Scripture Reading: Acts 11:1-18
“So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, ‘ You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.’” (Acts 11:2,3)
The Jewish believers in Jerusalem took issue with Peter over his encounter with the Gentiles at Caesarea. Their issue was that Peter ate with the Gentiles. Gentile food was considered common and unclean by the Jews. Now we see why Peter’s vision was so significant (vs. 4-10). God removed the barriers that separated the Jews from the Gentiles, including the ceremonial food restrictions found in the Old Testament. While eating with the Gentiles was the outward issue, the greater inward issue was a misunderstanding of the gospel.
These Jewish believers (“the circumcision party”) had a misunderstanding about God’s grace. They still held on to some of their legalism. They believed salvation was through faith in Jesus plus obedience to the law. It was difficult for these Jewish believers, who were steeped in religion, to fully embrace the concept of grace. They would struggle with this partial understanding of grace for years. Peter himself later drifted back into his legalistic thinking for a brief season (see: Galatians 2:11-14). Paul had to confront Peter over the matter!
Understanding the sufficiency of God’s grace is difficult for most people to grasp, especially people who have a strong moralistic and religious background. These people find the idea of grace too good to be true. They believe that grace alone is not enough; one must add to God’s grace works of obedience.
I was having lunch with a man recently whom I deeply respect. He asked me how he could be sure of his salvation. This man has been very successful in business. He has a strong moralistic and religious background, but grasping grace alone is such a challenge for him. He, like many, believe in grace PLUS works. He is struggling to accept the sufficiency of God’s grace alone.
Peter made a strong case for salvation by grace alone to the Jewish believers. He said of the Gentiles, “If then God gave the same gift to them as He gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” (v. 17). He was basically saying that God’s grace is sufficient. One cannot add one thing to what God has done for us through His Son. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9)
Lord Jesus, forgive me when I forget that your grace is sufficient for my salvation. I confess that I often think I have to add my efforts to it. Thank You for the gracious gift of salvation that You made possible through Your death and resurrection.
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