Verse 1 – some men came from Judea to Antioch – teaching circumcision is necessary to salvation.
Gentiles would have to obey circumcision and other aspects of Jewish law (i.e. basically convert to Judaism) in order to be considered part of the church.
Different cultural backgrounds.
Some traditional Jews continue to obey all the laws (or try to) and worship at the temple as they had since Moses. Some of these things (circumcision) identified them as the people of God and set them apart.
God said, “This is my covenant you shall keep for your generations – circumcision.”
So, Abraham took Ishmael, and all his servants and everyone in his estate and circumcised them all in the same day.
Later on, Moses reinforced circumcision – Exodus 12:33-34 – “This is the ordinance of the Passover – no foreigner may eat of it, but all your slaves – after circumcision – may eat.”
Joshua also reinforced it – all those born in the wilderness – a new generation of Israelites – hadn’t been circumcised. So, God commanded them to be circumcised with flint knives.
This was an important mark of the covenant with God.
On the other hand, ex-pagans were continually becoming saved and entering the church.
They had been worshiping idols, they had no desire for circumcision since there was no cultural value for them.
The Jews were afraid that the ex-pagans would change the nature of the church. They weren’t so concerned with some who kept the Jewish laws, worshiped at the temple, and so on. But, IF ex-pagans entered the church and DIDN’T keep the Jewish laws, it might encourage Jews to not be so zealous about keeping the laws themselves.
Something had to be done.
So, Paul and company traveled around and preached about how the Gentiles were turning to God – and accepting Jesus as the Way, Truth, Life.
At Jerusalem, they are welcomed by the elders and reported everything that God had done through them (verse 4).
But then, some with a legalistic background (Pharisee-order Christians), decided that circumcision must be enforced even upon the Gentiles.
They are leaders, teachers, a powerful force (and legalistic). They said Gentiles must basically convert to Judaism before they can be called Christians.
MUCH discussion took place…
Genesis 17 likely referenced to make the case for circumcision.
Then Peter stood up and gave a strong testimony to accept the Gentiles into the church on the basis of “faith alone” and according to the basic Christian creed.
God had already (possibly 10 years earlier – Acts 9) made an example of bringing Gentiles into the church by faith alone.
Peter: “God, who knows the heart, showed he accepted them, he purified their hearts by faith, and gave them the Holy Spirit.”
Peter said that the Pharisee Christians were testing God, placing a yoke around the neck of the Gentiles that Jews themselves had been unable to fully bear.
Yoke – metaphor for political, social oppression (1 Timothy 1? – yoke on slaves)
The gospel came at a time when slavery was rampant. It took many, many years before God – through many Christian men – helped change the world’s views of slavery.
When Jews (or anyone) set up rules to prevent others from entering the body, they are testing God and burdening others.
Jesus himself said, “my yoke is easy, my burden is light…come to me all you who are burdened and heavy-laden and I will give you rest…take my yoke and find rest.”
Peter ends the speech by echoing the thoughts of Paul, “We believe it is by grace we are saved, just as they are.”
Next, Barnabas and Paul rise to defend their views on circumcision – the whole assembly became silent.
Barnabas spoke first, they trusted him, he was originally from Jerusalem, sent to Antioch. So, he and Paul both told the story of the Gentile conversion as it happened. Told of how they went to Cyprus, and how God through Paul had stricken the sorcerer with blindness because He wouldn’t put up with the obstruction to his gospel. Told of other miracles and wonders they witnessed.
This shows that God is blessing their work.
The next person to speak is James, the leader (head pastor) of the church in Jerusalem. He was highly respected all around, probably because he keeps all the Jewish laws.
He agrees with Peter and Paul that faith is the basis for salvation, but the Judaism-advocates misunderstand him. He said that “Just because I keep these laws doesn’t obligate Gentiles to do so.”
Amos 9:11-12 is quoted – prophecy.
He verifies and vindicates the Word of God. By quoting this, he is saying that the Gentile mission is the method by which the Gentiles are becoming part of David’s new tent (the new Israel) – verse 16)
He says, don’t obligate the Gentiles to follow our laws.
However, he has a public relations problem, he doesn’t want to alienate pious Jews – so he sets up 4 prohibitions.
3 of them are about food –
idolatrous worship foods – especially meat (but later Paul in 1 Corinthians says “eat” so long as it doesn’t cause another to sin),
flesh of animals that are improperly killed,
don’t eat blood – an extension on the previous one
The final prohibition = pornea (pornography origin)
No sexual immorality – 1 Corinthians – “He who sins sexually sins against his own body (all other sins are outside his own body)….each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband….I will be grieved over many who have sinned and not repented over their sexual sins in which they have indulged.”
Corinth was very perverse (Vegas?) and known for sexual immorality – in fact, immoral people were often referred to as “Corinthians”
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God. DO NOT BE DECEIVED. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, prostitutes, homosexual offenders, drunkards, swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. AND that is what some of you WERE. BUT, you were purified, sanctified, washed, cleansed, made righteous.
But thank God for his grace.”
1 Corinthians – Paul recommended marriage BECAUSE of rampant immorality. If he were alive today, he would definitely encourage it.
Today, taboo things of the past have become commonplace. The Internet can bring any of these things with the click of a mouse.
Paul says “FLEE”
Many do struggle with sexual sin and temptation.
Porn, wine, cigarettes, finances, diet, homosexuality, etc.
Billy Graham? Do you know him?
Ruth Graham (his daughter) had been through 3 broken marriages.
First husband brought porn in, messed her up, divorced, raped before second marriage, second marriage broke up, third marriage.
Book “There’s a Broken Heart in Every Pew”
Everyone comes to church smiling, dressed in their best. “How are you?” “Fine!…..” She wasn’t, she was abused by first and second husbands. She finally found peace in her third.
God brought her through that, now she can minister to others with the same struggles. All these other online ministries are similar.
C.S. Lewis – The Great Divorce
Slay Sexual Sin in our own lives.
“Busload of people who travel to heaven on a tour before getting to their new home – heaven. Once in heaven, many flee back to the comfort of their bus. One ghost, with a talkative Lust Demon pestering him, wanders out and meets an angel. The angel asks, “Would you like me to make him quiet?” “Of course” “then I will kill him” “Oh, ouch!…You’re burning me.” “Don’t you want him killed?” “Nothing so drastic please” “It’s the only way, shall I kill it?” “no, no, he’s asleep now.” “May I kill it?” “no, no, some other day?” “No other day. You’ll kill me!” “Not kill you” “You’ll hurt me” “I never said it wouldn’t hurt you, just it wouldn’t kill you.”
Lizard, “I promise I’ll be good”
Angel “May I?” Man “You’re right, it would be better to be dead than live with this. God, help me”
The man screamed in agony, the angel squeezed the lizard, killed it and threw it.
Then the man (ghost) became solid – not a ghost anymore but a man.
The lizard grew bigger and bigger and changed. It became a stallion (horse), beautiful golden hair.
The man (not ghost) climbed upon his stallion that had been his sin and rode toward his Savior.
The only remedy for sexual sin is DEATH to that sin. But after that death, there is a beauty to the new creation life.
Let us prepare for communion, and if there are any lizards in our lives, let’s kill them.