15:30 "So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter. 31 When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement. 32 Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words. 33 And after they had stayed there for a time, they were sent back with greetings from the brethren to the apostles.
34 However, it seemed good to Silas to remain there. 35 Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also."
I want to focus on the reaction of the believers in Antioch when they heard the message of the letter sent by the council in Jerusalem. The Bible says they rejoiced over its encouragement. On more than one occasion from more than one source I have had people tell me that unless the sermon hurts it wasn't a real sermon. Now I'm not saying every message from the Lord is lollipops and roses, but I am saying every message from the Lord is good news. Sometimes I think we forget that. Sometimes if not most of the time our thinking and our sermons, articles, books, and songs are more about us than about Him. The focus is too heavily on what we are not or what we lack or what we need to do or should be doing rather than on Him and His all sufficiency and what He has done, is doing, and will do.
Simply put we're self-obsessed. The truth is, it is this very self-absorbed mentality that makes it possible for "circumcision" teachers and preachers to come into our lives and our churches and find a hearing. It appeals to our self-centeredness to hear messages about us and how we can help God save us. The irony though is that while appealing these messages quickly rob our joy and peace. If there is something we must do to help God how much? Once we open that line of thinking the road is wide and endless and the peace that passes all understanding flies out the window on our race to help out grace.
When that new group of believers heard the message they rejoiced in its encouragement: 'God loved them and Jesus was enough.' God loved them so much that Jews had a council in Jerusalem to make sure these Gentiles were secure in their faith and that false teachers had no room or sanction to steal their joy.
I wish we were still as passionate about defending the purity of the good news today. I wish more of our focus was on the message that causes men and women who used to worship anything and everything but God to rejoice in His encouragement. However having said that I am not afraid. The same God who worked miracles in that council and brought the Good News back to Antioch a second time is not done with this planet. Not by a long shot.
Love Wins. Every. Time.