The Essentials of Salvation-Part II
We are picking up in the middle of an event in Acts where church doctrine is at stake. For the first time since the inception of the church we find a sect, a small group of the former religious elite who have trusted in Jesus as the Messiah, holding on to their traditions they unwittingly begin to infect the church with a poison that makes Jesus’ sacrifice not sufficient for salvation. They want the Gentiles to not just trust in Jesus but to trust in Him AND be circumcised. Well any time it is Jesus AND..., the AND nullifies Jesus’ work on the cross.
So this brings up a serious issue that needs to be resolved by the apostles and the elders of the church. What are the essentials of Salvation. What is needed for a person to truly be Saved. Genuine Salvation is an internal renewal, through faith by the grace of Jesus Christ. It is not something we can work at, it is something that happens in us, that God does for us through Jesus. To be saved we do nothing but accept this truth as truth. Once saved we are separated from this world so now our lives should reflect the character and attributes of Jesus Christ who is God.
Peter in verses 7-11 provided the evidence and the explanation as to how the Gentiles recieved the same Holy Spirit Israelites recieved and they recieved it without having to go through the rituals of the Mosaic Law. No circumcision was required and no laws had to be followed to receive the Holy Spirit. After Peter explained this to the Judaizers, verse 12, we find that they all kept silent. Peter’s explanation of what God had done silenced them. They couldn’t argue it and quite frankly I think they were frightened to challenge God Himself on this issue. So once they were silenced next Paul and Barnabas speak. This verse simply validates what Peter was saying. In the same way the Holy Spirit worked in the Israelites on the day of Pentecost is the same way He worked in the Gentiles in Acts 10 and in Acts 13 and 14. God has done an incredible work in these people, God has brought them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, with or without the Law. God has done this work and God deserves all the Glory and all the credit.
Salvation is Declared by God bringing Unity under Christ resulting in Sanctification
Salvation is Declared by God bringing Unity under Christ resulting in Sanctification
We have heard from Peter, the apostle, speak and provide theological evidence as to what God is doing. Now the head of the elders speaks and provides biblical evidence and a practical solution to help with the unity in the new entity made up of Jews and Gentiles which we now call the church. The biblical evidence validates what Peter said in the theological truth. Verse 13, “After they had stopped speaking,” meaning of course, Paul and Barnabas, James speaks. This is the same James who has also written an epistle by the same name, that is a letter to the church, which we have in our Bibles by the name James. This is Jesus’ half brother. Since Jesus’ resurrection we find that at some point James has come to trust that his big brother is truly the Son of God. Not only did he trust in this truth but he also grew in wisdom in respect to the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament canon and now Jesus fulfilled it at the cross. He even has the spiritual discernment to know how the Scripture speaks to this very matter and this incredible event. This Spiritual discernment is what put him in the position he is in now. He is the spokesman for the elders of the church, in the same way Peter is the spokesman for the apostles of the church.
James calls the men to attention, “Brethren” is a term used by the Jewish community for Millennia. They saw themselves as relatives of one another through the line of Abraham. They had this commonality and the term carried over into the church because we are brothers and sisters in Christ who is the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham. James picks up were Peter left off. Verse 14 James says, “Simeon,” the Hebrew form of Simon, “has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His Name.” This sums up what Peter has just told them. God chose them and God chose them for His own glory, not for the Israelites and not for the Gentiles to boast either. Everything God has done has been for God. This kicked James’ mind into action and by the power of the Holy Spirit James recalls a Scripture that points to this very thing. This begins James’ biblical proof that springs from Peter’s discourse which was prophesied years ago. Most of which is from Amos 9:11-12 and a small portion from Jeremiah 12:15. Amos lived about 750-770 years earlier, so this points to God’s plan was spelled out a long time before this event happened. This was not plan b but it was always God’s intention.
Let’s go ahead and look at what James says. Verse 15-18 Luke writes for us, “With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, “After these things I will return, And I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, And I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, 17, So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by My Name, 18 Says the Lord, who makes these things known from long ago.”
What is really cool about this is that James is speaking for God so all the, “I’s” in this prophecy are all God saying, “I,” “I will return,” twice He says, “I will rebuild,” and “I will restore.” God will do all this work, and the purpose for Him doing this specific work is to bring mankind to Himself, so they, “may seek the Lord and all the Gentiles who are called by My Name.” What does it mean to be called by My Name?” This phrase is used for the sense of subordination under God’s rule. The Gentiles were foretold they would turn to God and to call on God as God and King and submit to God’s Holiness. This was foretold from Long ago and now it is coming to fruition.
