Concerning This Issue

Text: Acts 15:1-2

The first major controversy in the church was over the topic of circumcision. Paul and Barnabas traveled from Antioch to Jerusalem to discuss the issue with the brethren there. Today questions may arise about what a congregation should do, what has been authorized, etc. We can approach questions in the same way as the brethren in Jerusalem approached the issue of circumcision.

They Appealed to Direct Statement (Acts 15:13-18)

  • James quoted a prophecy in Amos (Amos 9:11-12) – direct statement from God showing that the Gentiles would be accepted by the Lord
  • A direct statement can be a statement of fact or a command – God’s statements are true and must be accepted (Proverbs 30:5; Romans 3:4); God’s commands are authoritative and must be obeyed (John 2:5; 2 Thessalonians 1:8)
  • If we love Jesus, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15) – this includes keeping the word of His inspired apostles (1 Corinthians 14:37; 2 Peter 3:2)

They Appealed to Approved Example (Acts 15:7-11)

  • Peter cited his example of having preached to the Gentiles (Acts 15:7) – Cornelius and his household heard the gospel and obeyed it (Acts 11:14, 17-18; 10:48); they were able to do so without receiving circumcision (Acts 15:7-11)
  • It is important that we follow examples – example of Christ (1 Peter 2:21-22); example of the apostles (1 Corinthians 11:1-2); example of faithful brethren (Philippians 3:17); example of first century churches (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 4:17)

They Appealed to Necessary Inference (Acts 15:12)

  • Paul and Barnabas told of the miracles God worked through them among the Gentiles (Acts 13:4-12; 14:8-10) – this led them to conclude that God was willing to save the Gentiles (necessary inference); Peter made a similar conclusion (necessary inference) about the vision he saw (Acts 10:9-16, 28)
  • We can necessarily infer what God has implied – Jesus cited a verb tense to prove that there is life after death (Matthew 22:29-32); after receiving a promise and command, Abraham reconciled them by concluding (inferring) that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19)
  • But we should not make unnecessary inferences (John 21:21-23) – example: household conversions authorize infant baptism (Acts 16:31-34)

They Appealed to Silence (Acts 15:22-24)

  • When the apostles and elders wrote to the churches about their meeting, they appealed to silence – the false teachers had been given “no instruction” (Acts 15:24); silence equalled prohibition
  • Many defend a practice by saying, “The Bible doesn’t say not to!” – does not justify our actions (Hebrews 7:12-14; 2 Samuel 7:1-7)
  • We must be content to remain within the bounds of Scripture (2 John 9) – do not do those things for which you have no authority (Matthew 7:21-23)

Adapted from a sermon by Bryan Dockens – “About This Question”

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