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How to Do Well as a Christian 

Understanding our relationship to the Old Testament shows us how to do well

Acts 15

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • April 23, In the year of our Lord, 2017

Song Leader and Song Suggestions: Larry Amberg – Songs on the word of God


  1. Acts 15.1–2 | Salvation and Circumcision

    1 And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.

    1. Even as disciples of Christ spread out from Jerusalem,
      1. teaching and preaching Jesus as the fulfillment
      2. of prophecies and promises,
        1. so some of them focused on seeking to get the Gentiles
        2. to accept circumcision as part of God’s plan of salvation.
    2. Yet, Jesus and none of His apostles had taught or bound circumcision.
      1. Therefore, Paul and Barnabas opposed this teaching.
      2. The discord and dispute became strong enough
        1. that the church in Antioch decided
        2. to send Paul and Barnabas, and some others, to Jerusalem
          1. that they might talk with the apostles and elders there,
          2. seeking their wisdom for resolving this issue.
  2. Acts 15.3–5 | Gentiles and the Law of Moses

    3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren. 4 And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them. 5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”

    1. As they traveled, they did not let the controversy consume them, for
      1. they visited churches in Phoenicia along the coast and Samaria inland,
      2. describing the conversion of the Gentiles, and
        1. when the Jewish converts heard of this,
        2. it caused them to experience great joy!
    2. The church, the apostles, and the elders in Jerusalem received them, and
      1. Paul and Barnabas and the brethren from Antioch
      2. gave a report on how God had worked through them.
    3. Their report would naturally include their work among the Gentiles, but
      1. when the converted Pharisees heard of this,
      2. they said that the Gentiles needed
        1. to be circumcised and
        2. to keep the Law of Moses, that is to live as Jews.
  3. Acts 15.6 | Considering the Matter

    6 Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.

    1. This issue could easily cause two major problems in the early church:
      1. First, the men promoting this issue were in danger of adding to the word.
      2. Second, this issue could cause a major division in the church.
    2. Therefore, the apostles and elders,
      1. along with Paul and Barnabas, and the other brethren from Antioch,
      2. set a time to discuss and consider this matter.
  4. Acts 15.7–11 | Peter Presents His Evidence

    7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”

    1. They began disputing,
      1. which must not have been productive,
      2. so Peter stands up and speaks up.
    2. He reminded everyone that some time back,
      1. God used him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, and
      2. they believed what Peter preached.
        1. God knows the heart, including the hearts of the Gentiles, and
        2. He acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit,
          1. not making any distinction between Jew and Gentile, but
          2. purifying their hearts by faith,
            1. in order words without requiring circumcision or
            2. the keeping of the Law of Moses.
    3. Therefore, Peter implicated the Pharisee converts to Christ
      1. with testing God by putting a burden on the Gentile disciples
      2. that the Jews themselves could not bear.
        1. The Jewish disciples had been circumcised, but
        2. still needed salvation.
          1. Why then require it of Gentiles
          2. when God had not required it?
    4. As an apostle, Peter then declared
      1. that the Jews would experience salvation the same way as the Gentiles,
      2. through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  5. Acts 15.12 | Barnabas and Paul Present Their Evidence

    12 Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles.

    1. How could anyone argue what Peter said?
    2. He silenced all the people who had gathered.
    3. After Peter concluded Paul and Barnabas spoke,
      1. describing the many miracles and wonders that God
      2. had worked through them for the Gentiles.
        1. Yet, God had never indicated to these two men
        2. that they the Gentiles should keep circumcision and the Law of Moses.
  6. Acts 5.13–21 | James Presents His Evidence and Judgment

    13 And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: 14 Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:

    16 ‘After this I will return
    And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down;
    I will rebuild its ruins,
    And I will set it up;
    17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD,
    Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name,
    Says the LORD who does all these things.’

    18 Known to God from eternity are all His works. 19 Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

    1. After Paul and Barnabas spoke,
      1. the people must have spoken among themselves, and then
      2. became silent, for
        1. how could anyone argue against
        2. what God had done through those two men?
    2. Then James—not the apostle, but the half-brother of the Lord—spoke,
      1. asking everyone to listen to what he had to say,
      2. reminding everyone of what Peter had just said,
        1. that God had visited the Gentiles to take out of them
        2. a people for His name, for
          1. this was all God’s doing.
          2. He gave circumcision to Israel, but not to the Gentiles.
      3. Then James quoted Amos 9.11–12,
        1. using the Hebrew Bible and Prophets
        2. to show that what Peter, Paul, and Barnabas had revealed,
          1. fulfilled prophecy,
          2. that the rising of the church
            1. was the Lord rebuilding the tabernacle of David,
            2. enabling the rest of mankind to seek the Lord,
              1. meaning the Gentiles could now seek the Lord, and
              2. the Lord was the One who had done all these things.
  7. VII.Acts 15.22–29 | Sending a Letter of Encouragement

    22 Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren. 23 They wrote this letter by them:

    “The apostles, the elders, and the brethren,
    To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings.
    24 Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, ‘You must be circumcised and keep the law’—to whom we gave no such commandment— 25 it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

