of grace and send him off to the Gentiles?
vii. God could just as well have sent Peter!
viii. Peter reviewed God’s ministries to the Gentiles in the past, and Paul and Barnabas reported on God’s work among the Gentiles in that present day. James was the final speaker and he focused on the future.
3. Related to the Future (13–18)
-James was a brother to Jesus (Matt. 13:55; Gal. 1:19) and the writer of the Epistle of James. He and his brethren were not believers in Christ until after the Resurrection (John 7:5; 1 Cor. 15:7; Acts 1:14).
-James had strong leanings toward the Law (there are at least ten references to law in his epistle), so he was most acceptable to the legalistic party in the Jerusalem church.
-The key idea in James’ speech is agreement. First, he expressed his full agreement with Peter that God was saving the Gentiles by grace.
a. His People (14)
i. It must have startled the Judaizers when James called these saved Gentiles “a people for His [God’s] name,” because for centuries the Jews had carried that honorable title (see Deut. 7:6; 14:2; 28:10).
ii. Today, God is graciously calling out a people, the church, from both Jews and Gentiles.
iii. In fact, the Greek word for “church” (ekklesia) means “a called out assembly” (kaleo = to call; ek = out).
iv. 1 Peter 2:10 "Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy."
b. His Word (15-17)
i. The word of God would speak to this matter
ii. Agree the prophets!
iii. “As it is written”: Stand back…fire in the whole…sharper that any two edged sword!
iv. He did not say that this was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Amos, but that it agreed with this.
v. Application of principals.
1. Verse 17 “all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called,”
2. “Saith the LORD, who doeth all these things.”
3. God was at work
c. His Knowledge (18)
i. God has a program and a plan.
ii. He is working it all out according to His design
iii. God knows the beginning what would be the end
iv. God is the principle character at work here…not the messengers
v. Like Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh.
vi. Neither the Cross nor the Church were afterthoughts in the mind of God.
1. Acts 2:23 "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:"
2. Ephesians 1:4 "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:"
d. Historical Declaration (19-21)
i. They were saved (19)
1. Don’t aggravate or trouble or annoy them (19)
ii. A written confirmation and admonition
1. These admonitions are to be taken not as ceremonial law, but as moral issues
a. Revelation 2:14 "But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication."
b. Revelation 2:20 "Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols."
c. Fornication was such a common sin among the Gentiles that it was an accepted practice. The problem of immorality even persisted among Christians all too often, as is witnessed by the New Testament injunctions against it.
d. 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 "Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?"
2. All three prohibitions in Acts 15:20 are best taken in an ethical or moral sense.
a. They are still the responsibility of Christians today, even to the point of not eating blood sausage and raw meat. Genesis 9:3-4 "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat."
b. By not attending temple banquets, or being involved in fornication, or eating meat with blood in it, the Gentile Christians would be maintaining high moral standards and would keep from offending their Jewish brothers.
c. There were Jews in every city who would be offended by Christians not following these. These Israelites were well acquainted with these moral issues.
Acts 15:11 "But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they."