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ACTS CHAPTER 15

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1 Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." 

 

Act 15,1-12

(172h) Works of the devil >> Manifestations of the devil >> Tares among the wheat >> False doctrine among the truth – Jesus said it best in Mat 13-52, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the Kingdom of Heaven is like a head of a household, who beings forth out of his treasure things new and old.” This means that people coming from a previous religious background will never completely lose their old religion after they get saved, but many of the cankerous beliefs they held in the past will remain with them and hinder them from arriving at an accurate depiction of the truth. Nevertheless, Paul was a Pharisee of Pharisees, yet it wasn’t his visions from God that gave him advantage in his faith, rather it was his tenacious commitment to the truth. Paul wanted to know the truth more than anything, being willing to sacrifice his life for it, and he was also willing to risk his life to bring that truth to the people. Paul was very careful that the gospel he preached was in the purest possible form. He sought the Lord with many others and they compared notes and drew certain conclusions during the early days of the Church that set precedence for all Christianity. In contrast, these Pharisees who wanted to maintain the law of circumcision among Jews and gentiles were reaching into their old bag of beliefs and pulling out some stale bread and offering it to the people, and they were choking on it. The problem with adding rules and regulations to the grace of God is that they dilute the blood of Christ, de-emphasizing the cross and opening the door to question its necessity. Again, adding regulations has the effect of demoting the blood of Jesus. The apostles were trying to keep the way of salvation pure so that by the grace of God alone should a person safely find the shores of God's heavenly kingdom, and not by any rules imposed to cast an ominous shadow on the cross. See also: Act 15,1-11; 205kb

Act 15,1-11

(46d) Judgment >> Spiritual warfare >> Subjecting your flesh >> Hindrances to the kingdom -- These verses go with verses 22-29

(205kb) Salvation >> Salvation is based on God’s promises >> Faith versus works >> The faith of God versus the faith of men >> Faith versus the law >> Saved by grace through faith -- Jesus saved us with His own blood by an act of His Father's will. This makes us question that if there is nothing we can do to be saved, then maybe we can do anything we want. That is, since Jesus died for our sins, can we willfully violate the laws of God and remain in His grace? In other words, if the grace of God cannot keep us from sinning, then how can we say it has any effect at all? This brings us to the statement that Paul made in 2Tim 2-19, “Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness.’” If we cannot offer any evidence of our salvation, then how do we know we're saved? Evidence establishes confidence, which is synonymous with faith, which is the active ingredient in cleansing us from all unrighteousness. This may seem confusing, but only to the one who wants to push the boundaries of his freedom in Christ or add legalistic regulations or live according to the doctrines of easy-believism. Jesus was our blood sacrifice and we believe in Him by obeying the Holy Spirit, who helps us live the Christian life. Fulfilling the requirements of the law is not technically a requirement of salvation, but if we can’t demonstrate the grace of God, then we have no basis for our confidence that we belong to Him. See also: Act 15,1-12; 205kb

(240j) Kingdom of God >> Opposition toward the Kingdom of God >> Hindering the kingdom >> Taking away the key of knowledge >> Suppressing the truth

Act 15-1,2

(7a) Responsibility >> Protecting the Gospel >> Contend earnestly for the faith – These verses go with verses 5-12. This chapter is devoted to earnestly contending against legalism for the liberty we have in Christ. Freedom is often misunderstood, misguided and abused, adopting the name: easy-believism, which is the flipside of legalism. Attaching requirements to the grace of God is evil, so this chapter diagnoses and illuminates the narrow way that we Christians must travel in order to remain in God's intended grace, free and faithful to our Lord and Master. Drifting to one side will attach rules and regulations to our faith, plunging us into bondage, while drifting the other way into easy-believism will make us fall into a very similar ditch. The many pitfalls between bondage to rules and bondage to outright sin makes it likely that the average believer who does not seek God with all his heart will fall into one of these. It is only the vigilant student of God's word faithful in prayer who avoids these ditches on either side of the road of faith. We can believe all kinds of things, but if we don't believe the truth, then we are unbelievers. The more accurate our understanding of the scriptures, the more potential to believe the truth, yet in today's Christianity we think we can just believe anything we want, and it is considered believing in God, and we think it automatically places us in God's favor. This cavalier approach to faith proves we don't really care that God has saved us.

(138e) Temple >> Building the temple (with hands) >> Reproof >> Reprove your brother for spreading false doctrine -- These verses go with verses 6-12

(173k) Works of the devil >> The religion of witchcraft >> Man’s Religion >> Deeds that are not initiated by God >> Traditions of men -- These verses go with verse 5

(191d) Die to self (Process of substitution) >> Separation from the old man >> Extract the leaven of false doctrine -- These verses go with verse 5. Now that the subject was fresh on their minds after thoroughly investigating the issue and agreeing on a resolution, they were told to go to Jerusalem and relate their conclusions with the apostles to have it ratified by them and to offer any further enlightenment.

