Tag: salvation by grace
Scripture reading for May 26th: Acts 15
The doctrines of the early church had to be worked out through the leadership of the apostles and elders. An early conflict concerned the requirements for Gentiles coming into the fellowship. The first believers were all Jews, some from the sect of the Pharisees who were brought up in the strictest practice and traditions of Judaism. This group insisted that the Gentiles must be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses. (Acts 15:5) The leaders gathered at Jerusalem to discuss this issue and come to a decision.
“After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the Gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that He accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as He did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for He purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe that it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15:6-11)
The early church leaders discussed the issue thoroughly and came to a conclusion based on God’s Word, Jesus’ teaching, and practical experience of God’s working among them as they ministered. Although circumcision was required of true Jews, God did not require this under the New Covenant of grace! Keeping the Law of Moses was never possible for even the most devoted Jews, this would not be required either. It was by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ that Jew and Gentile would be saved!
Scripture reading for June 23rd: Acts 15:1-31
The church today is sometimes affected by legalism. Well-meaning Christians, pastors, and leaders try to define holiness developing rules or traditions that help them define what pleases God. This confuses people and often causes conflict and division. The early church also struggled with this. Most of the early church members were Jews and they had a history of keeping the Law of God. These new believers struggled to know how to balance keeping the Law with salvation by faith through grace!
“Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1) This teaching brought sharp debate in the early church and Paul and Barnabas were appointed to go to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders to discuss this question. They had seen God pour out His Spirit on uncircumcised Gentiles in many places where they were sent by the Holy Spirit to preach and disagreed with this teaching.
At Jerusalem, this conflict was found to be simmering as well. There were believers who came from the party of the Pharisees who agreed that the Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the Law of Moses. (Acts 15:5) The apostles and elders gathered for discussion and Paul got up and addressed them. He noted that God accepted the Gentiles and poured out the Holy Spirit on them without their keeping of the Law. God purified their hearts by faith, not by law-keeping! In fact, no Jew was ever able to keep the Law and become justified either! (Acts 15:8-12)
James spoke up in agreement, citing the Old Testament prophet Amos as confirming Paul’s word to them. “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” (Acts 15:19-20) This seemed good to the elders and apostles and the Holy Spirit, so they sent Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch to share the ruling.
Salvation by grace alone was then taught by the early church. Adding law would not be allowed to hinder people from coming to Christ from any background. Are you trusting in Christ alone for salvation?