The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. 7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” – Acts 15:6-11
I once heard a way of describing our status as Christians in this way:
- We have been saved through Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead.
- We are being saved by God’s continuing work in our lives to keep us in the faith and bring us ever closer to him, and ever more like Jesus.
- We will be saved on the Great Last Day when Jesus comes to judge the living and the dead and brings us with him into the fullness of the rule and reign of Christ.
Peter speaks here of all three: Clearly the final verse has “will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” The hope for that is founded in what God has already done in appointing Peter to speak to the Gentiles about Jesus, announcing the Good News of Jesus that their hearts were cleansed by the Holy Spirit through faith. What hangs in the balance is their being saved – the on-going work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, and the vital role we play in other’s being saved.
This is the the whole point of the meeting in Jerusalem. This is a big deal. And all joking aside (“It’s the first synodical convention,” some Missouri Synod Lutherans will say!), this convocation will set the direction of the church into the coming centuries in regard to the salvation not only of those already having been brought to faith, but for any future missionary efforts.
Let’s just say this: if the conclusion was to be that the Gentile believers had to become Jewish in their religious practice I very much doubt Paul would have continued his missionary activities. I realize that hypotheticals are difficult to prove, and this one does come out in favor of a very open approach to non-Jewish people. Nevertheless, there is much at stake here – including the ongoing mission of God/mission of the church.
I’m not certain this is as settled in the minds and hearts of us today as it should be. Any time we make requirements for entrance into the fellowship of believers beyond faith in Jesus and a willingness to lead a moral life (this is implied in the requirements set for the new believers – stay tuned), we are impinging on people’s salvation and the mission of God.
The final verse of this section of Acts speaks wonderful grace and truth. Grace: we will be saved. Truth: We need to be saved. But thanks be to God! “We believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” – Acts 15:6-11