There have been many arguments among believers as to whether we are to observe the commandments of the Old Testament including whether we should observe the weekly (and other) Sabbaths. Well, according to the scriptures we aren’t the only ones who have disputed these topics. The elders and apostles did too. What conclusion did they collectively come to that we too can learn from? I hope their answer brings peace, freedom and affirmation of what the Holy Spirit has spoken to each of you. May we finally be united through their toil for the truth.
In the New Testament, we clearly see that the Israelites chose to continue to observe the Sabbath day as well as other laws. The believing Gentiles, however, weren’t taught to by the apostles. Yet everyone was given the same grace and given faith.
Today, some believers are insisting that if all believers don’t observe the weekly Sabbath, they aren’t saved and are in danger of hell.
In Acts 15 some men from Judea had gone to Antioch and had begun teaching the Gentiles that they weren’t saved unless they got circumcised, according to Moses. This sounds very familiar to today. Also, there were Pharisees teaching that everyone must observe the commandments. So Paul, Barnabas and a few others decided to travel to the other apostles and elders in Jerusalem to meet and seek a solid answer.
What I appreciate about Acts 15 is that we see the use of a godly order and wise counsel among the apostles and elders. Their conclusion came from a full counsel of the leaders—the apostles and elders, collectively. So they took great care in coming into understanding God’s will on the heated topic. After “much dispute” among each other, Peter spoke authoritatively as one Christ called to the Gentiles in Acts 15:7-11:
“… Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”
Peter noting they are saved in the same way of the Gentile and not the other way around is key here. One isn’t more required of than the other. Following Peter, other apostles testified about how God was working in the Gentiles. In Ephesians 2 we see the breakdown of how the Lord has unified the Jew and the Gentile into one body. So we are all under the same grace, no matter what some who are still under law are claiming. Many of these push law out of the frustration of those who have a hyper-grace mentality—abusing the work of Christ on the Cross. But in their hyper-law mentality, they treat the cross as insufficient and shrink faith to be only as big as the works of man that (as Peter states) no one can hold to.
So in conclusion, all were in agreement with Peter. Paul and Barnabas went back to Antioch to correct the teachings from the law given to them by the Judeans with this message to the Gentiles in Acts 15:28-29:
… It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.
Even though Paul taught this he still went on to circumcise Timothy who was bi-racial (Jew mother and Greek father) but it was his desire to be circumcised in the midst of so many Jews. Yet lets not forget how Paul continued to teach the wisdom of God regarding the law. Specifically as far as the Sabbath goes or other holy days, Paul gives us more understanding and focus in Romans 14:5-6, 13:
One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it… Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.
It’s to each person’s own faith to determine which righteous action to take, as long as the action is done in faith which was given freely to us by God. My hope is that we can get off this divisive topic in order to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who will receive.