12Everyone kept quiet and listened as Barnabas and Paul told how God had given them the power to work a lot of miracles and wonders for the Gentiles.
13After they had finished speaking, James said:
My friends, listen to me! 14Simon Peter has told how God first came to the Gentiles and made some of them his own people. 15This agrees with what the prophets wrote,
16 “I, the Lord, will return
David's fallen house.
I will build it from its ruins
and set it up again.
17Then other nations
will turn to me
and be my chosen ones.
I, the Lord, say this.
18I promised it long ago.”
19And so, my friends, I don't think we should place burdens on the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 We should simply write and tell them not to eat anything that has been offered to idols. They should be told not to eat the meat of any animal that has been strangled or that still has blood in it. They must also not commit any terrible sexual sins.
21We must remember that the Law of Moses has been preached in city after city for many years, and every Sabbath it is read in our synagogues.
Luke is telling us about how the early church was led to resolve a major crisis in God’s Story of salvation. A meeting takes place in Jerusalem. Peter, Paul and Barnabas share the exciting news about how God has been saving Gentiles, winning them to faith in Jesus as Messiah and Lord, giving them the great gift of salvation, the Holy Spirit!
James, Jesus’ brother, who has become the leader of the church, has listened very carefully. And, by the grace of God, he comes to see what God is up to in the world. God is including Gentiles into his people, as “his own people”! James sees that this has been the plan all along, and that God has been saying this all along. Pulling together references from the Prophets and the Law, he preaches the good news: “Then other nations will turn to me and be my chosen ones.”
Arriving at this conviction was no small miracle. The barrier between Jews and Gentiles in the first century was thick. But James could not deny what Peter and Paul and Barnabas could not deny. God had jumped over the wall, and was bringing his salvation to people of every ethnicity and cultural heritage.
James asks only for some minimal moral commitments… all quite life-giving when you think it through.
Don’t miss the wonder of James’ words. God’s purpose in choosing Israel is finally being realized – the Gentiles are coming in! It has been the plan from the beginning of the Story.
God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by grace, our Father, Praise be to you for your grace that includes us, that makes us your chosen people. Grant us grace to be who we are so that many others will want to be included too. In Jesus’ name. Amen.