When you want to put a thing across, don’t depend upon anyone who has a personal interest in it to prove the point.
Alright, thank you very much. And hello friends, how are you? Are you doing okay today? I trust so. We’re going to keep on, if it’s alright with you, in our study of the Book of Acts in Chapter 15. Now, this whole chapter was brought about by the fact that some people said, “Unless you become authentic members of the Jewish community by keeping all of Moses’ Law, you can’t be a Christian.” In other words, there was the beginnings, at this point, of that recurring type of heresy that says not just faith alone, but faith plus something else. Now, this is nothing new and it shows up in ever so many places all over the world. Saved by grace through faith is what the Bible says. But people will say saved by grace through faith plus doing something yourself. You have to do something. Well, salvation can’t be by works, says Paul, “Not of works, lest any man should boast. Because as many as are under the works of the law are under the curse. Because it is written, cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” And so if you’re not perfect, and which of us is, if you’re not perfect, then you’re under the curse of the law and you can’t possibly be saved and come into the presence of a Holy God on the basis of the law.
So anything you do simply cannot add to the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Well, you know that, but I’m reminding us today that this is the basis on which you and I trust our blessed Lord Jesus. And so all of this came out in the discussion, and Simon Peter had said in Acts 15:11, “We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be saved, even as they,” that is the Gentiles. Then Paul and Barnabas talked about the things God had done. After that James gives his opinion, and now he’s finished his little talk, he’s recommended that the church at Jerusalem write to these Gentile believers and put no further regulation upon them than that which is obvious, that they stay away from idolatry, immorality, and obvious unhealthy practices. So it says, “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.” Isn’t it interesting now? It was Barnabas and Paul Verse 12. Now it’s with Paul and Barnabas.
You have to give God the right to put people first when he pleases to do it. That’s not always easy to do, is it? No, it isn’t, but God knows whom He wants and where and under what circumstances, and so, you have to give Him the right to do that. Alright, it’s Paul and Barnabas now, and they’re sending Judas, surnamed Barsabbas, and Silas, who were chief men among the brethren, and they wrote letters by them and sent them off. We’ll stop here just for a moment. It says, “It pleased the Apostles and elders with the whole church. Always in the pastorate, I insisted on… In anything that was of real consequence, on having a united group with me. Sometimes there were issues on which the board of deacons or trustees, or both would be split sort of down the middle. And I always said, “Now brethren, we have the right to be one at heart, because we belong to the Lord Jesus and he prayed that we might be one. Let’s wait on God until He speaks to our hearts about this thing.” And so we’d table the matter and wait on the Lord for it, and God would bring things around to a unanimous action, whatever that happened to have been.
I’m stopping on this just to remind you that although you have such a thing as a parliamentary procedure, and there is a way to take a vote and to put through an action based on a majority vote or even a plurality, depending on what you want to determine as the basis for action, but in your church, and in my case, in our faculty and staff, when actions are to be decided upon, I think we have to have a unified action on it. Now, that isn’t to say that in faculty meetings we don’t have lots of dissenting votes and motions that are passed and motions that don’t carry and motions that are amended and tabled and all the rest. But I think over these past nearly nine years, as I look back, I think on most major issues, where we had issues that really involved the academic program of the school and the lives of young people and spiritual issues, we’ve… Two or three different times that I can remember we’ve said, “Now folks, don’t you think we ought to just sort of pray and wait on God about this until we aren’t quite so split out about it?” And there’s always a way to do that without violating good parliamentary procedure.
So make sure, will you, that your church is with you, pastor, and deacons. Make sure that your church is with you on major issues, because you have a right under God to be one in heart. That doesn’t mean you’ll always agree on what color the new kitchen should be. That doesn’t mean you’ll always agree on lots of different matters. We do disagree on things and this is normal, but where there’s a major issue, where there’s something that’s gonna affect the life and future and program not only of the church, but of many people, you do have a right to wait on God as Norman Grubb says, “Wait at headquarters until you get your marching orders.” You do have a right to hear from heaven.
Every now and again, to refresh my own heart, I read Amy Carmichael’s book called “Gold Cord,” which is the story of the beginnings and continuance of her work in India. She remarks on one of those pages that soon after having arrived in India, her staff began to grow, and because there were numbers of people being added to the staff, they brought with them differing opinions. She says in one place, if I recall the quote, she says, “We were tempted to resort to the futile fuss of talk.” Isn’t that a nice phrase? “We were tempted to resort to the futile fuss of talk, but we soon learned that if we waited before the Lord, the same quiet word came to all.” If we waited before the Lord, the same quiet word came to all.
