“Word for Today” – Acts 15 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

October 9, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

Cross 3“Choose your battles wisely.”  What parent hasn’t had to remind themselves of this axiom when their teenager comes home with that crazy haircut?  Or when the boss makes that unreasonable demand?  Or when that relative demands that the rest of the family come to their house for Christmas?  “Choose your battles wisely,” you’ll say to yourself in your best self-soothing tone.   “It’s no big deal.”

Our text for today from Acts 15 opens thusly:  “Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: ‘Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved’” (verse 1).  Hmmm.  That doesn’t sound quite right.  Isn’t the message of the gospel, “Clearly no one is justified before God by the law [of Moses], because, ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Galatians 2:11)?  How is it, then, that these men are making a law from Moses necessary for salvation?

Listening to these men and their claims concerning the law of Moses were Paul and Barnabas, both champions of the doctrine of salvation through grace by faith in Christ, and apart from works of the law.  The question is: “How will they respond to these men who are in error?  Will they simply say to themselves, ‘I ought to choose my battles wisely.  This is no big deal.’”  Hardly.  Luke continues: “This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them.”  The Greek for the phrase “sharp dispute” is ouk oliges zetezeos, meaning literally, “no small dispute.”  In other words, not only did Paul and Barnabas do battle with these men, they did big battle with these men.  For what these men were teaching was a big deal.  They were corrupting the very gospel of Jesus Christ.

What these men were teaching was such a big deal that the believers decided to travel to Jerusalem and hold the first ever church council to discuss the issue.  Luke tells us that there was “much discussion” (verse 7).  After all, this was a battle worth fighting – a topic worth discussing.  Finally, Peter stands up and says:

Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are. (verses 7-11)

Peter has clearly drawn his line in the sand and staked out his claim:  The Gentiles need not be circumcised in order to be saved, for this would contradict the message of grace which is the very heartbeat of the gospel.  The church council agreed.  Paul and Barnabas fought a battle over the gospel and the gospel won.

The old proverb, “Choose your battles wisely” is all too readily interpreted by some to mean, “Choose as few battles as possible!  Avoid conflict at all cost!  Keep the peace, even it means compromising or hiding what you believe.”  But this is a gross misinterpretation and misrepresentation of this axiom.  For at the same time we must choose our battles wisely, we must also always remember that some battles are worth fighting.  And the battle for the gospel of Jesus is always worth fighting.

As in Acts 15, in our day, the gospel of Jesus is still trampled.  It is trampled by those outside the church who deny and even denounce Christ.  It is trampled by those inside the church who arrogantly claim that their salvation is in someway connected to their own righteousness rather than to the cross of Christ alone.  But like Paul, Barnabas, and Peter, we can take a principled stand for the gospel.  This is not easy, mind you.  Sometimes there can be “much discussion” concerning the gospel, some of which can be difficult and lengthy.  But the gospel is always worth it.  For the gospel tells of a Savior who forgives sins and saves people.  And people’s eternities are worth the fight.  Your eternity was worth the fight.  That’s why your Savior fought for you on the cross.  Your call, now, is to fight so that others hear of him.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – Acts 14 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – Acts 16 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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