Grace on Trial

KEY VERSE: “We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” —Acts 15:1

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Acts 15:1, 2, 6-18

AS MORE GENTILES started to come into the church, some who were of Israel believed that the Gentiles should observe the Mosaic Law. After Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch from their first missionary journey, the church at Antioch was visited by brethren from Judea. These were teaching, “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”—Acts 15:1, New International Version

Paul and Barnabas not only disagreed with this thought, but disputed with the visiting teachers. The church at Antioch decided that the best way to settle the dispute would be to hold a conference in Jerusalem with the apostles and elders regarding the matter.

Paul and Barnabas were selected to be part of the delegation sent to Jerusalem for this conference. They were welcomed warmly in Jerusalem, and reported on their trip, telling how Gentiles had been converted. However, some members of the church, who had formerly been Pharisees, said concerning the Gentiles, that “it is necessary to circumcise them, and to charge them to keep the Law of Moses.”—Acts 15:5, RSV

The formal conference about this matter took place later. As anticipated there was much discussion and many debates on the subject. Finally Peter stood up to address the conference. He said, “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.” (Acts 15:7, NIV) Peter alluded to God’s instructions to him, and the events that followed his visit to Cornelius, his family and his friends, who became the first Gentile converts. Finally he said they should not put a yoke on these disciples, for “we believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”—vs. 11

There was then an opportunity for Paul and Barnabas to tell about the miraculous signs and wonders God was performing through them among the Gentiles. When they finished, the Apostle James, who was serving as chairman for the conference, spoke, saying: “Simeon [Peter] has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.” (Acts 15:14, RSV) He also quoted from an Old Testament prophecies (Amos 9:11,12) to show that God had planned to include the Gentiles in his call.

He followed this observation with the suggestion that the Gentiles be asked to observe four items from the Law, and no others. This was agreeable to the apostles, the elders, and the whole church, and they sent two of their members—Judas and Silas—back with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch. They carried with them a letter addressed specifically to the Gentiles in the churches of Antioch, Syria and Cilicia, apologizing for those who had come earlier and troubled them.—Acts 15:28,29

It would seem that the matter was settled. But like many other doctrinal disputes that arose later in the church, this one would not ‘go away’. The Apostle Paul wrote on a number of occasions to prove to the brethren that no one could be justified or gain eternal life by keeping the Law. (Gal. 3:11) He emphasized that Jesus ‘nailed’ the Law to his cross.—Eph.2:5

Dawn Bible Students Association
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