Acts Devotionals

How Salvation is Received

In the passage we are considering in Acts 15, we see the importance of good, spiritually minded Church Leaders. Paul and Barnabas travelled from the Church in Syria Antioch to discuss whether the Gentiles believers need to be circumcised as those from the Party of the Pharisees insisted. Look at the flow of the passage … as I see it.

(1) General Assembly verse 4-5.

(2) Apostles and Elders Court v6.

(3) General Assembly: verse 7-11. This is the last we hear from and about Peter in Acts.

(4) General Assembly verse 12 where the missionaries give further testimony.

(5) New Leader of the Church. It seems as through James replaced Peter. Verses 13ff. Please read:

Ac 15:11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” 12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, James spoke up: “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:

16 “ ‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, 17 that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’ 18 that have been known for ages.

19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 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. 21 For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”

1) How is salvation received?

Ac 15:11 “No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

(1) He just posed the argument whether Gentiles should be circumcised to become Christian … should such a yoke be placed on them? His answer:

Ac 15:11 “No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

Peter is emphatic. No! It’s almost like he is saying … “No … never ever!” Then he explains why he says the emphatic no!

(2) By “we” he is referring to the believers who are Jewish.

(3) They believed that salvation is through God’s grace alone that salvation is secured. It is imperative to see that grace is attached to Jesus Christ. This means that grace is the central theme of the Gospel and the Gospel is Jesus. Yet, at the same time, grace is a gift Later Paul would write to the Church at Ephesus:

Eph 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

How could the Party of the Pharisees want what God does not require? Salvation is by grace. God enables faith in the soul through His Spirit to appropriate this grace. Peter is emphatic. No! If God provided salvation this way to Jews who believed, then that is the way He provides salvation to Gentiles who believe. Let me remind you again that to add to the Gospel (and from any Scripture) or to take away from the Gospel (and from any Scripture) is to add to or remove from what God is saying. For some to require faith and good works; faith and speaking in what they call tongues; faith and membership; faith and … is man deciding that the Gospel is insufficient to save … and that adding to it completes the Gospel. How wrong they are … just like the Judaizers were. Let me also add quickly that salvation is not faith and belonging to a specific Church! Salvation that is by grace is faith in Jesus alone. This is why the Reformers insisted on … the Five Solas … Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone); Sola Gratia (Grace Alone); Sola Fide (Faith Alone); Solus Christus (Christ Alone) and Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone). Another way of saying this is that the Scriptures teach that salvation is received by grace alone, through exercising faith alone, in Christ alone for the glory of God alone.

2) Listening to the marvelous works of God.

Ac 15:12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.

Some Churches do not have testimonies in their services. I enjoy them, if they are carefully thought out, written out and approved by the Church Leaders. Explaining how God is working not only encourages believers, it stimulates them towards evangelism. A few weeks back at a Presbytery Meeting I listen to an Albanian pastor testify to God’s workings in his country. The king of Albania was in exile in South Africa (Bryanston – Gauteng). He married an Australian lady. In his absence whilst on a business trip, a lady and man in our Church were married by me in their garden. She says she is Christian. He is Islamic … the main religion in Albania is Islam comprising of almost 59% of the population. He and his family returned to Albania in 2022. Having met the queen and her son, a young prince, together with their soldier bodyguards (carrying automatic rifles), the Albanian pastor’s testimony was intriguing and informative with information for prayer. We ought to encourage our Church Leaders to make use of God glorifying reports from missionaries … and individuals whose testimonies reflect God’s working of grace in salvation.

3) A new leader. As mentioned above, we don’t hear of Peter again in the Acts record. Apart from legend, all we have are his sermons that John Mark used to write the Gospel of Mark and his Letters, 1 and 2 Peter. All three documents are part of the Canon of Scripture. Now we see James coming to the fore as the “chairman” of the Court of Apostles and Elders. Don’t confuse this James with James the brother of John:

Ac 12:2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.

Herod had him executed. Traditionally this James is the half-brother of Jesus. He is the son of Joseph and Mary and bother of Jude. He wrote the Book of James and his brother wrote Jude.

Mt 13:55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren’t all his sisters with us?”

Now we have a new leader in the Early Church and he is about to report back from the court of the Apostles and Elders. They discussed the method required for salvation. The heard Paul and Barnabas’ report, listened to those from the Party of the Pharisees and then heard Paul and Barnabas again … and the stage is set for their verdict. As you shall see, everyone accepted their response because they were the authentic leadership of the Church. It is important that members of Churches and representatives at Assembles, Presbyteries and Synods follow the leading of their spiritual leaders, unless they veer from the Word of God.

Thank You again Lord that salvation through Jesus Christ is not complicated and was never intended by You to be complicated. Thank You that Your grace is a free gift, so underserved, yet so welcomed through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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