“Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. 3 The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them. 5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.” Acts 15.1-5
Isn’t it like humans to create salvation requirements for people? God says, “Trust me and you will be saved,” but we add on to it creating a list that is lengthy and burdensome. For many it’s “Salvation plus.” Salvation plus works, or baptism, or tongues or whatever else we might dream up. We say Jesus is all we need but we often add our own demands upon what God requires for us to be saved.
The early Jewish Christians were no different. We can’t judge because we do the same thing! We put certain requirements on other believers in order to please God. But in truth, we please God by simply being. And someone once said, “simply our desire to please God, pleases God.” Yet our salvation price was bought by what Jesus did, it’s not dependent upon what we do. Surely we are encouraged to imitate Christ in words and deeds but our redemption doesn’t depend on our intentions but Christ’s actions. His sacrifice upon the cross was sufficient for us all.
The early Jewish Christian’s were really just trying to figure it all out. It would have been impossible for them to not want to apply the Law to every aspect of their new life in Christ as well. It was all they knew. They were radically transformed from the Law to Grace and trying to figure out how to live according must not have been easy. And so, initially, they were demanding that all Gentiles be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.
Isn’t it good new that Jesus set us free from the law of sin and death? There is no way the Jews could keep the law perfectly, and isn’t that the point? Was the Law given so that our dependence might be found in God alone? As soon as we realize our inability for perfection, we turn to the one who is perfect.
I confess that much of what I have done in my life with Christ is to seek his approval. But like any love relationship, my motivation should come out of a love for Jesus rather than an obligation to serve him. He is good, holy and just and my in ability to be perfect is why he saved me in the first place.
Now is a good time to release our desire to save ourselves and turn to Christ. Trust in the one who saved you, not by your merit but by his grace.
“O Lord God, you are good. Thank you for loving me and for allowing me to be your hands and feet. Thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit to guide me along paths of righteousness. Thank you for reminding me that I am but clay in the hands of the Potter and that I am yours and you are mine. Come now, Holy Spirit, fill me with your power and love. I trust you God and proclaim the goodness of your name. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen