Summary: Christianity is all about a relationship with Jesus, and it is purely by grace. Its end is not salvation but fellowship with God.
If someone were to walk up to you and ask you out of the blue, “How can I be saved?” what would you say?
• Would you know how to answer him? What is the one thing that you would tell him?
• You need to know. Your answer will determine where he spends eternity.
Paul and Barnabas have just returned from their first missionary trip over the Gentile world, preaching the Gospel and seeing people saved.
• Then men from Judea came (15:1) and said to these converts, “you’re not really saved yet, you need to follow the customs of the Law we got from Moses.”
• And some believers from the party of the Pharisees also added, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the Law of Moses.” (15:5)
This disturbed the group of new Gentile believers. Can I be saved?
• The Jews says it is Christ PLUS the Law in order to be fully accepted by God.
• This is understandable, for they had for many years been observing the Law to gain God’s favour. The previous way of life dictated everything from what to eat and drink, when to work, how to worship, what to sacrifice.
• Now, coming out of that background, they decided that the Gentiles must do the same things.
The apostles have to take a stand, and defend the message of the Gospel – it is all about God’s grace. You are saved by grace through faith in Christ.
• Remember this - no contribution whatsoever from men. It is Christ and Christ alone that we are accepted by God.
• His work on the Cross is a finished work! The Law cannot change you, it can only tell you that you missed the mark, and you’re still missing the mark today!
The Jews and in particular the Pharisees were very steep in the Law of Moses, but that didn’t change their lives.
• Were they better people? No. Their ‘obedience’ to the Law only brings about self-righteousness and pride.
• Look at the Gospels; they were harsh, judgemental and unforgiving. While Jesus - whom they claimed did not follow the Law because He heals on a Sabbath, did not wash his hands before meals - was compassionate, merciful and kind.
You see, the Law was not meant to change you; it just shows you how far you’ve drifted from God.
• The Law points you to Christ. Jesus fulfils the Law by living a sinless life and then dying on your behalf to satisfy its requirement – the one who sins must die.
• We are asked to focus on Christ, not the Law; we are asked to put our faith in the finished work of Christ.
We are looking at a set of photographs, photos of my friend Tom. I’ve been telling you all about my friend. Over the past few weeks we’ve been looking at these photos. Then one day, as we were doing that he steps in. You saw him, but I did not acknowledge him. I carried on my talk about him, still looking at the photos.
It’s odd but that was what the Pharisees were doing then, and what many are doing today. They kept looking at the Law – a two-dimensional thing – when the three-dimensional Messiah (the One the Law points to), was standing in their midst.
We are still looking at photos of Him and talking ABOUT Him.
Paul says in Gal 3:24-25 “So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.”
• When we focus on the rules and rituals, we are not looking to Christ.
• FOCUS ON YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS!
The Galatians made the same mistake. Gal 3:1-5
1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 4 Have you suffered so much for nothing-if it really was for nothing? 5 Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
• Q1: How are you saved? By observing the law or by believing what you heard?
• Q2: How do you expect to grow? By your human effort, or by the Spirit?
Paul urges them to continue in the same way they began.
• You are saved by faith; we are going to grow by faith in Jesus Christ.