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Act 15-1

(1m) Responsibility >> Avoid offending God >> Carrying a false burden >> Making commitments that contradict Scripture – This verse goes with verses 5-12

(22h) Sin >> Lust (craving pleasure) >> Boasting in the flesh -- This verse goes with verse 5

(162ka) Works of the devil >> Being a slave to the devil (Addictions) >> Bondage >> Being slaves of men >> In bondage to the burdens of men >> In bondage to the Law -- This verse goes with verse 5

(173i) Works of the devil >> The religion of witchcraft >> Catholicism >> Unholy sacrifice >> Penance of following the law -- This verse goes with verse 5

(177d) Works of the devil >> The religion of witchcraft >> False doctrine >> Doctrines of the precepts of men -- This verse goes with verses 10&11

(185a) Works of the devil >> The origin of lawlessness >> Abusing the grace of God >> Dragging God’s Grace Through The Mud >> Operating His grace through religion -- This verse goes with verse 5

(190j) Die to self (Process of substitution) >> Separation from the old man >> Circumcision >> Circumcision is a sign of obedience >> Symbolism over substance -- This verse goes with verse 5

 

2-6 And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue. 3 Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren. 4 When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. 5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses." 6 The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter.

 

Act 15,2-4

(72k) Authority >> Hierarchy of authority >> Authority makes you accountable >> You are accountable to the one who gave it to you -- These verses go with verses 22&23. Paul and Barnabas on their way to Jerusalem stopped in some of the cities where they preached the gospel and gave their testimony about those being saved through the word of His grace and through the miracles, signs and wonders God performed through their hands. This was in the earlier days of Paul's career as an evangelist when he spent most of his time preaching the simple gospel, though it was not so simple in a world that hated him and persecuted him from town to town. Nevertheless, this level of stress and persecution kept Paul and Barnabas sharp and made them seek the Lord for strength, which they used to preach the word all the more with the result of more people getting saved. So, was this persecution necessary to perpetuate the gospel of Christ? In a way yes, at least in the eyes of God, but for Paul and Barnabas, they sought a remedy but never got it. God has ambitions and aspirations too, and He was willing to allow His evangelists, Paul, Silas, Barnabas and others, suffer for the sake of the souls who would be saved through their ministries. Some might say this was not right, but God has every intension of rewarding them in eternity, so they would never regret the commitment they made in their service to God.

Act 15-3

(125f) Thy kingdom come >> Manifestations of faith >> Joy >> Joy is the result of partaking of the Holy Spirit >> Joy is the result of receiving from God

Act 15-4

(191g) Die to self (Process of substitution) >> Result of putting off the old man >> Set apart >> God sanctifies us by His doing

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Act 15,5-20

(179k) Works of the devil >> Practicing witchcraft >> Wolves >> Wolves lead people into a cult >> Leading people through ignorance – What is the effect of legalism? According to verse 24, it disturbs and unsettles people’s souls. Legalism turns the grace of God into a performance based religion. Circumcision, dress codes... whether they bring people closer to God is questionable, but whether they infringe on the freedom of Christ is not. The word choice “unsettling your souls” in verse 24 is in reference to those making the rules threatening people if they refuse to meet the requirements of their religion, cannot be part of their group and maybe not even of heaven. These consequences push the infraction from tampering with people’s freedom to tampering with their salvation, depicting the danger of cultic religions. On the contrary, there is nothing we can do to be saved, hence nothing we can do to be unsaved; all we can do is believe in Jesus, and try to avoid contradicting our faith. The active ingredient of our salvation is nothing more than believing in the blood of Jesus to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Act 15,5-12

(1m) Responsibility >> Avoid offending God >> Carrying a false burden >> Making commitments that contradict Scripture – These verses go with verse 1

(7a) Responsibility >> Protecting the Gospel >> Contend earnestly for the faith – These verses go with verses 1&2

Act 15-5

(22h) Sin >> Lust (craving pleasure) >> Boasting in the flesh -- This verse goes with verses 10&11

(162ka) Works of the devil >> Being a slave to the devil (Addictions) >> Bondage >> Being slaves of men >> In bondage to the burdens of men >> In bondage to the Law -- This verse goes with verse 10

(173i) Works of the devil >> The religion of witchcraft >> Catholicism >> Unholy sacrifice >> Penance of following the law -- This verse goes with verse 1

(173k) Works of the devil >> The religion of witchcraft >> Man’s Religion >> Deeds that are not initiated by God >> Traditions of men -- This verse goes with verse 10. Tradition mostly has a negative connotation. Traditions are habits and habits are things we do without thinking about them. We go for a cigarette and before we know it the cigarette is in our mouth and the lighter is in our hand, and just before we light it is the first thought about what we are doing. Tradition is the same way; we go to church and sit through a service following the traditions that never change from week to week, which is our habit of serving the Lord. The negative connotation of religious tradition lies in the fact that we rarely stop to think about what we are doing; we just go through the motions without thinking about them; some try to internalize the service, but it’s not a requirement. This is the problem with tradition; worshipfulness is an option. People don’t stop to think about how they are destroying their lives with drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, just like people don’t stop to think how they are destroying their faith through their religious tradition, hoping God will receive them. Why would God be interested in something we do without thinking about it, without caring about it? Try handing your sweetheart a box of chocolates with a flat affect, and you will probably get them back via airmail.

