Intro. The church council has convened for the purpose to deciding if the Gentile believers are to be accepted into the fellowship without partaking of the ordinances and the laws of Moses? The testimony has been given and now James, the half brother of Jesus, is ready to give his conclusions.
I. "WHEREFORE MY SENTENCE IS:"
A. It appears that James is looked to as the voice of authority within the church.
1. The others have offered their witness and views, but James will make the decision.
B. What is the sentence?
1. We do not trouble them.
a. Those who had gone up from the church in Jerusalem to the Gentile believers did indeed trouble them.
b. Unfortunately there always seems to be troublemakers in the church.
c. It usually comes from someone trying to push their persuasion on everyone else.
d. We used to say, "If you feel that God has given you a revelation in the scriptures that seems to be different than the normal understanding of that verse, do not seek to share it with us immediately, but give us a little time to see how it has benefited you in your walk with Christ. How that it has helped to conform you into the image of Christ, then we will come and ask you just what has happened in your walk with the Lord, that makes you so much more Christ-like? That will then give you an opportunity to share your concepts with others.
II. THE DECISION OF THE COUNCIL TO WRITE TO THE GENTILES AND TELL THEM TO:
A. Abstain from pollutions of idols. That is, eating meat that was first offered to idols.
1. Paul later clarified this to the Gentiles. As far as eating meat that had been offered to idols, he said:
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?
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
Let no man seek his own, but every man another's [wealth].
Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, [that] eat, asking no question for conscience sake:
For the earth [is] the Lord's, and the fulness thereof.
If any of them that believe not bid you [to a feast], and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.
But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth [is] the Lord's, and the fulness thereof:
2. Jesus said that it wasn't the things that go into your mouth that defiled you, but the things that come out of your mouth.
[Ye] hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with [their] lips; but their heart is far from me.
But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men.
And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:
It's not that which goes into the mouth defiles a man; but that which comes out of the mouth, this is what defile a man.
Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable.
And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?
Do not ye yet understand, that whatever enters in at the mouth goes into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
These are [the things] which defile a man: but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.
3. This points up the whole problem that the Jews had with the understanding of the Mosaic law. As Paul said when they read the law, they had a veil over their face. The problem is, the law is spiritual and we are carnal. Thus our understanding of the law is flawed, for we are prone to think that it was only intended to deal with the physical things. Thus I could be keeping the law physically while violating the law in the eyes of God, for God is looking at my heart. For instance, Jesus said that the law declares you are not to commit adultery, but I say unto you, whoever looks at a woman, and lusts after her has already violated the commandment. All of a sudden, I find that where I once felt smugness as to having kept that law, I now feel guilt, the need to confess and find forgiveness. The Law properly understood brings me into condemnation, rather than a sense of righteousness.
4. I am never free to violate the moral law of God, manifested in the commandments. Never free to murder, never free to commit adultery, never free to lie, never free to covet things that belong to my neighbor.
5. The issues that are being discussed at this council are the ordinances of the law such as diet, things that should not be eaten; rituals, such as circumcision. The washing of hands before a meal. These are sanitary issues, not spiritual issues, and should be looked on as such.
6. It is not a sin to not wash your hands before a meal. It is certainly unsanitary, but not sinful. We have certain health codes, laws that deal with the necessary sanitary conditions if you are preparing food for public consumption, these are important and good, but they have nothing to do with your relationship with God.
7. As far as eating meat, there were some who believed as the 7th Day Adventists that you should not eat meat at all. Paul wrote the Romans about these people.
Him that is weak in the faith receive, but not to doubtful disputations. There are always those with an opposing views who feel that they only hold the truth, and create their web sites to tear down anyone who does not hold to their positions. As I have said, there are two basic types in the world, those who seek to build up, and those who seek to tear down that which someone else has built. Builders and destroyers.
For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eats vegetables.
Let not him that eats meat despise him who does not; and let not him who does not eat meat judge him that does: for God has received him.
Who art you that judges another man's servant? to his own master he stands or falls. Yea, he shall be held up: for God is able to make him stand.
One man esteems one day above another: another esteems every day [alike]. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
He that regards the day, regard [it] unto the Lord; and he that regards not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard [it]. He that eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he that eats not, to the Lord he eats not, and gives God thanks.
(Both believe that they are pleasing the Lord by the position they have taken.)
For none of us lives to himself, and no man dies to himself.
For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.
For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. (You will not have to answer to God for me, and I will not have to answer for you.)
Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in [his] brother's way.
I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that [there is] nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteems any thing to be unclean, to him [it is] unclean.
But if your brother be grieved with your meat, now you are not walking charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
B. From fornication. The Greek word translated fornication is porneias which includes all types of sexual sins.
1. The Gentile world then, as it seems to be today, was obsessed with sex.
2. It seems that through the ages this has been one of Satan's chief weapons to bring men into bondage.
3. Christianity brought to the world a whole new concept of sex. It saw that the sex drive was created by God for the perpetuation of the human race. That it was to be totally satisfied within the covenant of marriage. That through this experience, two people would became one. I believe that this becomes an actual reality in our children. They are an equal combination of the two.
4. Any sexual intimacy outside of the marriage commitment is sin.
C. From things strangled.
1. Why the prohibition to things strangled?
a. We are talking about the blending in the church of the Jew and Gentile.
b. To the Jew one of the most important things was that any animal that was killed to be eaten as meat be thoroughly bled. They even have rabbis today in the slaughterhouses to make sure that the animal was killed in such a way that the meat had been thoroughly bled, it is then certified Kosher. God had said in Gen. 9:4
that the flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood, you shall not eat. So this was a commandment that preceded the law.
c. If there were to be any true fellowship between the Jew and Gentile Christian, as far as eating together, this would have to be observed by the Gentile believers.
D. The fourth thing was blood and the same reasoning goes here.
III. WHY THIS IS ADDRESSED TO THE GENTILE BELIEVERS AND NOT THE JEWISH BELIEVERS IS: Act 15:21
: FOR MOSES FROM OLDEN TIMES HAS IN EVERY CITY THEM THAT PREACH HIM, BEING READ IN THE SYNAGOGUES EVERY SABBATH DAY.
A. The Jews already know these things from going to the synagogue to hear Moses being read every Sabbath day.
B. The Jews were still bound by tradition to the ceremonial laws of Moses. Many Jewish Christians today still keep kosher, and light the candles on the Sabbath, and endeavor to keep the ceremonial decrees of the law. They have not yet found that they are free from the law.
1. There are many Christians who have sought to place themselves under the law especially that of the Sabbath.
2. If you are keeping a portion of the law thinking that by doing so you are really more righteous than those who do not keep it, in other words if you think that your keeping of the Sabbath day more righteous than I, then you have fallen from grace. For you are looking to your works as the basis for your righteous standing before God rather than your faith in Jesus Christ, whereby His righteousness has been imputed to you by grace.
IV. THEN IT PLEASED THE APOSTLES AND ELDERS AND THE WHOLE CHURCH.
A. The division has been healed, everyone is pleased.
B. I believe that James here was exercising the gift of the word of wisdom. The very fact that you could bring the opposite sides together took the wisdom of the Spirit.
C. A church split was avoided, and everyone is satisfied.
D. When divisions come in a church, it is tragic that we cannot gather and pray over the issues and get the mind of the Spirit, for the effect of that is always peace.
E. The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, peace and joy. There are always those who would seek to make it a thing of meat and drink.