Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The book of the Acts of the Apostles begins with the story of the Ascension. Before going up to heaven, the Lord said to his disciples: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be witnesses to me, in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Chapters two and three are the story of the day of Pentecost, when they received power from the Holy Spirit according to the promise of the Lord.
After this account, the book is divided into two parts. The first part deals with the proclamation of the gospel in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the focus is on Saint Peter. The emphasis in the second part is on the missionary journeys of Saint Paul. In our text for today we hear of a decisive juncture. Paul and Barnabas had returned with news of the work of the Holy Spirit in Cyprus, Pisidian Antioch and Asia Minor. But, as the text says: "Some of the sect of the Pharisees, who had believed, got up, saying that it was necessary to circumcise them and command them to keep the law of Moses."
And at that moment, San Pedro took the side of San Pablo. "And after much discussion, Peter got up and said to them: My brothers, you know how, some time ago, God chose among us, that the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel through my mouth, and believe. And God, who knows hearts, bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit as well as us; and he made no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now, why do you tempt God, putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our parents nor we have been able to bear? Before we believe that by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we will be saved, just as they are.
As Saint Luke writes in Acts chapter 10, Peter was invited to the house of Cornelius the centurion and saw the work of the Holy Spirit even though the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament were not kept. Then Peter and Paul spoke with one voice. As Paul later wrote in 1 Corinthians 3: 22-23, be Paul, be Apollos, be Cephas, be the world, be life, be death, be the present, be what is to come; everything is yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ of God.
And Paul and Peter spoke together against the false teaching that the ceremonial laws of Moses apply to the faithful of the new covenant in Christ, especially circumcision. The purpose of the circumcision covenant was to separate one people from the other peoples of the earth, that is, the children by the blood of Abraham. But in the new covenant the second part of the divine promise to Abraham is fulfilled: By his Seed all nations will be blessed. God showed in the covenant of baptism, everyone receives by the Holy Spirit the gift of faith and new life, apart from circumcision and other ceremonial laws.
There is confusion among some people on this point today. The tithe of the harvests to support the work of the Levites in the Temple of Jerusalem is not obligatory for the new people of God, which is the church. Even Jews today do not pay tithing, because there is no temple, no Levites. It is not a sin for a Christian to have a tattoo, although many times it is not a good idea. The moral law, the 10 Commandments, apply to us, but it is not necessary to observe the Sabbath on Saturdays, not Sundays.
And even the moral law does not save us, because none of us can perfectly fulfill the moral law. We are justified only by faith in Christ and we have the promise of eternal life only by graces. In these words we have the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.
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