During the time of the first churches, an issue arose between the Jewish and Gentile believers in Antioch in Syria: should Gentile converts be circumcised as prescribed by the laws of Moses?
It was really a tough issue, especially with the Jewish believers not very comfortable mixing with Gentiles. The Jews, even though they believed in Jesus, had their Jewish roots deeply ingrained in their being.
Not surprisingly, the Gentiles disagreed, especially with the Apostle Paul going against it. This issues was later laid to rest after a council was scheduled in Jerusalem with the Apostle Paul arguing for the Gentiles. It was a special moment when unity and agreement was reached: that the Gentile believers should not be burdened with the yoke of the Law of Moses which even the Jews had a hard time following.
All is well that ends well, right? But what does this tell us?
In this council and the subsequent decision, God showed that traditions do not matter in salvation. That it is by God’s grace that we and everyone who believes, is saved.
Acts 15:11, “We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”
Ephesians 2:8-9, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”
We need to admit that many of us grew in a household of traditions, some good and some superstitious. These then affects what we believe in. And even when meet Jesus and receive Him as our Lord and Savior, these traditions persists. Just like the circumcision issue with the Jews. Heck, many Filipinos are circumcised without this knowledge. When I underwent this rite, there was no religious significance. I got circumcised because it was a “rite of manhood,” to “test yourself against fear.” There was this health issue thing. 😎
To us Filipinos, circumcision signifies that you are now a man. Failure to be circumcised meant persistent teasing and humiliation. To the Jews, this was a very important ritual. It means they have been been separated for God. If you are not circumcised then you are not a Jew.
But the Gentiles did not know is. And so, by the grace of God and His wisdom, the Gentile believers were spared, effectively taking out the significance of circumcision. The Gentile believers were then prescribed the essential requirements: to no eat blood and strangled animals, avoiding sexual immorality and food offered to idols.
When Jesus died for us, and we believe His message and confess our faith in Him, that was enough to gain the Kingdom of God and eternal life. Truly by His grace and mercy alone.