Calvary Road Baptist Church

“A CHURCH BUSINESS MEETING”

Acts 15.1-29

I have a sermon this evening that will hopefully bring joy into the heart of every Christian who hates to go to church business meetings. Ever been to a nasty church business meeting? I don’t know about you, but I think that the business meetings conducted in most churches in America today are disgusting and are a reproach to the cause of Christ. I must say that most of the business meetings that I have attended since coming to Calvary Road have not been shameful, but one or two of them a couple of decades ago were filled to the brim with tension, so that no warmth and Christian love could be felt there. Just think of what could happen if a really controversial issue were brought up. Would the meeting be conducted in a manner that would glorify Christ? I don’t know. Only you folks can guess from your past experiences in stress-filled situations how you would conduct yourself in a deadly serious church business meeting.

Whatever business meeting experiences may have been like for you in the past, if they were less than encouraging, they do not have to be like that anymore. It is actually possible for churches to tackle thorny issues, in such a way as to actually solve problems, to actually strengthen the church’s unity, and to actually glorify Christ in the process. Is that not great? Would not any church in their right minds jump at such a possibility? They would if solving the problem, bringing unity to the church, and glorifying Christ were at all important to them.

This evening we look at the third recorded church business meeting ever conducted by the church at Jerusalem, and see how they did things, Acts 15.1-29. Remember, the first meeting was when they chose Matthias to take Judas Iscariot’s place as one of the twelve, and the second meeting was when they chose the seven deacons to wait on tables. When we finish looking at this third recorded business meeting, we ought to have some guidelines for every church to follow when conducting church business in a meeting. Would you not agree?

There are two points to my sermon: Point #1 deals with the problem that surfaces and leads to the business meeting. Point #2 deals with the actual business meeting and the procedure that is seen to be followed throughout the course of the meeting:

 IN VERSES 1-5, WE SEE WHERE THE PROBLEM HAS SURFACED

 It begins with the church being misrepresented, in verse 1:

 “And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.”

 Certain men came down from Judea and the Jerusalem church and taught false doctrine, saying that folks had to be circumcised to be saved. This scandalized the church in Antioch. We know that such teaching is false, but these men behaved as if their teaching was authoritative and represented the doctrines being taught in the Jerusalem church.

Therefore, in response to this false teaching, a challenge is made by Paul and Barnabas, and is recorded in verse 2, by Luke:

“When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.”

Paul and Barnabas realized that circumcision was a work, and that salvation is not of works, but through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, they vigorously and vehemently protested the false teaching and the false teachers coming into their church and propagating error and confusion among the brethren for whose souls they were responsible.

To make sure that the same problems were not repeated in other churches, and to settle the issue finally, Paul and Barnabas inform the church at Jerusalem about the situation. This is recorded in verses 3-4:

3      And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.

4      And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.

There are several logical reasons for informing the Jerusalem church of this situation before things got out of hand: First, the church at Jerusalem was the most prestigious church in the world in that day. Their solution to the problem would be highly respected by Christians everywhere. Second, the problem was rightly theirs since the false teachers came from that congregation. Only by addressing the problem in the Jerusalem church could the root of the problem be addressed. Thirdly and most importantly with respect to informing the Jerusalem church, Paul and Barnabas realized something that all Christians need to grasp. The church of Jesus Christ is the highest spiritual authority on earth among men. The problems and differences, which occur among Christians, are therefore rightly and properly settled, not in courts of law, but by the churches of Jesus Christ. Paul actually teaches this in First Corinthians chapter 6. If you are wondering, Christians are in fellowship with church congregations. Professing Christians who are not in submission to a congregation are out of God’s will, and may not be God’s children.

When the entire Jerusalem church gathered together for praise and worship, we see that the service is momentarily disrupted, verse 5:

“But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”

Practical lessons can be learned from this outburst by the Pharisees: We know from First Corinthians 3.1 carnal Christians such as these are actually immature spiritual infants. When church affairs are conducted in such a way that spiritual infants have the opportunity to speak out and shoot off their mouths in a disruptive way, then they will certainly do it. No responsible parent allows a five-year-old child to speak out and disrupt the family’s decision-making process. Why then are churches so eager to commit such folly? Yet they do this very thing all across our once great country. Clearly, it can be seen, from these first five verses, why a free-for-all approach to solving the serious problems of the church will actually bring no solutions at all, but will instead bring anarchy and an excellent opportunity for carnal and immature Christians to exert undue influence on the church as a whole. No, for the Christian who is tired of seeing the kind of thing these Pharisees did, I have wonderful news. God has better things in store for His children who will but obey the dictates of His holy Word. Isn’t that great?

