The Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Acts 15:1-21

We Must Do What To Be Saved?

Troubles and conflicts have been in the Church since the beginning.  We saw this specifically in 6:1-6 where a controversy arose concerning meeting the needs of the Hellenistic (Greek-speaking) Jewish Christian widows.  Well, here an even greater controversy arose that we may say “rocked” the Church in the first century.  As God called the Gentiles into His Church, Jewish Christians who still followed the law of Moses as it pertained to ceremonial matters, especially circumcision, demanded that the Gentiles do the same.  Naturally the Gentiles recoiled at this having received the Spirit without such laws, and would have also found the Old Testament ceremonies quite burdensome and virtually impossible to live by in their pagan environment.  The matter came to a head when “some men came down from Judea [to Antioch] and were teaching the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’”

Well, this didn’t set well with Paul and Barnabas who had worked among the Gentiles and seen the gift of the Holy Spirit given to them and the great signs and wonders God had performed among them.  So the church at Antioch decided to send Paul and Barnabas to the Jerusalem church to resolve this matter.  Again, the Christians who were “of the party of the Pharisees” contended that the Gentile Christians be circumcised and keep the law of Moses, which was the same as saying that the Gentiles must become Jews to become Christians.  The whole debate is briefly related to us in this passage, but it seems that all was put to rest (at least for the moment anyway; Paul would struggle with the “Judaizers” his entire ministry) when Peter reminded the church of his experience with the pagan Cornelius whose household received the gift of the Holy Spirit while he was preaching (Acts 10), perhaps some ten years prior.  James (the Lord’s half-brother) agreed with Peter citing Amos 9:11 in support.  (This is significant as we learn from the Jewish historian Josephus that James, though a Christian leader, was an observant Jew.)  They decided that the Gentiles should abstain from meat which had been offered to idols (1 Corinthians 8, 10; Revelation 2:19-20), meat with blood in it, and sexual immorality, as fidelity between husband and wife is at the very heart of our faithful God and thus His commandment.

But the point is, which Paul would pen so eloquently years later, “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8).  Because of our sin, no work will save us, no law can bend our stubborn wills.  But grace teaches our hearts to fear, and only by grace are our fears relieved.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

Leave a Reply