Intro. In the last lesson we saw how that certain of the Judaizers had come to the predominately Gentile church in Antioch and were stirring up strife among the brethren by declaring that Gentiles could not be saved unless they went through the Jewish ritual of circumcision and kept the law of Moses. They were basically teaching salvation through works. This was in sharp contrast of Paul's teaching of salvation through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. I have a great problem with many of the Messianic fellowships today who seem, many times, to try to outdo the Jew in trying to be Jewish. There is a tendency to put themselves back under the law, and feel that their keeping kosher somehow makes them more spiritual than the believers who do not even know what kosher is.
I. THEIR TEACHING THAT THE GENTILES HAD TO KEEP THE LAW OF MOSES TO BE SAVED WAS CAUSING DIVISION AMONG THE BODY OF CHRIST
A. Paul wrote to the Romans:
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
1. Jesus said that it was impossible to avoid offenses, but woe to the one through which the offences come.
2. It would seem that Satan is always trying to bring division in the body of Christ, and history shows that he has been quite successful in doing so.
a. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and [that] there be no divisions among you; but [that] ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them [which are of the house] of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
Now this I say, that every one of you are saying, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
b. He told them that these divisions were a mark of their carnality.
For ye are yet carnal: for whereas [there is] among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
c. These men who had come from Jerusalem were preaching another gospel. When Paul wrote to the Galatians he said:
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
As we said before, so say I now again, If any [man] preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
B. Paul wrote to the Galatians about this trip to Jerusalem that we have here in chapter 15. He had written of his first trip to Jerusalem after his conversion, then he said:
Then fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with [me] also.
And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.
But Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was not compelled to be circumcised:
1. He declares that the reason they went up to Jerusalem was
Because false brethren who had come in unaware to privately to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:
To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
2. It is a dangerous thing to bring division to the body of Christ. God hates the man who does.
These six [things] the LORD hates: yea, seven [are] an abomination unto him:
A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
An heart that devises wicked imaginations, feet that are swift in running to mischief,
A false witness [that] speaks lies, and he that sows discord among brethren.
3. Paul had much to say about these individuals.
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.
Yet count [him] not as an enemy, but admonish [him] as a brother.
If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, [even] the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;
He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and striving over words, from this comes envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,
Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, who are destitute of the truth, teaching that gain is a sign of godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
For though they Have a form of godliness, they deny the power thereof: from such turn away.
C. Paul told Timothy:
To avoid foolish and unlearned questions know that they only gender strife.
D. To Titus he said:
Avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.
II. PAUL AND BARNABAS HAD NO SMALL DISSENSION AND DISPUTATION WITH THEM.
A. That is, they had a big controversy with them.
B. Back in the days when so many hippies were coming to the Lord and were just babes in Christ, it was amazing how many people came in with their false teaching and tried to take advantage of the fact that these babes in Christ had not yet been grounded in the faith.
1. You could easily spot them, they would get a group of these young people around them and try to draw them away to their group.
2. I remember one night seeing a group of young people around three fellows who were talking to them a mile a minute.
3. I went up to the group and asked these three fellows who they were and where they came from. They gave me the old "bless God brother" bit, but I continued to press the issue.
4. To find out they were from the local church, and were trying to convince these kids that they needed to come to their fellowship in Anaheim, that the local church was the only true church and all others were Babylon.
5. On another evening I saw an older man with a group of kids around him and he was asking them how they were baptized. He was trying to tell them unless they were baptized in the name of Jesus only, their baptism was not valid.
6. I grabbed the fellow by the collar and escorted him off of the property and warned him that if he ever came back I would not be so gracious the next time. I felt like a shepherd guarding his little lambs from the predatory wolves.
C. I am certain that this is just how Paul and Barnabas felt when they found out what these fellows were saying to the new converts there.
1. The early church was not free from problems.
a. There were arguments and disputes.
b. Even Paul and Barnabas got into a dispute further down in this chapter when they decided to go out on their second missionary journey.
And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.
But Paul thought it was not a good idea to take him with them, since he had departed from them in Pamphylia, and continued not with them in the work.
And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;
c. We have a tendency to hold these men up in such high esteem that we cannot imagine them being totally human.
d. Paul was a very strong-willed man, and did not back down from his convictions.
e. He speaks of his contention with Peter in Antioch.
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before [them] all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
f. Down in verse 7 of this chapter we read:
And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men [and] brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
III. THE DECISION WAS TO GO TO JERUSALEM AND CALL A CHURCH COUNCIL TO SETTLE THIS ISSUE AS TO WHAT RELATIONSHIP THE GENTILE BELIEVER HAD TO THE LAW.
A. This was an important issue to settle, for the direction the church will take in the future will be dependant upon the outcome of this council.
1. Whether the Church will be just a Jewish sect confined mainly within Judaism, or a powerful force in the Gentile world will be determined by this Jerusalem council.
2. The future of the church is at stake.