It wasn’t long before some Jews showed up from judea insisting that everyone be circumcised: “If you’re not circumcised in the Mosaic fashion, you can’t be saved.” – Acts 15:1 MSG
People have always put stipulations on salvation. It’s why some think they can never be good enough and others think they’ve messed it all up. I wish I could say that it’s because they don’t know the scripture well enough to know any better, but I can’t. People can quote chunks of scripture and still forget that Jesus changed everything.
Paul and Barnabas were up on their feet at once in fierce protest. – Acts 15:2 MSG
Where are versions of those guys now? It’s not “if you do this, you can be saved.” You are saved. The only unforgivable sin is unbelief. The “good news”, the news that “makes everyone cheer”, is that the outsiders are now insiders. The unrefined screw-ups and brash non-conformists are in. Just as they are. The only people not cheering are the insiders. Even the “believing” insiders shift their weight at the thought. They want to “get it”, but it’s so hard to let go of the nagging feeling that we’re leaving something out.
Some Pharisees stood up to say their piece. They had become believers, but continued to hold to the hard party line of the Pharisees. “You have to circumcise the pagan converts,” they said. “You must make them keep the Law of Moses.” -Acts 15:5 MSG
This argument is age old, half-blind, and still driving. Even people who can quote the Story misinterpret the result. They embellish the application.
The arguments went on and on, back and forth, getting more and more heated. – Acts 15:7 MSG
God has an enemy. You are the object of God’s love. This makes you the target of His enemy’s deception. You tell me what you think is happening when God’s people are reduced to heated arguments about the result of His greatest act of love. We’re supposed to be giving a first-hand account of the message, but those in the best position to give a first hand account of God’s grace are shushed because they’re the screw-ups. How can they deliver their eye-witness account of the salvation power of Jesus when the collective church too afraid to let the sinner talk? If someone does try to be different and capture the attention of the fringes, he can end up way out in left field saying absolutely nothing. He dulls the people with pointlessness. Maybe he’s afraid of sounding like a preachy Christian, but he’s lost his relevance. An eyewitness account of the salvation of Jesus is necessary for understanding the scriptures or balancing a religious message with the Spirit of Truth. You get to the Truth through Jesus. A huge failure who has been rescued by grace can see Him everywhere. Old Testament and New Testament, He all there. The arguments go on and on… back and forth. Getting more and more heated. Just echo Peter when people try to put stipulations on salvation or tell people what to do once they become Christians:
“God, who can’t be fooled by any pretense on our part but always knows a person’s thoughts, gave them the Holy Spirit exactly as he gave him to us. He treated the outsiders exactly as he treated us, beginning at the very center of who they were and working from that center outward, cleaning up their lives as they trusted and believed him. So why are you now trying to out-god God, loading these new believers down with rules that crushed our ancestors and crushed us, too? Don’t we believe that we are saved because the Master Jesus amazingly and out of sheer generosity moved to save us just as he did those from beyond our nation? So what are we arguing about?”– Peter to the arguers in Acts 15:8-11 MSG
If you are someone who feels like you damaged your relationship with God either intentionally or unintentionally, please know this: There is nothing you have done, are doing, or can do that will nullify what Jesus did for you. God’s enemy isn’t out trying to get you to screw up, you can do that all by yourself. The enemy is trying to get you to believe that your mistakes separate you from your Father. Nothing can take you away from Him. Read the Bible. There is stuff in there that will save your spiritual life and rescue you from the well-intentioned faithless words of your fellow Christians.