Genuine faith is an essential and active ingredient in the lives of those who believe in Jesus – it motivates their actions!  This is made clear in our chapters in the Acts of the Apostles today.  The rapidly developing communities of believers had reached a crisis point when “some believers” in Jerusalem “who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses’.” [ch.15 v.5]

These Jewish converts to faith in Christ wanted the Gentile converts to fully follow Jewish ways: because of this “the apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter.” [v.6] This was held in Jerusalem and there was “much debate.” [v.7] Among the points that Peter made was “God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, havingcleansed their hearts by faith.” [v.8,9] 

Peter says that what these former Pharisees were advocating would be a “yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?  But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” [v.10,11] The lesson is – we cannot ‘earn’ salvation through keeping rituals; we are “saved through grace” and it will only be through grace that we will gain a place in God’s kingdom.  The essential ingredient for those who believe is to develop cleansed hearts, the outcome of having a genuine faith.  

At the end of the gathering a letter is composed (v.23) and sent to the Gentile believers.  It makes the point that “it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements…” [v.28] The requirement which it is most appropriate for us to carefully note in this 21st Century is to “abstain … from sexual immortality.” [v.29]  This will come naturally to those who have “cleansed their hearts by faith.”  This was also illustrated for us in some detail in our chapter 22 in Deuteronomy today. (v.13-30) as part of Moses’ earnest exhortation before the Israelites enter the promised land. May our faith become stronger – and our vision clearer – and then -how wonderfully ‘clean’ our hearts will become.    

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