(185a) Works of the devil >> The origin of lawlessness >> Abusing the grace of God >> Dragging God’s Grace Through The Mud >> Operating His grace through religion -- This verse goes with verses 10&11

(190j) Die to self (Process of substitution) >> Separation from the old man >> Circumcision >> Circumcision is a sign of obedience >> Symbolism over substance -- This verse goes with verses 10&11

(191d) Die to self (Process of substitution) >> Separation from the old man >> Extract the leaven of false doctrine -- This verse goes with verses 8-11

Act 15,6-11

(205g) Salvation >> Salvation is based on God’s promises >> New covenant >> The new one is a better one – Jesus died on the cross and has brought the grace of God to us, establishing a new covenant in His blood, since the old one was ineffectual. Had the old covenant sufficed to meet our needs, there would have been no occasion sought for a second (Heb 8-7), but God sent His own Son to die for us as a means of establishing our salvation and creating a new way to obey God through the Holy Spirit that He imparts in each of His believers, which is the power of God to believe and obey the truth.

Act 15,6-12

(138e) Temple >> Building the temple (with hands) >> Reproof >> Reprove your brother for spreading false doctrine -- These verses go with verses 1&2

KJV    NAS  /  Navigation Bar

7-11 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 "And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; 9 and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 "Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 "But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are." 

 

Act 15,7-19

(210j) Salvation >> Jews and gentiles are being saved >> Gentiles included >> Fellow heirs with Israel (Spiritual Jew) >> God welcomes the Gentiles to the promise of Israel – Of all people God spoke to Peter about the gentiles being included in the grace of God. Peter had a hard time accepting this and argued with the Lord at first, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone, being a hardheaded man; he recognized the voice of God, yet he still argued with Him. The Lord said things that Peter didn’t expect to hear; he should have known, but none of us get used to our paradigms being dashed to pieces. For God to say things that are readily acceptable to us is the first sign that God isn’t the one speaking to us. Peter got his paradigms dashed many times while he and his fellow disciples walked with Jesus, the greatest paradigm shift being the realization that Jesus had no intension of establishing His physical kingdom just yet, instead came to destroy their spiritual enemysin. In this case the paradigm shift pertained to the gospel being not for the Jews only, but also for the gentiles. 

Act 15-7

(85g) Thy kingdom come >> Words that are spoken in faith >> Testify of God’s works – God’s original plan was that the whole world should be saved through Christ and that the Jews should control the gospel; nowhere in the Bible does it say that the gospel should be managed by the gentiles, yet this is what we see today. This is because the Jews have reject the will of God for themselves, giving God no alternative but to bypass them, the gospel placed in the hands of the gentiles being plan B. He wanted the Jews to lead the world into the will of God, but it was not a requirement, “Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles’” (Act 13-46). They persecuted him all the more after that. The Jews didn’t want the gospel, and they wanted even less the gentiles to have it. When we think of all the things the Jews suffered throughout the age of grace, the holocaust and so many persecutions stemming back to the days of Christ, this didn’t happen to them because they crucified their own Messiah, but because they rejected the gospel.

(219b) Sovereignty >> God overrides the will of man >> The elect >> Man is a spectator of his own salvation >> Man is not in control of God’s calling

Act 15,8-11

(35d) Gift of God >> God is willing to Give >> No partiality with God’s generosity – This is an amazing statement when you think about it; the apostles made the most critical decision of the Church based on a manifestation of the Spirit. When the gentiles heard the gospel and believed in Jesus, the Holy Spirit fell on them, and they all began to worship God and speak in tongues and prophesy. These are things that people fabricate through a pretend relationship with God in today’s church, and it is really easy to do, just jump up and down and blither a lot of phonemes that nobody understands and then prophesy things that nobody makes sure comes true. Meanwhile, Paul actually received a revelation from God through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit bearing witness to the word of His grace regarding the gentiles accepted by God in His Church. Paul received this revelation through the teachings of the Old Testament, which he knew backward and forward regarding the ancient prophets who wrote about the gentiles coming to salvation (Isa 11:10; Isa 42:1-4; Isa 49:6; Isa 65:1,2; Amo 9:11,12; Hsa 1:10; Hsa 2:23; Hsa 1:10; Hsa 2:23). So Paul didn’t need a manifestation of the Spirit to know that the gentiles were included but concurred with the apostles through the Scriptures, and the apostles reinforced Paul’s revelation. See also: Act 15,13-19; 50dc

(191d) Die to self (Process of substitution) >> Separation from the old man >> Extract the leaven of false doctrine -- These verses go with verses 1&2. The opponents of Christian liberty were attempting to reinstate circumcision and add a lot of other rules that supposedly proved salvation. The problem of course is that none of these rules prove anything. How could circumcision possibly prove that we believe in Jesus, and since baptism is the new covenant form of circumcision, we could say the same about it: how could baptism prove that we believe in Jesus? Any dill-weed can be immersed in water. The problem with pretenders and deceivers is that they are willing to fake the signs of Christianity in order to gain social status and be accepted by the people and allowed to mingle with the fold for the purpose of exploiting the sheep. The misconception is that since they have faked these signs, they are now Christians, and that makes them feel better about themselves and about what they are doing. To a real sheep this wouldn’t work, because he has a conscience and lives by it, but the wolf doesn’t live by a conscience and therefore regularly manipulates it so he can fake the signs of Christianity and believe he is a Christian at the same time.

