Acts 15:9, “He did not discriminate between us and them, for He purified their hearts by faith.”
How do the themes of the nondiscriminatory gospel and faith relate to communion?
First of all, let’s look at the context of Acts 15 to determine who “us” and “them” are. The verses above v. 9 are addressing the Gentiles’ conversion to the gospel of Christ. There was some dispute as to exactly what they had to do to “belong” to God, like the Jews did. Some of the Pharisee believers were insisting that the converted Gentiles needed to follow the laws of the Jews, including circumcision. They were essentially saying, “We need to make them like us.” But Peter stood up and argued with them, saying “God knows people’s hearts, and He confirmed that He accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for He cleansed their hearts through faith. So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of Jesus.” He was saying God already saw them all the same. He accepted the Gentiles because of their faith, not because of the laws they did or didn’t keep. Furthermore, he reminded them all that despite having had the laws for centuries, the Jews themselves still couldn’t keep them.
Let’s look at Galatians. In chapter 2, Paul again brings up how the Jewish believers wanted to bind the law and circumcision on the Gentiles. He mentions that the brothers who brought this up were false brothers who only wished to “take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. They wanted to enslave us and force us to follow their Jewish regulations.” (v. 4-5) Paul, a Jew himself, said the others wanted to force him and those with him to follow the Jewish regulations. But he said he refused to give in. Further down in v. 14–16, he calls Peter out, not for discarding the Jewish law, but for allowing others to try to bind the law on the Gentiles yet again.
The Jewish law was given to the Jewish people to set them apart in preparation for the coming of the Christ. It didn’t make them any better than everyone else, despite how they felt. God looks at all people, all of His creation, all of His children, the same. He loves us all, and wants us all to follow Him and have faith in Him. Still in Galatians, in 3:24-29, Paul says, “Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ you are the true children of Abraham. You are His heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” In Christ, as God’s children, we are all the same. It doesn’t matter where you came from or who you are, He loves us all the same. He saves us by His grace, through our faith in Him.
Again in Romans 10:5-13, we read, “For Moses writes that the law’s way of making a person right with God requires obedience to all of its commands. But faith’s way of getting right with God…says, ‘The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.’ And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved…Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on Him. For ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'” Again, we don’t have to be born into a certain family, or race, or social class, or gender to be called children of God. We all have the same Lord, the same Father.
Which brings us back to communion. We all have the same Lord and Father, and are all part of the same body. Communion helps bring us together to remember this. We all have a place at His table. We come together to share equally the gift of His sacrifice, and the gift of His grace. Our faith in Him is what brings us together, and that faith is what has allowed our hearts to be purified – not the keeping of laws, and not the circumstances we were born into. We are ALL saved through faith, by grace.