A Walk Through Acts
Acts 11: 13-18 – And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved. And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. [Emphasis added are mine]
Peter was called to bring the gospel message of salvation to Cornelius and his house for they were not yet saved. They had not yet been born again. By Peter coming and giving them this message on "what you must do," salvation had come unto them through their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, by the Spirit in power, the grace God. If the Spirit had not come like He did, they would have argued whether the Gentiles could be saved. But the sign that had all of them convinced in agreement, and did not allow for any argument, was that the Spirit was poured out on them the same way it had been poured out on the original disciples at Pentecost. The sign was that they also spoke in tongues.
We’re going to continue moving forward in our walk through Acts. As written previously, you should continue to read through Acts on your own. For this presentation, however, I’m going to skip to Acts 15.
A very important issue arose in this chapter. Some Pharisees who did believe, started to teach that unless you circumcise after the manner of Moses you could not be saved, disregarding the truth that the Gentiles had received the Spirit. We see that some were now adding works on the part of man to the salvation message. Up to this point in Acts, we have clearly seen that the prerequisite is trust and obedience that leads to repentance, being baptized in the name of Jesus in water, and receiving the Spirit. We know that these acts of faith (trust) are not works of righteousness on the part of man.
Titus 3:5-7 - Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. [Emphasis added are mine]
There is no works involved on the part of man that can save him. Man must simply trust and obey Jesus, His plan, His way, and His work for us in our lives. It is Jesus' work through our trust and obedience to His word that saves us.
I want to diverge for a moment to talk about this. A perfect example of this is Abraham. It was said of Abraham that he trusted in the Lord and it was counted to him as righteousness [see Genesis 15:6 and Romans 4:3]. How did they know Abraham trusted? They knew he trusted because he obeyed. Look into Abraham’s life and you will see him hearing and talking with God and obeying His word. He may have wavered on occasion, but his life was a steadfast fruit of trust.
Hebrews 11:8-10 – By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. [Emphasis added are mine]
Trust always works through and with obedience. If you truly believe on Jesus Christ, then you will obey what he commands you to do, just like Abraham.
James 2:21-24 – Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought (co-worked) with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. [Emphasis added are mine]
Abraham trusted and his obedience (works) to God's word was the proof of that. If he did not live a life of obedience to God's word, the scriptures would not be justified in saying:
He trusted in God and...
His trust imputed to him as righteousness.
But because his faith worked together with his obedience (works), it can be said that his faith was completed (perfected) his works (obedience) and thus fulfilled the scripture that Abraham’s faith was reckoned to him as righteousness. Faith apart from obedience (works) is dead. It has no meaning, whatsoever, to God or anyone else.
Let’s say I told you that tomorrow, if you meet me at the park at 7 a.m. under the Joshua tree I will give you 1 million dollars, with no strings attached. You simply would have to trust my word that I will give it to you by simply meeting me there at 7 a.m.. I didn’t ask you to jump through hoops, or work for me, or give me something in return. I simply asked you to trust my word and obey. That means if you trust me you will abide by my requirements by meeting me there at the park at 7 a.m. under the Joshua tree. I won’t know that you really trusted me until you do as I say. And if you do show up, I will give you the money without question, fulfilling my word because you trusted and obeyed. Nothing else is required. So it is with Jesus.
If you truly trust Him, you will obey His commands, just like our father in the faith - Abraham, and it will be imputed to you as righteousness without barter or exchange.
Now back to the issue in Acts 15. We see here that this new doctrine, contrary to the apostles doctrine, has created a ruckus. Paul and Barnabas argue with them concerning this. They decide to take this matter to the Church, the apostles, and the elders in Jerusalem. The Pharisees are first to speak. What they speak is a heresy because it contradicts what the apostles preached (which is what they were commanded by Jesus to preach). The Pharisees taught two things: that the nations must be circumcised and they must keep the law of Moses, or else they would not be saved. They assembled together to answer this question.
Peter arises first and witnesses concerning this question:
Acts 15:7-11 – And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. [Emphasis added are mine]
Notice here that God judged the hearts of those who listened and He bore them witness by giving them His Spirit. He did this, not only, for the receivers of His Spirit, but for those that witnessed this event, so that they all would know God was approving this and that He supported what Peter was preaching and teaching.
Next we see Paul and Barnabas witness concerning this question:
Acts 15:12 – Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.
The apostles were not arrogant in thinking that they were the ones doing these works of power. They knew that the Spirit was doing this through them and gave Him all the glory for it. That encouraged them to continue in what they were preaching and teaching.
Last, it is recorded what James witnessed concerning this question:
Acts 15:13-17 – And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.
What we find in these particular scriptures is that there is harmony and agreement among the apostles. They conclude that nothing else is required for salvation. Only what they have already preached and taught. Peter emphatically referred to the importance that the Spirit was poured out as the witness. Paul referred to the signs and omens (by His Spirit) that followed which confirmed the word they were preaching (Mark 16:20). James recognized that Jesus was rebuilding the tabernacle (by His Spirit) in the hearts of men. It was enough for them to know that when they preached Jesus, His life, death, burial, and resurrection, along with the three-fold witness in the earth (I John 5:8), that Jesus confirmed the word that they preached by pouring out His Spirit within the believers. Jesus did this because the people trusted in Him and if they trusted, then they obeyed the gospel preached to them by the apostles.
If you do it His way, He will watch over His word to perform it (Jeremiah 1:12).
© copyright 2000, revised 2011 Jesus M. Ruiz