No Small Dissension

by | Feb 20, 2022 | 0 comments

These notes accompany the sermon found here.


  • There are two very important issues covered in Acts 15.
    • Is it necessary to keep all the law of Moses in order to be saved? (This time)
    • Is it necessary to keep all the law of Moses in order to be faithful? (Next time)

The Judaizers

  • Acts 15:1, 5, contain the summary of the Judaizers’ teaching.
  • Acts 15:1, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”
  • On circumcision see Genesis 17; Exodus 4:24-26, 12:48; Leviticus 12:3; Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6; Joshua 5.
  • The relevance of this passage: The modern-day equivalents, “You cannot be saved…
    • “…unless you belong to this group.”
    • “…unless you do this ritual.”
    • “…unless you obey these rules.”


  • Peter gives a God-centered account of his experience, Acts 15:7-11.
  • God chose that by the mouth of Peter the Gentiles should hear and believe. Acts 15:7.
  • God bore witness to them by giving them the Holy Spirit. Acts 15:8.
  • God made no distinction between Jews and Gentiles. Acts 15:9, 10:34-38, 11:15-18.
  • God cleansed their hearts by faith. Acts 15:9.
  • Peter sums this up in a reversal of the normal order of things – Jew first, then Gentile – by saying, “we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” Acts 15:11.
  • Peter’s conclusion: It is by grace that we are saved, apart from the works of the Law, because that is how it went down in Cornelius’ house.

Barnabas and Paul

In Acts 15:12, Barnabas and Paul relate “signs and wonders” God did through them in their ministry to the Gentiles.  This is an argument that their gospel message (salvation by grace through faith) is endorsed by God.  See also Galatians 2:1-10.


  • In Acts 15:13-21, James argues from scripture that the inclusion of the Gentiles was prophesied citing Amos 9:11-12. See also Genesis 12:3, 49:10, Deuteronomy 32:21; Psalm 2:8, 86:9; Isaiah 2:2-4, 9:2, 42:4, 49:6; Daniel 7:14; Haggai 2:7; Zechariah 2:11; Matthew 8:11.
  • James concludes with a four-fold recommendation for Gentile behavior. Abstain from:
    • things polluted by idols
    • sexual immorality
    • what has been strangled
    • blood


  • Salvation is “by grace through faith” plus nothing. This belief is called monergism.  See Ephesians 2:1-10, 1:3-14; Matthew 19:26.   Also see
  • Adding anything to the work of Christ to accomplish salvation is called synergism. Synergism is flatly refuted here in Acts 15 in in Galatians 1-6.


  • So we can live how we want? See James 2:14-26; John 14:15, 21; Romans 6:1-14; 1 John 3:4, 8; Revelation 21:8.
  • Don’t some verses add something to faith for salvation? Acts 2:38, 3:19, 20:21, 26:20; Romans 10:9; Luke 12:8; Matthew 10:22, 24:13. Faith/belief is the common element.  All additions are appropriate responses to the faith or “deeds in keeping with…repentance.”  These include repentance, baptism, confession, works, acknowledging Jesus before others, enduring to the end, etc.  See Hebrews 11.  It shows clearly that good works are the result of faith in the people of God.  Abraham is our supreme example of this, Romans 4:1-25.


  • Trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
  • Examine yourself for the fruits of this salvation.
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