The Faith Alone Struggle
It’s a struggle to affirm that right standing with God is by faith alone. We’re tempted to follow a list of rules and regulations in addition to faith to earn God’s favor. We don’t accept gifts well. We want to be loved because of what we do for God. God’s unconditional love is hard to receive. It’s even harder to extend to others.
Men went from Jerusalem to Antioch and taught the Gentile Christians there that salvation depended on circumcision (verse 1). Paul and Barnabas couldn’t convince these men they were wrong. The Church at Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to discuss the problem with the leaders of the church there (verse 2). The underlying issue was that the Jews believed keeping the Law of Moses was God’s condition to receive His love. They projected that need onto the Gentiles who had decided to follow Jesus. They didn’t understand that the Law of Moses expressed God’s love for them. It defined the path to a happy, meaningful life.
Those who attended the Jerusalem Council were good people. But they disagreed on the requirements to be a follower of Christ. Some believed God’s love was conditional upon keeping the Law of Moses. Others, like Paul and Barnabas, believed it was unconditional. After much heated argument, Peter spoke (verse 7). He reminded everyone that God had accepted the Gentile Cornelius on the same basis that He accepted Jewish believers. He purified the Gentiles’ hearts by faith (verse 9). Both Jew and Gentile were saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Keeping the Law wasn’t an additional requirement. Peter’s testimony was the turning point of the meeting. He paved the way for Paul and Barnabas’s account of God’s evident work among the Gentiles.
James, Jesus’ brother, the chairman of the meeting, spoke last. He summarized what he heard the Holy Spirit saying. He declared they must refuse all attempts to impose circumcision and the need to keep the Law of Moses on the Gentiles (verse 19). He said that Gentile believers should respect the values of their Jewish brethren. That included avoiding meat which offended the conscience of those brethren and maintaining the same high standard of sexual conduct (verse 20).
You’re saved by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ through faith plus nothing. Trusting, not trying, transfers you from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. God loves you unconditionally. The fruit of the Holy Spirit’s control in your life is unconditional love for God and others (Galatians 5:22). Jesus said that fulfills all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:40). Believe it for yourself and others.
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