(230c) Kingdom of God >> God’s kingdom is a living organism >> Partaking >> What we must do to partake of the kingdom >> Partaking which requires no participation

Act 15-8

(35f) Gift of God >> God gives Himself to us >> Father sends the Holy Spirit

(132k) Temple >> Your body is the temple of God >> Holy Spirit is in God’s people >> Holy Spirit is in the hearts of men

(212g) Sovereignty >> God is infinite >> God is all knowing >> Nothing hidden >> God knows your heart

Act 15-9

(51h) Judgment >> Judging the Church with the world >> No partiality among us with God

(103m) Thy kingdom come >> Purifying process >> Purified by circumstances >> Purified through faith

Act 15-10,11

(22h) Sin >> Lust (craving pleasure) >> Boasting in the flesh -- These verses go with verse 1

(177d) Works of the devil >> The religion of witchcraft >> False doctrine >> Doctrines of the precepts of men -- These verses go with verse 1

(185a) Works of the devil >> The origin of lawlessness >> Abusing the grace of God >> Dragging God’s Grace Through The Mud >> Operating His grace through religion -- These verses go with verse 1

(190j) Die to self (Process of substitution) >> Separation from the old man >> Circumcision >> Circumcision is a sign of obedience >> Symbolism over substance -- These verses go with verse 1

Act 15-10

(162ka) Works of the devil >> Being a slave to the devil (Addictions) >> Bondage >> Being slaves of men >> In bondage to the burdens of men >> In bondage to the Law -- This verse goes with verse 21-29

(173k) Works of the devil >> The religion of witchcraft >> Man’s Religion >> Deeds that are not initiated by God >> Traditions of men -- This verse goes with verses 1&2

KJV    NAS  /  Navigation Bar

12-19 All the people kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were relating what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13 After they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, "Brethren, listen to me. 14 "Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. 15 "With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, 16 'AFTER THESE THINGS I will return, AND I WILL REBUILD THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID WHICH HAS FALLEN, AND I WILL REBUILD ITS RUINS, AND I WILL RESTORE IT, 17 SO THAT THE REST OF MANKIND MAY SEEK THE LORD, AND ALL THE GENTILES WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME,' 18 SAYS THE LORD, WHO MAKES THESE THINGS KNOWN FROM LONG AGO. 19 "Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, 

 

Act 15-12 

(84f) Thy kingdom come >> Words of your mouth >> Boasting >> It needs to be said and no one is saying it >> Boasting in Christ

(147e) Witness >> Validity of Jesus Christ >> Jesus’ works bear witness of Himself >> Divine works of God >> Signs and wonders – God uses signs and wonders to confirm his prophets, guaranteeing that what they are teaching is the truth, and the foremost sign is healing. Occasionally we hear about someone who has been divinely healed, but God mostly reserves his signs and wonders for certain periods when God moves to establish an era, such as the formation of the Church in the first century, and again He will move at the end of the age. Healing is relatively rare outside these special events; even in Jesus’ day many people went unhealed. When the apostles preached the word of God in the Church’s infancy, Jesus said about those days that the fields were white for harvest (Jn 4-35). God was pleased to place His stamp of approval on His word in those days, and He will move again in the last days as His kingdom manifests with signs and wonders. The word of God will go forth, needing God’s seal of approval. In our day there are many versions of the gospel, many teachings, many religions and denominations, all believing something different about the Bible. The truth of God and His one and only gospel will require confirmation through signs and wonders in the last days, and they will become more common than in the first century.

Act 15,13-19

(50dc) Judgment >> Last Days >> Jewish Led endtime revival >> Israel prophesied to restore the gentiles to salvation – This Old Testament passage that James quoted is an interesting and prophetic word from God regarding the last days that speaks primarily about a Great Endtime Revival of the gentiles like no other time in the history. It will be inspired by the Jews, and note that this passage concerns itself with rebuilding the temple, which we know has not yet happened. The last temple was destroyed in AD 70, at the beginning of the age of grace, and it says that the temple is a sign of the gentiles coming to faith in Jesus; therefore the temple must be rebuilt. Remember what the angel said to the disciples as Jesus was ascending to heaven, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven" (Act 1-11). The angel was saying that instead of ascending, when Jesus returns He will descend, suggesting that all the events that lead to His ascension will be reversed, so in the case of the temple being destroyed, it will be rebuilt. This prophecy also provides the specific sequence by which these events must unfold, namely that the temple will be built first and then a gentile revival will occur, exactly in that order. Persecution of the Jews will also occur from an opportunistic global economic collapse, which will trigger the revival of the Jews, who as their last and only option will come to a revelation of Jesus Christ as their Messiah. The antichrist will respond to this messianic revival by agreeing to rebuild their temple, and this one act will inadvertently trigger a global revival of the gentiles. So everything the antichrist does explodes in his face. This Jewish revival will be represented by the 144,000 mentioned in the Book of Revelation. These Jewish witnesses will lead the Great Endtime Revival of the gentiles, which will involve millions of people getting saved throughout the world. Therefore, the apostasy under which the Church is currently suffering will continue until the rebuilding of the Jewish temple. See also: Act 15,8-11; 35d

