1Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." 2And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders. 3So they were sent on their way by the church, and as they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, they reported the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the believers. 4When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. 5But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and said, "It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses."
6The apostles and the elders met together to consider this matter. 7After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers.8And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us;9and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. 10Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will."
Unfortunately Peter will waver later on the very point he is making here: that Gentiles do not need to come under the Law in order to be fully accepted by God. And for this wavering Paul will rebuke Peter/Cephas (Galatians 2:11)! An apostle-on-apostle smackdown!
But for now, here in this passage, Peter eloquently and clearly makes the point that the reception of the Holy Spirit and faith alone are sufficient for salvation, for a new start with God. And anything in addition to this faith + Spirit is not only unnecessary but becomes a "yoke" that no one can truly bear.
Faith + Spirit = Grace of the Lord Jesus. The grace that comes from Jesus in other words.
As religious people we like religious things. I'm not speaking for everyone but for many of us, esp. religious leaders, the religious accoutrements (e.g., gown, stole, a clerical collar, a big Bible, a lapel mike, black t-shirt, Affliction shirt, cool jeans, earrings, leather men's bracelet, and so on) that come with being religious make us feel ... important. It's like Miss America wearing a crown or a biker wearing tattoos or an Asian-American going to an Ivy League college. We want to add that little something to make us feel important, significant, special.
This temptation needs to be avoided. To be truly special in God's eyes is to accept what He has to offer: the gift of His Son, the gift of eternal life, the gift of salvation, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of grace. Our role in all this is faith. "For we live by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7).
We live by trusting in God's goodness and His love for us -- daily. We exercise our faith moment by moment and day by day and season by season. Much of this exercise is not fully conscious, like choosing what you want to eat at a restaurant. It's more like walking. You just do it. Or like maintaining a friendship. Talking and spending time together.
In the matrix of friendship with God, we learn to trust Him more. And as we trust Him more, we get to know Him better. And as we get to know Him better, we love Him more. (Like that Directv slippery slope commercial ... don't wake up in a roadside ditch .... But it's a good slippery slope with God.)
Let's pack light and travel light with God today and everyday!
Let's pray: Father, we love you. You love us. Jesus, we love you. You love us. Spirit, we love you. You love us. Help us, O God, to love you well by trusting in you today. In Jesus' name, Amen.