Verse of the Day

2 Corinthians 7:1Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

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Acts 15, Established Patterns, and God's Authorized Silence

Studying the book of Acts chapter by chapter leads one to understand that salvation is attained by hearing the gospel, believing it, repenting of sins, confessing that Jesus is the Christ, and being baptized for the forgiveness of sins. The Apostle Peter establishes this pattern for salvation early in the pages of Acts (see Acts 2:22-44). Each time the church grew it was because the same gospel message was preached (see Acts 2:41; 4:4; 6: 1, 7 etc.). Philip preached the same message to the Samaritans (Acts 8:1213) and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-39). Peter preached baptism for the remission of sins to Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:48). Paul preached the same message to those of Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:38-39) and everywhere he preached (see 1 Corinthians 4:17).

By the time one arrives at Acts 15 the pattern of salvation has been firmly established. When the Apostle Paul and Barnabas hear that some are preaching the necessity of circumcision for salvation they were greatly alarmed and "had no small dissention and questioning with them" (see Acts 15:1-5). Circumcision had never been in the equation of salvation. It was now; however, being introduced by believing Pharisees. The conclusion to the matter is that salvation is by the grace of God and not by works of circumcision. The Pharisees had added a step to the salvation process that had never been there to begin with. If God desired men to be circumcised he would have had Peter, by the power of the Holy Spirit, teach this from the beginning but he did not do this.

A valuable lesson is learned regarding established patterns and authorized silence in the word of God. When God gives the command to hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized man is not at liberty to add something like circumcision to this. Neither is a man at liberty to take away any part of this established pattern. Those who say that baptism is not a part of God's saving grace are sorely mistaken (see Acts 15:1 1 in its context compared to Acts 2:38 and Ephesians 1:7). The established pattern of salvation must be left as it is.

The book of Revelation ends with a solemn warning against those who would altar God's instructions. Moses (Deuteronomy 4:2) and Paul (Galatians 1:6-9) gave similar warnings in relation to adding or subtracting from divine revelation. Man is not at liberty to alter or change God's divine instructions. God's instructions are designed to fabricate a justified man of hope. When man altars God's instructions the result is not a justified man of hope but a fabrication of man's own devices. When false teaching is added to truth, as though it represented truth it is to be identified as a doctrine of demons (see 1 Timothy 4:1ff). Subtracted ideas and doctrines only elevate a man to the status of God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). Who is man to change what the Alpha and Omega has announced?

The established pattern of salvation in the book of Acts also teaches us about God's authorized silence. God, through his apostles, taught men what they needed to know about salvation. God did not have to say "Thou shalt not be circumcised to be saved." The Lord had already revealed his mind on the subject of salvation. Today, God does not have to say, "Thou shalt not say the sinner's prayer to be saved... sprinkle babies and call it baptism... accept Jesus into your heart and consider yourself saved..." and many other man made doctrines. God's silence must be respected. Let us take the word of God for what it is and leave our human reason behind us (see Galatians 1:11-12).

John Roberson

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