    1. Peter spoke, Paul and Barnabas spoke, James spoke,
      1. God spoke through Peter,
      2. God spoke through Paul and Barnabas,
      3. God spoke through the miracles, and
      4. God spoke through Amos!
        1. That settled the issue.
        2. Therefore, the apostles (preachers), elders, and the rest of the church
          1. decided to send Judas—not Iscariot, but Barsabas—and Silas
          2. along with Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch,
            1. explaining that they had resolved the issue, and
            2. they carried a letter of encouragement.
    2. The letter addressed the Gentile converts in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia.
      1. The letter began to acknowledge
        1. that some of members of the church in Jerusalem
        2. had gone to their churches,
          1. troubling them with words that unsettled their souls,
          2. saying that they had to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses.
      2. However, the Jerusalem Church let their sister congregations know
        1. that they had not given commandment to the Judaizers.
        2. The Jerusalem Church thought that it was a good idea
          1. to send a couple of their own men,
          2. along with the beloved Barnabas and Paul,
            1. who risked their lives for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,
            2. who would report on how they had considered the issue.
      3. The Holy Spirit and the church leaders thought it good
        1. not to lay upon the Gentile converts
        2. any greater burden than
          1. abstaining from things offered to idols,
          2. abstaining from consuming blood,
          3. abstaining from eating animals that had been strangled,
            1. since the blood would not have been drained, and that they
          4. abstain from sexual immorality.
      4. They would do well as Christians,
        1. if they kept themselves from these things.
  8. VIII.Acts 15.30–33 | Exhorting and Strengthening the Brethren

    30 So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter. 31 When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement. 32 Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words. 33 And after they had stayed there for a time, they were sent back with greetings from the brethren to the apostles.

    1. When the four men (and the others originally from Antioch), returned,
      1. they got everyone together and
      2. delivered the letter,
        1. reading it to the assembly and
        2. the brethren rejoiced over the encouragement it gave.
    2. Judas and Silas also spoke,
      1. since they were prophets,
      2. men who received revelation from the Spirit,
        1. exhorting and strengthening the brethren
        2. with many words, doing a lot of preaching and teaching.
    3. They stayed with the church for a while.
      1. Then they returned to their home congregation in Jerusalem,
      2. bringing greetings with them from the Antioch Church.
  9. Acts 15.34–35 | Silas, Paul, and Barnabas Stay in Antioch

    34 However, it seemed good to Silas to remain there. 35 Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

    1. Silas, along with Paul and Barnabas, decided to stay in Antioch,
      1. undoubtedly because of the things happening there with the Gentiles.
    2. Those three men, with others joining them,
      1. kept on teaching and preaching the word of the Lord.
  10. Acts 15.36–41 | Checking Up on the Brethren

    36 Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” 37 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

    1. After awhile Paul got an idea.
      1. He and Barnabas should go back to the places where they had preached,
      2. checking up on the brethren there.
    2. Barnabas thought it was a good idea also, but
      1. he wanted to bring John Mark along.
      2. Paul did not like that idea, because
        1. as we saw in Acts 13.13,
        2. Mark left them while they were in the evangelism field, and
          1. Paul thought it could happen again, and
          2. you do not want a team member to quit part way.
    3. Then this amazing preaching team
      1. that had done so many good things,
      2. including just having solved a major problem in the church,
        1. had such a strong disagreement over Mark
        2. that Paul and Barnabas separated from one another.
          1. Barnabas and Mark went to Cyprus.
          2. Paul chose Silas, because
            1. a preacher really should not work alone, and
            2. they went through Syria and Cilicia,
              1. strengthening the churches
              2. through their preaching and teaching.
    4. Verse 40 says that the church in Antioch commended Paul and Silas
      1. to the grace of God, and
      2. from there the story follows the work of Paul,
        1. leading us to think that Paul may have been the one who was right
        2. in the disagreement with Barnabas.


  1. What is our relationship to the Law of Moses? 
    1. The question is not about Genesis through Malachi.
      1. The Law of Moses found in Exodus through Deuteronomy,
      2. addressed things that God specified for the salvation of Israel, such as
        1. circumcision,
        2. Sabbath-keeping, et al.
          1. The Law of Moses also addressed matters that had or have
          2. a universal application, such as
            1. loving your neighbor as yourself, et al.
    2. Let us be slow to judge the Jewish converts or the Pharisee converts, because
      1. they had read in the Scriptures how God demanded circumcision.
      2. They read of God’s confrontation with Moses for his uncircumcised son.
      3. They remembered how David referring to Goliath as uncircumcised.
      4. They remembered the covenant of circumcision set Abraham apart.
      5. Before Israel could enter Canaan, they had to circumcise themselves.
      6. Genesis addresses circumcision more than Exodus through Deuteronomy,
        1. meaning that circumcision predates the Law of Moses.
        2. The Judaizers may concluded even the Gentiles needed circumcision.
    3. This does not justify their opposition to what Paul and Barnabas, but
        1. it promotes patience and understanding of people
        2. who come from deeply held previous convictions.
  2. See how they sought the wisdom of one another. 
    1. The world did not hold their answers, but
    2. people who loved God and knew His word.
  3. See how they considered the matter, 
    1. by considering evidence,
    2. by considering one another,
    3. by using the Scriptures,
    4. by seeking will of God.
      1. The New Testament Church used the Old Testament
      2. to understand the work of God for today and to settle matters.
  4. They heeded a respected brother’s judgment. 
  5. They encouraged and strengthened new converts. 
  6. They checked up on one another. 
  7. VII.This whole incident was about our part in salvation. 
    1. As Peter said to the leaders and church in Jerusalem,

      “We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved.”
    2. Shall we add something that the Lord had specified for a specific people?
      1. Did He forget to add something?
      2. Is He so busy running the world that He forgot to add circumcision, et al?
    3. However, my final question is this: Salvation from what?