Acts 15 Postlude - Doctrine of the Church - Purity

This Sunday we finished last weeks lesson.
We picked up with the Maintain Unity with Reason heading (see last weeks lesson).
We then had a brief intro to Church Purity.


A few comments before we begin:
The pursuit of unity brings balance to what can become a reckless pursuit of church purity.
However, some purity issues are worth fighting for – Acts 15 can give insight into what things.
And in fact, true Biblical Unity is impossible w/o some measure of biblical purity.
A church unified around some impurities is not a church living in Biblical Unity at all and may not even be a church.

What is purity:
Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology, defines church purity as the degree of freedom a church has from “wrong doctrine and conduct, and its degree of conformity to God’s revealed will for the church.”
To know whether a church is pure requires knowledge of Scripture.
This is also, of course, one of the necessary ingredients to Biblical Unity.
The relationship between Bibilical Unity and Purity is inseparable.

God values church purity:
Ephesians 5:26-27 reveals that God’s specific will for the church is purity, “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

Grudem’s Purity Scale:
False Church

True Church
LESS PURE ----------------------------------MORE PURE

Do we truly comprehend how crucial, through the Biblical Unity principals, our role is in God's vision for a Pure Church?
There is no coasting; as believers, we are responsible to take action.
To keep the church moving from Less Pure to More Pure, we must listen to Paul's exhortations about Biblical Unity and put them into practice.

Grudem’s List of things in which a church can be more or less pure (the number represents purpose of church it is related to from 2 weeks ago):
Biblical Doctrine & Right Preaching of the Word – 2
Proper Use of Ordinances – 1
Right Use of Church Discipline – 1 & 2
Genuine Worship – 1
Effective Prayer – 2
Effective Witness – 3
Biblical Church Government – 2
Spiritual Power in Ministry – 1, 2 & 3
Personal Holiness of Members – 2
Care for Poor – 3
Love for Christ – 1, 2 & 3

Discuss how we are doing.


Acts 15 Postlude - Doctrine of the Church - Unity

Acts 15 Postlude - Doctrine of the Church - Unity


I want to preface this lesson on Unity with a couple of introductory comments:
First, I want to make a distinction between unity and Biblical Unity.
The Greek word for unity, henotes, means unanimity, state of oneness, agreement.
Or, put another way, it means the absence of disunity or disagreement.
We will find in this lesson that Biblical Unity is not just the absence of disagreement or factions, but more importantly, the presence of a number of very important things.
The presence of these “things” naturally gives rise to Biblical Unity.
Biblical Unity grows out of these “things” and is fed by them.
Biblical Unity is at one level, always present, yet on another level requires us to maintain it.
The maintaining of Biblical Unity can also cause division!

Secondly, in some of the verses we will discuss, Paul & Peter address the subject of unity even though there apparently are no glaring disagreements present.
This will serve to further illustrate that Biblical Unity is far more than just “everybody getting along”.
We will find it actually is has a connection to the immeasurable greatness of power that we discussed last week.

Maintain Unity with Knowledge:
Ephesians 4:1-5:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Ephesians 4:11-16:
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
From 1 Timothy 1:3 and 1:20, we learn that Timothy pastured the church at Ephesus.
During that time he faced the problem of false doctrine being taught by at least two congregants.
1 Timothy 1:4-7 tells us that the false doctrine being taught had to do with myths, endless genealogies, vain discussion and teaching without understanding.

In these verses, Paul speaks of unity in 2 specific things: Unity of the Spirit & Unity of the faith.
Unity of the Spirit is a “state of oneness” of the body believers rooted in our relationship with the Holy Spirit.
All believers are baptized by the Spirit and are sealed by the Spirit and so in that we share unity.
Unity of the faith is “agreement” that God exists, is creator and ruler of all things & is the provider and bestower of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Paul demonstrated why we have Unity of the Spirit and faith in that we have one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father.
Unity of the Spirit and Unity of the faith exist with believers even in the midst of our disagreements.
In my opinion, this unity, which God eternally upholds, is part of the immeasurable greatness of power that is directed towards the body of believers.
But, Paul calls on us to maintain this unity, an acknowledgment that we must work to manifest this unity in the life of the church.
In verses 11 & 12, we learn that we are to be obedient in using our gifts to equip the saints.
In verses 13 & 14, we see that we are to grow in knowledge and maturity so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Understanding that biblical unity is related to our spiritual maturity and knowledge of God, what is your responsibility as a member of the body?
What is the best way to know if you are being carried about by human cunning and schemes or that someone is teaching without understanding?
What hinders our growth in this area?
1) So, knowing the things of God – Jesus, Gospel, Scripture, Doctrine, etc. – is crucial to biblical unity.
2) And, using your gifts to equip the saints is also essential to biblical unity – there is no sitting on the sidelines.

