What is the requirement for salvation?
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV) (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians%202&version=NIV)
What is the requirement for salvation?
This has been disputed for many years. A few years after Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead, Paul and Barnabas were faced with the same question in Acts 15:1-21. There were certain people who were teaching the believers that a gentile believer had to be ‘circumcised’ if he was to become a Christian.
While Jesus was on earth, he often confronted the Pharisees because they were so concerned about performing what the law required, they forgot the real reason of the requirement. So when a person is raised as a Pharisee, it is difficult to stop performing and begin believing.
Peter and James were in Jerusalem at the same meeting as Paul. And Peter had this to say:
After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe.. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” Acts 15:7-11 NIV (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%2015&version=NIV)
Peter also spoke up and reminded the audience that God talked about this very situation in the book of Amos.
When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. 14 Simon[a] has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:
“‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, 17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’[b]— 18 things known from long ago.[c]
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” Acts 15:13-21 NIV (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%2015&version=NIV)
In our society today, we tend to be like the Pharisees. We become judges and try to determine who is a ‘Christian’ by what they do. We allow certain people to join our organizations based on what they do just like the first Christian leaders were doing in Acts 15.
People are no different today. Being a Christian is not performing to a certain standard. It is not about a warm fuzzy feeling. It is about God and his love for us. It is about being saved by faith that we accept God’s grace and not by anything we can do.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. John 3:16-18 NIV (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%203&version=NIV)