Acts 15:28-29 - The Holy Spirit Guides Us
Welcome to our Bible study today! We are studying Spiritual Applications from the Book of Acts. My text today is Acts 15:28-29. The title of my message today is "The Holy Spirit Guides."
One of the historic meetings of the church early in its history was the Jerusalem Council. Some men went from Jerusalem to Antioch to proclaim that the Gentiles had to be circumcised in order to be saved. This was a controversial issue, so Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem. When they arrived, the Jerusalem Council took place. During the Council the apostle Peter strongly defended the position that the Gentiles, who were not circumcised, were accepted by God. He told about the outpouring of the Spirit in Caesarea at the house of Cornelius. Today, we will talk about what happened after Peter finished speaking.
1. The Gospel is for All People.
When Peter finished, the multitude was silent (verse 12) and listened to Barnabas and Paul speak. They were relating what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. When Barnabas and Paul stopped speaking, James spoke (Acts 15:13-21). He said (verse 14), "Simeon [Peter] has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name." When the Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles, Peter knew that God accepted them. Then James cites Amos 9:11-12. The main point he made is that the redeemed Gentiles are among God's people. The promises are for them too. The comments by James were great news for the Gentiles.
Today, the gospel has been preached worldwide. We who are not Jews are, in Biblical terms, Gentiles. Gentiles of all backgrounds have been won to Christ. Many Jews have come to accept Christ as well. However, we wish that many more would agree that Jesus is the Messiah that they hope for and wish to see. Some Gentiles despair of ever reaching the Jewish people, but Paul says that in the future (Rom. 8:26) "all Israel will be saved."
2. James gives guidelines for Christian living.
Next, the apostle James (Acts 15:19-20) presented his judgment on the case. The judgment of James was that the Gentiles did not have to be circumcised to become believers. Without setting up requirements for salvation, James does set forth some guidelines for Christian living for the Gentiles. These guidelines would help the Jewish and Gentiles believers live in harmony. He said, "Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood."
It is important that we have guidelines for Christian living. We do not turn these guidelines into requirements to be saved, but they are important boundaries for us to have in order to be at our best for God. These guidelines often change over time. We know that cultures are different and our own culture changes. New guidelines emerge, but the basic moral principles remain.
3. A Group Takes a Letter to Antioch
The judgment of James was obviously satisfactory to the church. So, at this point it was the decision of the apostles and elders and the whole church to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas called Barsabbas and Silas. These were leading men among the brethren. The church sent a formal letter with this group to the church in Antioch announcing the judgment of James and the agreement of the church. Very clearly, circumcision would not be required.
We take note of the importance of judgment of James and the support of the church in this matter. The founding church was in Jerusalem. Its approval and judgment was vital to the progress of the church everywhere. We do not live our lives alone, but we are a part of the body of Christ. We should seek to be in harmony with His body and to gain support from it.
4. The Holy Spirit Inspired the Decision.
Although the church had made a decision, the letter made it clear that they were led by the Holy Spirit. The letter (verse28) declares: "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials:" Luke does not tell us how the Spirit made His wisdom known to the church. We simply know that He did. Led by the Spirit, the church had made the decision that circumcision would not be required.
As we follow the Lord, this experience of the early church will mean a lot to us. We, too, must recognize the absolute necessity of being led by the Spirit. Without His guidance, we will falter along the trail. With His guidance, all needs will be supplied, and He will make us effective beyond our largest dreams.
When you review the entire story of the Jerusalem Council, the decision made was based on God's direct intervention at Caesarea, Old Testament Scripture, the views of the apostles and elders, the accord of the church, the judgment of James, and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. When we seek to know the will of God, this story is highly instructive for us. Let us gather all the evidence we can as we move ahead for God.
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