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Which Gospel is Yours? by Pastor Paul Becker


This passage allows us to observe a conflict in the early church. The conflict was caused by Judaizers (Jews who became Christians and taught that Christians should follow the Jewish laws.) who followed Paul as he and Barnabas ministered to Gentiles in Antioch. These Jews held to the view that Gentiles could not be saved unless they were circumcised. This demand caused great concern among the Gentile Christians.  So, a decision was made to send Paul and Barnabas back to Jerusalem to seek the counsel of the Apostles. Paul and Barnabas stopped to revisit the churches they planted in other Gentile cities.  They gave each church a report about the gospel's progress, and all rejoiced!


Paul and Barnabas had an audience with the Apostles to discuss the controversy in Antioch. Just as it happened in other cities, Judaizers in Jerusalem voiced their objections to Paul’s instructions to the Gentiles. They said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses” (v. 5). The Apostles met and discussed at length the question of whether or not Gentile believers had to be circumcised. 


Peter rendered the Apostles’ decision by saying, 


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. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. (vs. 7-9)


Peter ended his speech by appealing to Israel’s history and a theological declaration about how people are saved:


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? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are. (vs. 10-11)


This chapter offers us two kinds of gospels: 


  1. The “gospel of works” declares that we are saved by living according to God's laws. Think about hearing, “You can be saved by living a good life according to God’s laws.” The problem with this gospel is that it ignores an important fact about God’s law: the penalty for sin is death. If you live a perfect life and lie once, you die. This gospel is false, and truthfully, many Christians live by it, and as a result, they suffer from uncertainty about being “good enough.”  


  1. The gospel of grace declares that we are saved by grace alone through faith in Christ alone.  In a letter to the Ephesians, Paul echoed Peter’s declaration in Acts 15 by writing: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works so that no one can boast. (Eph 2:8-9).  When you place your trust in this gospel, the certainty of your salvation is secured by Jesus’ promise to you, not your ability to live a good life. 


Which is your gospel? Let it be the gospel of grace so our hearts can be filled with peace, joy, and hope. In gratitude, let us devote ourselves to God and live according to his precepts. And when we sin, let us confess our sins to God to receive the pardoning grace of Jesus. And let us resolve to walk in the light of grace to share this gospel with others. 


PS: What about the last portion of our scripture reading? The part where Paul and Barnabas have a conflict that divides them?  We’ll pick up with that this coming Sunday!

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