This lesson takes what we have learned about the Purpose of the Church, Biblical Unity and Church Purity and uncovers the implications they have for Acts 15 and Us.
1) HOW ALL OF THIS RELATES TO ACTS 15
The 3 main threats to Biblical Unity and Purity in Acts 15 were:
The Judaizer Problem – The Pharisee Believer Concern – The Separation of Paul and Barnabas
To discover how all we have learned relates to Acts 15, the first question to ask is this:
1) Is the disagreement a fundamental, doctrinal one?
If we determine it is, then for the sake of true Biblical Unity and Church Purity, our only course of action is hold our ground and confront.
Was the Judaizer Problem a fundamental doctrinal disagreement? Yes.
They were attempting to corrupt the very nature of Salvation.
What Biblical Unity/Church Purity principals were being compromised?
How did Paul and Barnabas respond to it?
They emphasized the differences between them and the Judaizers (they did not forsake purity for a worldly unity) and in so doing maintained both Biblical Unity and Church Purity.
What BU/CP principals were necessary for Paul to formulate his response?
Pharisee Believer Concern:
Was the Pharisee Believer Concern a fundamental doctrinal disagreement? No.
However, their concern did reveal a resistance to the truths of Scripture as fulfilled in Jesus (they were still on milk).
What BU/CP principals were they falling short in?
So, in this case, the next questions to be asked are:
2) Will opposition make the church more pure and/or Biblically Unified?
So, would opposing the Pharisee Believer Concern make the church more pure and/or Biblically Unified? Yes.
Obviously, if all those concerned would have submitted to the freedom available in Christ, the Church would have been all that more Pure and the agreement that this freedom is real would have made the church all that more Biblically Unified.
But, we know that Paul did not ultimately object to the compromise made to the concern of the Pharisee Believers.
So we must ask an additional question to choose the best course of action:
3) Will opposition forsake the Gospel or hurt the work of God?
So, would opposing the Pharisee Believer Concern forsake the Gospel or hurt the work of God? Yes.
Paul was faced with the dilemma of either forsaking a little Purity and Biblical Unity or the work of God and Gospel.
So what was Paul’s response to their concern (& James letter addressing their concern) and his dilemma?
Paul knew opposition would hinder his and his associate’s ability to share the Gospel with Jews.
So, in my opinion, Paul knew their thinking to be wrong, but did not fight it because the issue was not a fundamental one and fighting it would hurt the work of God and inhibit spreading the Gospel among the Jews.
What BU/CP principals was Paul exercising in coming to this decision?
Paul & Barnabas Separation:
Was the Separation of Paul and Barnabas a fundamental doctrinal disagreement? No.
Would Paul’s opposition to bringing John Mark make the church more pure or Biblically Unified? Maybe, but the question may not be applicable in this situation.
Would Paul’s opposition to Barnabas forsake the Gospel or hurt the work of God? Yes…Paul thought so.
Paul obviously felt, based on his experience, that John Mark might hinder the work of God and the Gospel.
John Mark had already proven himself unreliable.
Paul’s mind was set upon the Gospel and new churches and not on himself.
So what BU/CP principals was Paul was exercising?
Paul’s opposition to Barnabas, his good friend, no doubt caused some awkwardness.
He did not let that cloud his judgment; preventing him from doing what he though was right.
Paul, as a result of his decision, also had a successful 2nd missionary journey and began what would prove to be a strategic alliance with Silas.
What BU/CP principals was Barnabas exercising?
It could also be said that Barnabas’ mind was also apparently set on the same things as Paul’s, but he also set his mind on John Mark for better or for worse.
Barnabas stuck his neck out for Paul and was right on, and he obviously was ultimately right with John Mark.
Were any BU/CP principals ignored by either Paul or Barnabas?
No to 1; no to 2; and maybe 3 for Barnabas because he did not submit to the authority of Paul.
And maybe number 3 for Paul because he was so impatient with John Mark.
And maybe 5 for Paul, if he let his concern for the new churches override a responsibility to build up John Mark.
And maybe 5 for Barnabas, if he let his relationship with John Mark cloud his judgment.
So, ultimately, Paul and Barnabas’ disagreement may not really be a Biblical Unity or Church Purity concern.
However, the same BU/CP principals still apply because, we as individuals, determine with our own behavior the degree to which our church has Biblical Unity and Church Purity.
Paul and Barnabas were in complete agreement that another journey was needed.
The disagreement was on how to most effectively do the job – not really the worst kind of agreement to have.
2) HOW THIS ALL RELATES TO US
Example 1 from Newsweek Article on Biblically Supported Gay Marriage: http://www.newsweek.com/id/172653
Article subtitle reads, “Opponents of gay marriage often cite Scripture. But what the Bible teaches about love argues for the other side.”
“Biblical literalists will disagree, but the Bible is a living document, powerful for more than 2,000 years because its truths speak to us even as we change through history…A mature view of Scriptural authority requires us, as we have in the past, to move beyond literalism. The Bible was written for a world so unlike our own, it’s impossible to apply its rules, at face value, to ours.” – Lisa Miller
Visit http://www.albertmohler.com/blog_read.php?id=2881 for additional info.
Example 2 from The Virginia Pilot:
Summary of Previous Lessons used to answer above questions:
PAUL’S MINISTRY MISSION STATEMENTS:
1 Corinthians 9:23 – “I do it all for the sake of the Gospel.”
Romans 14:20 – “Do not…destroy the work of God.”
5 WAYS TO BIBLICAL UNITY:
1) Knowing the things of God – Jesus, Gospel, Scripture, Doctrine, etc.
2) Using your gifts to equip the saints and build up the body – there is no sitting on the sidelines.
3) Considering others more important than you – Humility.
4) Setting your mind on others and Christ not on you, the flesh and the world.
5) Having a mind so mingled with Christ that we can make God-honoring, reasonable and objective judgments rooted in Christ and not be clouded by the issue or relationship we are tangled up in, thereby making poor judgments.
SOME ISSUES OF CHURCH PURITY:
1) Biblical Doctrine & Right Preaching of the Word
2) Proper Use of Ordinances
3) Right Use of Church Discipline
4) Genuine Worship
5) Effective Prayer
6) Effective Witness
7) Biblical Church Government
8) Spiritual Power in Ministry
9) Personal Holiness of Members
10) Care for Poor
11) Love for Christ