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The Apostle Paul Consults The Apostles & Elders
March 20, 2011
Many of the Calvinists and their offspring teach salvation by either grace alone or faith alone. Many of them go so far as to condemn baptism for the remission of sins as a "works doctrine" and having nothing to do with the remitting of sins. That is because John Calvin and many man since have lifted certain scriptures out of context and created new doctrines that did not originate with God. The apostle Paul, when writing about grace or faith versus works was referring to the works of the Law of Moses! It had nothing to do with baptism versus grace or faith.
The Apostle Paul Consults The Apostles & Elders
By Bernie Parsons
Presented to Globe church of Christ on 03-20-2011
Presented to Load church of Christ on 03-27-2011
As we have been studying over the past two lessons, the apostle Paul had a problem with some of his Jewish brethren perverting his work among the Gentiles. As Paul converted the Gentiles from worshipping idol gods into believing in Jesus as savior of the world, these men, apparently claiming to have the backing of the Jerusalem believers, told the new converts to circumcise their males and keep the Law of Moses.
For fourteen years, Paul continued his ministry, dogged by these determined men. He wrote letters to the Gentiles churches, urging them to remember that their salvation was in Jesus as the provider of forgiveness and righteousness. He reminded them that the coming of Jesus was the fulfilling of the prophecies contained in the Law of Moses and the writings of the prophets. He further told them that the Law had been fulfilled and removed, and that they could not obtain forgiveness of sins in the works of the Law, rather they would find it in their faith in Jesus.
Finally, after fourteen years of these attacks from false brethren, Paul decided to nail it down once and for all by consulting with the apostles and church elders in Jerusalem.
Acts 15:1 "And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.
3 And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.
4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.
5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”
We see the problem lay with certain members of the Jewish community who followed the teachings of the Pharisees. They felt that the Gentile believers ought to be proselytized into the Jewish religion, keeping the Law of Moses. These had no doubt backed those who had troubled Paul for so long in his ministry.
Acts 15:6 “And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
8 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.”
Recall that the apostle Peter had been separated by God to preach the gospel to the first Gentile believers. He used his own experience and authority to declare that God had accepted the Gentiles, and that there was no difference in believers, whether Jew or Gentile.
Acts 15:10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon 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, even as they.”
Peter continued by pointing out that, since Jews were unable to keep the Law of Moses, why did the Pharisees think that the Gentiles would be able to do so? In fact, in the letter to the Roman believers, the apostle Paul quite eloquently and succinctly summarized that same difficulty.
Acts 15:12 “Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.”
Peter’s intervention caused a silence to ensue as those gathered contemplated what he had said. Barnabas and Paul took advantage of the lull in the disputes to describe what wonderful things God had wrought by them, among the Gentiles.
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.”
The apostle James came to the defense of Paul and Barnabas, by reminding the other apostles and the elders that Peter, who labored among them, had been the first been sent to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Was it not true that Israel, before it was a people, was among those very nations, and was taken from among, separated to glorify and bless the name of God? Not only that, but the prophets had said that God would rejoin the Gentile nations with Israel.
Acts 15:19 “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.”
James said that they should bind a minimum upon them: abandon idol worship, cease fornication, and refrain from eating blood, either in the animal, or by itself. He reminded them that most Gentiles had heard of the Law of Moses already, because the far-flung network of Jewish synagogues among the Gentiles cities had exposed most Gentiles to the Law already.
Acts 15:22 Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:
23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:
24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:
25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.
28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
30 So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle:
31 Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation."
The apostles, elders, and the general body of believers concurred that James had it right, and so they issued a letter, to be witnessed their own representatives, that nothing beyond what they had written should be bound upon the Gentile believers.
The letter was read to the Gentile believers, and was verbally endorsed by the Jewish Jerusalem representatives to be the truth. The Gentiles rejoiced that they did not have to keep the Law of Moses, and the apostle Paul finally had the strong ammunition that he needed to fend off his attackers.
Bear in mind that all of the treatises that apostle Paul had written to the churches on the subject of salvation by grace and faith as opposed to works of the Law of Moses were his original efforts to combat the false doctrine being foisted on the new Gentile converts by false brethren.
Denominations today make it a dispute about salvation
by grace and faith versus salvation by baptism in water and spirit – which
some call a “works doctrine”. Context is everything in studying the
scriptures. When men abandon the truth in favor of what seems right to them,
they fight about what the truth really is. As Jesus and His apostles taught,
we are saved by grace, faith and
works – including the Lord’s
command that we be baptized in water.