Jesus is the only saving God.
The chapter is arguably the most important one in Acts because it defines salvation around Jesus’ finished work on the cross.
The chapter begins with controversy, “certain Jews came down teaching the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses you cannot be saved?'”
Here are three dominant questions being asked:
- Do you have to be a a Jew to be a Christian?
- Is Moses greater than Jesus?
- Can I socialize with people who practice their faith differently?
The answers are:
- Not at all
- And Yes
Take note of the phrase “Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them.” The argument regarding salvation drove them to immediately stop what they were doing, venture to Jerusalem and settle the matter.
Without modern transport, that was not easy.
On the journey the boys stopped in Phoenicia and Samaria to give testimony about the great things God was doing all over the world, and especially among non Jewish peoples known as the “Gentiles.” Those wonderful stories “brought great joy to the brothers.”
In Jerusalem a group of believing Pharisees took issue with Gentiles being saved without the law of Moses. The text says something fascinating, some from the exact group that put Jesus on the cross were now born again Christians, but they had a serious problem. The born again Pharisee’s were unable to lay down the unbiblical parts of their theology, instead they clung to a politicized mind set, wanting to protect Jerusalem at all costs, and in fact demanding loyalty to her over devotion to Jesus.
Jesus Only vs. Jesus Plus Something Else
There is a great temptation is to add something to the simplicity of being saved by Jesus Christ through faith.
Many now, like then, add a political party to the mix, you are a Christian if you vote a certain way, or are zealous for certain political causes.
The Bible, for those that need to know, is older than the Constitution of the United States.
The Bible, for those that need to know, contains no errors, but the Constitution, though wonderful, is a flawed document by comparison.
The Bible, for those that need to know, especially the New Testament Epistles, are written to Christians, Church leaders, and individuals, instructing them in their walk with God. Any application toward civil government is secondary, the primary is toward believers and their devotion to Christ.
The Apostle Paul summarized those thoughts for us this way in Ephesian 2:8-9:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Peter speaks up and set the record straight.
“God who knows the heart bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us and them, having cleansed their hearts by by faith.”
James speaks up and sets the record straight.
James mind you is Jesus’ half brother, they share the same mother but not the same father. Jesus has no earthly father because his mother was made pregnant in a miraculous way through the power of the Holy Spirit.
“My judgement is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write them to abstain from things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality,and from what has been strangled, and from blood.”
Idols are things working inside our souls seeking to remove Jesus from being first and foremost.
Sexual immorality is obvious, at least to those who know Christ, purity is sweet to Jesus followers. Sex before and outside of marriage is sin, as is a lack of sex inside of marriage.