Acts Chapter 15
Focus: Christianity is not a box of rules, but a life permeated with Christ who transforms us because He has become the center of our lives.
I. The OLD COVENANT was a box of rules!
II. Jesus CAME for EVERYONE not just INSIDERS.
ROMANS 6:14 no longer under the law, but grace...
III. The GRAVITY of GRACE pulls us INSIDE the NEW COVENANT.
A. I must CONFRONT the INDEPENDENT REBEL in me.
B. I must CONFRONT the PHARISEE in me.
C. I must CONFORM to CHRIST in me.
Acts 15:1-41 (NET)
The Jerusalem Council
[15:1] Now some men came down from Judea1 and began to teach the brothers, "Unless you are circumcised2 according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."  When Paul and Barnabas had a major argument and debate3 with them, the church4 appointed Paul and Barnabas and some others from among them to go up to meet with5 the apostles and elders in Jerusalem6 about this point of disagreement.7  So they were sent on their way by the church, and as they passed through both Phoenicia8 and Samaria, they were relating at length9 the conversion of the Gentiles and bringing great joy10 to all the brothers.  When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were received11 by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported12 all the things God had done with them.13  But some from the religious party of the Pharisees14 who had believed stood up and said, "It is necessary15 to circumcise the Gentiles16 and to order them to observe17 the law of Moses."
 Both the apostles and the elders met together to deliberate18 about this matter.  After there had been much debate,19 Peter stood up and said to them, "Brothers, you know that some time ago20 God chose21 me to preach to the Gentiles so they would hear the message22 of the gospel23 and believe.24  And God, who knows the heart,25 has testified26 to them by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us,27  and he made no distinction28 between them and us, cleansing29 their hearts by faith.  So now why are you putting God to the test30 by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke31 that neither our ancestors32 nor we have been able to bear?  On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through33 the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they are."34
 The whole group kept quiet35 and listened to Barnabas and Paul while they explained all the miraculous signs36 and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.  After they stopped speaking,37 James replied,38 "Brothers, listen to me.  Simeon39 has explained40 how God first concerned himself41 to select42 from among the Gentiles43 a people for his name.  The44 words of the prophets agree45 with this, as it is written,
 'After this46 I47 will return,
and I will rebuild the fallen tent48 of David;
I will rebuild its ruins and restore49 it,
 so that the rest of humanity50 may seek the Lord,
namely,51 all the Gentiles52 I have called to be my own,'53 says the Lord,54 who makes these things
 known55 from long ago.56
 "Therefore I conclude57 that we should not cause extra difficulty58 for those among the Gentiles59 who are turning to God,  but that we should write them a letter60 telling them to abstain61 from things defiled62 by idols and from sexual immorality and from what has been strangled63 and from blood.  For Moses has had those who proclaim him in every town from ancient times,64 because he is read aloud65 in the synagogues66 every Sabbath."
 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided67 to send men chosen from among them, Judas called Barsabbas and Silas,68 leaders among the brothers, to Antioch69 with Paul and Barnabas.  They sent this letter with them:70
From the apostles71 and elders, your brothers,72 to the Gentile brothers and sisters73 in Antioch,74 Syria,75 and Cilicia, greetings!  Since we have heard that some have gone out from among us with no orders from us and have confused76 you, upsetting77 your minds78 by what they said,79  we have unanimously80 decided81 to choose men to send to you along with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul,  who82 have risked their lives83 for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.84  Therefore we are sending85 Judas and Silas86 who will tell you these things themselves in person.87  For it seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us88 not to place any greater burden on you than these necessary rules:89  that you abstain from meat that has been sacrificed to idols90 and from blood and from what has been strangled91 and from sexual immorality.92 If you keep yourselves from doing these things,93 you will do well. Farewell.94
 So when they were dismissed,95 they went down to Antioch,96 and after gathering the entire group97 together, they delivered the letter.  When they read it aloud,98 the people99 rejoiced at its encouragement.100  Both Judas and Silas, who were prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with a long speech.101  After102 they had spent some time there,103 they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them.104  But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch,105 teaching and proclaiming (along with many others)106 the word of the Lord.107
Paul and Barnabas Part Company
 After some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Let's return108 and visit the brothers in every town where we proclaimed the word of the Lord109 to see how they are doing."110  Barnabas wanted to bring John called Mark along with them too,  but Paul insisted111 that they should not take along this one who had left them in Pamphylia112 and had not accompanied them in the work.  They had113 a sharp disagreement,114 so that they parted company. Barnabas took along115 Mark and sailed away to Cyprus,116  but Paul chose Silas and set out, commended117 to the grace of the Lord by the brothers and sisters.118  He passed through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening119 the churches.
Acts 15 (Today's New International Version, ©2005)
The Council at Jerusalem
1 Certain individuals came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. 3 The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.
5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses."
6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."
12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, James spoke up. "Brothers," he said, "listen to me. 14 Simon[a] has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:
16 "'After this I will return
and rebuild David's fallen tent.
Its ruins I will rebuild,
and I will restore it,
17 that the rest of humanity may seek the Lord,
even all the Gentiles who bear my name,
says the Lord, who does these things'[b]—
18 things known from long ago.[c]
19 "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath."
The Council's Letter to Gentile Believers
22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, who were leaders among the believers. 23 With them they sent the following letter:
The apostles and elders, your brothers,
To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:
24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
30 So they were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. 31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. 32 Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.
Disagreement Between Paul and Barnabas
36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing." 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
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