Salvation is a gift. Yessir! Absolutely. We are saved through faith, not of our own doing, it is the gift of God. Not a result of works, so that no one can boast. Drop the mic.
But this morning, as I read in Acts 15, I’m reminded that in the giving of this gift there is also a taking.
Context: a dispute within an increasingly diverse church about the need for saved Gentiles to be circumcised in order to be “fully saved.” And so, Paul and Barnabas, along with a few others, head to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles and the elders of the church there to resolve the matter.
At the meeting, Peter speaks against circumcision as “putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear” (15:10). Paul and Barnabas then speak, testifying again as to the reality of the conversion experience of the Gentiles as evidenced by “signs and wonders” (15:12). And then James speaks — an old testament, by the book sort of guy, if ever there was one, with a reputation for “show me your faith by your works.”
After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for His name. And with this the words of the prophets agree . . .”
(Acts 15:13-15 ESV)
To take. That’s what popped from the page of Holy Scripture this morning. While we so often think of salvation as being a one-sided transaction of giving eternal life, I’m reminded that the other side of the transaction is the taking of a people for His name. Salvation is a give and take thing.
While it’s true that we have been given the Holy Spirit who is “is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1;14), it’s equally true that we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession” (1Pet. 2:9). We will possess eternal riches as the gift of salvation, but He possesses us, a special people as the take of salvation.
We know that. It’s embedded, I dare to say, in almost every metaphor for the church. His body. His flock. His bride. His family. His own possession. But do we always remember that?
We are so wired to be individuals — wired by a fleshly nature, enforced by a fallen culture — that we can so easily forget that it is not about us. That even the gift we’ve been given is not about us. In fact, what can so be awe-evoking about what we’ve been given lies in the fact that He, in His grace and mercy, has taken us as a people for His name. Not that God gets the privilege of being our God, but that we are blessed beyond blessing to be His people.
Yeah, salvation is for sure a great give. But isn’t it even a greater take? I’m thinkin’ . . .
I have been taken. I am not my own. I was bought with a price. Redeemed from the bondage of sin, yet redeemed for a life of service to the Redeemer.
It’s a give and take.
Taken by grace. Taken for His glory.