Scriptural Authority in Acts.
One of the biggest questions of life is, What Does God Want? Along those lines comes the question, how do we find out?
Acts fifteen contains an event that will show us how God communicates, whereby we can know today what it is that God wants.
As we begin this study, we must recognize a few facts.
- The New Testament was not yet written.
- Miraculous gifts were to confirm what God wants. Heb 2:4; cf. Deut 18:21-22; 13:1-5.
- Once the Written Word was completed, the signs and miracles were no longer needed. John 20:30-31; 1Cor 13:10; Eph 3:3-4; 2Tim 3:15-17.
These facts being established, we can learn how to determine what God wants by examining this passage.
God communicates in the same manner as we do with one another. We communicate our desires by TELLING, SHOWING, & IMPLYING. We also trust that our SILENCE on a matter is prohibitive. We can easily see these four concepts being utilized in Acts fifteen. The question the disciples wanted answered was, Are Gentiles candidates for the Gospel of Christ?
“And certain men came down from Judaea and taught the brethren, saying, Except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses, ye cannot be saved.” [Acts 15:1]
Some claim that this was a council to vote on the question. This is wrong. The Apostles already knew the answer, as will be shown by their looking at God’s method of communication (Telling, Showing, Implying & Silence).
FIRST, Peter rose up and reminded them about the first Gentile converts (Acts 10 & 11). How the Holy Spirit fell upon them as He had them “at the beginning.” [Acts 11:15]. Peter Necessarily Infers (inescapably concluded) that God had implied, both through a vision and the falling of the Holy Spirit upon them, that God is accepting Gentiles. He closes by saying, “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples…” [Acts 15:10] “But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” [15:11]
NEXT, Paul and Barnabas “declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.” [15:12] This is God communicating through SHOWING. Another way this is stated is Approved Apostolic Example. This testimony agrees with Peter, and with what was said about miracles. (see opening statements). “God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” [Heb 2:4]
THEN, James answered. His appeal is to the revealed written word from God. He quotes from Amos nine, verses eleven and twelve. His appeal is to the DIRECT STATEMENTS of God. From this command of God, he concludes that God had already planned and authorized for Gentiles to be included in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
James connects the testimony of Peter with these verses in Amos. Who are we to fight against God? He begins by saying, “as it is written.” [15:15] We know from both Old and New Testaments not to go beyond that which is written. [1Cor 4:6; Deut 4:2; 12:32; Rev 22:18; Prov 30:6]
LASTLY, a letter is written and from it we find this statement about the prohibitive nature of SILENCE. “Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:” [Acts 15:24. emph mine seb]
From this we learn that if there is no command, there is no permission. It is to speak presumptuously, something God has already condemned. [De 18:22; 13:2; 18:20; Jer 28:9] Silence is prohibitive is logically understood and demonstrated in at least two other places. Read & Study 2Samuel 7:1-7; Hebrews 7]
In conclusion, we see that the Apostles already knew what the Lord had commanded. They were guided into all truth [John 14:17,26; 15:26; 16:13]. They then declared to those in error the truth of the matter by appealing to God’s Direct Statements, Approved Examples, Inescapable conclusions along with the prohibitive nature of Silence.
We can do the same today utilizing “the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” [2Tim 3:15-17]
Here are some questions to ask ourselves and of any who still believe that miracles are happening, revelation is still being received.
- We know that Gentiles that obey the Gospel are accepted by God. What further evidence beyond the scriptures do we need to prove this?
- We know that Baptism is commanded by God, what further miracle do we need to show this?
- We know what moral behaviors are accepted and which behaviors God abhors, what further miracle do we need to show this?
- We know that there will be a judgment day, what additional miracle do we need to show this?
- We know that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God and that we are to do whatever He commands [Luke 6:46], what additional miracle do we need to show this?