The Yoke of Slavery: Acts 15:10-11
“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? 11) But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.”” Acts‬ ‭15‬:‭10‬-‭11‬ ‭
Like the Pharisees who taught circumcision and keeping the Law had to be added to salvation, so there are many legalistic Christians today teaching the same thing. They steal the joy of salvation by reducing the Christian life to rules and rituals.
Peter asked the right question; “Why put God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” The Law exposes sin and becomes the basis of death. It does not produce righteousness nor does it impart life.
Paul argued this point in Galatians 3:10-14. You cannot pick and chose which parts of the Law you want to keep. If you seek to be justified by the Law you put yourself under a curse, because you have to keep the whole thing. But Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit by faith.
He goes on to argue in Galatians 4:4-7 that faith and not the Law is the avenue of adoption as sons. Then he drives the nail home; “6) And because we are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying “Abba Father.” Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ frees us from slavery and makes us sons. It opens the door for the walk in the Spirit.
So Peter’s question in Acts 15:10 is profound. It could be summarized as; “Why give up Sonship to put the yoke of slavery back on?” Why give up salvation by faith and go back to self righteousness through works. That system failed throughout the Old Testament. It failed the Jews living in the days of the early church. It certainly failed the Pharisees. It was destined to fail the Gentiles as well. It amounted to a yoke of slavery!
The Holy Spirit is given through faith in Jesus Christ and not through keeping the Law. Paul argued that point in Galatians 3:2-5. The Holy Spirit changes people from the inside. The Law puts a yoke of slavery on people from the outside.
Here is the root problem; the Law is dependent on the flesh to make and keep people righteous. But the flesh is also bent toward sin and depravity. Any system of religion based on the works of the flesh will fail. At best it will turn out pious religious hypocrites. They might look good outwardly, but sin will rule inwardly.
Neither Peter, Barnabas nor Paul were giving and inch toward legalism. It might sound good, but it would deal a death blow to justification by faith. The poison was in the original proposition statement in Acts 15:1; “… unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” These Pharisees were using the Law to deny the salvation of the Gentiles who believed in Jesus Christ and the message of the Gospel. They needed more than faith in Jesus to be saved! They needed to keep the Law!
In other words, the work of Jesus Christ on the cross was not sufficient to save humanity. John 3:16-17 needed to be edited and changed. They concluded that even Jesus got it wrong!
Legalism always nullifies the sufficiency of the atonement of Jesus Christ as the sole basis of salvation. It makes self and not Jesus or the Gospel the hope for salvation. It sets Sonship aside and puts the yoke of slavery back on.
Instead of enjoying fellowship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, the Christian life becomes a daily pursuit of trying to earn God’s acceptance and approval. The Christian life becomes a burden rather than a blessing.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global