November 24, 2019

An Attack from Within

Passage: Acts 15:1-22, Psalm 133:1-3
Service Type:


  • Many people have turned to the Lord and be saved
  • First missionary journey - many were saved
    • Began in Cyprus, then Galatia
    • First Paul and Barnabas, then Silas
    • They faced persecution but the church grew
  • Acts 14:27 - returned to their sending church and reported all that God had done
  • Satan was active
    • Physical persecution - an attack from without
    • He seeks an attack from within
    • Quote from John Calvin
      • A terrible division
      • A terrible witness
  • Certain men from Judea come from Antioch to trouble the church
    • Categorically preached circumcision
  • Overview:
    • Where the trouble came from
    • What was the trouble?
    • How that trouble was overcome

Where the trouble came from

  • Rumours had spread about Paul and Barnabas
    • The people of Judea were hearing and were not accepting
    • They decided to go to Antioch to refute Paul and Barnabas
    • Consider what was written about both apostles - still these
      Judiasers have no respect for them
  • Gal 2:11-12ff a parallel passage
    • Paul feels the matter was not initially resolved
    • Paul believes he needs to go to the apostles in Jerusalem to sort it out
  • Part of the sect of the Pharisees who believed ...
    • ... but they still insist upon their Jewish traditions
    • Quote from Matthew Henry
    • Paul had no problem with people following custom - cf 16:3
      • But only when it was imposed on people
      • Only when it was considered a requirement of salvation
  • People from Jerusalem
    • The sect of the Pharisees
    • Hardline
    • Those who have lost respect for the men of God
    • Quote from Calvin
      • Godly wisdom builds up
      • We must not 'major' on 'minors'
      • We must concentrate on the central truths that unite us
    • The people were really causing trouble in the church (v2)

What was the trouble?

  • A big matter - a matter of gospel truth
    • They could not back down
    • Fundamental questions and issues - examples
    • It had to be dealt with by the apostles and elders
      • Elders are called to be those who exhort those who contradict
    • History shows that many Christians have had to stand for matters of truth - examples
    • Big matters must be defended
    • The gospel must be defended

How that trouble was overcome

  • They go to the mother church
    • Not to a higher authority but the apostles and elders
    • Smaller churches can employ the same
      • Are we willing to seek help?
  • No undue delay - to get it sorted swiftly
    • A number of people go straight to Jerusalem
    • Leaving problems can cause regrets
  • Not consumed by the problem (v3)
    • They share with the brethren on their return journey what God is doing
    • They report what God is doing when they are received by the church in Jerusalem
    • This is a lesson for us
  • They seek to resolve the matter at leadership levels (v6)
    • Representatives at this meeting
    • A 'Jerusalem council' meeting
  • They allow people to speak (v7)
    • They don't shut down debate
  • Three people speak - Peter, Paul & Barnabas and James
    • Peter
      • Speaks of the salvation of Gentiles
      • Acts 11:18
      • He brings a second report
      • Acts 15:7-11
        • They were purified by faith
        • We are saved by faith
    • Paul & Barnabas
      • Don't say very much
      • Do speak of the miracles done amongst the Gentiles
    • James
      • The people had become silent - the Spirit is working
      • Confirms what Peter says and how this accords with Scripture (Amos)
        • That God will build up a spiritual temple and the Gentiles would be part of this
      • We ought not to trouble - not an accusation
      • Gives 4 areas of practical advice - abstain from:
        • Things polluted from idols - cf Corinthians
        • Sexual immorality - the Gentile world was full of perverse sexual practice
        • Strangled things
        • Blood
      • Gives a reason - the Jews have been engrained in one view throughout the generations
        • Be careful not to offend our Jewish brethren
  • All are in agreement (v22)
    • The Spirit of God has led them
    • They write an official letter - to be carried by Paul & Barnabas but also Judas & Silas
  • Recap

Closing Remarks

  • We need courage to withstand internal attacks
    • The people had such clout - Paul and Barnabas would not be intimidated
  • We need to know when to forgo our rights
  • We must pray for wisdom to know what practical steps we must take under God
  • We must search our own hearts to ensure we are preserving the unity of God