“God said it and now he’s doing it. It’s no afterthought; he’s always known he would do this.” Acts 15:18
This is too perfect to not share on Independence Day. That’s what the Apostle James said to the group of church leaders when they were making a pivotal decision about Gentiles and salvation; about our freedom. What were they to do with all these non-Jews who were coming to believe? The Pharisees who were now believers were still stuck to the old, hard-line, Pharisaical belief that the law of Moses must be followed; in order for the foreign converts to be saved, they must be circumcised. That should tell us something, right there. They were Pharisees, they were saved by belief in Jesus and his sacrifice and resurrection, they were filled with the Holy Spirit, yet they could not separate the Law from the Spirit. The arguments went on and on, back and forth, getting more and more heated.
Then, Peter took the floor. He didn’t bring opinion or theological points to win a debate. He reminded them of the work of the Holy Spirit outside their laws.
“Friends, you well know that from early on God made it quite plain that he wanted the pagans to hear the Message of this good news and embrace it—and not in any secondhand or roundabout way, but firsthand, straight from my mouth. And God, who can’t be fooled by any pretense on our part but always knows a person’s thoughts, gave them the Holy Spirit exactly as he gave him to us. He treated the outsiders exactly as he treated us, beginning at the very center of who they were and working from that center outward, cleaning up their lives as they trusted and believed him.
“So why are you now trying to out-god God, loading these new believers down with rules that crushed our ancestors and crushed us, too? Don’t we believe that we are saved because the Master Jesus amazingly and out of sheer generosity moved to save us just as he did those from beyond our nation? So what are we arguing about?”
There was dead silence. No one said a word. With the room quiet, Barnabas and Paul reported matter-of-factly on the miracles and wonders God had done among the other nations through their ministry. The silence deepened; you could hear a pin drop.
(Acts 15:7-12 MSG)
Then James broke the silence, reminding them of Peter’s experience when God spoke to him through the vision of the unclean creatures, telling him to kill and eat; something no good Jew would consider doing. God repeated the vision four times and Peter repeated his “No way!” four times. God concluded with, “Don’t call unclean what I have called clean. There are men coming to your door. Go with them.” And Peter was led to his first experience walking into a Gentile’s home. As he crossed that threshold into the home of Cornelius, his spiritual eyes were opened, he understood, and the door to my salvation and yours was opened. At that time, the Jews believed this gospel of salvation through Christ was for Israel alone. It took a vision repeated four times and a specific word from the Lord God of Israel to open that door to the rest of us. This had always been his plan.
Thank God the Apostles and leaders listened to the Holy Spirit and brought wisdom to chaos. It says they were all in agreement, including those Pharisees who were arguing vehemently for circumcision and the Law.
“God said it and now he’s doing it. It’s no afterthought; he’s always known he would do this… We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”
God planned for our ultimate independence from the beginning! He said it, and he did it. He always knew he would do it. The work, the patience he exercised toward man for millennia to bring about our independence; this freedom that we needed, that we all need today, no matter what country we live in.
Two hundred years ago our forefathers fought for our freedom as a country. Two thousand years ago, Jesus died for our ultimate freedom, but long before that, God was planning it.
The freedom that he fought for in my life, that he fights for in yours, was always his plan. We are meant to be free. We are meant to share this freedom and not make it difficult for those coming to Christ. That was his plan. It’s freedom from bondage and slavery, from sin and shame, from heavy burdens; but it’s also freedom to. Freedom to be and to do that which we are able. Freedom to follow the Holy Spirit, because that is an amazing adventure! That was always his plan!
God said it. He is doing it. It’s no afterthought.
He’s always known he would do this.