Acts 15:7-11 – Peter and the Yoke of the Law

YokePeter reports his experience with Gentile salvation and argues that requiring Gentiles to keep the Law is placing an unnecessary yoke upon them (Acts 15:7-11).  He first briefly reminds the assembly of his encounter with Cornelius, a conversion which was confirmed by evidence from the Holy Spirit. At the time this was a shock to Peter and his companions, as well as to the Jerusalem community. Cornelius received the Spirit before he converted to Judaism. In hindsight, this may be the reason that the Spirit comes upon him even before baptism, so that there can be no question that Cornelius was saved apart from conversion.

When Peter describes the Law as a “yoke” on the Gentiles he is not necessarily criticizing the Law. In Judaism, the idea of being “yoked” to the Law is a positive image, although there is often the implication of completeness – if you are yoked to the Law, you are required to keep it all (Bock, Acts, 501).  To live under the yoke of the Torah or yoke of Wisdom was to live as God intended!

Sirach 51:26 Put your neck under (wisdom’s) yoke, and let your souls receive instruction; it is to be found close by.

PsSol 7.8-9  For you will have compassion on the people Israel forever  and you will not reject (them); And we are under your yoke forever, and (under) the whip of your discipline.

m.Aboth 3:5 R. Nehunya b. Haqqaneh says, “From whoever accepts upon himself the yoke of Torah do they remove the yoke of the state and the yoke of hard labor. And upon whoever removes from himself the yoke of the Torah do they lay the yoke of the state and the yoke of hard labor.”

m.Ber 2.2 Said R. Joshua b. Qorha, “Why does [the passage of] Shema precede [that of] And it shall come to pass [if you keep my commandments]? So that one may first accept upon himself the yoke of the kingdom of heaven and afterwards may accept the yoke of the commandments.

Despite being given the Law, Peter says the forefathers were never able to “bear the yoke.” Luke 11:46 uses a similar phrase with respect to the traditions of the Pharisees, so it is possible Peter has  “beyond the Torah” traditions in mind.  I really cannot see the requirement of circumcision for converts to Judaism  as one of these sorts of burdens, however.

What is more, Peter calls the imposition of law on the Gentiles “testing God.”  Luke used πειράζω in Acts 5:9, Sapphira “tests” the Holy Spirit.”  To “test God” is to invite disaster! Like Gamaliel’s advice to the Sanhedrin, perhaps it is better to let Paul continue rather than to be on the wrong side of God’s work in this new age. In fact, Peter has already learned God accepts Gentiles without circumcision when the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius (before circumcision and before baptism!) For Peter, it is dangerous for the Jerusalem community to impose the Law on these new Gentile converts.

Peter therefore is agreeing with Paul, God saves both Jew and Gentile by faith.  But God has only given the Law to Israel, not the Gentiles. He agrees with Paul’s claim that Gentiles are not converts to Judaism, although he may stop short of agreeing that Jews and Gentiles both are converts to something new, a new people of God which Paul will later call the “body of Christ” (Eph 3:1-6). Peter is not saying that Jews ought to disregard Law, but only that Gentiles ought not be given this additional burden.

31 thoughts on “Acts 15:7-11 – Peter and the Yoke of the Law

  1. It is interesting the change in perspective that the Jews have once they see that the Gentile Christians don’t have to keep the law. I’m sure it was not always “fun” to keep the law or to be “that person” who can’t do something because of their religious beliefs, but they were accustomed to it and it was part of what set them apart from the rest of the community. When they see that other Christians do not have to keep the law, however, suddenly there is probably some anger and jealousy amongst them. They have had to keep the law all their lives and have been “suffering” for the cause of Christ and all of a sudden there are a bunch of new Christians who get to “do whatever they want” and still be considered like them. I imagine it may have been somewhat like how people today get “jealous” of someone who gets saved on their deathbed who lived a partying, “fun”, crazy lifestyle and now gets all of the “perks” of being saved when they die. But they have missed out on many opportunities of witnessing and bringing others to the faith that they have only just come to love. And that is the blessing that the Jew Christians could cling to in the same way that lifetime Christians can today.

