Acts 15:1-35

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Some truths are so foundational that without them the everything falls apart

Without salvation by grace alone there is no Christianity.

After covering over 12 miles on their first mission trip, Paul and Barnabas returned to their sending church in Antioch (south-central Turkey)

But the next scene in our study of the church on mission finds Paul and Barnabas hitting the road again, this time for Jerusalem. Paul had been called by God to take the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Why would he take a roughly 300-mile journey south through Syria and Samaria to visit Jerusalem?

Because religious teachers had begun questioning the good news Paul preached, that we are saved by grace alone.   

Today we’re going to travel with Paul and Barnabas and listen in on this historic meeting of apostles and elders called the Jerusalem Council.    But this is much more than reading the minutes of a 2000-year-old Members’ Meeting. 

It’s an invitation for us to be reminded that we are saved by grace alone.  

Three Questions:

What Does it Mean?

Why Does it Matter?

How Should I Respond?

1) What Does it Mean?
When we talk about salvation we're saying...
God exists
We have sinned against Him
He can't sweep our sin under the rug because He's holy
Something must be done to bridge the gap between us and God
By the way, this gap means we are God's enemies, destined for hell

Read vv. 1-5
Circumcising a Gentile male was more than a physical procedure, it was a ritual promise that he and his household would submit themselves to the entire Jewish law (v. 5) The Jews were saying that the power to bridge that gap came through obedience to the Mosaic Law Literally, “no power to save” Contrast with... Romans 1:16 -- For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

What Paul & Barnabas (and Christians everywhere have always) believed about salvation is expressed by Peter in verse 11 Grace = the unmerited favor of God.  

Salvation by grace alone means that we can only bridge the gap between us and God through the unmerited favor of God  

What we need to bridge that gap...  

Our sins must be punished (propitiation)
Romans 3:23-25 -- For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption  that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

  What did you do to earn/deserve Jesus bearing your punishment on the cross? NOTHING!!! GRACE!!! Having sins punished isn't enough. We need a perfect record of law-keeping...

  We must be holy (imputation)
2 Corinthians 5:21 -- For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. Explain the Great Exchange on the cross   What did you do to earn/deserve Jesus' gift of His righteousness? NOTHING!!! GRACE!!!

The fact that Jesus did this on the cross isn't enough. We must respond to this Good News! But before we can respond to it...  

We must hear this Good News (calling)
We can't receive this Good News if we never hear it
"The Gospel is only Good News if it gets there in time"  
Romans 10:13-14 -- For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how  are they to hear without someone preaching?  

What did you do to earn/deserve the right to hear the Gospel? NOTHING!!! GRACE!!!

Being called to respond to the Good News isn't enough. Many are called in a general sense, but they reject the Gospel...  
Our hearts must be opened to this Good News (regeneration)
Lydia in Acts 16:14 -- "The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul..."  
John 6:37, 44  -- All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes  to me I will never cast out. . . . No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will  raise him up on the last day.  

What did you do to earn/deserve the gift of regeneration? NOTHING!!! GRACE!!!

The Spirit causing us to be born again isn't enough. We must respond to the Good News!!!  

We need to repent and believe this Good News (conversion) From the beginning of Jesus' ministry
(Mark 1:15) our response has always been to repent and believe! Not praying a prayer, walking an aisle, joining a church, getting baptized, signing a card, etc.   "Aha! Now here's something I did!!!" -- Not so fast!!! Acts 11:18 -- When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified  God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that  leads to life.”  
Ephesians 2:8-9 -- For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  

We're like kids on Father's Day. Yes, we really are repenting and believing. But we're just giving back to God what He's already given to us.   We are saved by grace alone, which means we can only bridge the gap between us and God through the unmerited favor of God. These are the truths at stake in Acts 15

But why was it such a big deal?

2) Why Does it Matter?
Three earth-shattering implications of salvation by grace alone...  
Salvation by grace alone matters because if it's true...  

Anybody Can be Saved Read vv. 6-9 Peter's talking about the salvation of Cornelius and his household, probably 10 years earlier
Unbeliever: Repent and believe!!
Christian: take the Gospel to the unlikely!!!  
Salvation by grace alone matters because if it's true...  

We Can have Assurance of Salvation Read vv. 10-11
No assurance if your salvation hinges on you!!! 

Salvation by grace alone matters because if it's true...

Read vv. 12-18
We are saved by grace alone, which matters because it means
anyone can be saved,
we can have assurance of salvation,
and God has one people.  

  3) How Should I Respond?
Five life-changing responses...   We are saved by grace alone, so...  
Repent and Believe Unbeliever -- stop trying to be good enough! Repent and believe today!
Christian -- keep repenting and believing
Resist Legalism Read v. 19 

Pursue Unity & Love

Pursue Holiness

Persevere Until the End