Fire – I see a fire – a burning furnace – intense heat. “What you are seeing is My gospel – My Gospel is more powerful than the greatest furnace – I created all the suns and stars – all of them together are less powerful than My Gospel. My Gospel has filled your heart and thoughts – continue to care for it, continue to teach it – not only to people so that they may understand it and be saved, but for every aspect of their lives – for every aspect of your life – understand and teach the true gospel and how it transforms lives – how it truly sets people free, not just initially – but every day – helping each person to live by My power through my grace, in My love – not trying to live in their own power (your own power), not trying to live to please me, not trying to jump through self-imposed hoops – but in a pure relationship of trust – remember trust before action, trust always comes first”.
In Acts ch 15, Luke describes in narrative form, how the elements of the gospel were first clarified and defined in the early church. This is a vital section, because perhaps the greatest problem in the church then and ever since then is the pollution of the pure gospel of grace. A drifting away from the simplicity yet magnificent power of the pure Gospel of Jesus. Up till now in Acts there have been various expressions used to describe the people who were being saved. They are described as hearing the testimony or message believing or accepting it. cf Acts 6:10, 10:43, 11:21, 13:48. Now in ch 15, the Lord arranged a confrontation between those who were saying that you can only be true Christian, i.o.w. “saved”, if you are also circumcised and keep the law of Moses.
I say the Lord arranged it because He is firstly always in control, but secondly it was a pathway to defining that the gospel is completely free, requiring no additional conditions so that this decision could be recorded for every generation from then on. So here we read in 15:11 “We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus we are saved, just as we are”. just before that he said “He purified their hearts by faith”, demonstrating the basic benefit of the gospel of complete forgiveness of sin: v 9 b. Overarching these two statements is the plain statement which seals and defines the real conversion of the unbeliever: “God, who knows the heart, showed He accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them”.
There was one additional instruction, v 20, but it should not be seen as a condition of salvation. It had to do with the social interaction of the new Christians in Antioch and the the Jewish believers. In those days there were no restaurants as we understand them, people’s social life in many cases took place in the pagan temples where meals were served and people could interact with each other. This was intolerable to the Jewish believers and also undesirable for the Gentile believers and so the warning not to participate in these feasts.
Although circumcision was a huge issue then it is not any more, yet there are vast denominations that hold baptism (especially infant baptism) as a requirement for salvation. But that is not nearly the only example of an additional requirement that people are expected to do to be saved. More recently, for instance, speaking in tongues was in vogue as sign that you had been “baptized in the Spirit”‘ a synonym for being “born-again”. Then there are groups and even denominations that demand the laying on of hands, usually by a specific person as a requirement and there are many other less formal examples.
Please understand me clearly, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with these practices, it is the laying down of one or more of them as a requirement for salvation that changes the gospel to no gospel at all.
For many years I believed, without voicing it that when I died God would measure my life and if more than 50% was good it meant I would qualify to go to heaven. When I returned from the weekend in Noordhoek, where I met the Lord, I was asked at the church bible study to give my testimony. I can clearly remember my reply. “Its free, I have discovered that it is completely free!” I kept saying it over and over, while tears were running down my cheeks..
Please forgive me if you feel I am repeating what I have said previously. It is because this is such an important subject that we cannot stress it enough, especially in the light of what I sensed God was saying to me earlier and in the light of the vast pollution in what is taught as the gospel throughout many churches.
So what do I glean as Jesus’ message to me today? Very clearly that I need to keep asking myself if I am trusting in Jesus’ death on the cross as the only means to salvation and am I living that freedom out in my every day life?
Why don’t you examine yourself again today, as you should do regularly? (2 Cor 13:5)