And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, 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. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” (Acts 15:7-11)

The occasion of the above reading involved a strong disagreement among Jewish Christians about the need for gentile converts to accept Jewish practices. Many Christian Jews thought that if a gentile converted first to Judaism, then the gentile was “qualified” to convert also to Jesus Christ. After all, most gentiles knew only idolatry, not the living God the Jewish people knew. Many gentiles had terrible concepts about divinity—the Jews thought they could destroy those terrible concepts and prepare gentiles for having the lives they should live.

Interestingly, the disagreement 2,000 years ago is very similar to our disagreement today: What is the foundation of salvation? Is the foundation our acts or God’s acts? The primary difference in their discussion and ours was (is) this: their discussion focused on background and our discussion usually focuses on the necessity of obedience.

Peter said to them and would say to us, “Your concerns miss the point!” Salvation is able to exist because of what God did in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Any human response to what God did is just that—a response, not a foundation. Faithless salvation does not exist: the person must place total confidence in what God did in Jesus’ death and resurrection. That is the foundation of salvation: the foundation of forgiveness, of sanctification, of redemption, of righteousness. That is God propitiating for our failures.

Every act of obedience is merely a response to what God did in Jesus. Obedience is a huge, believing, “thank you” to God that declares appreciation to God for what He did for us. Obedience is not a “question mark” or an unbelieving manipulation (“I did the right acts so You, God, have to save me!”) Human acts can never manipulate God!

“Thank you, God, for not making our salvation dependent on a human’s or group of humans’ approval. Our hope is in what You did for us, not in what we do.”

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 17 May 2009

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