We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are, (Acts 15:11).
I’m going to church this Sunday. I have to…I’m the Pastor. The reason I’m not going on Saturday, and am a Pastor instead of a Rabbi, is a direct result of the meeting in which today’s text was declared.
The words were spoken by the Apostle Peter. The meeting is now referred to as “The Council of Jerusalem”. It set the pattern for various Church councils that have met throughout the centuries to tackle matters of faith and sound doctrine. This one was triggered by a debate over whether the message Paul was preaching to the non-Jews of the Roman Empire was true or false.
Certain men, who had come to belief in Jesus from a strict Jewish background, were teaching that faith in Jesus was not enough to gain God’s salvation. They were teaching that the non-Jewish men believers needed to be circumcised according the Law of Moses and that men and women believers needed to keep the Law of Moses. In other words, to be “saved” you needed to become a Jew. This was a direct contradiction to the message Paul had been given by the risen Jesus to take to the Gentiles.
The leaders of all the places where communities of faith had been planted came to Jerusalem to decide this issue: “What is the basis of salvation?” There is no bigger question in life. The outcome of their decision literally shaped Western Civilization. You and I are, to a large degree, the long-term product of the decision.
The apostles and elders met and discussed the dilemma. They then addressed the council. Peter spoke first and delivered the verdict you read in today’s text. Paul and Barnabas then told stories to support the verdict. Finally, James, the half-brother of Jesus and leader of the Jewish Christian church in Jerusalem put the “good housekeeping seal of approval” on the whole thing. What was the decision:
Salvation, and all that it entails, is a gift of God, received by faith in Jesus Christ…alone! This is the Good News. Jesus did it all. We can only say “Yes” to the gift. Our response to this truth should always be, “Thank you, Lord!”