#carmelprays – Acts 15:1-21
Opening Song: Show Us Christ
Read Scripture: Acts 15:1-21
In this passage, the church addresses the issue of Gentile inclusion. As Gentiles were coming to faith, some sought to exclude them. Specifically, they were teaching that salvation could only come through circumcision according to the Law of Moses (v1). They were arguing that the Gentile must become like the Jew and obey the Mosaic Law in order to be accepted into the Kingdom (v5). Paul and Barnabas rose to defend against these arguments. They travelled a staggering 250 miles to do this at the council and along the way, they spoke of ‘how the Gentiles had been converted’ (v3). This news made those who heard it very glad.
When Paul and Barnabas arrived at the council, they reported everything that God had done through them (v4). Again, the Pharisees stood up and argued that the Gentiles must be circumcised and the Law of Moses must be kept (v5). In response, Peter highlights that God chose to let the Gentiles hear the gospel. Peter shows that this was done so that the Gentiles would believe and receive the Holy Spirit. In all this, Peter emphasises that God did not require circumcision. He granted salvation freely.
Peter furthers this argument by warning them not to test God. He states that God’s salvation is clear, it is salvation through grace by the work of Christ alone. He rejects the position of the Pharisees, which grounds salvation in works.
The assembly falls silent in response to Peter’s speech. In this silence, Barnabas and Paul recount the signs and wonders that God had done in the Gentiles through them (v12). The point that Peter, Paul and Barnabas make is that the Gentiles were clearly included by God through grace.
James speaks next and supports what Peter has argued. He builds on this by referencing the works of the prophets. These works show that God promised Gentile inclusion long before and is now fulfilling that promise (v16-18). James ends off by concluding that the Jews should not make it difficult for the Gentile believers. Instead, they should be concerned about their growth and be sensitive to their needs (v20).
There is much to reflect on from this passage. First, are you thankful for your salvation? Do you recognise that Gentile inclusion was controversial and that many Jews did not support it? The fact that God planned our inclusion in His salvation thousands of years ago should humble us and make us thankful.
Second, do you have the right grasp of the gospel? Do you recognise that the gospel is salvation through the grace shown in Christ alone? Are there some ways that you add to or take away from the gospel? Are you relying on your works?
Lastly, are you caring for other believers, even those that you are not fond of? James reminds us that regardless of who comes to faith, we should be concerned for them and build them up.
Pray in Response
Gracious, loving Father, I thank you for saving me by grace alone. I confess that I am prone to forget the goodness of the Gospel. I take great pride in my work and undermine the goodness of the Gospel. Help me to see that apart from your grace, I am nothing. Help me to see that salvation is only through the grace that is shown in Christ Jesus.
I pray that this grace changes the way I live my life. So often, I am not loving. There are people that I treat badly, and I am prone to forget the cross of Christ when I deal with them. Help me to remember the grace that is shown in Christ more often in my life. I pray that this make me a kinder and more loving person. In all things, show us Christ.
Response Song: May The Mind Of Christ My Saviour
By Darren Sim