  2. When Peter accuses the council of putting “God to the test” is a strong accusation. Like P.Long says, “’To test God’ is to invite disaster.” Other places in the New Testament we see Jesus condemns Satan himself for putting God to the test, Matt 4:7 and Luke 4:12. The ESV notes in Deuteronomy 6:16 say, “Testing God is an act of disobedience and a lack of trust in him.” P.Long gave the example of Ananias and Sapphira dying because they tested the Spirit of the Lord. Looking at these references we can understand that it was a strong accusation to pore on to the Jewish council and defiantly something they would not want to be guilty of. After the accusation Peter states, “We will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (v. 11). Looking to anything else other than God’s grace is direct act of disobedience and lack of trust in him. This statement is so powerful that after Peters argument, the whole “assembly fell silent.” When I see debates between two people or groups it is rare their falls a silence because of what someone’s statement is. The debaters are to be ready with accouter-response. The silence we see here is because their argument crumbled apart; they had nothing more they could say. They could not argue that all are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus.

  3. The points that you have made about Peter’s comments on the law are very good. I also wonder if Paul took Peter’s speech and when he wrote Galatians this is where his theology on circumcision came from. Galatians 5 Paul states not to take on the yoke of slavery and that if we take on circumcision we are to take on the whole law. Both Peter and Paul seemed to have known that both Judaism and baptism were/are unimportant and unnecessary for salvation. Neither men wanted the gentiles to have to take these things on and for them to become heavy on the converts as it was for themselves.

  4. At first, I was rather confused by Peter’s admonition (Peter’s not saying…)but when I went back and read Acts 15, Peter’s admonition to both Jews and Gentiles is well said. As P. Long mentions, Paul was not saying that Jews should disregard the Law, but he also did not want to add another burden upon the Gentiles. It seems that Peter appears to be an intercessor of sorts between the Jews and Gentiles as they struggle with the conflict of circumcision. It is interesting to note that Peter explains to the crowd in clear terms that circumcision is not a necessary requirement in order to know God. Instead, he settles this conflict by reminding them that “there is no distinction because us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.” (15:9) While Peter does not completely disregard the Law, he (by the judgment of the Lord) inquires the Gentiles to “abstain from such things as idols and sexual immorality” (15:20) in order that they may remain “set apart” in their faith to God like the Jews.

  5. To me this seems pretty straight forward. The Jews have already been given the law and should still keep the law. The Gentiles have never been given this law and should not be held accountable to the Jewish law because they are not being “converted” to Judaism, but to something completely different. They are being converted to Followers of Christ. It is always funny to see when someone tells one group of children that they have to follow rules and then tells another group close by that they do not have to follow the same rules. You get a huge uproar from all the children who have to follow the rules and I am sure that they will be screaming, “Well, if I have to do it, then why don’t they??” I am sure this is what some Jews were thinking to themselves when they were being told all these things. This does not mean that the Gentiles got to do whatever they wanted to, but they were not held to the exact same law as the Jews were.

  6. God provided the Law to show the Jews their sin. The Jews had been keeping the Law since Moses. Jews did not know anything different. When God redeemed Cornelius and indwelled him with the Holy Spirit before he was water baptized, Peter and the Jews did not understand what was going on because they had never seen this before (Acts 10:44-47). This was something completely new. He says that God “purified their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9). Peter tells the other Jews that they should not think of themselves differently than the Gentiles. Later, Peter says, “…we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they” (Acts 15:11). Peter knew that the Jews and Gentiles would now be saved from separation from God through “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:11). Jews and Gentiles could now both come to know the Lord through faith. However, he was probably still trying to figure out the details of what this salvation by faith alone really looked like. Becoming “unyoked” to the Law was something that was foreign to the Jews. Peter knew that the Gentiles did not have to abide by the Law because “God has only given the Law to Israel, not the Gentiles” (“Peter and the Yoke of the Law” Post). Steve had a good point: “This does not mean that the Gentiles got to do whatever they wanted to, but they were not held to the exact same law as the Jews were.” God dealt differently with different groups of people.

