It’s Time to Settle Gentile Salvation Once and For All
July 24, 2022
Pastor Craig Ledbetter
Bible Baptist Church, Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland
A. The Bible is full of “transitions” - specific changes God has laid out for His people to follow
1. From the Garden of Eden, to the sin-cursed world – THAT was a transition
2. From one language, to all the base languages of the world that started at Babel
3. From religious free-for-all after the flood to the faith of Abraham
4. From slavery in Egypt to living in the Promised Land
5. From the Law to Grace
6. From the Jews to the Gentiles.
B. The Book of Acts describes the transition from God’s focus mainly on the Jewish people, to the whole world (Jews and Gentiles)
C. But the Jews were having serious trouble with this change and struggled with…
1. Don’t the Gentiles needed to become Jews FIRST before they could be saved?
2. The straight answer is no.
3. But that was hard for most of the Jewish believers to accept
D. So the Christians called for a meeting to settle it once and for all
A. Powerful Religious Influencers (Acts 15:1,2)
1. Acts 15:1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
2. Certain men were twisting the Gospel… perverting it!
a. False teachers arrived in Antioch teaching that a man had to be circumcised to be saved
1) Roman Catholic: you must “keep the seven sacraments” to be saved
2) Mormon: you must follow the teachings of Joseph Smith and be a good Mormon
3) Seventh Day Adventist: you must keep the Sabbath to be saved
4) Pentecostal: you must have the initial evidence of the Spirit - be able to speak in tongues, or else you probably are not saved
5) Jehovah’s Witness: you must “endure to the end” to be saved
6) Disciples of Christ say: you must be baptized or else you are not saved
7) There is always someone trying to add to your salvation, by commanding you to DO something more than just trust Christ!
b. These were very powerful influencers
1) Probably Pharisees and priests and Jewish rulers who had gotten saved
2) Respected men – probably saved like you and me
3) Very knowledgeable about the Old Testament, and the Scriptures about the Messiah
4) They were very committed to the value of the Law of God
5) They just simply could not believe Gentiles were getting saved
6) Why? Because Gentiles by nature:
a) Are not Jews genetically
b) Are not circumcised
c) Don’t know the Laws of God, and Are not living by the Laws of God
d) So, HOW could they be included in the kingdom of God?
e) These teachers believed no Gentile who had not first gotten circumcised and started to be good Jews, could be saved
c. These kind of influencers have been influencing people throughout time
1) 2Corinthians 11:3,4 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
2) Galatians 1:6,7 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
3) 2Peter 2:1,2 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
4) Jude 1:4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
3. But Paul and Barnabas were powerful influencers as well (Acts 15:2)
a. Acts 15:2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.
b. No small dissention means there was a big debate going on, and it was bad
c. They were not going to “mind their own business” and just keep quiet
4. What was the problem?
a. Why did Paul, and Barnabas and so many other Bible teachers and Gentile Christians have a problem with being circumcised?
b. Because the two different Gospels were being presented to people
1) GOOD WORKS
a) Work hard at DOING what the Law says do, doing what some religion says do
b) And THEN maybe you will be good enough to believe on Jesus and be saved
2) And THE CROSS (God’s GRACE)
a) Stop doing everything you are doing to try and be good enough
b) And just believe / trust that Jesus was perfect and enough to save your soul
3) They cannot be merged, or adapted - one has to be right, and the other wrong!
5. What is at stake? EVERYTHING!
a. A Limited Gospel was being taught - only for the good Jewish people who keep the Law – gentiles can’t really get saved (BTW, WE are Gentiles)
b. A lowering of what Jesus accomplished – making it to be not enough
c. The Eternal Security of a believer could never be known (1John 5:11-13) And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
d. This confusion was going to ruin the very Gospel that could save the world!
6. By-the-way – the entire epistle to the Galatians was written to correct these errors
B. This Issue HAS to be Settled (Acts 15:2-6)
1. They needed to know if Gentiles were REALLY getting saved or not
2. Acts 15:2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.
3. A Convention is called - NOT "Council" as in Trent, and Vatican, but a gathering
a. ALL the Gentile Christians called for a general meeting of the Apostles to hear the reasoning and facts from Scripture and decide if circumcision is really necessary to be saved!!!
