I will rebuild the tabernacle of David
Acts 15:1-29 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue. 3 Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren. 4 When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. 5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.”
6 The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. 7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; 9 and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.”
12 All the people kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were relating what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.
13 After they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, “Brethren, listen to me. 14 Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. 15 With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written,
16 ‘After these things I will return, And I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, And I will rebuild its
ruins, And I will restore it, 17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,’
18 Says the Lord, who makes these things known from long ago.
19 Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, 20 but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. 21 For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”
22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas—Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, 23 and they sent this letter by them,
“The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings.
24 “Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls, 25 it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 “Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth. 28 “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: 29 that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.”
In today’s text there arose a question and a debate as to whether the new Gentile believers should also be made to live and abide by Jewish law and tradition. Peter said: He (God) made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” Ephesians 2:8-9 is often quoted concerning this same principle, that we cannot achieve salvation through adherence to religious tradition or regulation. It says: For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. It is important that it says salvation is not a result of our works, but rather attributed only to God’s grace. What often is missed in the emphasis on grace in today’s culture and much of the church is what it says in verse 10: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. So, salvation is not a result of our good works, but our good works are to be a result of our salvation. We do not live in grace by continuing in sin, but rather as a result of the free gift of salvation through grace, we are to walk in righteousness and good works. Romans 5:8 says: God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. That’s grace. 1 John 4:19 says: We love, because He first loved us. Love is our first response to the love and grace of God. In John 14:15;21 Jesus says: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments…He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me.” Grace allows us to continue to be who and what we are ethnically. We can maintain our national heritage and tradition, but we cannot, by grace, maintain our sinful works. We are not required to keep the regulations and traditions of man, but if we love Jesus, we will keep His commandments.
In today’s text Peter also quotes a prophecy from Amos, which says: ‘After these things I will return, And I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, And I will rebuild its ruins, And I will restore it, So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,’ Says the Lord, who makes these things known from long ago. It is important that it is the Tabernacle of David which God says He will restore, not the first tabernacle of Moses, not the Temple of Solomon, or the temple which was rebuilt by the Jewish people. The Tabernacle of David was different than all of the other temples. There was no veil which separated the Ark of God’s presence from the people in the Tabernacle of David as there was in the others. The Tabernacle of David was a tent with open sides. It was a place where people could see and worship in the presence of the Ark of God. It was a place where people of all nations could see and worship the glory of God. When Jesus was on the cross, it says: Behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split. (Matthew 21:57) The veil was torn from top to bottom. It was torn by God, because through Christ’s finished work on the cross, there is no longer a need to separate people from God. Why would God then rebuild a temple or tabernacle that separated Him from His people? Why would we as the church build walls or veils of religious regulations and traditions which separate people from God? We also though as individuals, should not build walls of separation from God through unrighteous living.
In the end, the church gave the new believers only a few guidelines. Rather than discuss, debate or try to expand and expound on what they said. It is probably best that we, as a result of the grace of God, ourselves, would continue in the good works that God has for us, that we would continue, as Jesus says, to keep His commandments because of love. We should as Jesus says be light to the world. (Matthew 5:14-16) We ourselves should, as He says, not relax the commandments of God nor teach others to relax them. (Matthew 5:19-20) Indeed it is by grace that we are saved, not as a result of our works of righteousness. But if we will walk in the grace of God, because of the finished work of the cross, we will walk in His good works and righteousness. We will live as the light and we will draw others to worship at the Tabernacle of David, where there is no man made separation between God and His people.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit may I walk in Your salvation by grace. May I walk in the good works You have prepared for me and prepared me for, by grace, that others may see and glorify You. Amen.