(60c) Paradox >> Two implied meanings >> The second coming / End time revival – Will we ever get around to inviting Jesus return? That is what He has been waiting for us to do, not the gentiles but the Jews, His chosen people according to the flesh. We need to remember that this is our earth; He gave it to us; we own the title to it. For Christ to return without a formal invitation would be trespassing on our property. He needs an invitation before He can return, which will happen one day. There will be a Great Endtime Revival, and that revival will invite the return of Jesus Christ, accompanied by persecution and martyrdom of the saints. God’s people will be faithful because of the revelation that is given them in those days, unlike today when people don’t seem to understand anything about God. People in the Church today hardly read their Bibles, and Scripture is the basis of our understanding, but the essence of our understanding comes from the Holy Spirit, who speaks His word in us by revelation, depositing it in a place in our hearts that transcends the natural mind, so deep that not even we have access to it, except by the power of God. By this knowledge we understand Him.

(70a) Authority >> Righteous judgment (outcome of discernment) >> Passing judgment by the word of God

Act 15,14-18

(142b) Witness >> Validity of Jesus Christ >> Old Testament bears witness to the new >> Prophesy about the dispensation >> Gentiles are included

Act 15-14

(191g) Die to self (Process of substitution) >> Result of putting off the old man >> Set apart >> God sanctifies us by His doing – Compared to the First Century, the Church in America is not persecuted, mostly because the offense of the gospel has been removed, referring to sanctification of the believer. To be set apart from this world tells unbelievers we don’t want to participate in their culture, which is interpreted by the world as rejection. God called the nation of Israel to be set apart from the world, starting far back as the days of Moses. In Leviticus 20-26 it says, “Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.” Sanctification is offensive to the world, though it is a great evangelism tool, distinguishing the believer from the unbeliever, but without sanctification the heathen can claim to be already Christian and we cannot prove them wrong, since sanctification is all but non-existent in the Church. In other words, members of the Church and constituents of the world are just about the same, except that “believers” affirm certain doctrines to be true and they usually go to church on Sunday morning.

KJV    NAS  /  Navigation Bar

20 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. 

 

Act 15-20

(10e) Responsibility >> Keeping order in the Church >> Decrees of the Church – This verse goes with verses 28&29. The apostles were careful not to impose any more restrictions or laws on the saints than were absolutely necessary. The disciples themselves asked what requirements were necessary to be a Christian, and the apostles didn’t want to give them any, but they prevailed upon them, so they gave the Christians a very short list of laws: do not drink blood or eat things sacrificed to idols, or eat meat that was strangled, and avoid fornication. These mostly pertained to health issues, almost nothing to do with spirituality; they never became an issue throughout the entire 2000-year age of grace. Imposing ordinances and laws just didn’t fit with the purpose of freedom in the new covenant.

(13d) Servant >> Serve the body >> Promoting its health >> Building up the body of Christ – No one drinks blood anymore, and most people simply go to the grocery store to buy their food, and at slaughterhouses they don’t strangle animals, but have devised far more efficient and tactful methods of ending the lives of the animals they process. Notice that these four ordinances relate to issues about conscience and good health, but what about the rule prohibiting us from eating things strangled to death? It is unethical, but what is more, it is unhealthy and here’s why. It is too slow a death, allowing adrenaline and other hormones to flood the flesh prior to death, and then we ingest them, and they have unhealthy effects. It is better to kill an animal without traumatizing it for health reasons and for ethics. The first rule concerns our relationship with God, the second concerns our relationship with man and the last two are in relation to our health, covering spiritual, moral and health issues.

(22b) Sin >> Greed tries to satisfy man’s need for security >> The idolatry of greed – These obscure and unintuitive items on the list pertaining to paganism show us what kind of world existed in the first century, and shows how the world has changed. Of these four laws, fornication is the only one that still has application to our modern age. Fornication was not against the Mosaic Law of the old covenant, meaning that fornication is a new covenant sin. Moreover, we don’t deliberately worship idols anymore or eat food sacrificed to idols, but they were common practices at the time, though we are just as idolatrous in our day as they were in theirs; people have simply changed their manner of idol worship. For example, unquestionably the most prevalent form of idolatry today is materialism, but no one literally bends the knee and worships idols anymore, except Catholics; instead people now worship themselves. People will do almost anything to achieve a better standard of living, which becomes a status symbol by which they judge others. 

(155f) Witness >> Validity of the believer >> Witness of the believer >> Conscience >> An evil conscience keeps us from believing God >> Knowledge of evil testifies against our lifestyles – Paul wrote in depth to the Corinthians about the subject of idolatry and said that we are not to eat food sacrificed to idols, not for the sake of our own conscience, but for the sake of others observing us, meaning that sacrificing food to an idol does not alter the food in any way, but it does condone the practice of idolatry, conveying the wrong message and giving a poor example of Christianity (1Cor 8,7-13). The Bible says that God is a jealous God, and we know from the Old Testament law that worshipping anything other than God is at the top of God’s list of things to avoid.

