First Church Council: Freedom
Sermon Title: “First Church Council: Freedom”
Sermon Series: Acts: Kingdom Vision (Phase 3)
Text: Acts 15:22-41
Speaker: Pastor Damian Mericka
Last week we saw the church face a unique obstacle. To this point the enemy had been pressing against the church from the outside with persecution. Standing united, the church experienced the victory in mission as they continued to branch out and God’s Kingdom grew. This time, the enemy strikes from the inside to fester disagreement and create division. A divided Kingdom cannot stand.
The Spirit led the Apostles to navigate this issue with humility as the wisdom from God’s Word brought understanding and direction. While division was avoided, disagreement would continue to exist within the Body of Christ on what parts of the moral, civil, and ceremonial Law would carry onward. We are saved by Faith Alone in Jesus Christ, but with this freedom are we able to live any way we want?
Phase 1 Jesus passes the baton and sends His Spirit to carry the Gospel onward.
Phase 2 The Gospel geographically distances itself from Jerusalem and Judaism.
Phase 3 The Gospel theologically distances itself from Jerusalem and Judaism.
- Division is avoided as the Decision is published (Acts 15:22-29)
- V.22 Representatives chosen: Judas called Barsabbas and Silas with Barnabas and Paul.
- V.23-29 The contents of the Letter:
- The heart and voice of the Apostles and Elders
- Refusal to be silent; affirming the distance of those falsely claiming to be the voice of the Apostles and church in Jerusalem.
- While the false message brought division, the true message comes from them being in one accord- the unity of the Leadership becomes the unity of the Body.
- Seemed good to the Holy Spirit- The apostles and elders were confident their decision was guided by the Spirit. (Scripture and Prayer -> Acts 6:4)
- The encouragement to observe abstinence from:
- What has been sacrificed to idols.
- Blood and what has been strangled.
- Sexual Immorality
- The Law (Moral, Civil, Ceremonial): Interpreting through Jesus. Moral Laws continue -> Genesis 1:1
- The promise of doing well.
- Unity is celebrated; the Spirit strengthens (Acts 15:30-35)
- V. 30-31. When the letter was read, the body rejoiced because of its tone and content: encouragement. Even in the heaviest of tones the heart of Christ is always invitation.
- See -> Revelation 3:19-20.
- V.32-35 As Unity in Jesus is affirmed and celebrated, the gifting of the Spirit activities and flourishes.
- Judas and Silas were prophets; such gifting encouraged and strengthened the Body.
- Judas returns to Jerusalem in the peace of Christ. (Note v.34’s absence)
- Barnabas and Paul remain at Antioch to teach and preach the Word of the Lord.
- Disagreement does not Divide, but Multiplies the Church (Acts 15:36-41)
- V.36-38 the desire to travel touches Barnabas and Paul again. Barnabas desires to take Mark, however Paul does not.
- V.39 Sharp disagreement.
- Vv.39-41 With the blessing of the church Barnabas moves forward with Mark to strengthen the believers on the island of Cyprus and Paul with Silas go on foot to the believers in Galatia.
*What the Spirit spoke to me through this message -Pastor Damian
- Had the Jerusalem Church chosen silence on the issue of circumcision, it would have been interpreted as an endorsement.
- The enemy attacks from both without and within in order to distract us from the Mission and divide us.
- Empower trusted people (proven to serve) with Leadership development.
- Sexual Immorality is always an attack against the holiness of God; a decision to deny the joy God intends to be experienced through sexuality.
- Even when confronting error or sin, the Gospel cannot be present without the invitation to come to Jesus.
- Union in Christ allows the Spirit’s gifting to flourish.
- Believers can disagree and be united in Christ. Disagreement here brought multiplication not division.
*What are some application points the Spirit is speaking to you through this message?
-Questions for Reflection and Application-
- What stood out to you from this message and why?
- What are some similarities you see in our Country’s history as we celebrate the 4th of July and Church history? As a Nation, are we better at facing the enemy without or the enemy within? As a church?
- Why is it important that leaders first learn to submit to leadership, demonstrating a willingness to serve before they lead?
- While some aspects of the Law were satisfied in Christ, such as the ceremonial rules regarding eating meat offered to idols and Jewish feasts and sacrifices, how are the moral rules still for us today? Is sexual immorality still a sin today?
- While the Law comes to point out our sin, Grace comes with invitation to Jesus to have our sin forgiven. Why is it important that Grace has a place in our conversation when talking about error or sin with someone?
- What areas can believers disagree on? (Think meat offered to idols, Value of Jewish feasts, type of music, end times play out) What are areas believers must be united on? (Think sexual immorality teaching, Biblical authority, Jesus only means of salvation, etc)
- As believers, can we disagree and still be united in Christ? What are some areas you have experienced disagreement? Have you allowed it to divide you from someone, or have you allowed God to multiply through you?