THIS BRINGS US TO VERSES 6-29, OUR SECOND MAIN POINT, WHICH HAS TO DO WITH THE PROPER PROCEDURE, WHICH IS SEEN HERE BY EXAMPLE

First, there is the appropriate deliberation, in verse 6:

“And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.”

This is indisputable evidence of the church leadership being the sole parties involved in arriving at the ultimate solution of the problem. Some people might think that such proceedings are unfair. However, Hebrews 5.13-14 sheds light and suggests wisdom when dealing with such issues:

13     For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.

14     But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

This passage shows conclusively that immature Christians are not as skillful in their discernment of right and wrong as those who are skillful in the scriptures. It certainly will not seem like this is the case with immature believers, but God’s Word settles it once and for all. Does a church want folks involved in decision-making processes who are declared in scripture to be unqualified in the determination of right and wrong? I certainly hope not. Whether a church wants it or not, it is very clear, that God does not want it. He has seen fit to organize His church in such a way that there will be a number of spiritually qualified men to make the appropriate decisions, as we see in this example.

Having seen the appropriate deliberative body, we now see, in verses 7-21, that addresses are given in turn and in an orderly way. First, Simon Peter stands and gives a historical account of how God used him to preach the gospel to the Gentiles without making any demands of circumcision upon them. Without doubt, they were saved by faith in Christ alone, and apart from any meritorious works of righteousness, verses 7-11:

7      And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.

8      And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;

9      And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

10     Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon 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, even as they.

Then, in verse 12, Barnabas and Paul stood before the still silent church and gave testimony of what great things God had done with Gentiles through their ministries:

 “Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.”

 Notice, if you will, two things about the meeting so far: First, those who are speaking are only those who actually have something to contribute to the discussion, and there are no emotional flags being waved, and no personalities being attacked. These are mature Christian men who are given the floor. No one else speaks. Second, notice that the church is respectfully silent while their God-called leaders are attending to the solution of the problem. These folks weren’t naive enough to believe that the leaders were sinlessly perfect, but they did realize that God would work things out to the ultimate satisfaction of everyone concerned. Further, they must have realized that if a solution was at all possible, then it would only be found as a result of the prayerful consideration of men, who by reason of use, have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Now, in verses 13-21, we see James’ summation. The congregation is still silent as James stands and beckons them to listen to his words. He is the senior pastor of the church, and he stands to summarize the truth and the solution to the problem, verse 13:

 “And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me.”

He begins by acknowledging Simon Peter, in verse 14, and referring to his words:

“Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.”

Then he supports what Peter had said by referring to the prophets of the Old Testament, in verses 15-18, and their predictions that Gentiles would be saved by faith just as Peter and Paul contended:

15     And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,

16     After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:

17     That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.

18     Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.

Notice what James is doing here. He is taking them all to the Word of God for the final source of information in coming to a decision. The pastor in such matters must always do this. Then he states the wise advice and counsel of the church leadership. That leadership, of course, is him:

19     Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:

20     But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.

21     For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

The conclusion being reached, we now see the agreement demonstrated. First, in regards to the leadership. Notice the progression, in verse 22. “Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church. . . .” There is no indication that the church played a part in the solution-finding process. However, they seem to have trusted God to work through their leaders, and their faith in God was justified. When godly men of the Word gather together to prayerfully deliberate and seek God’s solution to a problem, with the church praying that God will give them wisdom and understanding, then I am confident that God will have His way among them and the church will be blessed. Next, in regards to the letter. The church decided to send a letter to Antioch and surrounding localities explaining the situation. They commanded nothing of the Gentiles. They did, however, advise them on four matters that would help them grow and be a testimony to others:

23     And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:

24     Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:

25     It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,

26     Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

27     We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.

28     For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;

29     That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

Therefore, you see, God does have a way of doing things that will help churches get things done rightly. The only problem is in getting churches to listen to God’s way of doing things instead of the carnal Christians who, realizing that they will no longer have a voice in the church when God has His way, continually oppose and resist doing things the Biblical way. Therefore, Christians, I present you this sermon to exhort you. To encourage you. To lift you up in the confident realization that things do not have to be the way they are in a church.

Those of us at Calvary Road Baptist Church who desire to follow Christ and to obey His Word must realize that there will always be opposition to that which is right. What is left for us to do is what Paul and Barnabas, and the congregation in Jerusalem, did. We must vehemently and vigorously oppose that which is wrong and seek to correct that which is opposed to the clear teaching of God’s Word.

While good men may disagree about many things, they should not disagree about the approach that ought to be taken when a congregation meets to resolve a serious doctrinal issue. As well, note that God may very well have allowed this problem to develop in Antioch so that Paul and Barnabas would have to travel to Jerusalem to deal with it; thereby exhibiting the Apostle Paul’s ministry to those who knew him when he was an enemy of the gospel, and who at first distrusted him as a new convert.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org