Our text is Acts 15:19-35.
The Jerusalem Council had met to deal with the issue of sect of Pharisees who were undermining the gospel, saying that unless you are circumcised you cannot be saved. The council unanimously agreed that salvation is by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone. Afterward, they drafted a letter to be sent to the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia explaining their decision. And for the sake of unity in the church, they also asked the Gentile believers to abstain from food offered to idols, from what has been strangled, from blood, and from sexual immorality (fornication). So, what is the meaning of these stipulations? (I mean, isn’t it obvious that fornication is wrong?) What is the purpose of these stipulations? And what is the scope of this letter? We will be seeking answers to these three questions as we study this passage.
Children’s Message: Pastor Chad Sadorf has been including a series of Children’s Messages. These messages will parallel the sermons from Acts to help guide the children through the concepts that are taught by Pastor Adams. Today’s message is provided as a video; this link appears just after the Gloria Patri in the service (where it would normally occur in our church service). Click on these links for a children’s bulletin and printable coloring page to accompany this message: Children’s Bulletin and Jerusalem Council coloring page.
Service for Family Worship:
Call to Worship: Psalm 95:6-7
6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
7 For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand. (ESV)
Gracious Father, we bless you for your creation, preservation, governance and sustaining of all of life, but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of sinners by your Son. We pray, Father, that you will give us such an awareness of your mercies, so with truly thankful hearts, we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Enable us by Holy Spirit’s power to offer you worship that is pleasing and acceptable in your sight, even as we worship in spirit and in truth. For we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
This hymn’s author, Lambertus “Bert” Lamberts, was a minister in The Christian Reformed Church. Ordained in 1909, he served churches in New York, Michigan and Wisconsin. The words are taken from Psalm 134, the shortest of all the Psalms of Ascent and the second shortest psalm in the whole Bible. The setting of this hymn is the temple at night when the priests and Levites are still offering up praise and worship to the Lord. The words call us twice in verses 1 and 2 to “bless the Lord” in worship and praise and end in verse 3 with the hopeful expectation that we also will be blessed by our Creator!
Corporate Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:17-20[Jesus said] 17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (ESV)
Almighty God, we bow before you in confession and repentance. We confess that we have too often forgotten that we are yours. Sometimes we carry on our lives as if there were no God. And when we do remember you, we still so often trivialize your holy law and your gospel. We also often fall short of being a credible witness to you. So Father, will you forgive us, for the totality of our sin as you define it. By your Spirit, will you help us to trust in Jesus Christ alone, and stand in his righteousness alone. Through your gospel, deepen our relationship with you and conform us to the image of your Son to your glory and honor. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: : 1 John 2:1-2a
1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins (ESV)
Propitiation is a sacrifice which takes away God’s wrath. A wonderful promise we have in the gospel is that Jesus has removed God’s wrath from his people. And through the instrument of faith we are credited with the results of his finished work on our behalf. We are utterly forgiven for all our sin, past, present, and future. Glory be to God!
Affirmation of Faith:
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended into hell1. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic2 church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
1Christ was under the power of death for a time; he incurred the full penalty for the sins of God’s people.
2Catholic is defined as God’s universal church.
A Warning about Troublemakers (Click here to link to the video of the Children’s Message)
(You may want to take a moment to pray with your child or children for your family, your church family, our country and world.)
Offertory: Matthew 6:19-21
19“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (ESV)
(Online giving is now available for your convenience. This link, https://www.faithpresarp.org/give/, will take you to the page that explains this process and includes a button which will redirect you to the secured giving platform.
In the month of August, our focus will be Psalm 1. In introducing this psalm, Charles Spurgeon wrote, “This Psalm may be regarded as THE PREFACE PSALM, having in it a notification of the contents of the entire Book. It is the psalmists’ desire to teach us the way to blessedness, and to warn us of the sure destruction of sinners. This, then, is the matter of the first Psalm, which may be looked upon, in some respects, as the text upon which the whole of the Psalms make up a divine sermon. May the Lord cleanse our hearts and our ways, that we may escape the doom of the ungodly, and enjoy the blessedness of the righteous!” from The Treasury of David, by Charles Spurgeon, www.spurgeon.org/treasury/treasury.htm.
Pastoral Prayer: (Click here for the Pastoral Prayer)
Sermon: The Council’s Decree
Ray Palmer is often considered to be one of America’s best nineteenth-century hymn writers. The son of a judge, he attended Yale College and was ordained in 1835 and pastored Congregational churches in Maine and New York. He wrote the popular hymn “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” and 5 total hymns in our Trinity Hymnal. The words of our hymn, “Take Me, O My Father, Take Me”, were written in 1864. They call us to look to Christ in living a life of obedience to God’s will and in living a life of dedicated Christian service to others.
Benediction (Click here to hear this week’s benediction)
Questions for Further Discussion
- Why do you think James gives these four restrictions to the Gentiles?
- How do you reconcile the restriction not to eat meat sacrificed to idols with what Paul says about eating this meat and Christian liberty in 1 Corinthians 8?
- What does this passage teach about one’s conscience? What freedoms might you need to limit in order not to violate the consciences of those in your circle?
- What does this passage teach about the essentials and nonessentials of the faith?
A Warning about Troublemakers
Have you ever been called a troublemaker?
Troublemakers are people who fight against and question almost everything they are told! Especially when people in authority tell them, like moms and dads, teachers and even pastors.
In our message today in Acts 15:24 we read – But we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, (ESV)
Some people were saying – that faith in Jesus alone was not the enough to be saved, and that people would need to do other things for themselves in order to be saved.
These troublemakers were creating trouble with their words and they were making people unsettled in their brains – making people question what they believed about Jesus and being saved!
Being known as a troublemaker does not please God, and it will not help you have friends or be liked by others.
Romans 16:17 – watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.
Titus 3:10-11 – As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
To deal with the people who were making trouble – we see in Acts 15:22 that the church sent godly men, filled with the Holy Spirit – Paul and Barnabas…Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers,
These men were peacemakers. They wanted to teach the truth about what the Bible says about Jesus and being saved from our sins!
We need to be peacemakers.
Matthew 5:9 – Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Let’s turn our fists into hands of prayer and ask God to help us believe what the Bible says about Jesus and being saved by faith only in him, and ask that we would be peacemakers who love others and we would not fight like troublemakers!