  7. Peter makes a huge stride in agreeing with Paul’s argument. In seeing that the Law is for Jews and not the Gentiles, Peter makes a great leap in his walk with Christ. He sees that faith in Christ is the answer to salvation, as opposed to that and following the Law. It is good that Heather points out that he didn’t let the Gentiles off without any guidance. Peter gave the Gentiles a “Gentile Law” to follow. This is interesting to note that God still requires something of the Gentiles and doesn’t just let them frolic around. This law does not seem as difficult to follow as the Jewish Law, and it seems to speak to the Gentile nations at the time.

  8. “Peter is not saying that Jews ought to disregard Law, but only that Gentiles ought not be given this additional burden” – When I was reading this post on the law, and this last line in particular, the I cannot shake the notion that there is a definite separation between the “Jewish Christians” and the “Gentile Christians”. To me, this seems like not the way God had intended it. When I think of Jesus coming back to die for our sins, I think of everyone being made equal in God’s sight. Not one person is held to a higher standard than another because of their history before they received Christ as their Lord and Savior. However, maybe there is an actual Biblical separation between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians in a “Yoke” sense as described in the post. Where Jewish Christians are almost held to a different standard than other converts.
    Acts 18:6 is the verse that says Paul was met with controversy from the Jews so he went to the gentiles. This shows an obvious disconnect of the two groups in the first place because of the demographics and where the people live. But it also alludes to the willingness to accept what Paul was teaching. The Jews, with their laws and traditions, were less ready to rely fully on faith for their salvation. The Gentiles had nothing but Pagan gods to rely on before so the switch to Jesus was new for them.
    Jewish Christians might also be held to a different standard with an additional burden because they themselves believe that they have to adhere to a higher standard. If they personally believe that they need to follow the laws to be saved then not living by the Law is a direct disobedience to God. This example may be a little extreme but it is an idea why the Jews might be held to a different standard.

  9. What Peter seems to be hinting is that the Law is not the governing body over the values and beliefs of Christianity? In Matthew 5:17, Christ says, “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Christ explains that he life and death on the cross fulfilled the prophets testimony of a Messiah to come, and Christ fulfilled the Law in that He paid the ultimate sacrifice for sins. However, Christ later states in the passage that keeping the law is also still required of Christians, “whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:19).” However, Christ also says, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:20).” This is a strong statement by Jesus. He says that it is still important to keep the law, but in verse 20, Christ also clearly states that keeping the law is not the way of salvation. He says that if you cannot keep the law better than the Pharisees, who, in Jewish society are regarded as the most devout and religious, it is impossible to achieve salvation. What Christ appears to be getting at is that fulfillment of the law is a byproduct, not a requirement, for the Christian life. This also seems to be what Peter is stressing in Acts.

    Peter says, “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 (15:10)?” Peter wants to show his fellow believers that even they are unable to keep the law perfectly, and that they had not seen the law as a requirement for salvation when they received the Holy Spirit and converted, so why would they require it of the Gentiles? The ultimate correction Peter makes is that keeping the law and circumcision goes against the concept of grace provided by God, that it is, “by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).” Salvation is a gift given through faith by God, not something that requires the keeping of laws and tradition.

  10. I find it interesting that Peter would say that both Jew and Gentile are saved by faith but then go on to say that the Jews ought not to give up the Law. The Law, if i am not mistaken, was made for a means of salvation for the Jews before the coming of the Lord. After Christ had died He had abolished the Law and made it no longer useful in terms of salvation, which Peter agrees with. Peter then goes on to say that the Law is still something to be upheld which contradicts what salvation through faith means. If faith is the new terms of salvation then why would Peter also be saying that the law needed to be something that the Jews should uphold. There are many passages through out Scripture that talk to this idea of Salvation through Faith that then discredit the point that Peter had been trying to make. I think that Peter is making a good point but I do believe that the point became null and void with Christ’s death on the cross.