You know, if you do pray, if you really pray, God has a way of working out differences that stand in the way of major action. I don’t think we ought to insist on absolute uniformity, because as I said, people do differ, tastes differ, backgrounds differ, emotional makeup differs. Ever so many things differ from one personality to another. So I don’t think we ought to insist on a uniformity, that would be very drab, wouldn’t it? It’d be a kind of a dreary monotonous existence if everybody agreed with everybody else, besides which somebody would be lying. [chuckle] So we don’t insist on that. But where there are major issues to be decided, things that affect your life and ministry, and that of the church and all of that, then you do have the right to say, “Lord, make us one in heart.” Oh, I’m so glad that’s so.
Well, it says the church people, the leaders wrote letters and sent them by the hands of Judas and Silas, and they said in the letter, “The Apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia. For as much as we have heard that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words subverting your souls, saying you must be circumcised and keep the law, to whom we gave no such commandment, it seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul… ” There the order changes again. Now it’s back to Barnabas and Paul. “Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.”
We’ll stop here long enough to comment on something. First of all, when you have… When you have a report or some purported alleged information, it’s always a smart thing to find out who sent the individual. Who says so, you know? Now, I’ve lived long enough to know that the phrase everybody is doing it, means two or three people up the block may be doing it. Because not everybody’s doing it. And I’ve learned the hard way that you don’t always believe people who claim to be official. You check them out. Have you learned that?
The Apostles were saying, “We never sent these people.” Now, there’s no way of knowing until you check it out, you see. And so, John the beloved Apostle, says, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God.” You have the right to ask questions. You have the right to check people out. You have the right to find out whether indeed they represent what they say they do. That’s the reason I’ve always said to our fellows when I was in Youth for Christ, always welcome questions. The person who bristles when you ask him a probing question is apt to lie about other things as well. And so be ready to ask and answer questions. This is a healthy situation. Don’t try to hide the facts or camouflage them, because that practice will catch up with you and you’ll be in a disastrous situation. If you lie once and people catch you at it, they don’t believe you again, no matter how earnestly you protest that you are then telling the truth.
So be truthful, and don’t try to hide the facts, and do be ready to answer questions when people are checking you out. And let us say to each other that it is a good thing to check out people who claim to be official in some relationship for God and in His service. Check ’em out. You’ll find out sometimes that they aren’t quite as official as they say, and other times you’ll be gratified to know that they are indeed all that they say and more. So that grew out of this phrase in Verse 24, “To whom we gave no such commandment.” People who are officious gratuitously are generally to be suspected, right? People who are officious gratuitously are generally to be suspected. Check them out.
Alright, going on, he said, “It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord.” Here he’s saying definitely that the whole church is behind this. “Seemed good unto us to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who are men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. So we sent Judas and Silas who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.” When you want to put a thing across, don’t depend upon anyone who has a personal interest in it to prove the point. Get rather a witness who is objective and who doesn’t have his own neck in the noose.
Now, this was wise actually, this was great wisdom, because Paul and Barnabas had come from Antioch and Syria. They had been the ones who had spearheaded the outreach of the Gospel to Gentile peoples all across that area. We’ve just followed them through that first missionary journey. So you know that they were into this matter of preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, they were into it up to their eyebrows. And of course, they would be expected to bring back a report saying about what the church had said there in Jerusalem. But it needs somebody else, somebody whose reputation is not at stake, and yet someone who is in leadership and can be believed. Therefore, they sent along two other people to confirm what Paul and Barnabas were gonna be saying and to confirm the truth of the letter, so that it could be proved not to be a forgery. Now, when you have something important to establish, always look for people to establish it who care about it, but who do not have their own personal reputation at stake if they talk about it. A pretty good idea, isn’t it? Yeah, I think so. And you can try it on for size the next time you get into a situation like this.
Our father, make us wise in dealing with the various issues that come up and grant to us to honor thee all the way today, I ask in Jesus’ name, Amen. Amen. God bless you, my dear friend, all the way today.
That’s all for now, till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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