How To Establish Scriptural Authority
Should Gentile Christians be circumcised according to the Law of Moses? That was an issue that threatened the unity of early Christians. Judaizing teachers tried to bind circumcision on Gentile Christians (v.1).
The purpose of the meeting in the church at Jerusalem was not to determine the truth on the issue. The truth was already known. The purpose of the meeting was to silence the Judaizing teachers and the spread of their error.
Paul and Barnabas laid out their case (v.4); Gal.2:2 tells us that Paul had a private meeting with the apostles. The Judaizing teachers presented their case (v.5). The apostles and elders met to consider the matter (v.6). Peter gave a speech (v.7-11). Paul and Barnabas told of their first journey among the Gentiles (v.12). James gave a speech too (v.13-21).
As a result of the meeting, Gentile Christians were not to be circumcised according to the Law of Moses (v.22-35). Letters were written to Gentile churches informing them of that. The apostles and the elders of the church in Jerusalem gave no such commandment of binding circumcision on Gentile Christians.
By necessary inference Peter learned that Gentiles could be saved by the blood of Christ on the condition of an obedient faith in Christ without being circumcised and obeying the Law of Moses. On the basis of the vision of clean and unclean animals let down on a sheet from heaven and the Word of God - "What God has cleansed you must not call common" (Acts 10:15), Peter concluded that Gentiles could be saved by faith in Christ (Acts 10:34-35). Peter necessarily inferred from the vision and the Word of God that this conclusion was true.
Paul and Barnabas spoke of the work done during their first missionary journey, especially beginning at Antioch where, being disappointed w/the rejection of the gospel by the Jews, they turned to the Gentiles (Acts 13: 42-49). They had openly reported these things to many Christians (Acts 14: 27;15:12). God had approved the work of Paul and Barnabas in the converting of the Gentiles and no circumcision was involved. The examples spoke for themselves as to what God had authorized in the salvation of the Gentiles.
The speech of James supported the conclusion that Peter had reached. James quoted Amos 9:11-12, a direct statement of God concerning Gentiles being called by His name and a part of the rebuilt tabernacle of David. A clear statement of Scripture showed that Gentiles were involved in the Messianic plans of God.
The apostles indicted the Judaizing teachers who acted on their own initiative. They were men "to whom we gave no such commandment" (v.24). The fact that no New Testament command had been given to be circumcised or to keep the Law of Moses settled the issue. God's silence is prohibitive, not permissive.
So, the way to establish Scriptural authority is by necessary inference, approved apostolic example, and direct statement or command. We should also respect the silence of the Scriptures.
In the final analysis whether we obey or disobey God is a matter of regard or disregard for the Word of God. The only possible way for us to be united is to follow the simple plan of "speaking where the Bible speaks and by remaining silent where the Bible is silent" (1 Pet.4:11).
Acts 14 records the last part of Paul’s first missionary journey. Paul traveled with Barnabas preaching the gospel of Jesus at the following locations: Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Antioch (Turkey), Pisidia, Pamphylia, Perga, Attalia, and Antioch of Syria. The first journey began in Acts 13:1. By the time Paul completed the journey at the end of chapter 14, he had travelled approximately 1400 miles.
Some key observations:
- Despite intense persecution, Paul and Barnabas continued to preach the gospel and the gospel continued to convert souls to Christ. Paul and Barnabas were forced to flee Iconium due to the risk of stoning (vs.5). Paul was stoned in Lsytra to the verge of death (vs.19). But Paul and Barnabas kept sowing the seed (note vs.7 - they kept preaching) and it kept bearing fruit. People were ready to hear the gospel when it was preached. Paul and Barnabas remained courageous and convicted to share the gospel. No social opposition, no active persecution, no popular opinion will defeat the good news of Jesus Christ.
- Paul and Barnabas performed miracles to confirm the message. Note the extraordinary nature of the signs and wonders (vs.3,10). There was no ambiguity or doubt that miracles had occurred - God’s power was displayed with clarity and certainty. The crowds in Lystra were so astounded by the healing of the lame man that they attempted to offer worship to Paul and Barnabas (vs.11-12). Note the response of Paul and Barnabas in vs.14ff - the glory went to God, the Creator of all things. Beware of preachers who seek glory for themselves - the focus should be the message of the gospel, not the glory of the messenger.
- Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch to strengthen the faith of believers. Note vs.22 - Paul and Barnabas encouraged them to continue in the faith and stand ready to overcome tribulation. This text provides an important insight to the organization of a local congregation - vs.23 states that elders were appointed in the churches Paul and Barnabas visited. This text and other NT references stress the importance of “elders” instead of “elder” - at least two or more men who meet the qualifications (1 Tim.3; Tit.1) to oversee the work of a local congregation.
- Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch of Syria to provide a full report of the first missionary journey (see 13:1-2). God was given the glory for work performed and the spread of the gospel. -Charlie Ellis
The events of Acts 12 revolve around the first event that occurs in the chapter: the death of James. King Herod realized that Christians were having a larger cultural impact than anyone had anticipated. So, decided to send a message through violence. By killing James, he hoped that the church would become afraid and therefore cease growing, or at least at such a rapid rate. I believe Herod feared the church, as it took away some of the power he had over people, and because he did not understand it. Most men naturally fear what they do not understand.
When Herod killed James, he saw that the Jews (many of whom still hated Christians) were pleased by it and decided to continue persecuting disciples. He arrested Peter during the Passover feast (days leading up to the Passover itself) and put him in jail between two soldiers. Herod presumably intended to kill Peter after the Passover and made sure he would not escape. The church did not give up, but rather prayed earnestly for Peter in this trial.
