Read This Week: Acts 15
Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. – Acts 15:1 & 7-9 NIV
Acceptance is a universal human desire. It transcends culture, race, background, personality, and experience. The need to be accepted and the longing we all have is innate in us from birth, and we navigate our way through life with that same need for approval, receptivity, and favor. It is something we yearn for and maintain a pursuit of throughout our journeys.
When we find acceptance, it improves our quality of life, reduces negative experiences, and can bring a heightened awareness of gratitude, joy, and contentment. Conversely, when we experience rejection or confronted with a relationship, community, or situations that make us feel unaccepted, we are prone to self-deprecation, depression, loss of happiness, and feelings of sorrow.
The ever-present and important subject of acceptance is central to Acts 15. It starts with some teachers coming to Antioch and teaching the Gentiles that they had to adopt Jewish traditions and obey the law of Moses to be saved and accepted by God. They were mixing law and grace and putting conditions on salvation for those who were not Jews. These teachers were presenting a dangerous message regarding acceptance by God of all people through Christ.
Paul and his associates combat these teachings at the Jerusalem conference some 20 years after the events of Pentecost. They do this with a revelation about the true gospel of Jesus. Peter says in verses 7 through 9:
Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.
Here, the record is set straight about the work of Christ and what it means for all people regardless of nationality and creed. Any teaching outside of salvation by faith through grace adds to the gospel and what is necessary to be made right with God. Paul makes it clear that the Judaizers’ instruction is meant to trouble the mind and is not the teaching of justification by faith in Jesus Christ that is effective for all who believe.
The finished work of Christ on the cross ensures no difference between all people on earth when it comes to sin, salvation, and acceptance. And there is no greater truth to know and absorb than for us to realize that we are accepted by God through Jesus no matter who we are. We don’t have to do anything, achieve anything, look a certain way, or have the right family. We are accepted.
The Lord’s acceptance of us brings indescribable joy and fulfillment that can’t be satisfied through anything or anyone on this earth. His unconditional love improves life at an eternal level and changes the way we view ourselves and other people that we otherwise could not see on our own.