Acts 15:10-11 – Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.
Acts 15 is of tremendous theological importance to all Christians, and especially those of us who are not from Jewish lineage. This chapter describes a counsel in Jerusalem, where the early church had to discover the will of God concerning converted gentiles. The Christians who had been Jews before believed that any converted gentile must be forced to be circumcised and keep the Old Testament law in order to be saved. Paul, who had preached the gospel to the gentiles, however, disagreed, and is disagreement is found in the verses above.
Paul points out to the church leadership that, to make obedience to the law a requirement for gentiles, would be to give the gentiles a burden that the Jews themselves did not bear. He also pointed out to them that all people, Jew or gentile, will be saved by one means only, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is more important to us than just a history lesson of how the early church began to include gentiles. It is a reminder to us that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone for all peoples, regardless of race or class. It is a reminder that we do not force people into our customs in order for them to be saved. If people are saved, they are saved by faith in Christ, regardless of what they eat, what kind of music their culture enjoys, what kind of clothing their culture wears, or what kind of political system their government has chosen.
Today, if you are a believer, it would be a great idea for you to stop and thank God that he does not include or exclude people from his family based on their nationality or culture. God does not demand that you follow a particular diet to be his child, and that is a good thing. He does not exclude Americans or Australians from his family, though he certainly could have done so. He allows all to be in his family who will come to Jesus in faith. Thank God that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, and not as a result of any works that you perform, religious or otherwise.
Also, today, check yourself to see if there are any roots of legalism in your heart. Do you have a standard in your mind as to how Christians should dress that goes beyond the biblical call to modesty and decency? Do you think of a particular people group as a more “spiritual” nation than another? Do you believe that certain activities are off limits for Christians, even if the Bible does not say the same thing? Do you believe that one country is superior to all others, and thus that people from there make better Christians? Do you call people to more than faith in Christ in order to be saved? If any of these are true of you, you need to capture those thoughts, reject them, and repent of them for the glory of Christ.
Lord, I thank you that you have chosen, in your wisdom, to create for yourself a kingdom of people from every nation. I thank you that you do not include or exclude anyone based on their nationality or cultural background. I thank you that salvation is by grace through faith, and not as a result of me keeping some sort of standard. Lord, I ask that you will help me to not apply legalistic standards to others. Show me where, in my own mind, I create standards that you do not create. Keep me from burdening anyone with a burden that I will not bear. Help me to magnify your glory and your grace for all.