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The Jerusalem Council, Part 2: Responsibility

November 12, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

Pastor Chuck DeVane

Special to The Sentinel-Record

Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality.

-- Acts 15:19-20, ESV

The Jerusalem Council established Gospel freedom, that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. But then, it did not leave the Christian alone. It added spiritual and moral responsibilities post-salvation.

With great freedom comes great responsibility, especially in the Christian life, where we are not free to do as we please, but free to do what pleases God. What pleases God, according to the Holy Spirit and the holy saints gathered in Jerusalem, is for Christians to abstain from idolatry and immorality.

Remember Jesus' summary of God's commandments. They were simply two, love God, and love your neighbor. Such love lived out rightly could cover every other commandment and demonstrate true Christian faith and faithfulness.

The weighty words of James the brother of Jesus reflect the same clarity and simplicity. Avoid idolatry and immorality, for in doing so one practices true love for Christ and the right kind of love for other people.

An idol is a false god or anything else that is placed above the true and living God and Lord Jesus Christ. The Greeks and Romans of Jesus' and the Apostles' day literally worshipped pantheons of false gods, and such idolatry has existed throughout human history. Gentiles who accepted the Jewish Messiah needed to put away all these other gods. And all Christians of all nationalities need not put anyone or anything ahead of pure devotion to Jesus Christ.

Does your philosophy of life trump the clear commandments of the word of God? You have an idol. Does making money rank higher to you than making progress in the spiritual disciples of the New Testament? You have an idol. Are friends, family, or hobbies more important to you than the worship of God on the Lord's Day, communing with God daily in Scripture and prayer, and putting forth effort to serve other people in Jesus' name? You have an idol. Please, for God's and the Gospel's sake, put them away.

Then, there is the matter of "sexual immorality," a hot-button issue in every era. The first century was, and the 21st century is, filled with every kind of "porneia" known to man. The term has nothing to do with magazines and films, which did not exist when the Bible was written. The term covers any and all kinds of sexual intercourse between humans outside the confines of holy matrimony as defined by Holy Scripture, which is the monogamous union of one man and one woman, preferably for one lifetime.

Does God love people who are engaging in sex outside of marriage? Does God love the person who commits adultery? Does God love homosexuals? I would say so, but I would also say they are not loving God, nor loving their neighbor, in the way God requires. Jesus Himself said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (ref. John 14:15).

Every commandment of Scripture is serious. They should all be intelligently interpreted, emotionally attached, and volitionally followed. Clearly, it is the moral, not the civil and ceremonial Old Testament commandments, that should be followed by New Testament Christians. Every New Testament commandant, and there are many, should be honored by Christians and the church. But the simple, powerful summaries of Christ and His Apostles provide clear wisdom for knowing God and making Him known.

Are you saved? Yes, if by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Will you lose your salvation and go to Hell if you let an idol creep into your life or commit some kind of sexual sin? No, but chances are you won't take anyone to Heaven with you. And this is what is so important about the book of Acts at this critical junction, the Jerusalem Council. The aim of the Christian life and the Christian church is to believe the Gospel and spread the Gospel. To believe it unto salvation we have to get the Gospel right. To spread the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth, we have to live right.

Do you believe the Gospel? Are you living the Christian life so that others can see the Gospel in you, and want the Gospel for themselves? You have freedom in Christ. You have responsibilities as a Christian. Embrace both.

Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]

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