Evidence that Demand a Verdict: Acts 15:6-12
“6) The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. 7) After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8) And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; 9) and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10) Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11) But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” 12) All the people kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were relating what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.” Acts‬ ‭15‬:‭6‬-‭12‬
The discussion at the Jerusalem council was long and hearty. They fully vetted the issue of what constitutes salvation and the true Gospel Message. Let’s impact some insights from this text.
First, a significant part of the discussion came through Peter as he rehearsed the events of Acts 10:1-48 and the conversion of Cornelius and his Gentile gathering. While he was preaching the gospel, the Holy Spirit fell upon them. (See Acts 10:34-48) Both his vision (Acts 10:9-16) and the giving of the Holy Spirit settled in his thinking the question of justification by faith. The climax of his message to Cornelius was Acts 10:43; “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”
The full realization of what God did among Cornelius and his gathering was explained in Acts 11 as Peter returned to Jerusalem and was met by legalistic critics. I am confident that this was rehearsed in Peter’s defense at the Jerusalem Council as well. Acts 11:12-18 also zeros in on the sign of the giving of the Holy Spirit. In fact, in these verses Peter quoted the promise of the Holy Spirit as given by both the Father and Jesus Himself. (Review Acts 1:4-5)
Second, when the arguments given by Peter in Acts 15:8-11 are studied carefully, three things stand out: 1) the giving of the Holy Spirit, 2) cleansing the heart by faith, and 3) being saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus. This is amazing. Peter very clearly identifies three things that should be present in the testimony of any person who claims to be born-again.
I turn these around when I hear a testimony. I want to hear the persons understanding of the gospel of grace, expression of personal faith in Jesus Christ to save them and evidence of the Holy Spirit working in their life. It’s that simple! Apart from these three things, there is no basis of believing the person is a genuine believer.
Third, when Peter concluded his discourse, Barnabas and Paul continued to relate what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. This is profound. Though not stated in the text, the acid test became; “Tell me what God is doing through your life and ministry!” While Barnabas and Saul were filled with stories, the Law zealous critics were silent. They had no stories. Nothing was happening. God was silent. Can you see the problem? They wanted to force on others something that wasn’t working for them. (See Acts 15:10)
Why is this important? It ushers us into Hebrews 2:4. I call this “The Divine Apologetic!” God always shows up to confirm His true message and messengers with signs and wonders. Let’s keep it simple; that means there should be ample stories of the Holy Spirit at work in your life and through your ministry. Don’t resort to the empty argument that “God doesn’t do miracles today.” Be honest, if nothing is happening, the problem is with you and not with God!
Finally, as James and the others listened to the arguments and stories… or lack thereof presented by both sides at the Jerusalem Council, the verdict became clear. Peter, Barnabas and Paul were preaching the true Gospel. Salvation is by grace through faith and is validated by the fruit of the Spirit in a persons life.
Don’t follow people who come across smart in theology but are void of Spirit. At the same time don’t mistake emotional hype for the work of the Holy Spirit. Dig deep and define the true gospel and expect God to work as you live it and share it with others.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global