(190j) Die to self (Process of substitution) >> Separation from the old man >> Circumcision >> Circumcision is a sign of obedience >> Symbolism over substance – Of all the hundreds of Old Testament laws, these four are all that transferred to the New Testament. Not even circumcision transferred; instead, baptism replaced it. There had to be a complete breaking away from old covenant regulations, because of all the misunderstanding and abuse of the old covenant. What if baptism were a requirement of salvation as the Jews claimed about circumcision; how would they differ? There would be no difference, yet many people still believe that baptism is a requirement of salvation; this is the faith of Pharisees; in fact, infant baptism originated from the law of infant circumcision on the eighth day of life. Baptism and circumcision both function as a sign of faith. One was a physical sign though hidden from the public, while the other is a sign performed in public but cannot be proven afterward, except by witnesses, like in a marriage. Imagine asking a grown man to pull down his trousers to see if he believes in God; that would be embarrassing. Contrary to what the Jews believed, circumcision was never a requirement of salvation, but over time they allowed its symbolism to supplant the substance of their faith that it represented. Baptism is no different in this regard. What did Jesus say about baptism? “It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Mat 3-15), that is the attitude we should have about baptism. To be baptized does not save us, but if we are seeking the righteousness of God, then we should be baptized.

(196b) Denying Christ >> Man exercises his will against God >> Idolatry >> Worshipping the devil – Doesn’t it seem small of God to be jealous of us worshipping other gods? What really is happening here? The problem with worshipping idols is that there are demons behind them (1Cor 10-20), so to sacrifice to idols is to sacrifice to demons, and God doesn’t want us worshipping His nemesis. God is not jealous that we are worshipping steel and wood comprising of cars and houses; he’s jealous that we are worshipping His archenemy, the very epitome of evil. God wants to make a point through us to satanic powers of wickedness in high places that righteousness and holiness and obedience to the truth is better than pride and rebellion. God's concern is just as much to teach the demon world about His ways as it is to teach man, because if He can prove the devil wrong through us, then He can use them as a testimony for us that serving God is our best choice. God wants to take away all their excuses, so they will not be able to accuse God for the eternal suffering they must endure; that is, He wants them to take responsibility for the choices they made. All their excuses for rebellion and sin are completely removed when God creates a people for His own possession, zealous for good works. When we  love Him with a whole heart, having absolute freedom to choose evil but choose righteousness instead, the demons will know they could have made the same choice but didn't, and they will have no one to blame but themselves. God earnestly desires the demon world to know this, and He wants to use our faithfulness and obedience to send the message (Mat 12-41,42). Remember Job. When man continues in his way of darkness and evil, what message does that send to the devil? Our sin confirms the choices the devil made, and makes God look evil for judging him. Without the testimony of the Church God would send the devil to hell thinking he was right in rebelling and God was wrong in judging him for it; but like Job, God wanted him to remain faithful to prove the devil wrong.

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21-25 "For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath." 22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas -Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, 23 and they sent this letter by them, "The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings. 24 "Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls, 25 it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 

 

Act 15,21-29

(162ka) Works of the devil >> Being a slave to the devil (Addictions) >> Bondage >> Being slaves of men >> In bondage to the burdens of men >> In bondage to the Law -- These verses go with verse 1. Those who wanted to continue living by law were insistent on receiving a list of behaviors that they could use to calibrate their conduct, so they could know whether they were pleasing to God, but this had an unsettling effect on others who were walking by the Spirit, who didn’t need a list, but were confident their lives were a joy to God based on their relation to the Spirit who dwelt in them. There were no laws in Christendom and it drove the legalists crazy, inciting them to ask how they were supposed to serve the Lord without rules to regulate their behavior. Their complaint was that they may be sinning and wouldn't know it without some kind of law telling them right form wrong. This short list of items that the apostles chose were token rules to satisfy those who sought to governed themselves by law. They are still relevant as are the Ten Commandments in that we should not associate in any way with idolatry for spiritual reasons, and we should not drink blood or eat an animal that was strangled or fornicate for conscience sake and for health reasons. It was difficult for some people to secede from the Law of Moses and embrace the Spirit, after living under the Law their whole lives along with their ancestors for thousands of years. However, the Law of Moses simply didn’t work, because it could not empower us to obey it as the Spirit does.