Maintain Unity with phroneo:
Philippians 2:1-8:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
The overall tone of Philippians is one of joy.
Paul’s relationship with God had obviously deepened during his imprisonment and I think he wanted the church at Ephesus to experience the same thing.
Paul speaks of those who preach Christ with wrong motives.
It is not clear, however, that this was a real problem in the church at Philippi.

In these verses, Paul speaks of being of the same mind and of one mind.
The Greek word for mind in each instance is the same, phroneo.
The words meaning, in this context, relates to humility – this is hinted at in verse 3.
It is often defined as not letting one’s opinion of himself exceed the bounds of modesty.
In Romans 11:20, the word is translated as do not become proud when speaking to the grafted in gentiles.
In Philippians 4:10, the word is translated as concern when speaking of the church’s concern for Paul.
In Romans 15:5-6, the word is translated as to live in such harmony when referring to glorifying God with one voice.
In 1 Corinthians 13:11, it is translated as thought in the phrase thought like a child.
What is Paul’s point in this illustration about the habits of a child?
What does a child think of primarily?
In the course of a normal day, whose agenda are you looking out for primarily?
In our verses here, how is Christ our example for being of the same mind and having one mind?

How are we to be of the same phroneo and of one phroneo?
The word phroneo can also mean to direct ones mind to a thing.
In Colossians 3:1-3, when advising on how to put on the new self, Paul tells us to set our mind on things above.
In Mark 8:32-33, Jesus rebukes Peter, accuses him of not setting his mind on things of God but on things of man.
In Romans 8:5, Paul is showing us how to live life in the Spirit and cautions us not to set our minds on things of the flesh because that means we are living in the flesh.
In Romans 8:8, Paul goes on to tell us that there is no pleasing God when we live like this.
Not pleasing God is a complete failure in the first purpose of the church discussed last week – ministry to God.
And in Philippians 3:19, when speaking of the enemies of the cross of Christ, Paul says they have their minds set on earthly things.
This is exactly what Jesus was rebuking Peter about!
3) So, humility and maturity in our relationships with believers are crucial to maintaining biblical unity.
4) And, setting our minds on others and Christ not on ourselves and the world is essential to biblical unity.

Maintain Unity with Reason:
1 Corinthians 1:10-13 & 3:1-4:
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
3 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

It is from the letters that Paul wrote to Corinth that we are introduced to church discipline.
Sexual immorality was a serious problem at this church and is specifically addressed by Paul.
And among other problems, people in the church were in the habit of suing each other.
Factions arose over who, apparently, had been baptized by whom.

Nous is the Greek word for mind in these verses.
It refers to a capacity to recognize goodness and hate evil and the power of considering and judging soberly, calmly and impartially.
Gnome is the Greek word for judgment.
It refers to the ability to have agreement based on knowledge.
What Paul is saying is that we need a Christ-centered Nous to have a God-honoring Gnome.
Paul scolds them for having a man-centered or personality-centered perspective (No Nous) and this led them to make judgments (Gnome) that were not God-honoring and not biblically uniting.

To get a better idea of the nous needed, we will take a look at 1 Corinthians 14:12-20:
12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.
13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.
20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.