  11. I haven’t been following many of the recent posts and comments here, so this may have been addressed recently. Still, it may bear repeating. From the perspective of close, careful comparison of Paul’s several statements about the Jerusalem “so called pillars” and “super apostles” (sarcasm), and naming both James and “Cephas” more than once, especially in relation to his eating with Gentiles in Antioch, it seems quite clear that Luke is presenting Peter and the position of Peter in a quite different light.

    This is not surprising as it happens at many, many points in Acts, when comparisons are made and differences are not just forced into a false harmonization. We have to let the texts speak for themselves, and the results are often unsettling for our ideas of early apostolic harmony and harmony of the branches and individual congregations of the earliest “church”. That is, the first 3-4 decades, after which it certainly didn’t get any LESS diverse and contentious although the scattering of leadership from Jerusalem and diluting of the control/influence of that direct-from-Jesus line allowed an author like Luke to create a very dubious “bridge” between his favored Paul and the Jerusalem leaders and beliefs.

  12. Peter regarding the council and the gentiles is a very interesting piece of scripture and story. It is almost like one of those secret clubs you made in young elementary, where everyone knew of the club but only a select few could make it into the club. Those who were accepted into the club had to do wild acts to prove they were worthy to be in the club. The Jews are a small club like people, set apart by God to be different from all other nations and before this time anyone who wanted to be in that club needed to do wild acts, circumcision and other laws, to enter into this club. Peter now is saying that through the death of Jesus Christ, gentiles do not need to follow these laws to receive the Holy Spirit but through faith. Peter even goes as far as to say that to put these laws on gentiles would be to ‘test god’ which P. long says is to invite disaster. The council does agree with Peter and Paul in the end, but I can’t help thinking if they had not agreed and had demanded the gentiles to follow these laws, what would have happened? Would the Jews be punished, would gentiles have kept the law? That would be an interesting idea to pursue in further depth.

  13. I find it funny that this was something huge for Peter and other Jews to accept. Hindsight is so much more clear than you would imagine. We can see that it is obvious that Gentiles do not need to follow the law. However, we can look at things we are going through right now and compare them to this situation. In what way will hindsight view our struggles with homosexuals in the church? How about our struggles with tatoos and piercings? I would say that hindsight has shown us that guitars and drums on the stage of the church is not a terrible thing. While Im’m not comparing styles of worship to the topic of homosexualty, I am comparing our treatment of them. Only time will tell which direction was the right one to go in, I just find it interesting that in hindsight things are so clear, while during the time we struggle with these things, nothing is clear!

  14. Looks like you have an astute class this semester. I miss having to do posts and responding to material that was actually informative. You all should be honored to take a class with P. Long. Well enough with the flattery.

    I wonder if we come at this issue of circumcision and law, especially in Peter’s response to the Jerusalem council, too much from a Lutheran perspective. A perspective which paints the pharisees as a ‘legalistic’ group of religious elites that focused on works-righteousness and Paul as the radical reformer that comes along and preaches faith righteousness. Peter then is caught in the middle and forced to choose the option that is more theologically sound and less burdensome for the community of grace.

    If we considered what P. Long posted from the intertestamental literature about the law being a yoke to instruct in wisdom and yoke in which one carries the kingdom of heaven then it would make sense that the pharisees would want to protect this law. It is especially significant that the Maccabean revolt was seen as a success because it represented a return to covenant faithfulness. The law and traditions became a rallying cry for revolution and a safeguard against foreign assimilation. Without the law, acting as a wall around the Jewish community, as the key identifier for the Jewish community, it is uncertain if they would have survived the Hellenistic assimilation.

    To classify the Pharisaical Christians as a group concerned solely with circumcision as a sign of salvation is to sell them a little short. Circumcision was a brand upon a Jewish male to mark their claim on the inheritance promised to Israel. Essentially the circumcision party was insisting that if the gentiles wanted a claim in the community and partake in the kingdom of God, then they must set themselves apart as those counted among the inheritance. It is this ideal that Peter challenges, an ideal that claims that covenant inheritance and communal participation is marked by one’s faithfulness to the covenant, a covenant which the whole of Israel failed to keep despite their adherence to circumcision. Yet the spirit has performed an obvious circumcision of the heart among these gentiles. A branding which marks them as participators of the covenant and members of the community. The branding was not contingent upon the actions of man, but upon the action of God.

