“No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (verse 11)
This sounds like a statement of the Gospel out of one of Paul’s letters – a radical and simple embrace of sheer grace. Yet, it’s Peter who’s speaking, yielding a clear indication of the unity of perception in the early church that salvation was always by grace alone. Amazing grace.
This foundational understanding, secure like bedrock, shakes other understandings into new configurations. Like the Jewish understanding that circumcision was a necessity for faith and practice. The experience of those early believers was shaken, their perspective reshaped. The church, in this chapter, comes to realize that the promise of the new covenant, itself woven throughout the Old Testament scriptures, means that the necessary circumcision is now of the heart, not the body, and that this inner working is accomplished purely by grace. Amazing grace.
For each and every member of this new community, the only entry point is through the grace of our Lord Jesus. So the early church emerges into a startling new world in which Jew and Gentile are actually one new people together. What surprise! By implication, the old divisions and hostilities are removed, simply dissolved in grace. The barriers are gone. Fellowship is wide open. The image of Peter walking happily into Cornelius’ home is one that epitomizes the new reality. After centuries of living apart, in two solitudes, a new community has formed. It’s sheer wonder. Complete surprise. Amazing grace.
We, too, most truly embrace the gospel when we live out this grace simply and plainly. Not putting up other requirements for acceptance; instead solely accepting one another in Jesus. Not holding on to distinctives so tightly that they separate us from sisters and brothers who, like us, stand in grace alone. Not viewing others as “less than” or ourselves as “better than,” but fully embracing the level playing field created by the sheer grace of our Lord Jesus. Amazing grace.
In a day in which all too many factions and dividing-issues and angry perspectives divide even Christians, let us be those who are surprised again by the simplicity and sufficiency and absolute wonder of grace. Amazing grace.
May it be our defining perspective.
Lord Jesus, thank you that your death on the cross, springing from grace lavished upon us, provides full and complete salvation for all who come to you. Let me put nothing else in the way. Let me live this grace, day by day.
Reflect: Take the words of the hymn and embrace its absolute truth for you, and every other brother and sister in Christ.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me I once was lost but now am found Was blind but now I see.