Tag: keeping the law
Scripture reading for August 18: Galatians 2
The church of Jesus Christ in Galatia was under attack by Jewish false teachers. They wanted the Gentile believers to be circumcised in order to be a part of the church. Paul explained how he had worked this out with Peter. As Peter traveled to Antioch, he began to separate himself from the Gentiles and refuse to eat with them. He did this out of fear for the Jewish church members who were teaching that all must be circumcised to be right with God. Paul opposed him to his face and confronted him with the truth!
“You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no on will be justified.” (Galatians 2:14-16) The law cannot save anyone–Jew or Gentile. Paul stated plainly that it was by faith alone that any Jew or Gentile would be justified before God.
When a person adds the keeping of any part of the law to faith, they set aside the grace of God and exalt their own works. It is through Christ alone that we receive God’s grace. Paul stated his own faith to clarify this: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, l live by faith in the Son of god, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Scripture reading for June 23rd: Acts 15:1-31
The church today is sometimes affected by legalism. Well-meaning Christians, pastors, and leaders try to define holiness developing rules or traditions that help them define what pleases God. This confuses people and often causes conflict and division. The early church also struggled with this. Most of the early church members were Jews and they had a history of keeping the Law of God. These new believers struggled to know how to balance keeping the Law with salvation by faith through grace!
“Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1) This teaching brought sharp debate in the early church and Paul and Barnabas were appointed to go to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders to discuss this question. They had seen God pour out His Spirit on uncircumcised Gentiles in many places where they were sent by the Holy Spirit to preach and disagreed with this teaching.
At Jerusalem, this conflict was found to be simmering as well. There were believers who came from the party of the Pharisees who agreed that the Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the Law of Moses. (Acts 15:5) The apostles and elders gathered for discussion and Paul got up and addressed them. He noted that God accepted the Gentiles and poured out the Holy Spirit on them without their keeping of the Law. God purified their hearts by faith, not by law-keeping! In fact, no Jew was ever able to keep the Law and become justified either! (Acts 15:8-12)
James spoke up in agreement, citing the Old Testament prophet Amos as confirming Paul’s word to them. “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” (Acts 15:19-20) This seemed good to the elders and apostles and the Holy Spirit, so they sent Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch to share the ruling.
Salvation by grace alone was then taught by the early church. Adding law would not be allowed to hinder people from coming to Christ from any background. Are you trusting in Christ alone for salvation?