Title: God’s Grace for All Nations
TEXT: Acts 15:1-12 (ESV)
Message Big Idea: Because God graciously welcomes in all peoples, we can stop excluding others and join His mission in our city and in the world.
Meritocracy: “a system, organization, or society in which people are chosen and moved into positions of success, power, and influence on the basis of their demonstrated abilities and merit” -Merriam Webster
Paul and Barnabas have just returned from the church’s first missionary journey to the Gentiles.
Gentiles: Ethne (Greek) translated elsewhere as “nations” or “peoples” “people groups”
The great commission uses ethne: “Go and make disciples of all nations” – Matt 28:18
5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.
The question at stake in this debate is “Do the nations need to become like Jews to be saved?” – Tony Merida, Acts commentator
Climax: Peter’s Statement of God’s grace
Yoke: Rabbis often used the metaphor of a yoke with reference to the law, and Peter’s reference to “yoke” here refers not just to circumcision but to the whole of the Mosaic law. By speaking of the law as an unbearable yoke…he was arguing that Israel was unable to fulfill it perfectly and that salvation could not be obtained through the law – John Polhill, Commentator
Peter’s progression of ideas:
God wants the Gentiles to be saved (v. 7)
1. God gave them the Holy Spirit (v. 8)
2. God made no distinction between Jews and Gentiles (v. 9)
3. God cleansed their hearts by faith (v. 9)
Therefore: Why are you going against God by requiring the law? (v. 10)
Resolution: 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” 12 “And all the assembly fell silent”
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9)
“The lifeblood of Christianity is found in its ability to translate itself across new cultural and geographic barriers and to recognize that areas that once were the mission field, can, over time, become the heart of Christian vitality…if you step back and look at the whole picture of Christian history, you must conclude that there is no such thing as a particular Christian culture…this picture is in stark contrast to what one observes in Islam or Hinduism, the next two largest religions.” -Timothy Tennant
“St Philip’s became the first black Episcopal parish in New York City…when the matter of the church’s status came before the committee they stated that ‘neither St Philip’s, nor any other colored congregation [will] be admitted into union with this Convention…they are socially degraded, and are not regarded as proper associates for the class of person who attend our Convention.” – Jemar Tisby, Color of Compromise
Our Fallen Condition: We defy God’s grace for all people and exclude others with our prideful traditions and rule-following.
Redemptive Solution: God is on a mission to lovingly welcome in all types of people from every nation by his grace.
1. Stand in awe at God’s welcoming grace
“God’s heart of compassion confounds our intuitive predilections about how he loves to respond to his people…He isn’t like you. Even the most intense of human love is but the faintest echo of heaven’s cascading abundance. His heartful thoughts for you outstrip what you can conceive.” – Dane Ortlund, Gentle & Lowly
2. Join God’s mission in our city
“I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me…As you did not do it to the least of these, you did not do it to me.” -Matt 25:42-45
“We are saved by faith alone [not works], but not by faith that remains alone” – Martin Luther
3. Join God’s mission to all nations
“As the Father sent me, even so I am sending you” -John 20:21
“The position and honor and responsibility [of missions] has been given by Christ to his church.” – Andy Johnson Missions: How the Local Church Goes Global