Acts 15:1-11 (TNIV) – “Certain individuals came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. 3 The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.
5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”
6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “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. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
What a culture shock it was for some of us when we first visited our sister church in Paris a few years ago- a new language, different forms of greetings (i.e. la bise) and different dining culture (i.e. wine, crepes). It was a new understanding of how we, as a church, saw others outside of our own American culture and then learning to change so that the Gospel would be effectively proclaimed to the people.
Paul and Barnabas lived in the freedom of the Gospel as they preached to the various cultures on their missionary journey. In this passage, they vigorously opposed a leader in the Jewish church who tried to impose the practice of circumcision to all new Gentiles believers as a requirement for their salvation. The church decided to hold onto the truth that it was God who accepted the Gentiles because of their faith, and then filled them with His Spirit. The church had to make some changes in their understanding. Instead of resisting, they embraced the new ministry God had given, all the wonders and difficulties included.
Responding to transmission:
As we remember how God has touched us and shown us His love, let’s also seek His heart to love others in this generation. Spend time in prayer asking for an open heart and mind to embrace new things and opportunities for the sake of the Gospel.