What Really Took Place In Acts Chapter 15?
My appeal in this lesson is to those who truly love Jesus and want to grow in his Word.
I would like you to take a moment to do what I will call a “heart check” for a minute before we start the introduction to this lesson. There are two things that will prevent Gentile Christians from growth, one is legalism, or operating from under the law. And the second being denominational-ism which many times causes division within the church through strife. I want you to know that, I find nothing wrong with being Pentecostal, Catholic, Baptist or belonging to any denomination as long as you do not allow denominational-ism to take president over what the Word teaches.
In legalism and denominational-ism there is a trap we can get caught up in, what I call the “us four and no more syndrome”. And in this syndrome we can find ourselves thinking is this, that your our way is the only way. We know that Jesus is the way, the truth and the Light, so not let legalism and denominational-ism be major stumbling block to growth and depth and exactly what Paul warned against.
1 Cor 1:10-12
10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. KJV
Paul came to teach them meat in the Word, but because of strife and division among themselves and others, they were only qualified to receive milk, preventing or rather being disqualified from growth spiritually.
1 Cor 3:1-2
3 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. KJV
Either the Word is all true or it is all false. If the Bible is nothing more than just a history book and old stories, and just a standard for good living, then I have other things to be doing. But if is all true and it is alive, then we should seek to grow outside of denominational teaching. We want to teach folks like ourselves, that believe the Word of God is all true. Amen!
The Introduction To This Lesson Series
2 Tim 2:15
15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. KJV
Acts chapter 15 and the letter to the Galatians should be taught hand in hand to get a clear picture of the two. One teaching clarifies the other. Learning what happened in chapter 15 of Acts will teach you to rightly divide the Word of Truth. Please note that “rightly dividing the Word of God” should be more strategically about “who the verse scripture or letter was written to”.
Ask your yourself when reading a letter in the Bible, who exactly was this letter directed to and the first few usually tell you who it is directed to. Now lets go further. Now was it written to a man, or a women? Or written to a lost or UN-saved person? Even further now was it written to a saved Gentile, or a saved believing Jew and or maybe an Orthodox Jew, etc… But by human nature we somehow seem to think that, rightly dividing the Word is this “who has a better interpretation.” Rightly dividing the Word is NOT who has a better interpatation at all. It is who it was written too. If you know who it is written to, then interpretation of the scripture is self-explanatory most of the time. Let me quote Pastor Mike Sawyer, “it is all written for you, but it is Not all written to you”. If you are vain enough to think it is all written to you, you will misinterpret many things from the start and this is very hard to undo in your mind.
There is terminology we read right through today in scripture that is disregarded as insignificant.
Now here is what I would like to express, in lack of understanding of what happened here in chapter 15, many times this will lead to senseless arguments over scripture interpretation.
So here is what I want exonerate first in this series.
If we learn to put more emphasis on “who” a scripture or letter is written to, then you can let the scripture define itself and will automatically remove a lot of confusion. There is many places Jesus will say we are to observe something like being circumcised. After Paul went and they had a heated debate over this very subject in Acts 15, James said:
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? KJV
This was a dispute Paul himself took the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. That the church was not to have the Gentiles become circumcised and/or keep the law of Moses as they were Jews were going behind Paul and telling the Gentiles. You have to ask yourself Why was Paul so against this.
So what are we to do in the Gentile Church? Jesus said; to be circumcised and Paul said the Gentile Church that we are not to be circumcised. Here is where Jesus said it.
22 Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers; ) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. KJV
I had someone try to explain this away by saying: “What Jesus says trumps what Paul said.” Indicating that Paul was wrong. Laughing, well, who sent Paul to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles? Jesus did, right? So that answer to me, just didn’t make sense at all.
So who was right, Jesus or Paul? Both were right.
It is not at all about who was right and who was wrong. It is about who Jesus was speaking to and about who Paul was speaking to. You have to rightly divide this. This is specific instruction to different two identities in the church. We will elaborate on this very issue following the Acts 15 lessons, but in this same series.