Paul is illustrating why it is a mature judgment to be careful and discerning in the use of speaking of tongues.
Notice in verses 15 and 19 he is talking about using his Nous to make sober judgments about the right thing to do.
To further illustrate his point, consider the contrasts he makes throughout these verses:
My tongue vs. my mind – vs 14
In a tongue vs. with my mind – vs 14
Pray with my spirit vs. pray with my mind – vs. 15
Sing with my spirit vs. sing with my mind also – vs. 15
You may be giving thanks vs. other person is not being built up – vs. 17
Ten thousand words in a tongue vs. five words with my mind – vs. 19
These are contrasts between impulse, emotional & spiritual influence and desire vs. a biblically informed, Christ-centered reason and judgment (a Nous informed Gnome).

See how this works:
We have desires and impulses, some of which may even be God given (tongues), and they lead us to certain actions.
But, by using a Christ-centered Nous we can make God-honoring Gnome that may lead us to refrain from that action or to a wiser course of action.
This principle applies to who baptized whom, to speaking in tongues, to smarter-than-thou Bible knowledge and just about anything else.
So in the pursuit of Biblical Unity, just because something is OK, doesn’t mean that it is always OK.


Acts 15 Postlude - Doctrine of the Church

Acts 15 Postlude – Doctrine of the Church – What's a church?
Diving Deeper Lesson Outline for Acts 15

The title is drawn from the subject matter of Acts 15.
This lesson material for points 1 & 2 is adapted mainly from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology.
This is meant to be only an introduction to the topics covered.
The intent is to illuminate our previous 4 lessons on Acts 15 in light of the Doctrine of the Church.
This lesson will build a foundation that will assist us in our efforts to understand church unity and purity during next weeks lesson.


Ekklesia – the Greek word for church:
Its meaning is simply “an assembly of people called out for a specific purpose.”
The English word “church” appears in the New Testament 109 times in the ESV Bible.
Matthew 16:18 is the first time – And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Revelation 22:16 is the last time – I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.

Church as local and universal:
Acts 8:1-3 should be familiar to us from our study on Acts.
In these verses, we see the church in Jerusalem as made up of specific individuals who met in houses – local.
Acts 9:31 goes even further and broadens the church to include Judea, Galilee and Samaria.
In this verse, we pull back and see the church as made up of many local churches – universal.

Church as visible and invisible:
“The invisible church is the church as God sees it.” – Wayne Grudem
2 Timothy 2:19 says the Lord knows those who are his.
In other words, there is no fooling God.
A person may physically attend a church and may have even joined, but if he is unsaved he is not a member.
The visible church is the church as Christians see it.” – Wayne Grudem
In other words, it is a body of professed believers that will, in reality, include some non-believers.
Why do we have candidates for church membership and not just make them members right away?
Do you think we are too easy or strict in making members?

The church is fundamental to God’s purposes for believers:
Ephesians 1:16-23 tells us that Christ was made head over all things for her sake.
When we are consumed with the local and visible aspects of church, we can lose sight of the fact that we, the church, are the body of Christ and are called to do more than we could ever do in our own power.
In verse 19, Paul says that immeasurable greatness of power, the same power that raised Christ, is directed to those who believe!
Ephesians 3:20-21 also speaks of this power, the power at work within us.
John 15:5 also tells us that apart from me you can do nothing.
God has great plans for His church, and they will be accomplished by resting in His power!

Jesus actively participates in church growth:
Matthew 16:18, He tells us that He will build his church.
How does Jesus build the church?
Acts 2:47, Luke points out the Lord added to the church.
Adding certainly builds a church, but how does he add?
1 John 5:1-2, John tells us that we become born of God and then believe that Jesus is the Christ.
So, he adds to it by calling born again believers of Christ into fellowship with one another, and as we will see, for a specific purpose.

Yes…the real church is made up of believers only:
Acts 2:41 tells us that those who were added had received his word and were baptized.
Acts 4:4 tells us again it was those who heard the word and believed.
Revelation 21:27, speaking of the New Jerusalem, reveals it is only for those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Would Christ, who builds our church, build it with those who are not born again (those that are dead)?

