It is an age-old problem in the church.  The problem is when we, as the church, decide the entrance requirements to Kingdom of God living.  We read this passage below as believers today and we are saddened by the pesky Pharisees who “hold on” to the traditions of the past and with their die-hard attitudes to follow every minute detail of The Law.  The new believers who are not Jews have been given new life, the joy of Jesus in their hearts, the message of hope with knowing the love, mercy and grace of God!  But there are those who believe in Jesus but still cling to their old burdensome traditions as well.  They yet do not understand that WHOEVER believes in Jesus is saved from death and now holds life eternal inside their being. 

Bare Necessity #1:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

These outsiders are given a “you must” traditional hoop to jump that no longer has anything to do with their new relationship with God through Jesus Christ, His Son.  The Old Covenant of knowing and following the rules has gone, the New Covenant of having an intimate, growing relationship with God has come.  Jesus is the Way that leads to this Truth who gives all who believe Life everlasting!  As the church “we must” let outsiders in because that is the way of Jesus.  Jesus died for all sin so all God’s creation could come to Him freely.

We are disgusted by the Pharisees in this pasage, aren’t we friends?  However, sometimes as the church, we fall into these same attitudes.  Those outside our community of believers come in, accept and believe in Jesus then we begin to tell them with our attitudes and words what “you must” be and do to be “like us”.  I have watched us do that as the church over the years.  We tell people how to dress, how to talk, along with other how to’s that have little to do with growing a relationship with God through Jesus.  We need to stick to the bottom line of discipleship—be like Jesus.  Not like us.

Paul, Peter and the other apostles are always steering the people away from admiring or giving glory to them.  “We are merely men”, they proclaim.  We do what God tells us to do, they preach, just like Jesus proclaimed!  So, the lesson today is point people to Jesus, not ourselves.  Let Jesus grow people into all He wants them to be and do.  Our work as mature believers is not to judge but to encourage new believers to consistently talk with Jesus, asking Him what He wants for their lives.

What we wear, what we eat, how frequently we come to church, if we observe communion each Sunday or once a year, if we put up crosses on Easter or not at all, if we decorate for holidays or not, if we sing only certain songs or sing them all—salvation is in Jesus alone.

And I’m singing…The Solid Rock

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

ACTS—God’s Acts through His Disciples

Acts 15:1-29, The Message

To Let Outsiders Inside

1-2 It wasn’t long before some Jews showed up from Judea insisting that everyone be circumcised: “If you’re not circumcised in the Mosaic fashion, you can’t be saved.” Paul and Barnabas were up on their feet at once in fierce protest. The church decided to resolve the matter by sending Paul, Barnabas, and a few others to put it before the apostles and leaders in Jerusalem.

After they were sent off and on their way, they told everyone they met as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria about the breakthrough to the non-Jewish outsiders. Everyone who heard the news cheered—it was terrific news!

4-5 When they got to Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas were graciously received by the whole church, including the apostles and leaders. They reported on their recent journey and how God had used them to open things up to the outsiders. Some Pharisees stood up to say their piece. They had become believers, but continued to hold to the hard party line of the Pharisees. “You have to circumcise the pagan converts,” they said. “You must make them keep the Law of Moses.”

6-9 The apostles and leaders called a special meeting to consider the matter. The arguments went on and on, back and forth, getting more and more heated. Then Peter took the floor: “Friends, you well know that from early on God made it quite plain that he wanted the pagans to hear the Message of this good news and embrace it—and not in any secondhand or roundabout way, but firsthand, straight from my mouth. And God, who can’t be fooled by any pretense on our part but always knows a person’s thoughts, gave them the Holy Spirit exactly as he gave him to us. He treated the outsiders exactly as he treated us, beginning at the very center of who they were and working from that center outward, cleaning up their lives as they trusted and believed him.

10-11 “So why are you now trying to out-god God, loading these new believers down with rules that crushed our ancestors and crushed us, too? Don’t we believe that we are saved because the Master Jesus amazingly and out of sheer generosity moved to save us just as he did those from beyond our nation? So what are we arguing about?”

12-13 There was dead silence. No one said a word. With the room quiet, Barnabas and Paul reported matter-of-factly on the miracles and wonders God had done among the other nations through their ministry. The silence deepened; you could hear a pin drop.

