God is not looking to make life harder. Because, you know, life will obscure God if you let it.
Life is cursed. This age is under the curse, and we are to function within it. There is enough left of us in the image of God to serve God still, or else we wouldn't be here.
But not without, of course. The Lord's hands upon our lives. So, God is not looking to make life harder. We are in the book of Acts again, chapter 15. We will go through verses 22 through 41, beginning at verse 36. Then after some days, Paul said to Barnabas, let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing. Barnabas was determined to take with them John, called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another, and so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God.
And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches thick and thin. Ministry goes on with or without what I want. Ministry can go on without me. I'm going without you. That's not the ideal. That's not the goal. And here Paul and Barnabas, as we just read about their split, ministry goes on.
It had to be heartbreaking to both of them, but I get ahead of myself. Look now at verse 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.
Okay, so we go backwards now. Remember in the last chapter, they settled the dispute that started when these wrong doctrined Christians came up to the church at Antioch, that's about 300 miles north of Jerusalem, in what was then Syria. And they arrived there, and they said, well, if you're going to be saved, if you want to be a Christian, you have to be circumcised.
You have to become Jewish, and if you don't become Jewish, you can't be saved. And Paul went ballistic on that, and it ends up at this council in Jerusalem, and it was settled there, Peter being one of the heroes of that council, and James also supporting Peter and Paul and Barnabas. And so now where we are is they're going back to their home church in Antioch, and they have this letter that they're taking with them. This is about 16 years after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the Jerusalem church is sending with Paul and Barnabas two witnesses, so they can attest, yeah, this is what the council said. Paul's not making it up. Barnabas is not lying to you.
It was a wise move on the part of the church, understanding that they had people who wanted to follow Christ, but were also susceptible to lying, to dishonesty, or to just outright being difficult, difficult people. It is interesting how they are just difficult people in life. You can have 10 people in a workplace, and one of them is going to be difficult. Get with me later, I'll tell you how to deal with that. It involves pain, but we'll get to that later.
No, we won't. I don't want to be the difficult one. And I ask myself, as I say, have I been the difficult one in the workplace?
Well, this is the workplace for me. Now, maybe someone's come to church and says, yeah, you've been the difficult one with how you preach. Well, anyway, the council was satisfied, but the rank and file, there were still those Jewish Christians, and perhaps some proselytes, that wouldn't like what they came up with, the command decision. Well, if you're going to be in command, you're going to make decisions that are not popular. Parents, you should learn that early on.
You must go with what you know is right. Well, they send these two men, Judas one of them. Judas was a common name amongst the Jews at that time.
Of course, Judas Iscariot ruined all that, the one who betrayed the Christ. The name means praise, and well, we don't know anything else about him. Silas, on the other hand, that's his Semitic name, his Jewish name. Silvanus is his name when it is Latinized, and incidentally, one of the gods of the many gods of the Romans was also named Silvanus.
Paul and Peter will refer to him as Silvanus, whereas Luke refers to him as Silas, and it's interesting, the two Jewish apostles refer to Silas in his Gentile name, and Luke the Gentile refers to Silas in his Hebrew name. Seems to have wires crossed there. None of it's that critical.
It's just interesting. Anyway, God saw the split coming between Paul and Barnabas, and he is already marshaling resources into place to take care of that. Verse 23, they wrote this letter by them, verse 23, the apostles, the elders, and the brethren, to the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, greetings.
Again, wise to put it in writing. Now Antioch, that's the home church that they're going back to. Syria is the surrounding region, and at that time Antioch was in Syria, today it isn't Turkey. Cilicia, that's an interesting mention. Paul ministered in Cilicia, Cilicia of Tarsus, when he was first chased out of Jerusalem. The disciples said, we have to get you out of here, people are going to kill you for the way you preach.
And beyond Cilicia, moving eastward, you end up in Galatia, and they're going to take that route, and we'll come back into the story, because it's some interesting little things about it. Verse 24, since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying you must be circumcised to keep the law, to whom we gave no such commandment. Well, those are the misguided Christians. Verse 1 tells us that they came out and said you cannot be saved unless you're circumcised, just like that. And where he says in verse 4, this letter, to whom we gave no commandment, the apostles and the leaders and the elders of the church saying we never gave orders. This is not the doctrine that we taught, although there were those that believed it, and that was what the big council had to settle, and they went back and forth with this until it was finalized. Even though they attended the same church in Jerusalem, the apostles did not know, at least it says here, and I believe it, that they didn't know these guys were not telling people these things. So the leaders are now disassociating themselves with such teachings. Christianity must not endorse what is false, ever.
You cannot, as a Christian, hear someone lie about Christ or lie about Christianity or the Bible or be wrong about it and endorse that. Love must address that which is wrong. Our love for the Lord addresses those things which are wrong about him. And if we don't have the chance to verbalize it, of course, we have the necessity to mark it down in our thinking.
