7 “And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:7–9 (ESV)
“You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” Jonathan Edwards
There was much debate at the Jerusalem Council. The word debate means discussion, disputing and the seeking of information. Luke gives us the impression that the discussions held at the council were lengthy and intense as to whether Gentiles must become Jewish in order to become Christians.
At issue was nothing less than the essential message of the Gospel. At stake was whether or not God delivers the sinner from the penalty, power and eventual presence of sin solely on the basis of sovereign grace, through God given faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Does the sinner contribute anything to his salvation by which he can boast or take credit? Do our good works, however sincere they may be, contribute to our justification before God?
Peter responded that God makes no distinction between Jew and Gentile. God justifies both people groups through the instrument of faith.
Dr. John MacArthur writes, “Peter gave the first of three speeches at the Council that amount to one of the strongest defenses of salvation by grace through faith alone contained in Scripture. Peter began his defense by reviewing how God saved Gentiles in the early days of the church without a requirement of circumcision, law keeping, or ritual—referring to the salvation of Cornelius and his household (10:44–48; 11:17–18). If God did not require any additional qualifications for salvation, neither should the legalists.”
Let us resolve not to take anything away from, or add to, the Gospel. It is by sovereign grace alone, through faith alone, and in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone that God justifies the sinner.
Soli deo Gloria!