Acts 15: What Does It Take to Be Saved?

Now, that’s a loaded question!  And not one I am about to try to answer here.  But it is the question the Christians in Antioch were asking.

Grace through faith in Jesus?  Definitely!

He [God] purified their [Gentiles] hearts through faith. . . . It is by the grace of the Lord Jesus that we shall be saved, just like them. (15:9, 11)

But is there more?  At least some of the early Christians thought so:

They must be circumcised,” they [believers from the party of the Pharisees] said, “and you must tell them to keep the law of Moses.” (15:5)

Much like Acts 2, Acts 15 is one of the more significant chapters in the book.  There is so much to say about this chapter.  The chapter also produces so many further questions.  Some of these observations and questions would be:

  • When an argument ensued, they gathered together to talk it out.
  • The Scriptures played a important role in their decision-making (15:15-18), but so did the everyday ministry experiences of the apostles involved (15:12).
  • Early Christianity was diverse enough to encompass former Pharisees and former prostitutes, Zealots and tax collectors, those with a great level of obedience to the Jewish customs and those who thought those customs were largely irrelevant.
  • Even after the decision was made to disagree with the Pharisaical Christians, the apostles and elders still accept them as “some of our number” (15:24).
  • This conflict ends with feelings of “delight,” “encouragement,” and “peace” (15:31-33).
  • How did the apostles and elders making the decision know what “seemed good to the Holy Spirit” (15:28)?
  • Why was blood in food deemed that much more important than circumcision or the Sabbath?
  • This decision was given to Christians in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia.  Was it also intended to apply to other churches too?  For instance, Paul didn’t make a big deal over food sacrificed to idols in Corinth.
  • Is baptism equivalent to circumcision?  Do the principles here regarding circumcision apply to modern debates over baptism?
  • What modern issues of debate would be in line with the topic of law observance?  Worship styles, gender roles, marital history, sexual preference?

However, I don’t want us to miss the big point in this chapter, so important that Luke says it twice:

Therefore this is my judgment: we should not cause extra difficulties for those of the Gentiles who have turned to God. (15:19)

For it seemed good to the holy spirit and to us not to lay any burden on you beyond the following necessary things. (15:28)

This did not mean there were no boundaries or requirements.  The Gentiles in Antioch were expected to avoid food associated with pagan idolatry, food that would still have a good amount of blood in it, and sexual perversions (15:20, 29).  Still, the apostles and elders decided to go the path of least resistance.  They endeavored to place as few barriers as possible between God and those Gentiles seeking Him.  Important to any debate Christians might have today regarding what it takes to be saved should be this same principle: don’t make it any more difficult than it has to be.

What stood out to you in this important chapter?  

Categories: Acts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Acts 15: What Does It Take to Be Saved?

  1. Reblogged this on Jaymorh's Blog.

  2. Pingback: Isolated Christians « Εμμανουήλ Χρύσης – Προσωπικό Ιστολόγιο

  3. There is a lot to think about in this chapter. As the main post here says, this passage is really applicable to churches trying to figure out how open to be to the culture of new converts and what sorts of boundaries to erect.

    I am struck by the three (as Peterson has them) restrictions the church in Jerusalem gave: avoid idolatry, sexual immorality, and food offensive to Jews. It is the last one that gets me. I get the first two. Those are big. The last one just doesn’t seem to be on the same level. I wonder why it is included.

    Is it because food is fundamental to life and community and if church people can’t even eat together how will community ever be possible? Is it a symbolic sign that life (blood) is sacred? The other two restrictions are about honoring important relationships – with God and with spouse – and the last one honors the relationship one has with brothers and sisters?

    Then I wonder what the modern-day equivalent to food/blood restrictions would be. I doubt it would still be food. I think it is likely something bigger, deeper.

  4. This chapter is the proverbial two side of the same coin. Most of the chapter recounts the great success the early church had resolving a conflict to joyous ends. Then the chapter ends with an unresolved conflict (for now) in Paul and Barnabas and John Mark. That conflict is so strident the two parties have to part ways.

    It is a reminder that this world, as joyous as it might be at times, is still marred by sin. Perfection is still to come.

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