Here is a prophecy that is quoted and prophecy is always tough because prophecy has a fulfillment and a future fulfillment. To understand this prophecy and it’s fulfillment I need to understand what has happened and what is happening and what will happen as a result. James’ recounting of these verses he begins by saying, “with this the word of the Prophets agree, just as it is written,” so there has been an utterance from the Lord that this would happen. That salvation would come not only to the Israelites but to the Gentiles as well. By just looking at the prophecy itself and judging by the events of the day in Acts 15, the temple stood in Jerusalem so when James mentions the tabernacle of David what does he mean? Is it the literal tabernacle or is it the temple or is he pointing to the person as being the dwelling place of God. I lean toward the third. During the time of David is when God dwelt in the tabernacle and it was David who was given the promise of an eternal King and it is this promise that was fulfilled in Jesus who is a descendant of David. So the throne of David has been reestablished and Jesus sits enthroned on high as King. Paul tells us in Corinthians that we are the dwelling place of God, we are the tabernacle so Jesus being enthroned also means that being saved through faith by Grace we are to have Jesus enthroned in our lives.
10 “I will also appoint a place for My people Israel and will plant them, that they may live in their own place and not be disturbed again, nor will the wicked afflict them any more as formerly, 11 even from the day that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you. 12 “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 “He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, 15 but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.” ’ ”
James as elder and in conjunction with Peter’s theological discourse and the Biblical proof now makes a judgment a ruling in a sense on the debate. This is not an opinion it is an application derived from a correct interpretation of Scripture. Legalism or moralism always takes into account what people think and for the most part uses the times of the day or even tradition to dictate what is right or wrong, or what is Spiritual and what is common. The Judaizers wanted to use the Law in a way it was not intended, they wanted to use it to save people. That was never the intent of the Law the Law doesn’t save people it has always been faith that saves, the Law was for the purpose of showing people they can’t do it on their own and to provide God’s standard on what Holiness looks like. Do you know what Holiness looks like, Holiness looks like Jesus Christ? (Galatians 2& 3) Jesus is the only one who could fulfill the Law perfectly and He did. It is because He fulfilled it perfectly that we can trust in Him and we don’t need the Law because Jesus is Our fulfillment.
The Gentiles are turning to the One who the Law points to, They are trusting in who Jesus is and they are repenting of their sins and seeking the Holiness that can only be found in God through Jesus Christ the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Why trouble them? Why cause needles obstacles for them to have to work around and that would only hinder their walk with Christ. Circumcision was already a deterrent for the Gentiles who feared God, so was the ritualistic Laws. There were so many God fearers who wanted to worship the God of Israel but couldn’t because they wouldn’t fully submit to those laws. It became a deterrent. Now that Christ has come and grace has been manifested in Him and His work on the cross, there is a means for these people to worship God, rightly, and they desire it and the Judaizers still want to hinder them. James through the Scripture says don’t hinder them because this is the plan of God.
There is, however, prohibitions. In verse 20 James provides a list of what is to be abstained from. They are to, “abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. The idea here is to stay clear of the acts of worship that pagan religions perform. Each of these since they are acts of worship will deter people from giving their heart to God and instead giving their heart and themselves to those detestable acts of worship. This are ways that the pagans or these Gentiles used to worship and they are detestable to God. These things would also be detestable to the Israelite believers. See the Gentiles didn’t know what it means to worship God rightly, they are just learning. So here is a way of teaching them how to worship God rightly. Do you know as the church grows and there are more church these rules didn’t need to be enforced in the same way because people learned how to worship God and began to see these things were not godly in any sense. The point James is trying to make is if they have turned to the God of Israel through faith by the grace of Jesus Christ, then they must continue to worship God and only God from the heart through faith by Grace in Jesus Christ. This is what must be preached and proclaimed now. It is to have a focus on Jesus and who He is and what He has done and what He will do.
12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
4 Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. 7 However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 8 But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. 9 But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? 11 For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. 12 And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.
19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.
17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
In verse 21 James mentions, “For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” The Law is preached it has not been nullified, it is not gone either. The Gentiles and the Jews can collectively hear the proclamation of the Word and apply it to life. If they so desire to perform the Law and rituals so be it. If they do not that is fine too, they are to live for Christ and observe all that Jesus has commanded.