If we do get a chance to say something, we're going to. Verse 25, it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul. Colossal endorsement. Our beloved Barnabas and Paul. Still, there would be those amongst the Jews who would never recognize Paul as an apostle of Jesus Christ. And it had to have irritated him. It was so unnecessary.
They were essentially saying, you're a liar. Christ never appointed you to be an apostle to send you out. And this coming from fellow believers.
It's sad, but he didn't let it stop him. And there were many who rallied behind him. The final endorsement on the ministry of Paul is the Holy Spirit, by what has been preserved about him.
As much as Barnabas is just such this dynamo in the faith also, we don't have the letters of Barnabas to the church here, to the church there. We have many of them or enough of them, at least eight, from Paul. And that is important because as Jesus said, wisdom is justified by her children. And we get to see the fruits, the subsequent history of the decisions this man made and how they have impacted us to this day.
So we'll come back to that too at the end. Verse 26, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. So it's official again that these two men, Barnabas and Paul, were full-blown servants and they were appreciated as such by those who led Christianity by those hand-picked men of Jesus Christ. And if they could recognize them as men willing to suffer for Christ, who was anybody to challenge that? Well, why would they say this? Because there are those challenging that.
That's why. Not so much on Barnabas, but Paul. He is really the villain in the eyes of many because he was insightful enough to know that the law of Moses would not work in a Gentile world. And the others caught up, but some of them were very sluggish about it. Well, some did not ever get it, but many did. Verse 27, we have therefore sent Judas and Silas who will also report the same things by word of mouth. Verse 28, for it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things. Well, where he says here in verse 27, those are the witnesses again, verse 28, for it seemed good to the Holy Spirit. This is not the seemed of doubt or of uncertainty, rather of vision from perfect knowledge. The Holy Spirit saw it.
To him, it seemed good because he's perfect. And it's quite just an important saying because what is a church that makes decisions apart from God? Would you still call it a church?
I'm not offering the answer. I'm just trying to draw attention to how critical a role the Holy Spirit played not only in the first church, but in all churches that serve the Lord. Moses said about the presence of God, if your presence doesn't go with us, don't send me.
I don't want to go without you. And the Christian, whether it is a church or an individual, we don't want to serve if the Holy Spirit's not blessing this, if he's not involved. How much is done in God's name contrary to the Spirit of God? Well, I think, you know, there are some that, I don't know how they would explain this away, but they live as though it is unimportant. Some, on the other hand, suppose that sensible decisions stifle the Holy Spirit.
Well, that's just crazy. The Holy Spirit is not the cause of insanity, but the cure. And there's nothing wrong with being organized when Paul says, let things be done in an orderly manner. Well, the Old Testament is loaded with this instruction. I mean, if you were a Levitical priest and you were making offerings, you couldn't just, you know, offer it the way you felt you should.
You had to follow the Word of God as given to Moses. So, it is not quenching the Spirit to think things through. If you think them through in the Spirit, he continues here in verse 28, And to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things. And that, and to us, is we agree with God. He doesn't agree with us. We agree with him. He's the leader.
We're the followers. And I like that this sentence tells us that God is not looking to make life harder. Because, you know, life will obscure God if you let it. Life is cursed.
This age is under the curse. And we're to function within it. There's enough left of us in the image of God to serve God still, or else we wouldn't be here. But not without, of course, the Lord's hands upon our lives.
So, God is not looking to make life harder. Not to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things. Well, some things are necessary, and they are burdensome to the flesh.
They're never burdensome to the Spirit because the Spirit's in union and in rhythm with God. But it's my flesh that doesn't want to do it. I'm tired. I have other interests.
You know, I'm just not confident enough, or whatever it may be. And so when John later writes that His commandments are not burdensome, that is the ideal. And we pursue the ideal. You can't take up your cross and follow Christ without pursuit of the ideal.
The reality, that's where it gets ugly. And we are supposed to face ugly things in Christ. And Paul said, this is your reasonable service. The apostles taught this. He died for us. It is our reasonable service to be inconvenienced, or to be slaughtered for our king.
After all, the world can be heroes for their causes and for their kings. How much more the church. Verse 29, that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these things, you do well. See you. Well, he says farewell, but it's an affectionate, see you later kind of thing. We covered this last session, so I'm not going to stay on or itemize the idols, the blood, the things strangled.
That's last session. But there is this clash between cultures, and it calls for sensitivity. If you are a foreigner, I don't mean as an American, you know, or just anywhere, any people, you go to outside of, away from your people into another culture, it's hard. I mean, they'll have problems with your culture and vice versa.
England, I love the weather in London, Scotland, but that whole thing you can't conceal carry irritates me. So, you know, there's that clash, and on their side, there's like, what are you, what are you insecure, what are you going to shoot people, what's your problem? I point this out because Paul was able to navigate cultures. He could go to places that were radically different from Israel's culture, from the culture of the Jews, and yet he functioned there without belittling the people, thinking well, because they do this, they're there for that.
