1 Some men came down from Judea and began to teach the brother: “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom prescribed by Moses, you cannot be saved!” 2 But after Paul and Barnabas had engaged them in serious argument and debate, the church arranged for Paul and Barnabas and some others of them to go up to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem concerning this controversy. 3 When they had been sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, explaining in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and they created great joy among all the brothers. 4 When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church, the apostles, and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. 5 But some of the believers from the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to command them to keep the law of Moses!”
6 Then the apostles and the elders assembled to consider this matter. 7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them: “Brothers, you are aware that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the gospel message and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, testified to them by giving the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why are you testing God by putting a yoke on the disciples’ necks that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11 On the contrary, we believe we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in the same way they are.” 12 Then the whole assembly fell silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul describing all the signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13 After they stopped speaking, James responded: “Brothers, listen to me! 14 Simeon has reported how God first intervened to take from the Gentiles a people for His name. 15 And the words of the prophets agree with this, as it is written: 16 After these things I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. I will rebuild its ruins and set it up again, 17 so the rest of humanity may seek the Lord— even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, declares the Lord who does these things, 18 known from long ago. 19 Therefore, in my judgment, we should not cause difficulties for those among the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but instead we should write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from eating anything that has been strangled, and from blood. 21 For since ancient times, Moses has had those who proclaim him in every city, and every Sabbath day he is read aloud in the synagogues.”
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them,
– Acts 15:8-9
Our Christian Walk should be to live by faith alone. Faith is a gift from God to enable us to respond to His love. This faith results from our righteousness with God Himself. However, this sounds way too easy so we feel that we must establish standards, practices and regulations in addition to our faith. BIG TROUBLE. We begin to justify ourselves, judge others and think that all who don't do as we do have to be wrong.
This attitude has been going on for over 2,000 years, so let's try to see what it looked like in the beginning.
The book of Acts tells a lot about the beginning of the church. The early church struggled for faith and that is the main issue in Acts 15:1-21. Gentiles, not Jews, were hearing the Gospel and being converted. You would think the Jews would be ecstatic. But, the Jews thought "those other folks" did some things that they shouldn’t do and didn't do other things they thought they should do. Sound familiar?
The major issue was circumcision or the lack thereof for the Gentiles. The Jews were not very pleased with acceptance of the Gentiles until they met the Jewish standards...after all they were special. Jesus was a Jew and He had died for their salvation.
We have our own rules today. When people fail to meet our rules, it is difficult for us to believe they also know OUR JESUS. There are times when things that offend others must not be done; although your conscience is free and have settled the issue with God. However, what offends the Almighty God must be dealt with and cleansed from our lives.
Peter gave us the answer:
- God knows the heart.
- God gives us the Holy Spirit to help discern things.
- God purifies the sinner's heart by faith.
- We are all saved in the same way, belief in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
- Let's not give new Christians a hard time.
- We will tell them not to worship false gods, be sexually pure, and don't eat meat from strangled animals or blood.
OOPS...we don't know much about eating strangled animals or blood, but I am sure we have requirements we could add. “She wears short shorts" or “He smokes cigarettes.” Search your own heart and see what it demands from others in which you don't abide by for yourself.
I want to close with a true story that may show how our lives impact others. A dear friend of mine has red hair and lots of freckles. Many years ago she worked in a ladies retail shop. One day a lady came in with her little boy to shop. As they were paying for their goods the little boy kept tugging at his mother's dress and when asked what he wanted he replied, "Mama, you told me people who had freckles are ugly." Embarrassed, the mom tried to hush-up her son. After the purchase was made and they were walking away, the little boy turned around and loudly said, "UGLY, UGLY, UGLY!"
Please don't say "ugly, ugly, ugly" to those who are new in the faith. God will grow them up with your love and His patience as we serve Him and them. May our faith be one that is approved by God (who searches our hearts) and the seal of the Holy Spirit, free from burdens that others try to lay upon us…justified by faith and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
- In telling of the salvation of the Gentiles to some, what filled their hearts?
- What did God give to the Gentiles that He had given to the Jews?
- Through whose Grace are we saved?
- How do you feel in your own heart about people who do not do what you do or act like you act? Is it judgmental or liberating?