    So thus, to ‘test God’ is to test the brand that God had marked these gentiles with, the Holy Spirit. To force upon them the mark of circumcision is to scar them with but another mark in order confirm their inheritance by human means. That is what you call asinine. The provisions made by the council were those which would ensure a happy table fellowship between Jewish Christians, who had been living under a dietary code which inherently resisted the practices of idolatry in surrounding nations, and the gentile Christians, who had just left a culture permeated by idolatry and its devices.

    I figured I would just throw my two cents in, probably wrong anyway. Happy studying.

    • I think that was at least four or five cents, thanks. You are right to correct the common Christian view (popular among preachers) that circumcision was some kind of guarantee of salvation. No one “put their faith” in that ritual. Like baptism for Christians, it is almost impossible for a Jewish person to conceive of a Jew who chose not to be circumcised. For Paul to say that the Holy Spirit is the indication that one has been accepted as the “people of God” and that submission to the ritual of circumcision was not only unnecessary but dangerous spiritually was radical indeed.

  15. It is certainly part of the central theme of Acts that the Spirit has been conferred, both upon Jews AND (the surprising part for Jesus’ followers, per Luke), upon Gentiles. I’m wondering if you or anyone has written some from an analysis of just how the believers came to judge what was a unique experience that indicated a coming of the HS? Despite a lot of study of Acts and Paul, I’ve not looked at the relevant passages in this light.

    And if it was tongues-speaking, was this unusual or seemingly unique to them (it certainly isn’t, viewed over many cultures in many situations)? As to new believers (esp. Gentiles or “dispersed” Jews/proselytes/God-fearers, as we mainly have at Pentecost) that is what mainly comes to my mind? For an “apostle” (clearly a broad term), was it the continuation of miracles of the type Jesus had done? (Again, mostly not unique unless he/they actually did raise those both dead and buried, as in Lazarus’ case.)

    In other words was there a unique “religious experience” or other kind of sign of a fresh, broad arrival of the Spirit of God that, at the time to key believers? If so (which Luke argues, it seems), what was it, precisely? I’m not sure we see agreement between Paul and the Jerusalem leaders re. this.

    • That is a great question, Howard. If the sign is the Holy Spirit, then there are problems since the Holy Spirit does not always come on a believer when they believe (Acts 8 for example) and Luke does not always point out that a community experienced some sign from the Holy Spirit (Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth). Theologically I assume that these people believed and received the Holy Spirit, but Luke does not always point out tongues (or other miracles) as a “proof” of the HS. I suppose that in early Acts there are manifestations of the Spirit so that the Jews would know that the HS has come upon Gentiles (Cornelius, especially).

      For later, Gentile oriented churches, I wonder if 1 Cor 12:3 can be used as a model – no one can confess “Jesus is Lord” unless that person speaks by the Spirit of God.

      As for agreement with Jerusalem, you are right, although I wonder if some (many?) in Jerusalem were over-suspicious of Paul’s gentile converts. Even if they spoke in tongues, there may still have been a resistance to their inclusion because they failed to fully convert to Judaism.

  16. Though inadvertent, Peter’s defense of conversion by faith in Gentile believers opens the door to the possibility of the expulsion of the Law in both Jewish and Gentile Christians. While defending the truth that is a Gentile conversion through faith alone, Peter reminds the Jewish believers gathered of their inability to uphold the Law throughout their history as a people, referring to it as a yoke that they themselves, meaning the Jews, have been unable to bear. This brings into question the role of the Law not only for Gentiles who came to faith without it, but also Jews, who, seeing the Gentiles come to faith without the use of the Law, may see its function as being rendered purposeless. Therefore, it is likely that this stance made by Peter not only expanded the already existing division between Jews and Gentiles but also created a divide between Jews who believe the Law to be necessary to salvation, and those who had begun to see it as previous instruction no longer required under the new law. This could potentially have created a Samaritan-like Christian group in the new Church, one that, while being raised Jewish, held Gentile-like beliefs, leaving them possibly outside of both camps. Paul, of course, had been striving to build relationships with Gentiles in the surrounding nations, and Peter’s attention was focused on the Jewish-Christian community. So it is unclear who would play a role in leading those Christian Jews who held Gentile views on the old Law.