13-18 James broke the silence. “Friends, listen. Simeon has told us the story of how God at the very outset made sure that racial outsiders were included. This is in perfect agreement with the words of the prophets:

After this, I’m coming back;
    I’ll rebuild David’s ruined house;
I’ll put all the pieces together again;
    I’ll make it look like new
So outsiders who seek will find,
    so they’ll have a place to come to,
All the pagan peoples
    included in what I’m doing.

“God said it and now he’s doing it. It’s no afterthought; he’s always known he would do this.

19-21 “So here is my decision: We’re not going to unnecessarily burden non-Jewish people who turn to the Master. We’ll write them a letter and tell them, ‘Be careful to not get involved in activities connected with idols, to guard the morality of sex and marriage, to not serve food offensive to Jewish Christians—blood, for instance.’ This is basic wisdom from Moses, preached and honored for centuries now in city after city as we have met and kept the Sabbath.”

22-23 Everyone agreed: apostles, leaders, all the people. They picked Judas (nicknamed Barsabbas) and Silas—they both carried considerable weight in the church—and sent them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas with this letter:

From the apostles and leaders, your friends, to our friends in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:


24-27 We heard that some men from our church went to you and said things that confused and upset you. Mind you, they had no authority from us; we didn’t send them. We have agreed unanimously to pick representatives and send them to you with our good friends Barnabas and Paul. We picked men we knew you could trust, Judas and Silas—they’ve looked death in the face time and again for the sake of our Master Jesus Christ. We’ve sent them to confirm in a face-to-face meeting with you what we’ve written.

28-29 It seemed to the Holy Spirit and to us that you should not be saddled with any crushing burden, but be responsible only for these bare necessities: Be careful not to get involved in activities connected with idols; avoid serving food offensive to Jewish Christians (blood, for instance); and guard the morality of sex and marriage.

These guidelines are sufficient to keep relations congenial between us. And God be with you!


  • Believe in Jesus and be saved for eternity. 
  • Follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance in what is good and what is evil. 
  • Worship God alone.
  • Love God.  Love Each Other, like Jesus loved us.
  • Do all in the Name of Jesus, for His glory and praise.

No other ritual, tradition or regulation saves us.  Only Jesus.


We are reminded of the “bare necessities” and repent of commanding anything else to others who come to salvation with a desire to grow in your ways.  Your ways are higher than our ways.  Your thinking is always for us not against us.  You are love, mercy and grace.  You are salvation.  You are God.  We are not.  May you continue to transform our thinking and doing to match the desires of Your heart.

In Jesus Name, Amen

And I’m singing…Only Jesus, Casting Crowns

Make it count, leave a mark, build a name for yourself
Dream your dreams, chase your heart, above all else
Make a name the world remembers
But all an empty world can sell is empty dreams
I got lost in the light when it was up to me
To make a name the world remembers
But Jesus is the only name to remember

And I, I don’t want to leave a legacy
I don’t care if they remember me
Only Jesus
And I, I’ve only got one life to live
I’ll let every second point to Him
Only Jesus

All the kingdoms built, all the trophies won
Will crumble into dust when it’s said and done
‘Cause all that really mattered
Did I live the truth to the ones I love?
Was my life the proof that there is only One
Whose name will last forever?

And I, I don’t want to leave a legacy
I don’t care if they remember me
Only Jesus
And I, I’ve only got one life to live
I’ll let every second point to Him
Only Jesus

Jesus is the only name
Jesus is the only name
Jesus is the only name to remember, oh
Jesus is the only name
Jesus is the only name
Jesus is the only name to remember

And I, I don’t want to leave a legacy
I don’t care if they remember me
Only Jesus
And I, I’ve only got one life to live
I’ll let every second point to Him
Only Jesus

I don’t want to leave a legacy
I don’t care if they remember me
Only Jesus

About randscallawayffm

Randy and Susan co founded Finding Focus Ministries in 2006. Their goal as former full time pastors, is to serve and provide spiritual encouragement and focus to those on the "front lines" of ministry. Extensive experience being on both sides of ministry, paid and volunteer, on the mission fields of other countries as well as the United States, helps them bring a different perspective to those who need it most. Need a lift? Call us 260 229 2276.
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