Intro. Paul wrote to the Galatians:
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
Some of the Jews from the church in Jerusalem had come to the Gentile church in Antioch to spy out the liberty that they had in Christ. They began creating division in the church by declaring that the Gentile believers had to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses in order to be saved. There arose quite a dispute, so Paul and Barnabas decided to take them back to Jerusalem so that this issue might be settled by a church council. Through the years church councils have been called to determine certain church doctrine. For instance, the Council of Trent, 1545-63, was called by the Roman Catholic church in Trent, Italy. It was at this council that the church decreed that the scriptures and tradition were equally valid sources for Catholic faith. They decreed that the church had the sole right to interpret scripture. Tradition includes the writings of the Apostles, the decrees of the pope and councils, and the customs practiced by the Catholic church. The council also rejected the Protestant views on
salvation and sin. It was in the second council that they affirmed transubstantiation. In the third council they defended the granting of indulgences, the practice of accepting payment for the pardon for the penalty of sin, and prayers to the saints.
I. "AND BEING BROUGHT ON THEIR WAY BY THE CHURCH."
A. This means that the church provided the funds for their journey.
1. The distance was about equal to the distance from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
2. You must remember that there were no jets, Greyhound busses or Motel 6's in those days.
3. They had to walk the distance, and when possible stay with those in the churches along the way.
a. The journey must have taken three weeks or more.
b. Imagine living at that slow a pace.
4. Imagine the opportunity to commune with the Lord along the way.
5. Yesterday I spoke to the Bible college students in Murrieta. I had to drive 130 miles round trip.
a. The traffic was moderately heavy, certainly not an ideal time for spiritual meditation.
b. My brain was constantly occupied with the traffic.
c. Had it been necessary for me to walk to the Bible School, it no doubt would take the better part of four days. But think of the opportunities for meditation and worship especially if I went over the Ortega pass.
d. Our modern society today mitigates against deep spirituality.
e. Our minds are distracted and occupied by too many things.
B. "They passed through Phenice and Samaria."
1. These were areas that they would have to pass through to get to Jerusalem.
2. Churches had been established in these areas.
a. In Acts 11
when the persecution arose against the church after the stoning of Stephen, some of them went as far as Phenice and Cyprus. Phenice would be modern Lebanon today.
b. Of course Philip had gone to Samaria and preached Christ unto them. So there were no doubt churches along the way where they could visit.
C. When they would visit with these churches, they would share with them their missionary experiences and the number of conversions among Gentiles.
D. This was a cause of great rejoicing among the brethren.
1. Just as we rejoice when we hear of a revival and many people coming to Christ.
2. I received a little more information about what will be happening on the 4th of November in India.
II. AND WHEN THEY HAD COME TO JERUSALEM THEY WERE RECEIVED BY THE CHURCH AND BY THE APOSTLES AND ELDERS.
A. There seems to be a distinction between the apostles and the elders.
1. Paul told Titus to ordain elders, as he set in order the church.
2. We read concerning Paul and Barnabas,
And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.
3. Paul declared that God had set in the church first apostles, then prophets, then evangelists, and pastor teachers.
4. An apostle was an elder, but not all elders were apostles, or prophets, evangelists, and pastor teachers.
5. Peter wrote:
The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight [thereof], not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
6. The elders had the oversight of the church.
7. They were to take care of the church of God. 1Tim. 3:5
B. They declared unto them all the things that God had done.
1. The first missionary journey had been very successful and had brought many into the faith, and of those who were brought into the faith, many were Gentiles.
2. God had worked many miracles as He confirmed the word that they preached concerning Jesus Christ.
3. The last verse of the gospel of Mark declares:
And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with [them], and confirming the word with signs following.
4. This was basically their testimony.
III. BUT THERE ROSE UP CERTAIN OF THE SECT OF THE PHARISEES WHO BELIEVED.
A. Though they had come to a faith in Christ, they had not left their roots in Judaism.
1. It would seem that the church in Jerusalem was still made up of Jews predominately who had recognized that Jesus was the Messiah.
2. Years later when Paul returned to Jerusalem with a large offering from the Gentile churches for the impoverished church in Jerusalem, as he met with the elders and James, James said:
You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:
3. The church in Jerusalem had grown, and had become a mega church, but they were still hung up in the law.
B. Paul came into a faith in Christ without any baggage from the past. His own testimony was:
For we worship God in the spirit, and rejoiced in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinks that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, [of] the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Yea doubtless, and I count all things [but] loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them [but] dung, that I may win Christ,
And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
C. Many people who come to Christ today, come with a lot of baggage from their past.
1. Many times they seek to incorporate in the church some of that baggage.
2. Such was the case with Martin Luther, though we owe much to him for the renewing of the message of salvation through faith apart from works, still he brought from his Catholic past, infant baptism, a liturgy, anti-Semitism, images of saints, and a priesthood of sorts in the wearing of robes. He brought many of the forms, it was the message that was different.
3. How wonderful when a person comes in clean, like Paul. Where for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ, you are willing to let the old formalism and works go.
D. Paul was a truly free man, he had the freedom to do or not to do, that is true freedom.
1. There are certain things that I feel a freedom to do if I desire, but I do not do them lest I should stumble a weaker brother.
2. There are other things that I have the freedom not to do, they do not control my life any longer. That also is a wonderful freedom. When something that has held you in bondage and you had tried so hard and failed to free yourself, to suddenly find the freedom not to do it, is liberty indeed.
E. As a Gentile believer, what is my relationship to the Sabbath day law? To circumcision? To eating only kosher foods? Is it a sin to eat ham or bacon?
1. These are the issues at stake here in the first church council.
2. What relationship has a new believer in Christ to the Old Testament law?
3. Is there a difference between the Jew and the Gentile in how they relate to God today.
a. Do the Jews have one set of rules, and the Gentiles another?
b. These are the questions that we will be taking up in the next lesson.