b. Like a courtroom – not based on emotion, or nationalism, or popularity
c. No one said to silence each other
d. They included each side of the argument
4. This was a church action
a. Christianity is supposed to be self-governing – doing constant self-evaluation and self-judging of the teaching and living of Christians
b. That’s why we do things out in the open, and have business meetings, and have question and answer times (we need them again)
5. Everyone goes to Jerusalem – to the Apostles
a. Acts 15:3-6 And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
b. Paul and Barnabas announce Gentiles getting saved – everyone rejoices
c. But the Judaizers condemned such celebration, reminding everyone of the requirements of the Law – miserable believers
C. Peter’s Testimony (Acts 15:7-11)
1. Acts 15:7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
2. He is a pretty important Apostle, so they start with his testimony
3. “God Chose Six Things…”
a. To use me… - I LOVE THIS – Peter is a common fisherman, yet God was using Him to do great things in the Kingdom of God!
b. To use ME to give the Gospel to Gentiles – it was not Peter’s desire – he hadn’t even thought about it – God had to push him to go and preach to Cornelius
c. He chose that the Gentiles only needed to believe the Gospel
d. To give THEM the priceless Holy Ghost just as he gave him to US on the day of Pentecost (Acts 15:8) And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
e. To make Gentile believers equal to US believing Jews
1) Acts 15:9 And put no difference between us and them...
2) What a powerful statement!
3) It was so hurtful to the arrogant Law-keeping Jews
f. Best of all… To purify (cleanse, wash) their HEARTS by faith ALONE!
1) Acts 15:9 …purifying their hearts by faith. WOW!
2) THAT was the nail in the coffin for the Judaizers
g. Peter is convinced that Gentiles have been allowed to SKIP all the laws and receive the most priceless gift ever (Romans 6:23b) ETERNAL LIFE – ALL BY FAITH IN JESUS … the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
D. The Problem with Moses’ Law
1. The Law only purified flesh and health until Jesus came
a. There were so many rules and laws to purify the flesh and health
b. But there was no way to purify HEARTS except by the blood of a lamb, and only for a year at the Day of Atonement
c. And everyone in that meeting knew that Jesus was the FINAL Lamb of God that had died to take away not only the sins of the Jewish people, but of the WORLD
d. John 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
2. There are three kinds of Old Testament Laws
a. Ceremonial Laws – rules on how to worship and draw close to God (priests, sacrifices, Temple, continuous washings and bathings, dietary laws, etc)
b. Moral Laws – rules about what is absolutely right and wrong (thou shalt not murder, steal, lie, etc).
c. Civil Laws – rules on how governments should operate
3. All those laws (613 of them) were fulfilled by Jesus Christ
4. One group of them were nailed to Jesus’ cross – CEREMONIAL LAWS
a. Jesus said in order to come to God, all you need to do is come through HIM
b. John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
c. No longer through any priest, or sacrifice – Just through faith in Jesus!
5. So, Peter concludes, Let’s not provoke God by perverting the simple Gospel
a. Acts 15:10,11 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? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
b. We Jews couldn’t live perfectly under those laws
c. But we (on this side) believe that WE JEWS are saved as much as GENTILES ARE – by FAITH ALONE!
E. Barnabas and Paul’s Testimony (Acts 15:12)
1. Acts 15:12 Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.
2. They probably spoke for an hour or more describing the last year and three months first up in Antioch, and then across 1,500 miles through Asia Minor, seeing miracle after miracle done, and thousands of Gentiles converted, and churches begun everywhere!
3. No longer only in the boarders of Israel
4. No wonder Luke was recording everything that was happening
F. James Decides from Scripture (Acts 15:13-21)
1. Acts 15:13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:
2. Review’s Peter’s Testimony
a. Acts 15:14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.
b. God is the one doing all this through Peter – visiting the Gentiles
c. Why? To take out of the world a people for His honour
d. Just like God has always done since Noah, and then Shem, all the way to Abraham
3. Quotes Amos 9:11,12 (Acts 15:15-17)
a. Acts 15:15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,
b. Acts 15:16,17 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.
c. God knows what He is doing!
1) Acts 15:17 … saith the Lord, who doeth all these things
2) James declares in Acts 15:18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
d. That means… Believing Gentiles are just as saved as we beliving Jews are
4. Makes a Recommendation – not a commandment (Acts 15:19-21)
a. Acts 15:19,20 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
b. They (Gentile Christians) should only refrain from the following four things:
1) From eating meats (foods) offered to idols (Lev 17:7)
a) Stay clear of idolatry, and anything associated with it!
b) No bowing to ANY image in any religion
c) No worship of men or women
d) Not eating in places where food is part of the worship of false gods like at the Emmy’s and Oscar’s!
e) BTW – that includes the worship of money like Gambling promotes!
