I. "AND THE APOSTLES AND ELDERS CAME TOGETHER TO CONSIDER THIS MATTER."
A. The matter of the relationship of the law of Moses to the Gentile believers.
B. To consider if salvation is through faith in Jesus alone, or is it necessary to become a Jew to be saved.
C. And when there had been much disputing.
1. In that mid-Eastern culture, they can get very loud and demonstrative in their arguments.
2. It is often said in Israel, if you want three opinions, ask three Jews.
II. THE FIRST ON THE DOCKET.
A. The first to speak is Peter.
1. Earlier Peter had been called on the carpet for taking the gospel to the Gentiles and entering the home of a Gentile. They charged Peter with taking the gospel to the Gentiles and eating with them.
a. It was strictly forbidden for a Jew to enter a home of a Gentile.
b. Remember the amazement of the Samaritan woman at the well when Jesus asked her for a drink. She challenged Him as why He would talk to her, her being a Samaritan, and Him a Jew.
2. With the Gentiles being converted their whole culture was being threatened.
3. Did you know that this is one of the greatest fears of the Jews today, and what keeps many of them from receiving Jesus? They are afraid of not being Jews anymore. They say, "But what will happen to our nation."
4. They are held together by their traditions of Sabbath keeping and kosher. Even nonbelieving Jews keep Sabbath and kosher.
5. Peter speaks of his call by God to take the gospel to the Gentiles.
a. The outreach to the Gentiles was by the direct guidance of God.
b. He was the one directed by God to go to the Gentiles.
c. That they might hear the gospel and believe.
d. God Himself confirmed this action by giving the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles.
e. And He made no difference between them and us purifying their hearts through faith.
6. Paul wrote to the Romans:
What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit [is there] of circumcision?
Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.
a. Their chief advantage was that God revealed Himself to them.
b. They had the oracles of God.
c. He then asked:
What then? are we better [than they]? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Psalm 53:1-3
Their throat [is] an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps [is] under their lips: Psalm 5:9
Destruction and misery [are] in their ways:
Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
d. We are amazed at Paul's excellent grasp and knowledge of the scriptures. He goes on to conclude:
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law [is] the knowledge of sin.
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
Even the righteousness of God [which is] by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: (i.e. between Jew and Gentile)
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
(Both Jew and Gentile are;) Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
Whom God hath set forth [to be] a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
To declare, [I say], at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Where [is] boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
[Is he] the God of the Jews only? [is he] not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
Seeing [it is] one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
B. Peter's conclusion: "Why tempt God by putting on them a yoke upon the neck of the disciples that neither we nor our fathers were able to bear?
1. If God accepted them, and gave to them the gift of the Holy Spirit without their being circumcised, why should be go against what God has done by demanding that they be circumcised?
2. There is only one place in the New Testament where we read that Jesus was angry, and that is when the Jews by their traditions would keep a man with the withered hand from receiving the work of God because it violated their traditions. "He looked upon them with anger."
3. Peter referred to the law as an unbearable yoke. In Galatians 5:1
Paul calls it a yoke of bondage.
a. He is not referring to the moral law, that is unchanging.
b. The laws concerning the rituals and sacrifices and ordinances. As Paul described to the Colossians,
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. These things were all a foreshadowing of Jesus.
c. No one has ever been saved by keeping the law.
d. The law was intended to force us to realize that we are sinners who need the grace of God if we are ever to be saved.
e. Even those who offered sacrifices, did so by faith as they believed in the promises of God to send the Messiah who would take away their sins, and it was their faith that God accounted for righteousness.
f. When Jesus invited those who were laboring and heavy laden to come to Him for rest, He invited them to take His yoke upon them and learn of Him, for His yoke was easy and His burden was light.
g. Jesus accused the Pharisees of binding heavy burdens that were hard to bear on the shoulders of the people, but they would not lift a finger to move them. Mat.23:4
h. There are always those who tell you how you should live, but do not follow their own admonitions.
i. In the final analyses, "We believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be saved even as they."
1."We shall be saved," in other words he agrees with Paul that the salvation for the Jews is the same as that for the Gentiles.
2. He acknowledges that they were saved by grace.
3. No one who has ever lived, apart from Jesus, deserved to be saved.
4. There is not a single thing that you can do, nor a collective group of things that you could do that would cause you to deserve salvation.
j. Many try to say that salvation by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is strictly Pauline.
1. Here we find Peter in perfect agreement with the teachings of Paul.
2. By grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.
k. The Jews were saying that you must earn God's favor by keeping the law.
l. Peter is saying you must receive God's favor that has been granted to those who will believe.
m. More paradoxes, the way to victory is to surrender; the way to strength is through the confession of weakness.