Not Circumcision, but Faith
By Pastor Rachel
I got a call one day from someone who was struggling as to whether she should continue her job as a teacher. She often had to work overtime and barely had the time to serve as the church pianist, and some Christians with “strong faith” criticised her for committing idolatry by putting her work before faith.
Sometimes we fear that faith alone is not enough to save us, so we add other things on top of it, like doing good deeds or keeping certain rules. But salvation is by grace and grace alone. Acts 15 talks about this exact issue.
2. The Jerusalem Council
Acts 15 records a dispute over circumcision between the Judaizing teachers and Paul and Barnabas. The contention starts when some men from Judea came to Antioch and taught that the Gentiles can only become Christians if circumcised. This teaching is dangerous in that it would make Paul and Barnabas false teachers and jeopardise the growth of the church.
Paul and Barnabas disputed with them, but couldn't persuade them. So they went to Jerusalem to have the matter settled by the apostles and elders. In the meeting, Peter pointed out that “it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved (Acts 15:11 NIV).” Then Barnabas and Paul told of how they experienced God’s work and blessings among the Gentiles, before James drew the conclusion that the Gentiles has always been a part of God’s plan and they shouldn’t be bound under the Mosaic Law. The decision was delivered to churches and received with joy.
James’ decision comes with practical instruction to the Gentile believers, so that they don’t act in a way that would offend their Jewish brothers. The way the church deals with this contention both secures the gospel from corruption and preserves the church from fragmentation.
3. Conclusion & Reflection
Acts 15 reveals how Gentile believers were embraced into the Christian community and teaches us the godly way to deal with differences and conflicts. The resolution of the Jerusalem Council affirms that God has opened wide the door to salvation, welcoming all to enter by faith in the grace of the Lord Jesus.
This chapter also offers some questions for reflection.
1. How do we deal with conflict within the church? When conflicts arise, ask “does this debate help the church to grow?” Sometimes we are wrong without knowing it. Ask God for his discernment and let the Holy Spirit soften our hearts.
2. Do we give freedom to others? It’s easy to judge others who aren’t like us, but everyone can come to God as who they are. Have you put yokes on others?
Trust that God alone is able and willing to forgive and save us. Salvation comes through faith, not circumcision or any other thing we add to it. Enjoy the freedom in Christ. Amen.
乐队服侍中弟兄姊妹：The band serves the brothers and sisters
新人礼物：The couple a gift
诗班献唱：The choir singing
赞美音符：Praise the notes