The Word does not contradict itself, and God is not the Author of Confusion in any way shape or form, if you know “what is written to who”.
Let me give you an example; Would you take scripture specifically written to a woman and then apply it to a man? Of course you wouldn’t! So if that is principle holds true, then consider this. There are several other parties we fail to recognize other than just men and women that scripture specifically written to.
I want you to get familiar with this terminology that identifies specific parties. And to bring out another example of other parties that are addressed in the Word of God.
Here is a great example: This identifies exactly who the letter is to, as most of the letters, if you learn to look for it.
JAMES 1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. KJV
In James 1:1, If the letter is written to the “Twelve Tribes of Israel,” as clearly stated in the first verse of James 1;1, So let me ask this, if you if you are a Gentile, what tribe do you belong too? You don’t, simple enough. So here is my question; Should we then be applying those exact principles to Gentile Churches? Only if it all lines up with the letters Paul wrote to Gentiles churches? Sometimes it does, but sometimes it does not.
The letter of James is a very good example of something “that is written for you, but not necessarily to you.” Let me also reiterate that some instruction would apply to both the Jewish and Gentile believers about how they are to live, but there is a lot of instruction that absolutely does not apply to both. There is a lot of really good stuff in the James, it is just not specifically written to the Gentile church, so we do need to divide what actually applies to the Gentiles in James. Now I want to see that, by doing this, you are then rightly dividing the truth.
Don’t call the lynch mob yet, laughing, Acts chapter 15 proves exactly what I am teaching here.. We do not make this distinction in Gentile churches and have lost our identities in the 21 century teaching. In that day, men were not circumcised right when they were born in the hospital, that is something the Gentiles just did not practice. But the Jews are circumcised on the 8th day after they are born, it was in the law of Moses. So circumcision was specific to the Jewish people’s identity. So if something is addressed in the scripture to the Circumcised, it is addressed to who? The physically circumcised who is the Jewish people..
NOTE: All who are believers are called circumcised of the heart, but when most scripture is speaking to the circumcision, they are referring to the “physically circumcised” of their day, the identity of Israel.
Now let us deal with something real quick, somebody will bring this out, so let us deal with it right here and now. . In Galatians….
25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
In verse 25, after Jesus came we are no longer under the schoolmaster (the law), we know that when we get saved, we are saved by faith through grace. Easy enough, and even though a Jew will still observe the customs and the law, but that the Jew will no longer will keep the Law for atonement, but out of Identity. After Jesus came he is like the Gentiles, saved through faith by Grace.
26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Now right here
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. KJV
I have preached all about what was written the Jew and the Gentile..Right? In the physical or here in the flesh, the very world we live in now. There is Jew and Gentile, but in Spirit, there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek. We know here there is male and female, right? Paul was talking spiritually here. Now in Heaven there will be neither Jew Nor Greek..Male nor Female, but here natural there is.
If this sounds complicated or confusing, it is really not at all. This is teaching from the Jewish Perspective. Once you learn see it, and the key word here is learn, then it is very simple to identify who the scripture or letter is specifically speaking to.
This will certainly take you to a new revelation knowledge and understanding of scripture and teach you to connect the dots in scripture, simplifying your study by a great measure. You might have to read this lesson series a few times.
Pro Face to Lesson One
In the Book of Acts in Chapter 15, there were two specific different apostolic offices created and confirmed by the Holy Ghost and then it is actually stated in Galatians chapter two. We will cover this directly following Acts Chapter 15 in a lesson included in this series. We will also see in Acts chapter 15 that, there were clearly two different “living instructions” within the One Church, and again “The Church” as whole being the “True Believers” in Christ.
Folks this is heavy, it is meat, not milk in the Word, but this a huge message that is mandatory for growth. Now let’s get started. Amen!