“The apostles and elders met to consider this question.7 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.8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” Acts 15.6-11
Imagine growing up understanding one way of life and then being asked to change to an entirely different philosophy. People who grew up in a strict Islamic Middle Eastern country would most certainly not be able to relate to me being raised as a Christian kid in North Texas. Growing up going to First Methodist Church, attending Ben Franklin Elementary, having the freedom, flexibilities and opportunities that come with living in a democratic and free society would be a foreign way of life. We are shaped so much by our culture and community.
The Jews of early Jerusalem were no different. They knew but one way of life and believed whole-heartedly that God established that way of life through the Law of Moses. But when Jesus came on the scene, and pointed these people to God’s true intention for how they were to live by faith, it was mind altering. They had to change their entire way of thinking and living. To be saved by grace and not by works? To be rescued by believing and not by behaving? This was so different!
So while the Christian Jews were trying to put on the new Christian Gentiles the same demands they expected as Jews, Paul and Barnabas were having none of it. And Paul says, “Why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?” And he continues by saying what the whole world has been waiting to hear, “We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
Salvation through grace is the game changer. God knew the burden of the Law was too much. He knew we could not keep it, that perfection was impossible. This is why the pure and spotless Lamb Jesus came to live, suffer, die and be raised to new life — so we wouldn’t have to. It doesn’t me we live like heathens, no, we strive to be like him and yet, we realize our inability to do so. We do not sin so that grace my increase, (Romans 6), we seeks to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12). The grace of God is sufficient for all our sins.
The Good News of the Gospel is this — trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (Acts 16.31). It is in our “trusting,” our believing, our receiving that we receive salvation, the gift of the Holy Spirit, forgiveness of sins, and life everlasting.
Have you trusted? Have you believed? Have you received? Come to the Lord today — surrender all you have so that you might be a full recipient of his love and grace.
“O Lord God, thank you for saving me. Thank you that by your grace, I can find life in you. You bring me meaning, purpose and worth. Without your Spirit to guide me, I would be lost in sin and shame. But you have delivered me. You rescued me out of the pit of despair. Come now, Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. Fill me, use me, consume, direct me. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen