Sunday, August 29, 2010

the evidence of faith

Acts, chapter 15, records the first doctrinal challenge of the young church.  Some Jewish believers in Jesus wanted Gentile believers to be circumcised according to the laws of Moses.  They said (from verse 1), "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."  It may have been difficult for a people with such clearly defined and divinely provided customs to leave those ways behind.  Just as conversion makes all things new for an individual person, there were new ways for God's special people, the Jews, to grasp on the far side of the cross and resurrection.  So they held a council meeting in Jerusalem to consider the issue.  They wanted to clearly understand God's requirement and not impose a "man" requirement.  Ultimately the decision turned on two things: (1) the testimony of changed lives and (2) the word of God.  Paul and Barnabas shared how God had done many wonders and miracles among the Gentiles and James, Jesus' brother, quoted from the Old Testament prophet Amos to reinforce the fact that God would call Gentiles: Amos 9:17 "So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the Lord who does all these things."  Peter summed up the answer when he pointed out that the Gentiles clearly were demonstrating the 'evidence of faith'.  He was the one God chose to share the gospel with the Roman centurion, Cornelius.  Peter said (verses 7-10) "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.  So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.  Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?"  and he concluded with the powerful statment (verse 11) "But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they."  And so, with the last words of Peter in the book of Acts we are given a clear view of how salvation is attained by any and all men.  The good news of the reality of Jesus and His redemptive work on the Cross can deliver all men as they individually receive this as true.  It calls for the grace of God, the faith of man and is sealed with the demonstration of God's presence in the form of the Holy Spirit.  I hope that this has been your experience and, if not, that you will now realize His love and open your heart to His presence.
Rob Smith

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