Acts 15:10, “Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?”
In today’s Church and in the religious world in general, man suffers from one or even two extremes. One is that any real knowledge or substance about God is better felt than understood through Biblical study. The other is that in order to be a real Christian one has to be, “only legally so,” and anything more is just unthinkable. The former is a result of sincere spiritual ignorance, or possibly Biblical laziness. The latter is the idea that someone’s own sense of righteousness is superior to anyone else’s righteousness because they think it is so. Both are judgmental as well as sinful in their practice. They are actually both the same thing. We will just refer to both ideas in this genre as “legalism.”
This cancer brings pain and separation to people who truly need each other and ultimately God. Like some spiritual leech, legalism sucks the “Spiritual” life blood out of all involved. While it attempts to extract all of the secular dirt the church has accumulated, it actually destroys the soul. Never confuse legalism with the adherence to and recognition of God’s Standards.
In this passage are two different legalistic offenders. The first is that group which says one must be circumcised to be saved. The second group is those who say that one must obey the Law of Moses to really belong to God. The Pharisaic statement became the basis of convening the Jerusalem counsel. The legalists proposing these very false doctrines might have had the best intentions, but they could not have been more ill advising of the new converts as they struggled to understand their place in the Body of Christ.
First, they proposed a standard as a result of their own personal belief. They taught circumcision as necessary because the legalists had to be circumcised. If God worked one way in the legalistic lives at some point then He must work that same way in every life, even if he Himself were to change or alter the context of his own worship. Remember, at this point, early on in Christianity, the real preachers and teachers were spiritually gifted to do so.
(Acts 19:4-6; Acts 10:44-46; 1 Timothy 5:22; 2 Timothy 1:6-8) The Bible had not yet been finalized in its full text.
Second, their actual effect was to make salvation harder than was taught by inspired teachers. In Acts 15:19 James exclaims that salvation should not be made more difficult for those who turn to Christ from among the Gentiles. A real question for the Church is whether our actions, thoughts or considered doctrines actually make the process more difficult for one to become and stay as a faithful child of God. Are these things in line with what God has directed us to teach? We can no more add to the process of salvation through man made ordinance than we can subtract from God’s will through some misguided sense of kindness.
Finally, they expected of others what they could never demonstrate themselves. In many circles this is called hypocrisy. Their ideology was actually separate from God ordained theology. As a result, these Judaizing teachers actually drove or led people away from Christ and to a reliance on Jewish laws instead of a simple faith in Jesus.
Ephesians 2:14-16, For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.
For some reason man gravitates toward complicating the Gospel. He either dilutes the truth with secular platitudes, or he encumbers obedience by attaching some burdensome weights of his own proposed traditions.
Please don’t misunderstand me; I am not proposing that there are no specific requirements of God’s people. How we become a Christian is clearly stated in the New Testament. How we remain faithful is also clearly outlined in the New Testament. The purpose and goodness of the former Judaic system is also explained there. My point is that man’s greatest mistake will always be his attempt to “”HELP” God with the process of salvation. Give God the respect and love that the Holy Father deserves. Allow our spiritual efforts to be guided by His Word. Let us be students and then teachers of Scripture, not opinionated pundits who do more guessing than actual research. Sharing the Gospel should be rooted in love, and based only on the Word and Wisdom of God. Godspeed on your journey.