Thankfully, none of us are in any danger of being arrested for following Christ, but there are other struggles and persecutions we face. Sometimes we have the tendency to give in to difficulty, to relinquish hope. We must not! These brethren didn’t, they turned to God, as we should in our times of difficulty. My immediate reaction might have been anger or developing a plan to bust Peter out of prison, but what it should be is prayer. These people serve as a good example of a proper reaction to hard times.
Peter was set free from prison by an angel. Notice what it says in v.9. Peter thought he was just having a vision. This typically reactive, impulsive, angry man was not doing what we might have expected, but rather he had accepted what he was going through. He left it in the hands of God. If it was the will of God for Peter to die, that was okay with him. He had grown a great deal and learned from what he saw Jesus go through. Sometimes we must accept that it could be God’s will for us to go through difficulty and learn from it. Even though Peter thought he was having a vision, he obeyed the angel, and his obedience allowed him to walk out a free man. I would like to be able to say that my desire to obey God is so intense that I obey Him even in my dreams!
Peter found other disciples at the house of John Mark’s mother, Mary, and at first they did not believe it was him. We might have a hard time believing it if our brother was arrested and sentenced to death and later that night showed up at our door. However, after meeting them and telling them what happened, they realized it was him. Take note of what the disciples were doing when Peter got there: praying. I don’t know what for, but it’s altogether possible that they were praying for Peter as he knocked at the gate. God does not work today in miraculous ways as He did in the first century, but prayer works. Don’t doubt it for even a second.
One final takeaway from this chapter: The Lord punishes evil and causes the righteous to prosper. Herod was killed for his pride and murderous acts. The church continued to grow despite what he tried to do. God’s Word increases and is multiplied when Christians overcome their hardships through Him. They provide opportunities to tell people about what God has done for them. Peter didn’t waste opportunities like that, neither should we.
I hope this blog article has been encouraging and thought provoking for you. I encourage you to read Acts 12 yourself and study it in detail to see what else you can get out of it. Like all of God’s Word, it is a rich text.
As the chapter opens we see Paul setting out on his first missionary journey with Barnabas, sent by the Holy Spirit and the Antioch church. We see that the Holy Spirit dwells in God’s church.
As was the custom of Paul, once he arrived at his initial destination, he headed to the synagogue to proclaim the word of God. He wanted to reach the largest audience possible. Paul was bold and did not back down, a good lesson for us today as we labor to teach the word of God to others.
Almost immediately Paul encountered opposition to the gospel. That is a theme throughout the ministry and life of Paul, unfortunately. Some in the audience were working directly against Paul, trying to turn others away from the gospel (vs. 8). Paul gave a stern warning in vs.10, calling the obstacle the “son of the devil” saying they were “full of deceit and fraud.” Let this warning from Paul (who was filled with the Holy Spirit – vs.9) be something we never forget. Opposing the faith, the word of God, is a serious offense, equated basically to doing the work of Satan. So serious in fact that Elymas was blinded due to his actions.
As Paul continued on his journey, he arrived at the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch where the officials invited him to speak. Paul loved that! His sermon is full of historical background that the Jews knew. He talked about the children of Israel, their wanderings, and reminded them that Jesus came through David. He talked about Jesus being the promised deliverer and gave a warning against rejecting Jesus Christ and His invitation. Among the many sermon “punchlines” is vs. 38 letting us know that forgiveness of sins comes through Jesus. The audience was riveted and gathered again the following Sabbath to hear more. Some of the Jews in the audience rose up, and once again, tried to contradict the things Paul said. That caused Paul to proclaim his intentions to turn to the Gentiles, which gave the Gentiles reason to rejoice and glorify God. Undeterred, the Jews persecuted Paul and Barnabas and drove them from the city. But, we see the disciples were also undeterred, they shook the dust off, moved on to the next city, and continued proclaiming the word of God, filled with joy and the Holy Spirit (vs. 52).
Chapter 13 illustrates the boldness of Paul and the disciples in their proclamation of the Word of God and their pursuit of lost souls. We also see that there has always been direct opposition to the gospel and probably always will be. These obstacles, no matter what form they take, need to be met head on, so the spread of the Word of God and the work does not fail.
How many things in our world are for “ALL”?
It is rare for anything to be available to all people. Different businesses, clubs, organizations, etc., all have some type of formal or informal exclusions even if written in just the fine print. Many things in our world are based on sex, race, origin, and other factors that automatically disqualify certain individuals.
How thankful we should be daily that the BLESSED GOSPEL IS FOR ALL, THE GOSPEL IS FOR ALL (as we sing is one of my favorite songs). We realize from Acts chapter 11 that “all” means “all” when it comes to the New Testament Gospel and spiritual blessings from Jesus Christ.
Acts 11:17 “Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”
Acts 11:18 “When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.’”
Peter came to the realization that the gospel is for all, no exclusions based on anything! God and Jesus are not prejudiced in any manner. They would not have the greatest promise ever made exclude anyone. Even though the New Testament is plain in its teaching, ALL have the opportunity but not without conditions. Many are confused about this point. ALL can be saved, ALL can be faithful children of God, Christ’s invitation is open to ALL and ALL can respond to it, but not ALL will live according to the conditions of Christ. Let’s be ever thankful and grateful to God for His grace which is sufficient for ALL mankind. Let’s be thankful that the invitation of Christ is open for ALL. Let’s continue to pray and work for the salvation of ALL mankind.