Act 15-21

(151d) Witness >> Validity of the Father >> New Testament bears witness of the Old >> The Patriarchs >> Moses

Act 15,22-29

(46d) Judgment >> Spiritual warfare >> Subjecting your flesh >> Hindrances to the kingdom -- These verses go with verses 1-11. This passage is about setting rules for the Church, which the apostles didn’t want to do, but felt obligated, since there were some who were accustomed to the Law of Moses. The apostles decided that if they insisted on rules, they would have them, and so they sent this letter to the Church in Jerusalem and gave them a very short list of things not to do. Most Christians don’t acknowledge this list or even know of its existence; in fact, most of the items on the list have become obsolete. For example, we shouldn’t eat blood because many diseases are carried in the blood. Consuming blood has virtually no health benefits but has many risks, and so God banned the eating of blood through Moses. Among the hundreds of laws and sundry laws found from Exodus to Deuteronomy the eating of blood made it on this list of don'ts, yet the list itself was eventually dropped. The only item on the list that still holds relevance to our day is to abstain from fornication. That is not to say eating blood and contracting a disease is irrelevant, and it is not to say that strangling an animal and consuming toxic levels of the adrenaline hormone is irrelevant, but that the Holy Spirit is here to teach us that these things ought not to be done, making the list irrelevant. Consider the Ten Commandments, they still hold true, but they are superceded by the indwelling Holy Spirit, who teaches us right from wrong, making the Law obsolete. God still doesn’t want us to commit murder or adultery, just as He doesn't want us to eat blood or fornicate, and so the Ten Commandments remain relevant, but they have become relics, since now we follow the Spirit, who gives us the strength to obey Him, which further abolishes any need for Law or any other list of rules.

Act 15-22,23

(72k) Authority >> Hierarchy of authority >> Authority makes you accountable >> You are accountable to the one who gave it to you -- These verses go with verses 2-4

Act 15-24

(84l) Thy kingdom come >> Your words can lead to your own demise >> They can be destructive

Act 15-25,26

(152c) Witness >> Validity of the Father >> Witnesses of the father >> Apostles >> Investment of their lives proves apostleship

Act 15-25

(129n) Thy kingdom come >> Manifestations of faith >> Unity >> Being in one accord >> Having one mind

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26-35 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 "Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves 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 essentials: 29 that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell." 30 So when they were sent away, they went down to Antioch; and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31 When they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. 32 Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message. 33 After they had spent time there, they were sent away from the brethren in peace to those who had sent them out. 34 [But it seemed good to Silas to remain there.] 35 But Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, teaching and preaching with many others also, the word of the Lord. 

 

Act 15-26

(67h) Authority >> Jesus delegates authority >> Sacrificing your life for the name of Jesus

(100j) Thy kingdom come >> Devotion >> In your ministry to God >> Fulfill God’s calling in your life

Act 15-28,29

(2i) Responsibility >> Avoid offending God >> Get out of His way >> Do not touch the apple of His eye >> Do not offend the weak in faith – This list of four essentials for the early church is amazing when you look at it in comparison to all the requirements that had been imposed on them from the Old Testament before Christ came and changed everything. The list has entries in it that are also mentioned within the context of helping the weak in faith (see 1Corinthians chapter 8), suggesting that this list is for them, further suggesting that legalistic people are weak in faith, that they may not stumble over this new found freedom. This means that those who are strong in faith have no list of requirements imposed on them at all! They are completely free, except to follow the Holy Spirit, who acts in the place of rules and laws.

(10e) Responsibility >> Keeping order in the Church >> Decrees of the Church – These verses go with verse 20

(155g) Witness >> Validity of the believer >> Witness of the believer >> Holy Spirit bears witness of the believer

Act 15-28

(70b) Authority >> Righteous judgment (outcome of discernment) >> Sensitivity To The Spirit

(105i) Thy kingdom come >> Faith >> Led by the Spirit >> Into The will of God >> Led by the authority of the Church

(208h) Salvation >> The salvation of God >> Personal relationship >> Being the friend of God >> Relationship with God by the Spirit – “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us,” sounds like the Holy Spirit was their friend, suggesting that when two Christians fellowshipped a third person was among them. This moment captured on paper, this reality they lived in the first century, we seem to have lost in the last days apostasy. We too should be living this spiritual reality, but where is the Holy Spirit today? It seems that nobody knows anything about Him anymore, but He still dwells among the faithful in Christ, who serve Him in Spirit and truth. Those who have ears to hear and obey His voice are too few, while those who play the game of religion are too numerous and in the dark about such matters and will probably never see the light or repent of their unbelief, and they will sadly never come to have this relationship with the Holy Spirit that was commonplace among the saints of the early Church.

Act 15,30-32

(139d) Temple >> Building the temple (with hands) >> Encouragement >> Encouragement strengthens our faith -- These verses go with verses 36-41. Encouragement was in the message to abstain from legalism; it was good they didn’t send down a letter saying they had to fulfill a long list of requirements in order to be saved; that would have been discouraging. It was encouraging that Jesus paid the full price on the cross so that there was nothing we could do to please Him, except follow the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to do anything except believe in Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit and let Him lead the way into His purpose and calling in our lives.

