"No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are." Acts 15:11
Paul and Barnabas had just returned from their first missionary journey. They saw God work miraculously, saving many people - both Jews and Gentiles, alike. They saw many, many people come to faith in the Lord through the grace of God and be baptized. Upon their return and sharing this good news of salvation with the church in Antioch, they were greeted with the news that other believers had come to Antioch with an agenda. Acts 15:1 says, "Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: 'Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.'" Of course Paul and Barnabas did not agree with this teaching, so they went to meet with those who believe in salvation by tradition. They were known as "Judaizers," believers who belonged to the party of Pharisees from Jerusalem. They were legalists. They still believed that is was law and ritual and tradition that saved mankind, and they believed that everyone who chose to believe had to do so through these laws, rituals, and traditions. Peter also joined Paul and Barnabas in the discussion with the Judaizers. Peter boldly proclaimed in Acts 15:7-11, "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have ever been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."
Peter declared to the church then and to the church now, salvation is made possible by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is not about what we have done or can do for God; salvation is about what God has already done for us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peter wasn't telling the church then or even the church now that the laws don't matter or that they are no good; he was simply telling them and telling us that the laws cannot save. Only God can save...His grace through faith in Jesus Christ. To believe that I can keep any laws or traditions or rituals and be right with God is to say that I don't need God's grace, that I don't need Jesus. To believe in my own merits is to believe in legalism; legalism cheapens God's grace. Paul goes on to tell us the Jesus does what the law could not do: save mankind from their sins. He says in Romans 8:3-4, "For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." Thank God for grace! Thank God for Jesus! Thank God for salvation! I am saved today because I have repented of my sin, and I have believed in my Lord Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. Believe God's Word today! Claim God's word today! Live God's Word today!