TROUBLE NOT THEM
Acts 15:13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: 14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: 17 That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. 18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. 19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.
This is the recorded message of James, the elder of the Jerusalem Church, and the Lord’s brother (Gal. 1:19), upon the issue of Gentile believers being required to keep the law of Moses. (Acts 15:5). Certain legalistic Jews had even gone up to Antioch from Jerusalem teaching this error, to whom James and the church there gave no such commandment. They were attempting to mix the law with grace. And that always makes grace a disgrace! Now there was a multitude (15:12), gathered together including, Paul, Barnabas, Titus (Gal. 2:3), Pastor James, Apostles Peter and John, and the Prophets Judas and Silas. (This is the only account that this writer knows of, where the Apostles Paul and John ever met and shook hands! Gal. 2:9).
The Apostle Peter has just summed up the essence of the matter of salvation by grace alone, just before Barnabas and Paul gave the practical accounts of that very issuance of grace in the salvation of numerous Gentiles on their first missionary journey. And Peter’s words are certainly worth noting here. For he tells the Jews, not that the Gentiles must be saved like us, with the application of the law, but in fact, we Jews must be saved like the Gentiles, apart from the law, by faith alone! Listen to his last words in that Jerusalem message, which is the very last time his name appears in this Book of Acts. But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. (Acts 15:11).
Here are the Apostle Paul’s words on this matter: Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
And Peter gives the undeniable account of God Himself being the Gentiles’ witness of that salvation, in that he had given them the same Holy Spirit as the believing Jews had received. For he states, And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. (Acts 15:8).
Before we proceed with James’ sentence, let us be clear on the matter of the law itself. The law is the expression of the character of God! He is holy and so is his law! Romans 7:12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. 13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. It is still wrong to kill, for man is made in God’s image. And to kill a man is to disrespect the image of God! And it is still wrong to steal, for that denies faith to believe personally that God will give us this day our own daily bread. But to think to attempt to keep God’s law, especially the ceremonial law, in order to be accepted with God is a spitting in his face, by denying Christ, the only way of man’s salvation!
Listen at the word’s of the Apostle Paul. Galatians 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. Once the Lord Christ died on that cross, giving his life for the fulfilling of the law, and for the cleansing of every sinner who believes in him, school is out! Romans 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Dear soul, NEVER allow anyone to add any requirement to your faith in Christ for complete acceptance to God! THAT is priest-craft! Denominational clergy want you to be dedicated to their programs, and all other clergy, except the true ministers of Christ, will even used guilt and pity to bind you to their personal causes, and to loyalty to them and not to Christ! You do not have to follow any man but only as he follows Christ! 1 Corinthians 11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. For the pattern of every man is Christ! 1 John 2:6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
That pastor or teacher is there to help you become fully formed into the very stature of Christ! Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: Ministers are helpers of your joy, and have no dominion over your faith! 2Cor. 1:24 Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.
1 Corinthians 3:21 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; 22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; 23 And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.
Now listen to the various descriptions from the New Testament concerning the law being used for justification before God. It is called: weak and beggarly elements – Galatians 4:9; weak through the flesh – Romans 8:3; a show in will worship … neglecting of the body – Colossians 2:23; weakness and unprofitableness thereof – Hebrews 7:18; only a shadow of good things to come – Hebrews 10:1. For when the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world with a human body to sacrifice, the old covenant came to an end! Hebrews 10:9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.
Now let us consider the message of James as posted in the above listed scripture passage at the beginning of our lesson. In verse fourteen he quickly states that he agrees with the Apostle Peter that this matter had already been handled at the first! Peter had said in verse seven that a good while ago God had already determined this matter in sending Peter to the Gentile Cornelius’ house to preach. (See Acts 10:17-20). So both James and Peter assert that this matter has already been handled a good while back!
Then James does that which men in his age and with his gift were so wonderfully enabled to do. He uses a passage from the Old Testament, (for that is all the ‘bible’ they had then), out of the Book of Amos to defend his and Peter’s position of the salvation of the Gentiles by faith! And we are instructed that the faith of the church is to be built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; (Ephesians 2:20).
He uses Amos 9:11&12 in verses 16 and 17 of our Acts 15 passage to show that Christianity fulfills Judaism! And Peter in his first epistle states the very same thing! 1 Peter 1:10 Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: 11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. 12 Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.
And listen to the Apostle Paul regarding this matter: Romans 4:8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. 9 Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. 14 For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: 15 Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. 16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
Abraham is the father of all who have the gift of faith in Christ Jesus, by the Holy Spirit! And when he obtained the righteousness of God, he was an uncircumcised Gentile! And listen to who is really a spiritual Jew! Romans 2:28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
Then in verse eighteen of our Acts 15 passage, James states a wonderful doctrine, which we mostly lift out and quote by itself. Let me reprint it here for you. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. But if we leave it in the context of James’ message, what it actually says is, Judaism prepared the way for Christianity! For this is that work which was known of God; determined by God; predestinated by God from the beginning of the world!
Paul states that the salvation of the Gentiles was what God purposed all along, and that this was a “hidden mystery!” Ephesians 3:4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5 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; 6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: 7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
Colossians 1:26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: 27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
Ephesians 3:15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, – For there are no Jewish Christians, and Gentile Christians in God’s sight! There are only believing Christians! For the Lord Jesus Christ has broken down all barriers between all believers and has made only one church, by one faith! Ephesians 2:14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 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;
Listen to Peter address the legalistic faction of Jews in the Jerusalem council. Acts 15:9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. Notice in that last verse he DOES NOT state, “They must be saved like us Jews, under the law!” What he DOES state is that we Jews must be saved just like these Gentiles, apart from the law, simply by faith! And Peter learned that on a roof top in Joppa, before lunch, when God sent him to “Sheet School!” (See Acts 10:9-15).
And just how did Peter understand this lesson? Let him tell you in the words he spoke to Cornelius, the first Gentile christian: Acts 10:28 And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. For God instructed him three times that his cleansing of the Gentiles was accomplished already, and that by the blood of the Holy Lamb of God!
Acts 10:15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. 16 This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.
You have to love the fact that the sheet with the animals on it which represented the cleansed souls of God’s elect was received up AGAIN into heaven! For the Lord carefully guards his elect peoples!
Pastor Gene Breed