Act 15-32

(9h) Responsibility >> Strengthened by the sword of His Spirit >> Through His word

(152k) Witness >> Validity of the Father >> Witnesses of the father >> The Church holds the position of a prophet >> True prophets >> Confirming the prophets

Act 15,33-35

(149fa) Witness >> Validity of Jesus Christ >> Works of the Church bear witness to Jesus >> Evangelism >> Preaching the word to the world >> The gospel of the kingdom >> Preach the gospel of salvation – The brethren, fellow evangelists, prophets and apostles went their separate ways and preached the gospel, and then return together to discus their achievements regarding how many people believed their message. The numbers of those who became members of a fledgling Church born in their area was based on Jesus’ statement that the fields were white with harvest (Jn 4-35). They didn’t strive to build the Church for bragging rights but did everything for Jesus’ sake and for His glory. Rejoicing in their accomplishments was based on the hope of a Church that would remain long after they died, lasting thousands of years, unbeknown to them, given the daunting task of securing the Church in the world. They preached the gospel and thousands came to the Lord; people were sick of paganism; they knew none of it was true. Previous religions were mere placeholders until the truth arrived, and they received it in earnest. This is what the gospel meant to many in the days of the apostles; the waiting was over and the truth had finally come. How sad it is that this attitude no longer exists in the world today. There is very little appreciation for the knowledge of God, even though there is a Bible in just about every house, and the Internet is filled with programs for effectively studying the Bible, the best of them free of charge. If the world did not have the gospel, it would have destroyed itself long ago; in fact, the world is in the process of destroying itself even now, because of a lack of appreciation for the truth. People are not being saved, and those who claim to believe are not committed to the faith.

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36-41 After some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are." 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. 38 But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. 40 But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

 

Act 15,36-41

(123f) Thy kingdom come >> Manifestations of faith >> Love >> Spiritual affection >> Compassion is greater than sacrifice – Paul was unable to see the qualities in John Mark, so again Barnabas sided with the one whose potential was being overlooked. Paul was given the opportunity to forward the blessing that Barnabas had given him during the days of his fledgling faith but dropped the ball. Barnabas took on His cousin Mark just like he took on Paul. We always hear about Paul; churches are named after him, and nearly half the New Testament was written by him in all his letters to the Churches, but this incident shows that Paul and Barnabas were a good match in that they were equals, Paul in his zeal and knowledge, and Barnabas in his discernment and compassion. Paul was compassionate too, but Barnabas was there when people needed him; he had a sixth sense about the genuineness of a person. Barnabas was insightful to see when a person had a change of heart; mark became resolute that he would never abandon the brethren again, and he ultimately wrote the gospel of Mark. Barnabas saw this in his cousin and knew that he could fully trust him as a partner in a world of darkness, violence and danger. The separation of Paul and Barnabas was a great loss; they were like David and Jonathon of the Old Testament, and to see these ties broken was heart-breaking in itself, though eventually they mended the relationship.

(139d) Temple >> Building the temple (with hands) >> Encouragement >> Encouragement strengthens our faith -- These verses go with verses 30-32

(158d) Works of the devil >> Essential characteristics >> Divide and conquer >> Strife >> Disagreements – It was not right of Paul to break up with Barnabas, being the only person who believed in him during the first days of his conversion to Christianity, marching him to the apostles, who had the presence of mind and the wisdom to acknowledge Paul’s faith in spite of his sordid past. Barnabas did that for Paul, and he was in debt to him, so he should have remembered the kindness and faith of his partner throughout their missionary journeys. Instead, Paul allowed this argument to divide them. This was his zeal getting in the way of love. Paul would go anywhere with the Lord and speak whatever words God put in his mouth and took whatever punishment the Jews inflicted upon him, but he couldn’t forgive Mark. Paul was bitter against him for abandoning him in Pamphylia; his zeal obstructed his view from seeing love as the best choice. Mark no doubt abandoned Paul at an inopportune time, which may have caused Paul much grief, possibly incurring imprisonment, a beating or both, yet Paul’s sin was allowing his zeal to become more important than his love. Paul's greatest strength in the eyes of God was his zeal, which also his greatest weakness.

(163l) Works of the devil >> Being a slave to the devil (Addictions) >> Entertaining demons >> The Church entertains demons

Act 15,36-40

(97b) Thy kingdom come >> Having a negative attitude about yourself >> An uncooperative attitude – Mark got cold feet and ran, and Paul after that would not take him on anymore missionary journeys. Paul and Barnabas got into a tiff about it; Mark was Barnabas’ cousin (Col 4-10) and he was defending him, accusing Paul of speaking against his family. Both Paul and Barnabas were at fault in this argument. Barnabas was being partial to Mark as a member of his earthly family, whereas he should have considered the Church in the matter and not gotten involved in nepotism, and Paul was wrong in turning it into a heated argument. Later, Mark proved himself to Paul as an indispensable servant and Paul commissioned him as one of his trusted servants again on other missionary journeys. He regained Paul’s trust, which was not easy to do; Paul was a very exacting man; you don't leave him in the lurch to be captured by his enemies and tortured and thrown into a deep, dark dungeon, which happened to him on more than one occasion.

Act 15-36

(130g) Thy kingdom come >> Manifestations of faith >> Unity >> Committed to caring for the needs of the body >> Caring for spiritual needs -- This verse goes with verse 41. When Paul started backtracking through the same areas where he had previously preached the gospel, it indicated the beginning of the end of his ministry as a missionary. Apparently, Paul was thinking he had already finished his course.

Act 15-41

(130g) Thy kingdom come >> Manifestations of faith >> Unity >> Committed to caring for the needs of the body >> Caring for spiritual needs -- This verse goes with verse 36

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