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Boundaries for the Movement

Boundaries for the Movement

May 19, 2019

Passage:Acts 15:1-21

Preacher: John Welborn

Series: The Movement: A Journey with Theophilus


May 19,2019

Pastor John Welborn

The Movement: A Journey with Theophilus

Boundaries for the Movement
Acts 15:1-21

“Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” Acts 8:4

“But some men came down from Judea & were teaching the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ And after Paul & Barnabas had no small dissension & debate with them, Paul & Barnabas & some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles & the elders about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia & Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, & brought great joy to all the brothers. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church & the apostles & the elders, & they declared all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up & said, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them & to order them to keep the law of Moses.’ The apostles & the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up & said to them, ‘Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel & believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, & he made no distinction between us & them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.’ And all the assembly fell silent, & they listened to Barnabas & Paul as they related what signs & wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they had finished speaking, James replied, ‘Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles to take from them a people for his own name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, ‘After this I will return, & I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, & I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, & all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from old.’ Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, & from sexual immorality, & from what has been strangled, & from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues. ” Acts 15:1-21

Main Idea: The Church is a Movement with Boundaries Set by Jesus!

Two Types of Boundaries Debated by the Leaders of the Movement:

I. Boundaries for Believing – Acts 15:1-19

“The wholesale entrance of Gentiles into the church was very disturbing & threatening to some of the Jewish believers. Many believed that the Gentiles who wanted to become Christians had to first become Jewish proselytes. They saw Christianity as the culmination of Judaism. That Gentiles were short-circuiting the process & becoming Christians without first becoming Jewish proselytes shocked & overwhelmed them. They could not conceive that pagans could simply enter the church & immediately be on an equal basis with Jewish believers.” John MacArthur

“And the voice came to him again a second time, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’” Acts 10:15b

“While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.” Acts 10:44-45

“And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, & he made no distinction between us & them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.Acts 15:8-9

“Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God.” Acts 15:19

“The church concluded that Jews & Gentiles are all sinners before God & can be saved only by faith in Jesus Christ.” Warren Wiersbe

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male & female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Galatians 3:28-29

II. Boundaries for Belonging – Acts 15:20-21

Four Instructions to the Gentile Believers:
Two Commandments for the Closed Hand:

Stay Away from Idolatry – Extremely common in the Gentile cities where the church was growing the fastest.

No Sexual Immorality – Oppressive in the Gentile world.

Two Concessions for the Open Hand:

Abstain from Eating Strangled Food: A dietary restriction of the Law of Moses.

Abstain from Bloody Meats: Offensive to Jewish believers.

“In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In all things Charity.” Rupertus Meldenius (Quoted in 1627)

“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful.” 1 Corinthians 6:12a

“Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, & no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak...Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” 1 Corinthians 8:8-9, 13

“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:14

“It is the goal that produces the unity. Unity is not sameness. Unity has to do with same purpose.” Tony Evans

“The church is a gloriously messy movement with a laser-focused message & a world-wide mission.” Andy Stanley

Sources and Further Reading Opportunities:

  • Bible Exposition Commentary – Warren Wiersbe (1996)
  • Holman NT Commentary: Acts – Kenneth O. Gangel (1998)
  • Preaching the Word: Acts – Kent R. Hughes (1996)
  • New Bible Commentary – D.A. Carson (1994)
  • New American Commentary Series: Acts – John B. Polhill (1992)
  • Daily Study Bible Series: Acts of the Apostles – William Barclay (1976)
  • Word Pictures in the New Testament – A.T. Robertson (1933)
  • MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Acts 1-12 – John MacArthur (1994)
  • The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Craig S. Keener (1993)
  • Deep and Wide – Andy Stanley (2012)
  • Tony Evans Book of Illustrations – Tony Evans (2009)