  17. This particular passage has some rich theological meaning. The yoke of the law is given to the people of Israel. Judaism is concerned with laws, and circumcision, along with temple worship. Whereas, after the cross, faith becomes the important factor in receiving salvation. Those who were Jewish Christians, still kept the law. Which could imply that they still thought that the law was necessary to save. Naturally, it would make sense that the Jewish believers would want the gentiles to observe the law. However, we know that this is not the case, and Peter had this confirmed through Cornelius’ conversion. The significance of how he received the Holy Spirit is important in order to understand the nature of salvation. We see that Cornelius believed, and received the Holy Spirit. It did not take baptism, it was not any of the laws they observed, it was simply faith that saved. And to validate their belief, the Holy Spirit comes upon them. Thus, when thinking about the law, it would be difficult for a man to fully convert to Judaism, making the law a burden to the gentiles. Whereas, the message is to repent and believe. Which then makes sense why Peter would agree with Paul.

  18. The Law was and is a part of the Jewish tradition for a long time, all the way back to Moses. It was something that holds Jews to a high standard. It had a lot of finite details that had to be followed specifically so as to remain pure. It was a difficult thing for the Jewish people to do, but they did it nonetheless in accordance with their traditions and beliefs. Neither Peter or Paul reject the Law in Acts, but in Acts 15 Peter does speak out against it in a minor way. Peter did not want the new believers to be burdened by the Law. Peter wanted to keep things straightforward and simply through grace alone. Jewish people who grew up under the law struggled with keeping it (Acts 15:10), Peter’s argument was based on that and he asked why put that weight, or yoke, on new believers. In addition to that, Jesus came and changed things and saved people their sins, without the help of the Law. Yes, grace coincides with the Law, but the Law is not a necessary part of salvation. That is a major point that Peter was trying to make as well. “God had cleansed the Gentiles through faith (15:9)” (Jipp 83). This agrees with the message that Paul was bringing to the Jewish people as well (Long). It was important that the Jews understood this new standard for God’s way. Acceptance of Jesus and His forgiveness is the way to be saved and to spend eternity with God, not the Law, though it has its benefits.

  19. It’s important for the faith of the Gentiles to not have the burden of the Law on them, because by putting the need to keep the Law on Gentile converts to Christianity indicates that it is by works and faith that they are saved, rather than by grace. It is understandable that the Jews think that the Law is still worth keeping, and it’s part of their way of life, but it’s also important that they grasp the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross. Christ didn’t die so that the Gentiles could convert and be bound by the Law, rather he died to make just the opposite happen.
    The aspect of completeness is also worth noting– that the Jews believed that the yoke of the law meant they were bound to all of it. Putting this burden on a newly converted Gentile would be substantial, to say the least. Because none of their forefathers have ever completely kept the law, the Jews haven’t even fully bore that yoke. So, the idea of putting the yoke that even the Jews can’t bear on Gentiles is folly. It’s also worth noting that the Law is only meant for Israel, and God hasn’t placed it on those outside of Judaism.

  20. It is understandable that the Jews would not want to give up the law. It is like trying to introduce something new to elderly people in the church who have been there their whole lives. They wouldn’t want everything to change, or anything to change quickly for that matter. They want to keep the law because it is what they are used to and they want to follow it. Although they could never fully immerse themselves in it and fully practice every detail of it, it was still important to them. The fact that they were not able to be fully yoked with the law is a part of the reason why Paul did not want the Gentiles to be intimidated by it and have to follow it. An example of this today is the way we should evangelize. If we want a non-believer to know Jesus, we shouldn’t throw the law and the commandments and religion in their face. We should talk about God’s grace and how we can have an intimate relationship with Him and how much He loves us. It would not be very appealing to have someone shove religion down your throat. Paul approaches his decision to eliminate the need of practicing the law for the Gentiles for this same reason. He wants them to be focused on the Gospel and the relationship they could have with Jesus.

