What is Faith? (part 4)
To my readers: I may be going slowly in getting to these verses that seem to say to some that saving faith is a gift, that belief in Christ’s work is deposited in the heart, rather than a response from the heart, but if I rush through it, will I be convinced either way? Will I be accused of just cramming a verse into my own theology? Please bear with me as I look at each verse. Please offer any help.
8God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? (Acts 15:8-10)As I read the whole passage that these verses come from, I see that Peter is speaking about the difference between purification by means of Jewish law and purification by faith in Christ’s completed work. After having read the rest of the NT, I believe that we have to understand that the object of faith is what purifies us, not faith itself. When Peter says “purified” I think he is referring to the same idea as “sprinkling of the blood” which he uses in 1 Peter 1:2 and may very well have been a reference to the inauguration of the Mosaic covenant, where the people were sprinkled with the blood of a sacrifice. Now he is saying that God has purified the hearts of the Gentiles (sprinkling with the Blood of Christ), not through ceremonial law, but through faith, by faith in a one-time act of Christ that needn’t be repeated like ceremonial sacrifices did. (A new and living way). In fact, Gentiles didn’t need to keep the law at all. This is the point.
Is he saying that God put faith in our hearts and uses that faith to purify? God purifies us through Christ’s sacrifice, the blood of Christ which cleanses. John also refers to this in 1 John 1:7 … the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
Paul talks about being purified in many places. Here are just a few:
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7)
How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse … (Hebrews 9:14)
11And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)
What goes unsaid in the passage from Acts is something that was a given at this point in the conversation. God accepted Gentiles … He gave them the Holy Spirit … He made no distinction between us and them … because of the gospel (the work of Christ) in which they believed. Would someone have me to accept that this was regardless of their belief in these facts about Christ’s work – the very work which purifies? Nay.
I did notice that later in the account (Acts 15) that James says to the council at Jerusalem: "God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself." He also refers to these as "... Gentiles who are turning to God." God takes those who turn to Him. I still see it that way. People have a choice to believe the gospel when they hear it ... or not to believe.
I still have four more passages to go, but this one took me into a study that was so exciting and wonderful, I had to spend some time on it.