January 01, 2006


Acts 15:1-35.

The first sovereign grace Bible conference was held at Jerusalem during the apostolic era. The reason for that conference and the things that transpired at it are recorded in Acts 15. This conference was held at Jerusalem about 14 years after God had saved Saul of Tarsus. In this conference three issues were dealt with and set forth with clarity by the apostles: (1.) The Believer's Freedom From The Law (vv. 5-6, 23-24) – (2.) The Method Of God's Saving Operations (Grace Alone – Faith Alone – Christ Alone) (vv. 8-11), and (3.) The Sovereign Purpose of God (v. 18). The purpose of God in predestination is the glory of his own great name in the salvation of chosen sinners.

The Problem at Jerusalem

These matters were not a problem. All who know God have recognized these facts since the beginning of time. But there was a specific problem, another matter of vital gospel doctrine needed to be clearly settled and publicly declared in unison by the servants of God.

There were some among the Pharisees who professed to believe the gospel of the grace of God in Christ, but these men sought to mix law and grace. They wanted to compel believers to be circumcised and "to keep the law of Moses". They were saying, "A man cannot be saved unless he is circumcised and he cannot live right as a Christian if he does not live by the rule of the ten commandments" (vv. 1, 5).

Needless to say, this caused quite a stir. Paul and Barnabas could not stand by quietly while these Pharisees attempted to put the yoke of bondage upon God's children who had been freed from the law. Therefore, the churches got funds together to send Paul, Barnabas, and other preachers to Jerusalem to take counsel with the apostles and elders concerning this matter (vv. 2-6). After much disputing with the Pharisees, Peter preached, then Paul preached, then James preached, and when they were finished, they wrote a letter to all the churches (vv. 7-29). They spoke with one voice, declaring to all the world that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

When the conference was over Paul, Barnabas and the other preachers went home, gathered the brethren, and read the Epistle. When God's saints read that letter, they rejoiced in the consolation of the gospel ( vv. 30-31). Then other brethren confirmed the message (v. 32). Not only did these brethren continue preaching the Word of grace, but many others were inspired to do so too (v. 35).

The purpose

At a sovereign grace Bible conference, we come together to clearly, publicly declare in unison, to all the world, the singular message of Holy Scripture: That salvation is the work of God's free and sovereign grace through our all glorious Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and to encourage all who will to join us in proclaiming this message.

We have the rare opportunity of exposing ourselves and our families to the preaching of the gospel by many of God's choice servants and of spending time in blessed fellowship with his saints from around the United States. Beyond the great privileges that are ours, we have opportunity to do something for the glory of God, the furtherance of the gospel, and the benefit of his elect. Over the years, we have seen God grant some faith in Christ, establish others who were wavering, set the direction of men's lives in the preaching of the gospel, and show pastors, students, and other believers the blessed centrality of Christ in the Scriptures.

It is not insignificant to realize that by hosting conferences, we will be providing some of God's saints opportunity to meet new friends, maybe even spouses in Christ. Some of our guests have no church family where they live and no gospel ministry. It is indeed a great privilege for us to provide God's church a meeting place and a few loaves and fishes for a few days. May it please our great God to bless our conferences to that end for Christ's sake.

Don Fortner