Check out all the previous Acts readings here.
Acts Reading Plan | Week 11 | Day 4
Take a moment to be silent and still. In order to be fully present in body and mind, take a deep breath in and let it out slowly. Do this three times.
Titus 3:5 says “[God] saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” As you come to meet with Jesus, thank Him for His mercy and ask Him to teach you more about how rich His mercy is!
Bible Reading: Acts 15:1-21
Read these verses three times slowly.
Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.
Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”
The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:
“‘After this I will return
and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
Its ruins I will rebuild,
and I will restore it,
that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
even all the Gentiles who bear my name,
says the Lord, who does these things’—
things known from long ago.
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”
Reflection & Questions
Today, we encounter another wrong teaching and reaction to the gospel in the early church.
There are some who were teaching that only those who were circumcised were saved. The act of circumcision is rooted in Jewish law, but you don’t need to know about all that to spot the false teaching. The false teaching is that there is something people have to do, some kind of “works”, in order to be saved. In other words, what Jesus did on the cross is not enough. This is called a “Jesus plus” gospel – because Jesus’ work on the cross needs to be added to for someone to be saved. We see this kind of false gospel today in people who will say you have to speak in tongues, be baptized, say certain prayers or any other number of works in order to be saved.
It’s Peter’s turn to squash this false teaching. He shows that the Gentiles are truly saved with two points: “God..showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them” and “He purified their hearts by faith” (and so not by any actions on their part).
Now, there were some requirements Peter said they should present to the Gentiles, some are about morality and some to do with respecting the Jews and reaching them (much like we wouldn’t behave in a way that disrespected something ONE believed – how would that help reach them?). But these requirements have nothing to do with salvation.
Peter goes on to make one more point that makes this false teaching particularly cruel. He says, “Why are you putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear.” In other words, Peter says, “You know that we haven’t been able to keep these rules – in fact they’ve been a burden bringing us down – so why are you giving that burden to others?” The true gospel isn’t a burden at all. The true gospel is good news about the gift of salvation provided fully through Jesus. We receive salvation, we don’t earn it. There is no burden in that, simply joy and thankfulness. Jesus’ work on the cross is more than enough!
- What might be the difference in attitude and actions between someone who believed that what Jesus did was enough and someone who believed they needed to add to what Jesus did?
- Why do you think people find a “Jesus plus” gospel attractive? Are there ways you try to add to what Jesus did?
Talk to God in response to today’s reading.
You might use this song today to worship Jesus today:
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