Custom Requires

Acts 15: 1

And some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

What do you say about this teaching? Is this teaching true, accurate? How would you respond to the teachers?

This was a major point of contention in the early church and yet I believe that not one of you would buy into this ideology. Salvation is in Jesus and his sacrifice and nothing else will do. It seems to be human nature for us to try to earn the gift of salvation through some act of our own. We may even raise the standard as we apply it to others. There is something about us that requires a sacrifice or some outward demonstration of what Jesus has accomplished inside us. Notice, though, that their requirement was a requirement of custom. Our customs can kill us.

We call salvation a gift because it is free. There is nothing, emphasis on nothing, any of us can do to earn even an iota of the grace which flows to us from the cross. I have never been worthy and I never will do anything that makes me even a little bit worthy of all Jesus and the Father have done for me, EXCEPT believing in Christ. Putting our lives in his hands and in his blood is the only thing that will ever make any of us worthy of any of the blessings of our Lord.

I, for one, am happy that I never have to worry about earning anything or being worthy in any sense. It was my unworthiness that brought Jesus to the earth. I couldn’t even earn 25 seconds of blessing on my own and since that is the case, I can release all striving and anxiety and just be grateful for the unblemished lamb that God, my Father, sacrificed for me. Jesus knew we could never earn even the slightest bit of the grace our Father longed to bestow upon us so he willingly shed his blood for us. Isn’t that completely amazing? Why would he give his life for creatures that could never attain even a nanosecond’s measure of worthiness? It was because of love. God so loved that He sent His only begotten (John 3: 16) and Jesus so loved that he gave himself for us.

Still, just like the teachers from today’s verse, man’s nature is to try to put conditions and requirements on the gift from God. First, who is man that he should proclaim a condition for something God has done? Second, it is an insult to the grace of God to suggest there is anything we need to do to obtain salvation. If God and Jesus were unable to accomplish salvation, what can a human do? How can we add anything to the blessing of salvation? And if it is a gift, why should we have to do anything? If I give you a present and then make you perform for it, it wasn’t free and it wasn’t a gift.

I find it personally offensive for someone to suggest that there is anything we could or should do to affect salvation in our lives other than to receive it with gladness. Paul and Barnabas were equally incensed. They understood that freedom is free to us though it cost Yahweh and Jesus a great deal. As long as we have to perform for salvation, then we will always have a hand in saving ourselves. The effect is that to some degree, even if it is a small amount, we retain lordship of our lives. That is one of the reasons God is the complete author of salvation, so that we will be free from having to be lords of our lives. We can only be free when we completely release those responsibilities to Him. So rejoice! Your Father did all that needed doing for you to receive salvation. There is no more striving, no more earning. Just relax and accept the gift of the Lord.