Acts 15 - Steve Wiggins Daily Devotional

“Then the apostles and the elders assembled to consider this matter. After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them: ‘Brothers, you are aware that in the early days G_d made a choice among you, that by my mouth of the Gentiles would hear the gospel message and believe. And G_d, who knows the heart, testified to them by giving the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) as He did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Why, then, are you now testing G_d by putting on the disciples necks a yoke that neither our forefathers nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe we are saved through the grace of the Lord Yeshua, in the same way they are.’” Acts 15:6-11

In the Mishna (Jewish oral law), the term “yoke” is two fold. The first yoke, or requirement, is that one believe in G_d, and His Kingdom. The second yoke is the requirement to fulfill the Torah. The second must precede the first. One does not believe in G_d because they pursue the Torah; they pursue the Torah because they believe in G_d.

From the Mishna: “For what reason does the Sh’ma precede the Va’hayah im shemoa? So that one should first accept upon oneself the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, and only after that, accept upon oneself the yoke of the commandments. B’rakhot 2:2

When Peter was speaking about the “yoke” of ourr forefathers and how they were all unable to bear it, he was directing his comments to the 2nd “yoke”. Because the oral Torah is “man’s opinion”, it cannot be esteemed at the level of G_d’s Torah, well-intended as many of the rabbis’ rules may have been. At the same time, Peter was stressing the absolute necessity for both Jews and Gentiles to take up the first “yoke”. Salvation is dependent upon believing in G_d & His Kingdom, through faith in Messiah.

Almost hidden in today’s passage is an (often uncomfortable) reality among the body of believers. From the very beginning of the “Messianic Community” (aka: the Church), both Jews & Gentiles were equal in the eyes of G_d, as pertains to salvation…while at the same time retaining separateness, with respect to worshipping cultures. Notice there is absolutely no debate here, as to whether the Jewish believers (apostles included) should drop their Jewish identity and become as the new Gentile believers. The Jews continued worshipping as Jews, and the Gentiles remained unburdened by most of the culturally religious requirements of Judaism…both equal in the eyes of G_d.

As unspeakable as the Jewish demands on Gentiles to become “fully converted” Jews before salvation, is the modern “church’s” assumption that Jews who receive salvation through Yeshua abandon their now-redeemed Torah pursuance.

Unarticulated in Peter’s argument is the undeniable (and fully witnessed) event, as pertains to Cornelius’ household conversion. They were saved and filled with the Spirit, without having been circumcised in the flesh, outwardly baptized or having converted to Judaism. Acts 10:44-48 Salvation is by grace, through faith, alone. Ephesians 2:8-9

~Steve Wiggins, Associate Leader, Worship Leader
Shuvah Yisrael
Daily Devotional, Thursday, August 1, 2013