Lessons From Acts 15-Why The Church Of Christ Matters

It is written:

And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me:14  Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. 15  And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: 16  ‘AFTER THIS I WILL RETURN AND WILL REBUILD THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID, WHICH HAS FALLEN DOWN; I WILL REBUILD ITS RUINS, AND I WILL SET IT UP; 17  SO THAT THE REST OF MANKIND MAY SEEK THE LORD, EVEN ALL THE GENTILES WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME, SAYS THE LORD WHO DOES ALL THESE THINGS.’ 18  “Known to God from eternity are all His works. 19  Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20  but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. 21  For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” 22  Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren. (Acts 15:13-22)

One of the great teachings of the New Testament is that all sinners who turn to the Lord may be forgiven through the atoning death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (John 3:14-21). God desires that all sinners be saved (1 Timothy 2:1-6), and to become part of HIs family (or church-1 Timothy 3:14-15).

Throughout the Old Testament, God had prophesied of the day in which Gentiles (non-Jews) would become part of His sanctuary. It is in this mindset that the Apostle James makes reference in our passage from the Book of Amos.

Amos 9:11-12-On that day I will raise up The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, And repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old; 12  That they may possess the remnant of Edom, And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,” Says the LORD who does this thing.

We find here a powerful prophecy of the church, housed in Old Testament language. Scholar Everett Carver has written:

“In verses 13 and 14 James simply recounts the facts as Peter had given them. God had indeed visited “the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name.” The contrast between “Gentiles” and “a people for his name” is the heart of what James is saying. Only Jews were thought of as the people of God in Jewish thought. All other people were Gentiles. But now God has blessed Gentiles with salvation, and these are accepted as the people of God on an equal basis with the Jews. Verse 15 simply states that the prophets, that is all of the prophets who had spoken of the conversion of the Gentiles, were in agreement with what has now become a fact. He could have used Isaiah, or another of the Twelve, but he was led to select this passage from Amos….“Ephesians 2 constitutes a devastating refutation of separate programs for Israel and the Church. Space precludes a full exegesis of this chapter, but something less than that should be sufficient. These Ephesians had been “in time past Gentiles” (v. 11). The inference of this statement is that they are no longer Gentiles, but Jews. This is made plainer further on. While they “were without Christ” they were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise” (v. 12). The meaning here is that when they accepted Christ, they became citizens of the “commonwealth of Israel” and also became recipients of the “covenants of promise.” This is so plain, I hesitate to comment on it. It means nothing less than that one becomes a Jew and an heir to the Jewish promises and covenants through accepting Christ, rather than through lineal descent or circumcision of the flesh. Paul contends that through Christ’s sacrifice (v. 13) He “hath made both one” through the breaking down of “the middle wall of partition between us” (v. 14). Is this “oneness” a temporary relationship? Is the middle wall again to be raised? Shall the work of Christ on the cross be nullified by such a restoration? God forbid! Paul adds, “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity” (v. 15) between Jew and Gentile based on Old Testament distinctions, “for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.” Though the passage quoted next has no bearing on the subject under discussion, it is a most fitting statement at this point: “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19: 6). Jews and Gentiles now constitute one body, according to verse 16, because the conditions that made for two separate bodies have been “slain” through Christ’s death on the cross. As a result of this we Gentiles “are no more strangers and foreigners” (v. 19). Strangers and foreigners where and to whom? We are no longer strangers and foreigners to the commonwealth of Israel as set forth in verse 12. We Gentiles are actually Jews in the sight of God. Whatever blessings God has for the Jews, He has the same for Gentile Christians, for the distinction between Jew and Gentile has been broken down. This is the New Testament teaching.” (Everett I. Carver, When Jesus Comes Again, 943-978 (Kindle Edition); Prestonsburg KY; Reformation Publishers).

This is a powerful reminder of the importance of the church of Christ. Many in the religious world teach that the church is not important, and that throughout the Old Testament, the church was never prophesied of. Some even teach that the death of Jesus Christ was not part of God’s plan of redemption for mankind! Premillennialist Gordon has written:

“It can be said at once that His dying was not God’s own plan. It was a plan conceived somewhere else, and yielded to by God. God had a plan of atonement by which men who were willing could be saved from sin and its effects. That plan is given in the old Hebrew code. To the tabernacle, or temple, under prescribed regulations, a man could bring some live animal which he owned. The man brought that which was his own. It represented him. Through his labor the beast or bird was his. He had transferred some of his life and strength into it. He identified himself with it further by close touch at the time of its being offered. He offered up its life. In his act he acknowledged that his own life was forfeited. In continuing to live he acknowledged the continued life as belonging to God. He was to live as belonging to another. He made, in effect, the statement made long after by Paul: “I am offering up my life on this altar for my sin; nevertheless I am living: yet the life I live is no longer mine, but another’s. Mine has been taken away by sin.” There was no malice or evil feeling in the man’s act, but only penitence, and an earnest, noble purpose.” (Samuel Dickey Gorden, Quiet Talks about Jesus, 56-57 (Kindle Edition))

The death of Jesus for man’s sins and the establishment of the church were all part of God’s predestined plan as James clearly shows.

If you are not part of God’s church, why not let God add you to it today?

Acts 2:38, 41, 47-Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit….Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them…praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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