2) From fornication (Lev 18)
a) Fornication is sex outside of marriage and is wrong no matter where or when you are living!
b) It includes porn (virtual sex), adultery, homosexuality, lesbianism
c) Gentile Christians should live clean in their hearts (1Corinthians 6:9-11)
(i) 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
(ii) 6:10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
(iii) 6:11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
d) I am ashamed at how foreign these words are to people – sex to them is a right
3) From eating blood
a) Not dealing with transfusion (Leviticus 17:10,11)
(i) Lev 17:10 And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people.
(ii) Lev 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.
b) Just don’t eat or drink the blood of an animal – it belongs to God
4) And from eating things killed by other animals, i.e. strangled (Lev 17:15)
a) Eat healthy meats
b) Not Mutton, or animals that you don’t know how they died
c. Those are kind of strange, so, Why Do ANY of that?
1) To be good enough to be saved? To earn God’s favour? NO!
2) All for the Jews sake (Acts 15:21) – to earn the right to be heard!
a) Acts 15:21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.
b) In every city where Gentiles were getting saved, there were God-fearing, law practiving Jews who needed to hear the Gospel, but would never listen to a Gentile if that Gentile was acting and living like a pagan, a heathen
3) A Jew knows the holiness of God and expects it of anyone worshipping the same God
4) A godly, clean living, restrained life attracts people to Christ, especially Jews
5) What are YOU willing to do / stop doing so someone in YOUR family gets saved?
G. Did You Notice What’s Missing?
1. No mention of keeping the Sabbath, or of circumcision, or of baptism
2. And no mention that these things enabling a person to BE saved, or to STAY saved
3. Just an exhortation to live godly, so that OTHERS get saved!
H. This was hard for the best of the believing Jews at first to accept
1. That every Gentile believer is now understood to be equal before God as if they were a believing Jew – no difference!
2. The same as when a guilty murderer repents and believes on Christ
3. That ALL men and women, no matter how wicked, can be justified
4. Peter Had a Hard Time with it (Galatians 2:11-16)
a. Paul writes in Galatians 2:11-16 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
b. Galatians 2:21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
5. Anybody now who ADDS anything to the Gospel is DAMNED (Galatians 1:6-9)!
a. Anyone who adds Baptism, Sabbath-keeping, sacraments, circumcision, pilgrimiges, etc., will miss heaven
b. Galatians 1:6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
c. Galatians 1:7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
d. Galatians 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. [DAMNED]
e. [REPEATS] Galatians 1:9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
I. Excitement (Acts 15:22-31)
1. They speedily sent out men with a letter to go tell all the worried Gentile believers they were accepted
a. Acts 15:22 Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:
1) Paul and Barnabas
2) Judas / Barsabas and Silas (we will meet this man later)
b. Acts 15:23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:
c. Acts 15:24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:
d. Acts 15:25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
e. Acts 15:26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
f. Acts 15:27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. [TO VERIFY THIS DECISION]
g. Acts 15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
h. Acts 15:29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
2. To Anchor Every Church in These Truths… (Acts 15:25-29)
a. Salvation is by Trusting Jesus’ Keeping of the Law, not by ours!
b. Anyone can get saved
1) Jew or Gentile – both lost and both can be saved
2) Heathen or religious
3) Good or wicked
c. The Jews are STILL to be cared about, and Reached with the Gospel by all means
d. The Christian Life is NOT one of “do as you please”, but to live godly for others
3. This was SUCH Good News to Read (Acts 15:30,31)
a. The threat of keeping the Law to get to heaven scared the Gentile Christians
b. It was like a yoke on them – to be as good as the Jews were trying to be
c. Galatians 5:1 called it a yoke of bondage “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”
d. Just was not possible – and to be honest, it wasn’t even possible for the Jews either
4. Everyone rejoiced for the freedom in Christ to do right, not to do their own things!
a. Acts 15:30,31 So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.
III. Conclusion – It is Settled…
A. Everyone who believes in what Jesus accomplished on the cross is made righteous in God’s eyes, as if THEY were a perfect now!
B. Salvation is based only on what Jesus did – NOT on anything anyone can or ought to do – including sacraments, Sabbath-keeping, celebacy, baptism, and so on
C. We ought to live so that others can see a forgiven and cleaned up life – not a self-righteous, hypcritical, or arrogant religious life
D. If you are holding onto your own goodness, and own good works, you are telling God that you don’t need Jesus and will get to heaven on your own – but you won’t!
E. You are doomed to a Christ-less eternity! Is THAT what you want?