Read: Acts 15
Consider: Receiving good news generally has a positive effect on us, while bad news can have devastating effects. The believers in Antioch had been disturbed by some Jewish believers who insisted that the Gentile men who turned to Christ must be circumcised (v1 and 5) to ensure their salvation. Paul and Barnabas went up to Jerusalem, with some of the other believers, to consult with the apostles and elders about this matter.
After much discussion the church leaders in Jerusalem decided salvation was to be found by faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone. Acts 15:11 sums this up as follows: We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are. Peter and the early church understood that when God pours out his grace on someone, this leads them to faith in Christ. There is nothing anyone can do to earn salvation, or any requirement that can be added to the gospel message to ensure salvation.
Notice how the believers at Antioch received the news from the church leaders in Jerusalem. Their letter was read out to the whole church and we are told: ‘… they were glad for its encouraging message’ (v31). While they were originally discouraged by those who sought to add to the requirements needed for salvation (v1), they were encouraged by the simplicity of the gospel message. The letter they received asked them to: ‘… abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality’ (v29). None of these were requirements necessary for ensuring salvation, but reflect how the Christian should live a holy and pure life, so as to stand apart from society.
I have often wondered what advice we would give a young believer so as to encourage them in their faith. What issues would we raise with them, so that they can live distinct lives in a society that largely ignores God? While we don’t face the issue of meat offered to idols, etc., nothing has changed regarding the issue of sexual immorality (purity before and in marriage is one such issue for our day, as is internet porn).
The best advice we can give any believer is to immerse themselves in Scripture, so that they can learn how God wants them to live. Paul sums up the benefits of knowing Scripture in this way: For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope (Romans 15:4).
Pray: Father, we thank you for the Bible that shows us how to live for you day-by-day. Help us to not only read it, but to put what it says into practice. Amen