  21. When I think of being yoked to the Law, I imagine the modern day Mormon church. Due to their chosen faith, they are unable to drink caffeine and must fast on Sunday (from my experience growing up with a Mormon grandmother). They also have special clothing that sets them apart from other faiths as well as hold traditional ceremonies in their respective temples. Although all professing Mormons are held to this standard, very few are able to “bear the yoke” of their practices. Comparing this to the Gentile situation at hand in Acts 15 would be like telling modern day Baptists they can’t have their coffee and cookies on Sunday because it does not fit into the Mormon convictions of their profession of faith. It is also interesting how some Jews did not circumcise their sons in order that they would be able to participate in the Greek culture of nude sports (Long 88). So if all Jews are not adhering to the standards of their faith, that allows for the Gentiles to poke holes in the argument that circumcision was necessary fro conversion. Looking at Cornelius unique experience with receiving the Holy Spirit prior to salvation and baptism, shows that there is no reason for prior circumcision to be required for Gentiles to experience saving faith in Jesus Christ.

  22. Reading through Acts 15 I found myself reading through these five verses over and over again. For me I loved the metaphor that Peter gives here. As a Christian of the modern century I think it is easy to say that the conflict of circumcision does not apply to me since I am a Jewish Christian. Although I grew up in the face of the Jewish culture, the majority of my Mother’s family is practicing Jews. So, I could not help but find myself thinking of how they may interpret this. They hold up the law even today and this is a real issue for them. Although they do not believe that Jesus was the messiah so it does change a few things. Over the years some of my family has become born again Christians and this is extremely real. I can recall a time my mother shared that one of her cousins struggled with upholding the food laws after she came to Christ. In this passage Peter’s metaphor of comparing the Law as a burdensome “Yoke” and for me this is real because I see this in my relatives. They held in bondage of the law and do not see the power of faith. In the passage of Acts I am encouraged because we are saved “by faith” (vs.9) and as Christians we should be happy we are not bound by the law but by the grace and love of God we are saved by faith and not our works. I loved how this blog connects baptism into works. We are not saved from work or by being baptized but by our faith and because of our faith and love for God we should be inspired to have/do good works for the Lord and publicly display our faith through baptism. Acts 15:7-11 is a great passage to understand how the little the law/good works are compared to our faith in the Lord is in salvation.

  23. Peter’s insight here likely stems from his experience in the house of Cornelius. Here as you have mentioned he has seen the Holy Spirit come to Gentiles, who feared God, but had never been circumcised, nor baptized. Peter has seen with his own eyes that for the Gentiles salvation can come apart from practicing the law. In chapter 15 he has likely had some time to reflect on this experience as well, and the gleanings that he has gained from this reflection is well shown as wisdom here. How great is God, to set these things into motion for Peter to understand these things at this time without explicitly having to state them beyond Peter’s initial vision of a sheet from heaven?

  24. It’s quite satisfying to hear from Peter addressing his fellows Jews on the account of Mosaic law in regard to saving faith. As we know of, when they return back to Jerusalem, most of them were glad to hear about Gentile conversions, excepts these Jews on the one hand insist the Gentiles to circumcise and keep the law of Moses in order to be fully saved. Peter who is Jew by birth fully understood that God can saved people apart from the Law, just like what he witnessed on Cornelius endowment of the Holy Spirit before his circumcision. Note that, Peter in no way trying to exclude the law or nullify the law, in fact he is claiming the Holiness of the Law and why human will never be able to conform the law therefore it’s a great yoke for those who are trying to perfect through keeping the law. Peter admonishes his fellow Jews in (Acts 15:10) not to impose the yoke of the law on the Gentiles on which “our” ancestors cannot bear or keep it fully either. And the law was given to only the Jews, not the Gentiles, but the new covenant promise was not like Mosaic law, it will not be written on a stone tablet but in their heart and mind for all. By saying the Gentile should keep the law, bring additional burden in which we can’t follow. In (Acts 15:8) Peter was alluding how God know the heart of all men, and chose people by imparting them the Holy Spirit, not by giving them law, or circumcision, and only purifies their heart by faith not by keeping the law of Moses or circumcision.

