Saved by Grace

Saved by Grace

Saved by Grace

William Stout / General

Acting Out Acts – 18 / Acts 15:1–41


Grace or Law?


Acts 15:1–3 NKJV

1 And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

2 Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.

3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren.


  • Back in Antioch, Paul and Barnabas abode a long time, teaching and preaching
  • Certain men came from Judea – Jewish Christians
  • began teaching that people must be circumcised and obey Moses’ customs to be saved
  • These men were well meaning Christians – or at least they thought they were
  • They wanted to be Christians
  • But they also wanted to follow the law
  • They could not understand how a person could be “saved” without following all of the laws of Moses
  • there were hundreds of laws and rituals
  • all of them had a purpose
  • This purpose was fulfilled in Jesus Christ
  • So there was a dispute among them –
  • Sometimes it is necessary to stand up and speak the truth
  • When they couldn’t arrive at an agreement, they decided they should go to Jerusalem to ask the apostles and elders – By this time the church has been around for ten or twenty years
  • While they went, they kept on spreading the good news – which caused great joy


Acts 15:5–6 NKJV

5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”

6 Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.

  • When they arrived at Jerusalem a sect of Pharisees who believed rose up…
  • Interesting that these were Pharisees “who believed”
  • these men were not outsiders and unbelievers as before
  • rather – these were people who believed that Jesus was Lord, they accepted Him as the Messiah
  • and yet, they were causing such a strife among themselves
  • After all the problems they had faced on the outside, they now have to deal with challenges from inside
  • As Christians we should be careful to avoid these kind of traps which so easily distract and weaken us
  • We should look for ways to build up one another –
  • we should find and focus on the things we agree on, so much as possible
  • It is easy for us to fall in these same kinds of traps today
  • we can confuse our traditions with the gospel
  • if we are not careful, we can be guilty of adding to the gospel what Jesus didn’t add

Saved by Grace

  • Finally, after a lot of arguing, Peter stood up and reminded them of the lesson with Cornelius
  • How God had made a choice
  • He reminded them how that God knows our hearts and chose to give them the Holy Spirit just like theirselves
  • Even though we should remain in unity as much as possible, we cannot be silent when the gospel is being twisted

Acts 15:10–11 NKJV

10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”

  • Thank God for Grace
  • By grace are you saved through faith – not of yourselves
  • This is the message of the gospel
  • We believe the Jesus Christ is the payment – the full payment for our sins
  • we believe that we are saved through faith in that work – not through our own keeping of rules and rituals and ordinances – no matter how noble they may be
  • we are not saved by going to church, doing good deeds, giving offerings, or refraining from sins.
  • It is good to keep yourself from sin, but that will not save you
  • This message of grace is so hard for our natural mind to comprehend
  • But if we believe that we are saved by keeping a rule, then we have to keep all of them
  • and no one had ever been able to do that

Romans 3:23 NKJV

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Romans 3:10 NKJV

10 As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;

Romans 3:28 NKJV

28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.

  • This would seem counter intuitive – as if it were a license to sin
  • yet, this very faith in Jesus – true faith – has the opposite effect on people
  • as we grow in faith in Jesus, we become more like Him
  • not because we are forced through a law, but by His Spirit we are transformed


Hebrews 8:10–12 NKJV

10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

11 None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.

12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

  • This is the effect of genuine faith in Jesus – “receiving Christ”
  • The Holy Spirit lives in you – Christ in you
  • We don’t need an outward law because we have the living God living in us
  • He puts His law in our heart and mind
  • We keep ourselves from sin because we want to be holy – Sin no longer has the same appeal
  • Now sin has a bad aftertaste so to speak
  • We believe that through the grace of the Lord we will be saved – just like them – Peter said
  • If we are saved by grace – why would we suppose others not to be?

Acts 15:19–20 NKJV

19 Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God,

20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.


  • So they came to the conclusion – and sent Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch with representatives from Jersualem
  • To Proclaim this simple gospel:
  • Keep themselves from fornication and idols, and drinking blood
  • There are some basic expectations – rules
  • There is only one God – this will never change
  • Sex is for marriage – God ordained
  • Salvation is by grace – not ritual

Acts 15:36–41 NKJV

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.”

37 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark.

38 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.

39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus;

40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God.

41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

  • One of the saddest stories in the NT
  • Paul and Barnabas – brothers who had been separated to the Work by the Holy Spirit
  • They decided to go back to all the churches they planted
  • So Barnabas wanted to take John Mark
  • This is the “Mark” of the Gospel Mark
  • The son of Mary who Peter went to, and cousin of Barnabas
  • He started out with them, but left them to go back to Jersualem
  • Because of this, Paul did not want to take him again
  • This became such an argument that they split in anger – going their separate ways:
  • Two sides – both valid
  • Paul was probably upset because Mark had deserted him when in need
  • Consider how many things he had to suffer without Mark’s help
  • We know what its like to be deserted – left in need
  • We know what it s like to feel abandoned and forsaken by friends
  • Paul did not want to risk this again
  • Yet Barnabas was an encourager
  • He believed in people
  • He is the only one who trusted Paul at first
  • He stood up for Paul the same way he was trying to stand up for Mark
  • It is evident that he was probably right to do so
  • later Paul spoke well of Mark
  • Mark went on to write a Gospel
  • These two are never mentioned together again
  • Paul chose Silas and went on while Barnabas left with Mark
  • So, they each left a partnership that God had chosen for one that they had chosen
  • Although there were two sides, and both valid
  • they should have found a way to work this out!
  • We must find a way to stay in unity
  • to fulfill the mission God has given us
  • to avoid getting distracted by things that don’t matter
  • What were some alternatives they could have chosen?
  • maybe they could have waited –
  • they could have canceled the trip until there was agreement
  • they could have prayed until The Holy Spirit gave direction



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