“We believe and are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus.” [Acts 15:11]
A Game-Changing Council Meeting
I am a minister called to work with four different congregations. As I travel from church to church, I hear the challenges the four councils face. Acts 15 tells the story of a church council meeting in Jerusalem. According to scholars, this meeting was a game changer.
The agenda had two items:
- Whether to include Gentiles into God’s household.
- What conditions Gentiles must meet to join God’s family.
How would you like to serve on that council?
Following the Law
For thousands of years God’s people had faithfully followed the law of Moses, which not only included circumcision but also dietary restrictions, Sabbath observance and other practices. Announcing the gospel to the Gentiles but not requiring them to follow those laws was monumental. You see, in those days, people believed salvation was only for those who were faithfully obedient to the law of Moses.
Believe in Grace
Having watched many Gentiles respond to the gospel and turn to God, Paul and Barnabas argued there was no reason to demand that they obey Jewish laws to be included in God’s life-giving, saving grace. After much debate, Peter stood up and agreed. He told the council God had showed his approval of the Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit. “So then,” he added, “why do you now want to put God to the test by laying a load on the backs of the believers which neither our ancestors nor we ourselves were able to carry? No! We believe and are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.” [Acts 15:10-11]
Law and Grace Today
What does this council meeting mean for us today? Think about the Ten Commandments and about Jesus’ interpretation of those commandments: “You have heard that people were told in the past, ‘Do not commit murder; anyone who does will be brought to trial.’ But now I tell you: if you are angry with your brother you will be brought to trial.” [Matthew 5:21-22]
How good are we at following these commandments? You or I may never have murdered anyone, but we certainly get angry at our Christian brothers and sisters. In fact, we all fail miserably at keeping the commandments. God knew this, and so God sent us Jesus. “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.” [John 3:16]
Saved by Grace
This friends, is the grace the Jerusalem council affirmed for all believers—Jews and Gentiles alike: “We believe and are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus.” [Acts 15:11] A game-changer indeed, for the Gentile believers in the early church and for us today. We can’t earn our salvation by being good. All we can do is believe. We are saved by grace.
When have you done your best to live up to the Law and yet failed? How did Jesus communicate his grace to you?
Jodi Lorenz, Associate in Ministry