Bible Society of South Africa

Only by the grace of God - 30 May 2024

By Ben Fourie

Bible text(s)

11No! We believe and are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.”

Acts 15:11GNBOpen in Bible reader

The young church was finding her feet in the world, but as it most often happens, it was not a very smooth road. After Peter visited Cornelius, he had to come and explain himself to the other apostles and the brothers. They accused him of going into the home of uncircumcised people and even having a meal with them. After Peter told them in detail how everything came to being, “they stopped their criticism and praised God, saying, ‘Then God has given to the Gentiles also the opportunity to repent and live!’” (Acts 11:18). This opened the way for a full-scale outreach to the Gentiles. A year later, Paul and Barnabas started with what is known as the first missionary journey. Although it was aimed at Jews in other countries, they also reached the Gentiles.

In this way, the gospel reached Cyprus, Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Listra and Derbe. On the journey back, they again visited the church in Antioch. This was the place where the believers were called Christians for the first time. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the church grew quickly, but it is almost unbelievable that there were still people who made life difficult for the church. Some brothers from Judea were adamant that the Gentiles who were converted, should, according to Jewish law, be circumcised before they can really be saved. What they were basically saying was that salvation by Jesus’s death on the cross was not enough, it had to be accompanied by a ritual.

This dispute ended at a meeting in Jerusalem where the church finally decided: “The Holy Spirit and we have agreed not to put any other burden on you …” (Acts 15:28). It has been one of the most important decisions by the church ever – only Jesus. I cannot earn my salvation by add-ons. Only God can save me by his grace.

Prayer: I thank you Holy Spirit that you have led the church, so many ages ago, to recognise that we can only be saved by the grace of God. Now, I do not have to pass any test. On the cross, Jesus already earned full marks on my behalf. Amen

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