Marks of a church:
According to Grudem, the marks of a true church became most relevant because of the Reformation.
He says, “…the Roman Catholic position has been that the visible church that descended from Peter and the apostles is the true church.
Martin Luther and John Calvin obviously disagreed – as do we.
Luther, in his Augsburg Confession (1530), said this:
The church is “the congregation of saints in which the gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments rightly administered.
Calvin said this:
Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to Christ’s institution, there, it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists.
So the marks of a true church are right preaching/teaching of God’s word and Gospel message (doctrine) and the proper administering of the sacraments or ordinances.
What are the sacraments or ordinances?
Are they rightly administered in our church?
What is God’s word?
Is it rightly preached and taught in our church?
What is the Gospel message (see Paul’s sermon in Acts 13)?
Is it rightly shared in our church?
How are we to know if all these things are done rightly?


Throughout the Bible the church is referred to in a variety of different ways.
These descriptions reveal, to a large extent, the relationship between it and Jesus, its members, Scripture and God’s will.
They also provide insight into what the church is called out for.
2 Corinthians 6:18 – FAMILY – I will be a father…you shall be sons and daughters.
2 Corinthians 11:2 – BRIDE OF CHRIST – I betrothed you...as a pure virgin to Christ.
John 15:5 – BRANCHES ON A VINE – I am the vine; you are the branches.
1 Corinthians 3:6-9 – GOD’S CROP – and only God who gives growth.
1 Peter 2:5 – LIVING STONES & SPIRITUAL HOUSE – to be a holy priesthood.
1 Peter 2:4-8 – BUILT ON CORNERSTONE – a cornerstone chosen and precious.
1 Timothy 3:15 – PILLAR AND BUTTRESS OF TRUTH – church of the living God.
1 Corinthians 12:27 – BODY OF CHRIST – you are the body of Christ.
These give insight into the purposes of the church by asking questions like:
What is the responsibility of sons and daughters to their father?
What is the bride to do up until the time the marriage takes place?

The 3 main purposes of the church:
Ministry to God - Worship
Colossians 3:16 – SINGING – singing psalms and hyms and spiritual songs.
Ephesians 1:12 – PRAISE – we who were the first hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.
Eph 5:16-19 – MAKING MELODY – singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.
Worship of God is evidence of being filled with the Spirit - of being saved.
Do you worship God as you should?
Melody and harmony are only possible if the musicians and singers are using the same music.
The next purpose, Ministry to Believers, is crucial in insuring we are "using the same music."

Ministry to Believers – Nurture and Discipleship
The very reason Paul wanted to go on his second journey in Acts 15 – discipleship.
Colossians 1:28 – TEACHING – everyone…that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
Ephesians 4:12 – EQUIPING SAINTS – equip the saints…for building up the body.
1 Cor 14:12 – BUILDING UP CHURCH – strive to excel in building up the church.
Are you equipped as well as you should be?
Or put another way, do you know the Bible as well as you should?
Can you help equip fellow believers without a thourough biblical understanding?

Ministry to the World – Evangelism & Mercy
Matthew 28:19 – GO & MAKE – disciples of all nations.
Luke 6:35-36 – LOVE – love your enemies and do good.
God drew you, a rebellious, evil, filthy and spiritually dead man walking, to him through his Son.
So, if a Holy & Righteous God can love and save a profane and evil man like you or me, the least we can do is love our fellow man as he commands.
It is important to note that young people are clearly drawn to churches that excel in this 3rd purpose.
And, sadly, many churches that excel here fall short in meeting the first 2 purposes.
Admittedly, this is my worst performer - what about you?


Answers in Genesis

This Sunday our church hosted a seminar featuring Answers in Genesis and so Sunday School did not meet. Our Sunday School will finish Acts 15 this coming Sunday. We will examine the doctrine of church unity as it relates to Acts 15.


Acts 15:36-41 - Where Has All the Unity Gone?

Acts 15:36-41 – Where Has All the Unity Gone?
Diving Deeper Lesson Outline for Acts 15:36-41

The title is drawn from how Paul & Barnabas were unable to find common ground about John Mark.
Ironic, since prior to this they took part in the Jerusalem Council which unified the church.


