Intro. The church has spoken as to the issue of the Gentiles and the law. It has been determined that the Gentiles do not have to become Jews in order to be saved. They will not be required to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses. They recognize the grace of God that has been bestowed upon the Gentiles apart from the law.
I. THIS IS THE GIST OF THE LETTER:
A. The elders and brothers send their greetings to their brothers of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia.
1. Note that they call them brothers.
2. This is a recognition that in Christ we are all brothers.
3. In Christ the barriers that once existed between the Jew and the Gentile have been broken down, we are all brothers.
4. Jesus is the great equalizer.
5. Later Paul will write:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
6. Writing to the Gentile church in Ephesus he said:
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition [between us];
Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, [even] the law of commandments [contained] in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, [so] making peace;
And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
7. Continuing in chapter 3, he said:
How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
B. The letter was a disclaimer:
Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, [Ye must] be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no [such] commandment:
1. How many times believers are troubled by the words of those who speak with authority.
2. I think that Herbert W. Armstrong was a classic example of a person who subverted the souls of so many immature saints because he spoke with such authority.
a. Interestingly enough, this is pretty much what Armstrong was teaching, that it was necessary to keep the law in order to be saved.
b. He was one of those who stressed Sabbath worship.
3. Paul wrote to Timothy about those who subvert the souls of the believers.
Of these things put [them] in remembrance, charging [them] before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, [but] to the subverting of the hearers.
4. They deny that these people came as they represented themselves as having the authority of the church in Jerusalem.
C. It seemed good to us to send chosen men with our beloved Barnabas and Paul.
1. They were affirming that the ministry of Barnabas and Paul, calling them beloved.
2. They speak about being in one accord with the message they had been teaching.
3. They recognize the hazards and risks that Barnabas and Paul had taken in taking the gospel to the Gentile world.
D. In order that the word might be confirmed, they sent also Silas and Judas who were elders in the church of Jerusalem that they might confirm orally what had been put in writing.
1. Silas will become Paul's partner and companion on the second missionary journey.
2. Of Jude we know nothing more than that he was one of the chief among the brethren. Barsabas means son of Sabas.
E. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us.
1. This is the confirming that they recognized that this decision was directed by the Holy Spirit.
2. I believe that James was exercising the gift of the word of wisdom when he made this decree.
3. That we lay no greater burden than these necessary things. This is what they considered the necessary things.
a. Abstain from meats offered to idols.
b. From blood.
c. From things strangled.
d. From fornication.
e. If you will keep from these things you will do well. God bless you.
f. Note that there is no mention of Sabbath day worship, or of other rituals or ceremonies of the law.
II. THE READING OF THIS LETTER BROUGHT REJOICING AND CONSOLATION TO THE GENTILES.
A. It should cause us also to rejoice to realize that we are not bound to the law, but can relate to God through our faith in Jesus Christ.
B. The approach to God thorough the law was very difficult. You could not come directly, but had to go to the priest with, first of all, a sin offering.
1. Then you would offer a burnt offering of consecration.
2. Finally, you could offer the peace offering, whereby you were brought into fellowship with God.
C. Their continued fellowship with God was predicated upon their keeping His word.
1. Our fellowship with God is predicated upon His keeping His word.
2. I am weak and often fail to keep His word.
3. Jesus never fails.
4. Under the law, my fellowship with God would be very tenuous.
5. Under grace, my fellowship with God is continuous.
6. Paul wrote to the Romans about the difference between the Jew and the Gentile as concerning a righteous standing before God.
Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
For Christ [is] the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
For Moses described the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which does those things shall live by them.
But the righteousness which is of faith speaks on this wise, Say not in your heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down [from above]:)
Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)
But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, [even] in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
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.
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
III. AND JUDAS AND SILAS WHO WERE PROPHETS THEMSELVES EXHORTED THE CHURCH WITH MANY WORDS AND CONFIRMED THEM.
A. Writing about the gift of prophecy, Paul said, that he that prophesies, speaks to men to edify, exhort and to comfort.
B. Here we see through prophecy they are able to comfort the church.
C. It would be great if all the disputes in the church could be solved in such a manner, that everyone would be comforted and rejoicing together.