Tuesday, August 8, 2023
When they arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul were welcomed by the whole church, including the apostles and elders. They reported everything God had done through them. But then some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted, "The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses."
So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue. At the meeting, after a long discussion, Peter stood and addressed them as follows: "Brothers, you all know that God chose me from among you some time ago to preach to the Gentiles so that they could hear the Good News and believe. God knows people's hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus."
I love the way the early church decided to resolve the crisis of division over the inclusion of Gentiles into the family of God. They met together with the pro-circumcision-mandatory-for-Gentile-believers group and with Paul and Barnabas and the Gentiles-are-free-from-the-law group; both groups were represented. They openly discussed the issue. They went back over the monumental things that the Holy Spirit did to include Gentiles as believers in Jesus and as part of the family of God. While Paul and Barnabas were key players in this dramatic meeting because they were the primary missionaries involved, the apostle Peter and James, the half-brother of Jesus,* were the ones who made clear that God had already decided this issue. The real challenge, as we will see in the unfolding story of Acts, was creating an environment for healthy and genuine fellowship. But let's hear the center point of the truth: "We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus."
* Mary, Jesus' mother, had other children including James and Jude. Since Jesus was conceived by the Spirit in the womb of Mary without the help of a man, James and the others were Jesus' half-brothers and half-sisters. See the second set of Related Scripture Readings for more information.
O Father, forgive me — and forgive us as your children — for ever thinking that we deserve to be included in your family and that others do not because they are different from us. Deep in our hearts, LORD, we recognize that none of us deserves what you have given us freely in Jesus through your grace. We are thankful for our salvation, and we long for others to find your grace, too. Thank you, dear Father, and stir us to freely welcome all believers in your family of grace. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.
Unstoppable! is a one-year devotional guide through the book of Acts. Each devotional consists of a scripture passage, a reflection and a prayer. The reflection opens up the day's scripture and shows how it challenges one to live for Jesus.
Unstoppable! is written by Phil Ware.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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