Jesus’ Grace Wins the Debate
Acts 15:1-35 – February 05, 2023
Acts 15:1. Jewish Christians (often called “Judaizers”) taught that Gentiles may become Christians, but only after first becoming Jews, and submitting to all Jewish rituals, including circumcision.
Acts 15:2-4. Sharp dispute indicates acrimony as Paul and Barnabas believed the Judaizers were promoting false doctrine. The disagreement was so great a trip to Jerusalem was required to resolve it.
Acts 15:5. The Pharisees stated their belief once again only now making it clear it was not only circumcision they were talking about, but the full law of Moses.
Acts 15:6-11. The question they had to answer was, Are Christians made right with God by faith alone, or by a combination of faith and obedience of the Law of Moses? Finally Peter spoke and talked about his experience with the Gentile Cornelius and the other Gentiles in his home. He made his closing argument in verses 10 and 11 ending with, We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.
Acts 15:12. The silence showed that those who had opposed Paul and Barnabas were willing to be persuaded.
Acts 15:13-21. When James spoke, it was with great authority. His authority came not from being the brother of Jesus, but from while believing in faith alone in Jesus for salvation, he also kept the laws of Moses as a devout Jew. He was also the leader of the church in Jerusalem.
His statement that God chose a people for His name from the Gentiles was a radical statement for the Jews knew they were a chosen people chosen by God. Tto finalize this thought, he quoted the prophet Amos from the Septuagint. The Jews would now have to share their status as the chosen people with Gentiles who received salvation through Jesus.
Then he gave four rules or requirements for the Gentiles – 1 abstain from food offered to idols, 2 abstain from sexual immorality, 3 abstain from the meat of strangled animals, and 4 abstain from blood – all from Leviticus 17 and 18. The why is given in verse 21, as this would bring them into a very basic compliance with the law of Moses and keep them from offending their Jewish brothers in Christ.
Acts 15:22. The whole church was in agreement, even those who had initially wanted the Gentiles circumcised. Everyone was on board.
Acts 15:23-29. They began by calling themselves brothers to the Gentiles ! This was not a letter to all Gentile believers but to those where Jews and Gentiles both lived with the potential for friction and disagreement. Those who came before were without authorization, this letter with the witnesses of Judas and Silas has the authority of the apostles and elders of the council in Jerusalem. There is no dispute with Barnabas and Paul, they are our dear friends.
With the Farewell, is was settled here in the infancy of the Christian faith for all time that we are saved by grace, and grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ and not by any conformity to the law.
Acts 15:30-31. Other translations say they rejoiced over the letter as salvation through the grace of Jesus alone had been preserved! They heard that they were saved and right with God after all.
Acts 15:32-35. Judas and Silas, who were NT prophets, served as visiting ministers from Jerusalem.
Bottom Line: What have we learned here in chapter 15 that we might put into practice? Primarily that our salvation comes through faith in Jesus with no works involved. It is through our faith in Jesus that we are led to repent and turn from sin.
Knowing this, we can take the same message to those around us who still do not know Jesus as the Lord of their salvation.
Ezekiel 33:31-32. 31 My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. 32 Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.