Focal passage: Acts 15:6-11, 24-31
Oct. 31, 2017, marked the 500th anniversary of what would become known as the Protestant Reformation. Reportedly, Johann Tetzel, a papal seller of indulgences, would say, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.”
Disgusted with these and other practices of the Roman Catholic Church, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenburg Castle Church in Germany. One of the effects of this monumental decision by Luther was a resurgence of a clear biblical teaching: Humans are saved through faith in Jesus alone.
This same issue was in question in the early church as Luke writes in Acts 15. There were men coming down from Judea and teaching that unless you have been circumcised “you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1). So Paul and Barnabas having just come off a missionary journey where Gentiles were saved, were appointed to go to Jerusalem. After much debate Peter stood up and said, “He [God] made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith … We believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus.”
In his conclusion, James endorses Peter’s suggestion that Gentiles can be saved without being circumcised. What did this council do? What was the result? It helped to define what the gospel was just as Luther sought to do 1,500 years later.
So, what does this have to do with me? How does it apply to my life?
Bible-believing Christians must stand for and fight for the true gospel, just as Peter, Barnabas, James and Martin Luther did. The gospel that teaches salvation through faith in Jesus and one that is available to all; regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic background, gender or religious background.
Have you trusted in the true gospel? Do you think there are some groups to whom salvation is not deserving? Are you adding requirements to the gospel that the Bible doesn’t add?
May we always remember what Luther said, this “is the issue by which the church stands or falls.”