Friday, 10 December 2021
Acts 15:8-9: "So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith."
While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch, some men came from Judea and demanded that those saved from the Gentiles should become practising Jews before they could be accepted as real believers. Their argument was: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved” (Vs.1). These hard-line Jewish Christians were confronted by Paul and Barnabas that led to a sharp dispute and debate with them (Vs.2). Here we see a key moment in the conflict about Gentile conversion when the matter was taken to the Jerusalem Council of elders. Peter stood up and said to them: "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that …….. But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they." (Vs.7-11)
Peter reminded them, recounting the work God had already done among the Gentiles through him when he ministered to the Cornelius household (Acts 10,11). He then makes the point that God had fully received the Gentiles without being circumcised. God who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving the Holy Spirit just as He did to them. Peter’s argument was that if God had acknowledged these Gentiles as full partners in His work, why shouldn’t the church? If God received them, so should the church! He emphatically said: God made no distinction between us and them.
To establish this truth, Peter illustrates his vision of the clean and unclean animals here, from which God taught him this principle: Acts 10:28: “…You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” Whereas the Pharisees believed that the Gentiles were inherently “common” or “unclean” and had to be made holy and clean by submitting to the Law of Moses. But Peter made it very clear on how their heart is purified by faith, not by keeping the Law. So if they were purified by faith, there was no need to be purified by submitting to ceremonies in the Law of Moses. Here we must learn that we, Christians, are not only saved by faith but we are also purified by faith not by ceremonies.
It is normal that a traditional Christian might ask, “what is the harm in bringing Gentiles under the Law of Moses? As Peter rightly said, we must understand that the Law was a yoke which neither our fathers nor we were able to fulfill. Paul also makes it clear in Galatians 3:2-3 “ … Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” The Law doesn’t save us but points us to the need of a Saviour in whom all of the Law was fulfilled. In the light of the finished work of Jesus our Saviour it is no more a requirement to go back to the Law. Peter concludes with the observation that it is through grace that we are saved, both Jew and Gentile and definitely not by obedience of the Law!
While quoting from the prophecy of Amos, James speaks about the rebuilding the fallen tabernacle of David- the fallen Judaism that had rejected its Messiah. He says now God wants to rebuild that work, focusing on a church made up of both Jew and Gentile. God has accepted all- both Jew and Gentile through His Son Jesus Christ!
Prayer: Lord Almighty, thank You for accepting me through the finished work of Christ Jesus on the cross and not any merit of mine. Amen