Friday, February 8
Goodbye to the yoke
Scripture: Leviticus 7-9, Acts 15
Acts 15:8–11 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
This was a pivotal moment in the life of the early church. If the Pharisaic Christian party won out, one would have to be circumcised and keep the Jewish law to be saved. The gospel would have been lost, the church would have died. Fortunately, the leaders convened, had “much debate” and Peter stated the gospel position that carried the day. Notice:
First, God didn’t discriminate between Jew and Gentile, circumcised and uncircumcised. He accepted both and showed that by giving both the Holy Spirit. He purifies people’s hearts by faith—no matter what race they are. No distinction, no discrimination.
Second, Peter admits that the Jews were unable to bear “the yoke” of the law; why would they impose it on the Gentiles? In other words, salvation by law-keeping or performance had proved impossible, and it made no sense to go back that way again, or require the impossible of others. In fact, in the light of God’s grace, such an action amounted to “testing God.”
Third, here’s the gospel in a sentence: “We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” Notice the order Peter uses. He didn’t say, “They are saved the same way we are.” He said to the Pharasaic, law-keeping Christians, “We are saved by grace, not law, just the same as the Gentiles.” Peter is insisting that it’s not just the Gentiles who are saved by grace not law, but the Jewish Christians are too!
God is “no respecter of persons.” He shows no favoritism, but freely offers His grace to all, irrespective of race or ethnicity. There is one gospel for all the world—the gospel of God’s grace in Jesus.
The yoke is off our necks. We are living under the grace of Jesus, not the burden of the law. The other reading today was Leviticus 7-9. The early chapters of Leviticus detail the various sacrifices required of the Jews to come before God. It’s exhausting just to read it, let alone try to do it. That yoke is gone! We approach God freely in Jesus—He is the sacrifice to fulfill all the old sacrifices. I’m so grateful for His grace!
Prayer: Lord, thank you for preserving the gospel of grace for all of us all those years ago. Today, I rejoice in the grace of Jesus!