He saw beyond these things, all missionaries, true missionaries. I don't mean going on a mission trip, and I'm not belittling that. But there's a big difference between going on a mission trip and then living there, and mingling with the people, and preaching the gospel in a way that they can receive the gospel as anybody else. Foreign things can be a delight or they can be a dread, and we should be, we should not be judgmental, but we should be certainly aware of what the Lord wants from us in a foreign environment. We're not to treat foreigners like they're, you know, like they're foreigners in the sense of distancing ourselves because they're foreigners, xenophobia. We are to welcome all people, but that doesn't mean we have to embrace the culture.
You may not care for the food, or the music, or the garb, and vice versa, but that's fine. We still have to love the heart and the life. Well, interesting enough, in this list that they itemized to the Gentiles, which is not about salvation, which is about fellowship with the Jews, the two cultures, the Gentile world and the Jewish world coming together. There's no mention of keeping the Sabbath. There would have been an excellent place to put it if Christians were under the Jewish Sabbath, and to admit it would have been a crime if we were under the Sabbath, but we're not. Hebrews 8 13, a new covenant. He has made the first obsolete.
Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. Well, certain elements that were not upheld in the New Testament church. Romans 14 5. This, I love this verse. When I saw this verse when I was a new Christian, I was going to make a holiday out of it, because I don't like holidays.
I didn't do it. I'll read the verse. One person esteems one day above another, another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. I mean, you know the Grinch that stole Christmas?
I liked the Grinch more. Always. But others, you know, other family members and loved ones, you know, they're festive. They like these breaks in time, and that's okay.
You're both okay. That's what the Bible says. Don't make this a bone of contention. Make other things. Incidentally, talking about things worth fighting for, I have noticed a lot of cars on the road don't have gas pedals.
I don't know how they move, except to say they move slowly. Well, anyway, coming back to this. God introduced a day of rest at creation on the seventh day he rested. So that concept existed before the giving of the law to the Jewish people, and it is still a guideline for us to come apart from our routine and rest.
That is still upheld. But Jesus said this about the Father and this day of rest after the fall of man into sin. Jesus answered them, My Father has been working until now, and I have been working. Sin makes demands on us, and there really is no rest in this life, not a long-term one. Sabbath is made for the man, not the man for the Sabbath. And so we have to balance these things.
There's that endorsement. God's saying to man that the concept of rest comes from Me. And if you just go, go, go, go, you're going to fall apart. Jesus said to his disciples, Come aside and rest for a while. Well, the multitudes didn't let that last. But anyway, the Sabbath, we're not under it, and yet we are to apply and respect the concept of rest.
I'm trying to, for me, I would like six days of rest, one day of work. Kindred spirits think alike. If you keep yourselves from these things, you will do well, farewell. He's saying, This is going to be good for you. It's going to be good for everyone.
It won't go well for us if we continue having these cultural clashes. And so these guidelines would make it easier for Christian and Gentile Jews. Because what the Holy Spirit is doing is removing the distinction from the hearts of men that there is such thing as a Christian Jew and a Gentile Jew. He's going to get them to the place where there are just Christians. And that's how it should be. No longer Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, Scythian or barbarian, all in Christ.
Now the roles remain the same of genders, but there is not a greater value placed on women or men. They are equal in God's eyes. And so, what a wonderful balance.
I think it's a pretty good job. Lord, I wonder if I ever make God laugh. I was thinking about this last night. I had a giddy moment. And I figured, with all the horror that goes on in life, I don't know. I don't have the answer. But it would be nice if we could bring God joy.
But I mean a hearty laugh. Verse 30. When they were sent off, they came to Antioch. And when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter.
And they were happy to do this. They were armed with these two witnesses, Jude and Silas. They had the letter from the apostles. What would have happened if Paul had not stood up to these misguided Christians that showed up in Antioch to spoil the party? I see you've got a pretty good church here. But we're here now.
We're going to put in all this joy going around. And boy, what a dark cloud was cast over that church when those visitors came. But what would have happened if Paul had not stood up to those who are rendering grace meaningless? Well, we know what would have happened. We've covered it. Christianity would not.
It would have been absorbed as a Jewish sect and eventually passed away. As we mentioned at the beginning of today's broadcast, today's teaching is available free of charge at our website. Simply visit crossreferenceradio.com. That's crossreferenceradio.com. We'd also like to encourage you to subscribe to the Cross Reference Radio podcast. Subscribing ensures that you stay current with all the latest teachings from Pastor Rick. You can subscribe at crossreferenceradio.com or simply search for Cross Reference Radio in your favorite podcast app. Tune in next time as Pastor Rick continues teaching through the book of Acts, right here on Cross Reference Radio.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-20 10:04:21 / 2023-02-20 10:13:31 / 9