Acts 15:1-21 Clearing the Roadblocks Sermon Series
Pastor Nathan Nass June 3, 2018
5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.”
6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7 After much discussion, Pe-ter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gos-pel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” 12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, James spoke up: “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simona has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: 16 “ ‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, 17 that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’ 18 that have been known for ages. 19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexu-al immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”
Let’s Not Make It Difficult…
I served at a church in Houston for one year to help start a Hispanic ministry there. When I finished my year there, a new pastor—Abe Degner—was assigned to continue the ministry. Some faithful ladies eagerly planned a meal to welcome Abe to the church. I asked them what our many new Hispanic members could bring to the party. They thought about it and said, “Oh, they can bring whatever they want, as long as it’s a Texas sheet cake.” I said, “Really? That sounds rather specific!” “Oh, don’t worry. We’re flexible! They can bring anything they want, as long as it’s a Texas sheet cake.” So, there were like six enormous sheet cakes for the 100 people at the meal.
Now, those ladies certainly meant the best. But without realizing it, they were mak-ing it difficult for the new people who were coming to Jesus. I don’t know if you know this, but they don’t make Texas sheet cakes in El Salvador! There was an assumption in their minds: “We’re happy these Hispanics are here, but we expect them to become like us!” They never would have said it that way, but that was their expectation. Is that ever our expectation? Not just for Hispanics, but for any of the people out there? “It’s not enough for them to believe the truth about Jesus, ‘they’ need to become like ‘us.’” Do we realize how difficult we can sometimes make it for people to come to Jesus?
This really isn’t a new challenge. It popped up already in the early Christian Church. As the Gospel spread around the world, the question began to arise, “How much do new Christians need to be like us?” The people asking were Jewish Christians. Many of the new converts were Gentiles—non-Jews like you and me. How “Jewish” did new Christians need to be? Can you remember any of God’s special rules for the Jewish people in the Old Testament? Circumcision. Sacrifices. Dietary restrictions. But now Jesus the Savior had come. He had died and risen. The gospel was spreading all over the world. How “Jewish” did new Christians need to be? Was it enough just to believe in Jesus?
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