John Mark – His Actions the Source of the Disagreement:
Acts 12:25, Paul & Barnabas brought John Mark to Antioch after their charity run to Jerusalem.
Acts 13:4-5, at the beginning of their 1st journey, they brought John Mark along with them again.
Acts 13:13, however, tells us that after arriving at Pamphylia John Mark bailed on them and went back to Jerusalem.
A “Service Apostate” is how MacArthur characterizes John Mark.
Many speculate that the thought of traveling through the dangerous Tarsus Mountains scared him off.

How the Disagreement Unfolded:
Acts 15:36, Paul was compelled to return, visit and see “the brothers” where they proclaimed the word.
Acts 14:21, this would actually be the 3rd time Paul followed up on many of these new converts.
Paul’s example demonstrates that evangelizing as well as discipling are foundational to church growth and health.
Acts 15:37, Barnabas wanted to take John Mark, but Paul thought best not to take one who had withdrawn and had not gone to do the work of God
Acts 15:39, there arose a sharp disagreement which led to their separation.
Acts 15:39 ASV says arose a sharp contention and they parted asunder.
The Greek word for disagreement or contention means to stir up, provoke or incite.
This Greek word for separation or parted asunder appears only one other time in NT, Revelation 6:14.
There it is used to describe the way the sky vanished like a scroll being rolled up on the day of wrath.
The point here is that this was more than just a cordial disagreement.

So what is God trying to teach us here?
What differences are there between the subject of this sharp contention and the Judaizer disagreement?
Doctrinal vs. Personal Opinion and its scope is Church Body vs. Personal
So, it is doctrinally insignificant and personal.
But, Paul & Barnabas were in complete agreement about the importance of returning, visiting and seeing those where they proclaimed the word - this will help us understand what is going on here.

POI – This event did not signal the permanent end of any friendships or shared ministries.
Philemon 24, Paul and John Mark still had a working relationship.
2 Timothy 4:11, Paul describes John Mark’s work as very useful.
1 Peter 5:13, shows that John Mark also worked with the apostle Peter.
John Mark is also believed to be the author of the Gospel of Mark by most scholars.
Many believe Peter was his main source for the Gospel of Mark.

In Acts 4:36, we learned that Barnabas was the “son of encouragement.”
In Acts 9:27, it was Barnabas who believed Paul and testified on his behalf before the Jerusalem Apostles.
In Acts 11:22-23, it was Barnabas who was sent to the Church at Antioch to teach, exhort and encourage.
In Acts 11:25, it was Barnabas who took the time and effort to track down Paul in Tarsus and bring him to Antioch.
Throughout Paul’s 1st missionary journey, it was Barnabas who encouraged him along the way.
It was Barnabas who joined Paul in refuting the Judaizers in Acts 15:2.
And, to top it off, in Colossians 4:10, we learn that John Mark is Barnabas’ cousin.
In light of all this, what would you expect Barnabas to do with John Mark?

Paul has more patience for truth than compromise – agreed to Council letter but taught differently in his theology.
Acts 16:3-5 & Acts 18:18, he agreed, as we discovered, because he believed in not being a stumbling block.
Romans 14:20, Paul would do nothing that would destroy the work of God or forsake the Gospel.
Acts 21:13, Paul, with his words, made clear he would die for Jesus and thus for the Gospel.
Paul, with his actions, demonstrated he would die for Jesus – stoning at Lystra, shipwreck, beatings, etc.
1 Corinthians 9:16, Paul, with his words, revealed he must preach and woe is me if I do not preach the Gospel.
Paul, with his actions, demonstrated obedience by always going Acts 15:41, 16:6, 16:11, 17:1, 18:1, 18:18, 18:21, 19:1, 20:2, 21:17, etc.
In light of all this, what would you expect Paul to do with John Mark?

Here’s the thing:
1 Corinthians 1:10, Paul says, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”
Philippians 2:2 and Ephesians 4:3 also express this same sentiment.
Ephesians 5:25-27, Paul raises the issue of church purity.
With these, Paul advocated the doctrine of church unity and purity.
With his actions, as revealed in our text, did Paul contradict himself?
Or maybe it was Barnabas who fell short.
Was church unity or purity, as defined biblically, compromised by these great men of God?

We will examine these questions next week.