MONDAY, OCTOBER 16
SCRIPTURE: Acts 15
The concept of grace may very well be incomprehensible. Because it cannot be fully comprehended, it often appears unbelievable. So, when God says that we are saved by grace through faith, we often struggle with how that can be true.
The result of the struggle is we want to add things to the list of necessities for being saved. (Remember God said we are saved by grace through faith.) Anything we add to God’s simple equation for salvation perverts grace and subverts the Gospel. Nothing else is needed for salvation but God’s grace to save and our faith which is a gift from God. Salvation really is the work of God.
Among other things that means it is wrong to tag baptism onto the list of necessary things for salvation. It is wrong to add church membership. It is even wrong to include a change in behavior as necessary for salvation. It is wrong to add anything to it. But it is very human to want to add something to it.
In this chapter, we find a group of Jewish men who had convinced themselves that circumcision was necessary for salvation. They had grown up in the Law. They had grown up with the Law. And they were quite convinced that circumcision which was the token of the Law had to be included if someone were going to be saved.
They were so convinced of this they went about telling non-Jewish people that circumcision was required. This immediately threw all the Gentile believers into a tizzy of confusion. It got so bad that a council of the apostles and the church elders had to come together in Jerusalem to resolve the controversy.
Peter and Paul and Barnabas all rightfully argued against the including of circumcision as necessary for salvation. But the council decided it was necessary to provide instruction for new Gentile believers about how to live the Christian life.
The Jerusalem council came up with four things. One, was stay away from idolatry. Two, was do not be involved in any sexual immorality. I don’t think there is any reason for anybody to try to defend the inclusion of these two things. But the other two might require a little thinking.
The third thing the Jerusalem council came up with was don’t eat meat of animals that had been strangled. And the fourth thing was to abstain from eating blood. So, what do these two have to do with anything of any spiritual importance?
These last two may actually be concessions that the Jerusalem council was asking from Gentiles. Both of these last two issues were part of the Jewish dietary law. So, if the Gentiles abstained from those two things, it might very well help protect the unity of the young church and the new partnership between Jews and Gentiles.
There are lessons here for all of us. First, there are some things that we definitely need to take a stand against (e.g. idolatry and sexual immorality). Second, there are some things that might be OK but if they are offensive to other believers we probably should honor them by not engaging in those things. My rights as a believer must always be tempered by my responsibilities to other believers.