Requirements vs necessities

Posted: November 3, 2010 in Me and God, The Bible

Last week, as I was on my way to the airport to fly back home, I got in an interesting conversation with the driver. Since he had mentioned that he was a Muslim, I asked a question I knew would prompt some thinking: “How do you know you will make it to heaven?” I asked this question because I have heard from many former Muslim-now-Christians that this was an issue that helped to open their hearts to the possibility of the Gospel. They report that in Islam, there is no way of knowing for sure whether you are saved. You just do your best to add on to your ‘good deeds’ scale and, in Judgment Day you discover the answer.

And sadly, isn’t this what many other non-Muslims believe? Isn’t this perhaps, the view that some Christians have?

–       How do you know you are going to heaven?

–       How good is good enough to please God

–       How much is required and how much is necessary?

The Bible has plenty of places with the answer to this question. Today I want to share what is reported in Acts 15 (By the way, you should join us at Graystone, as we are reading through Acts this month as part as the series “I love my church”)

Background: It is about 48AD. Jesus’ resurrection and Pentecost happened about 16 years ago. Since then, a group of 120 followers of Jesus, has been growing into a movement that has gained thousands of followers in Jerusalem, Judea and surrounding parts of the world. At this point, most of the new ‘Christians’ had actually been Jews, whom after acknowledging that Jesus was their promised Messiah from their Scriptures, have changed some of their customs and traditions and kept some others. However, some of the new converts had actually been non-Jews –or Gentiles. Peoples from different countries, cultures and places around the Mediterranean Sea who had no Jewish tradition or observances. (like you and me)

A group of leaders of the church argued that this new Gentile Christians should be circumcised to be saved.(v1). (ouchhh!)

Peter eloquently argues that their ‘beliefs’ are founded on salvation –for Jews and Gentiles, through the only requirement of the grace of The Lord Jesus (v11)

Then James, the big honcho of the church at Jerusalem, determines that Peter is right – acknowledging that Peter’s opinion is supported on The Scriptures, (v13-18) and decides that the new Gentile Christians will not be demanded to adopt Jewish traditions for salvation, (as they are not a ‘requirement’ for salvation) but only a few things are deemed ‘necessary’ –not for salvation, but for better co-living in fellowship with their fellow Jew Christian brothers; things that will help them to ‘do well’ (v29). This decision is later accepted and deemed as officially from the leaders and The Holy Spirit. (v28)

Conclusions:

  1. Only faith in Jesus -in His Grace and Mercy, is ‘required’ for salvation.
  2. Other things and ‘do’s’ may come along your new Christian walk, not as requirement for salvation, but as necessities to ‘do well’ in other areas; to make life easier, more pleasant to God, more productive towards The Gospel, do’s that will keep you safe and help you to experience a life of abundance, do’s to show love towards others by laying down your rights (as the Gentiles had the right to not-live under the Jewish dietary laws);  etc.

That is Good news!!; to know that faith is the only ‘requirement’ and therefore as 1 John 5:13 reads: “…we may know that we have eternal life”

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