  25. The idea of Gentiles being given an additional burden under the yoke of the Law makes quite a bit of sense. Already being distant from the Jewish culture making a leap from polytheistic traditions to monotheistic would be quite a substantial transition that adding the Law of Moses would impose too much. In addition to Christ being the one who came to fulfill the Law, why would there be necessity in returning to the Law, was Christ’s sacrifice not good enough? Of course his sacrifice was enough. As Paul would later write to the Galatians who would return to legalistic behavior, their gospel was no gospel at all! Although the Gentiles would not be required to keep the Law, since both Jew and Gentiles would be a part of the Body of Christ, having certain boundary markers practiced such as abstaining from sacrificed food and sexual immorality would make Jew and Gentile fellowship much easier (Polhill, 2115). This however did not put them under the Law but would direct the Gentiles to certain moral standards, or horizontal truths, that should be upheld even by the Body of Christ today. We may not have to worry about food sacrificed to idols today, but sexual immorality has been relevant since even before the Body of Christ.

  26. The idea that the law would be an additional yolk to the Gentiles is intriguing. As mentioned in the blog it is a blessing for the Jews to have the law (Long, 2019). For the Jewish people it was a sign that they were Gods chosen people and set apart. Even though it was a gift from the Lord, Peter points out that the people of Israel could never fully follow it (Polhill, 2016, p. 2115). I find Peters position in this discussion as very important. I think that it changed the tone of the meeting. Peter points out that the law cannot make one righteous (Polhill, 2016, p. 2115). Why do then the Gentiles need to follow all these rules that not even God’s chosen people could follow? Peter called it how it was to the people of the council and provided a point that seems to have changed the tide of the meeting. Gentiles are saved by faith in Jesus Christ just as the Jews are (Polhill, 2016, p. 2115). There is no other way to be saved and declared righteous beside the choice to have faith. The Bible is very clear in the gospel that Jesus is the way to eternal life if the person believes in him (John 3:16). The people of the council would surely know that this is a true statement said by Christ himself. Now maybe this of course had not been written exactly like that, but a believer would know this idea to be true.

  27. The discussion in Acts 15 pertaining to the Law and to what extent the Gentiles should be required to keep it is fascinating. From a totally Christian perspective, I think sometimes we take a rather negative view of the Law. Because we are coming from a “Gentile” point of view, we view the Law as a burden, extra steps to take where God has not prescribed them (for Gentiles). However, as this blog post states, from a Judaism point of view, “to be “yoked” to the law is a positive image” (P. Long). From a Jewish point of view, I’m sure they are thinking “why *wouldn’t* the Gentiles want to be yoked to the Law?”

    However, because one cannot perfectly follow the Law, Paul refers to “any requirement to keep the OT laws as a “yoke of slavery” (Polhill, p. 2115). James is the one who proposes a compromise; the Gentiles are not to be expected to follow the OT Law in it’s entirety, but there are ways in which Gentile believers can “avoid giving unnecessary offense” to their Jewish brothers and sisters, mainly by observing parts of the law that relate to food when in shared company with Jewish believers (Polhill, p. 2115).

    Whenever I read this story, I always have struggled to reconcile Peter’s defense of Paul and his argument that Gentile believers should not be forced to keep the Law with Peter’s actions in Galatians 2, where Paul actually rebukes him for not eating with Gentiles because he was “fearing the circumcision party” (Galatians 2:12). However, as discussed in class, this story makes more sense if we suppose that Galatians 2 takes place “just prior to the conference of Acts 15” (P. Long notes, p. 90). Peter is not acting hypocritically in Galatians 2, but rather Paul’s rebuke of Peter in Galatians 2 informs Peter’s reaction to the Jerusalem conference in Acts 15, where he defends Paul. Peter has learned from Paul’s rebuke.

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