Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.” The apostles and elders met to consider this question. ~ Acts 15:5-6
Upon arriving back in Antioch, Paul and Barnabas were advised that some of the Pharisaic Jewish believers still questioned the validity of Gentile salvation through the Messiah. They felt that Gentile believers must first obey the Law as handed down by Moses and be circumcised before they could be accepted into the church. The Pharisees are known for their legalism, so this comes really as no surprise.
Paul and Barnabas traveled to Jerusalem to address this question with church elders. Peter reminds the brethren that God has given the gift of the Holy Spirit to Gentile believers, just as He has to Jewish believers. He continues, “Now 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? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (15:10-11) James, citing Old Testament prophecy, validates Peter’s position. The decision is reached not to hold Gentile believers to a legalistic, law-based set of rules as proposed by the Pharisaic Jews; rather, to direct them to follow these precepts for living, “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” (15:19-20). A letter is written and sent with messengers to be shared with Gentile believers. “The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.” (15:31)
Even today, there are some in the church who seek to burden we believers with complicated rules. To be clear, we are to glorify God in the way we live our lives, but when legalistic preaching and teaching supplants the Gospel it’s time to reexamine our priorities. That’s exactly what the brethren did in this passage. The Law cannot save us; only the Savior can do that. Let us go forth and celebrate our freedom from sin and death by sharing the Gospel with those still living under the yoke of sin.
Ponder this: Am I overburdened with rules to the point at which I forget the Gospel?
My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of your Law, for through the Law I see clearly my need for a Savior. Thank you also for the gift of faith in your Son, Jesus Christ, through whom my transgressions are forgiven. Let my living be a witness to You today and every day. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN.