The Yoke the Father’s Could not Bear – Acts 15


Understanding acts 15 We read in Acts 15 of a burden or yoke which some were placing on the new converts from among the gentiles. A yoke is normally fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull. A yoke implies work, the animal becoming mans servant or slave.

The ****Fathers**** “Saved by Grace”

Acts 15:7-10 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

In verse 10 we read that a yoke was placed upon the disciples, that even ***the fathers*** were not able to bear. The next verse explains how the Father’s were saved.

Act 15:11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

Even as they “the fathers” were saved, we are saved by grace. The fathers were saved by grace. That is those who were before the cross. They were under a system of grace. But some were trying to have the new disciple converts saved by works, trying to put a yoke upon them that even the fathers were not able to bear. What were they telling them they must do to be saved.

Act 15:1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.

Were the fathers saved by being circumcised? No. “through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” (Acts 15:11) They were saved by grace, not by keeping the law of Moses. Was Abraham saved by keeping God’s laws? Was he saved by circumcision? We read that Abraham was saved before circumcision. We read the following account as Paul describes Abraham.

Abraham Received the Spirit Before Circumcision

Romans 4:9-11 Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:

Galatians 3:2-6 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?… Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

Abraham received the Holy Spirit by faith, not by the works of the law. And this is what Paul is explaining. However there was a sect of brethren telling them that they have to keep the ceremony of circumcision and keep the law of Moses to be saved.

Gal 2:4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

This is a yoke of bondage. God does not call you to be good in order to be saved. This is another gospel. It is not that you must do the law in order to achieve salvation. This is righteousness by works.

Gal 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

No flesh can ever or was ever justified by the law, to even suggest that any man came to God through doing the law, is to teach another gospel. God doesn’t tell us to make ourselves good in order to talk to Him. He tells us to come to Him so that He can make us good.

The law has no power in itself to justify. Even the fathers were not able to bear this yoke. The fathers were never justified by the works of the law. We were justified “through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” (Acts 15:11)

Since they were justified by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, isn’t it obvious that none of them were ever saved by the works of the law? Does that imply that one does not keep the law?

Rom 2:13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

Though we are not justified by doing the law, we that believe and have faith accept the word, and the word makes us a doer of the law. We do not become good so that God will save us. We must accept salvation and be made good by the word that we accept.

Gal 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

How did you become free? By working at it? And what were you freed from? What was the yoke of bondage that Christ made you free from?

John 8:34-36 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

We were slaves, in bondage to sin. Christ made us free from sin. What is sin?

Rom 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

Sin is law breaking. But is a man justified or saved by the law or law keeping? No. He is not saved by law keeping. He is saved then God makes fulfills the righteousness of the law through him.(Romans 8:4) Jesus Christ lives in the man, and therefore the man will fulfill the law, not of himself, it is Christ in him that worketh mightily above all that the man asks or thinks. The man therefore is justified by faith, not by works, “even as they”, the fathers were.

Do We Keep the Law?

IT IS NOT “You must keep the law to be saved”. IT IS “You must be saved in order to keep the law.”

Gal 5:4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

Even the fathers were saved by grace. Moses, Elijah, David, Abraham. All were saved by grace. If Christ became of none effect to them, then they also were fallen from grace.

Gen 26:5 …Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.

Did Abraham keep the law and get circumcised to be saved? No. He did keep the law, but when he broke the law, God gave Abraham circumcision which was to be a sign of the covenant. Circumcision was a sign of God writing his law on Abraham’s heart. It was actually a sign of God working in Abraham.

Romans 2:23-26 Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?

The truly circumcised will be a doer of the law. He will keep the righteousness of the law. He is circumcised with the circumcisionAbraham of the heart.

Col 2:11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:

And that circumcision is only had when we “keep the righteousness of the law”(Rom 2:26). When we are a “doer of the law”(Rom 2:13). It does not come by the law, but by grace through faith.

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

“…before ordained that we should WALK IN THEM”. What are “THEM”? What did God BEFORE ordain that we should “WALK IN”? Line upon line, precept upon precept. Let us read the word.


Deu 30:6, 10, 14, 16 And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live…If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul. …But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it… In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.

God will write this book in our hearts. Do we keep the law to be saved? No we accept that Jesus will do in us what he has promised in the word. This book is filled with moral law. In fact it is almost entirely moral law.

The Law of Moses is The Law of God

Some have thought that the Law of God was only the moral law, while the law of Moses was the ceremonial law. However the term “Law of Moses” is not used in the first 5 books of the bible. Yet most understand that those books are “Law of Moses”. Those books include both moral and ceremonial law. The prophets when using the term “law of Moses” often referred back to the first five books of the bible. Notice the following:

Luke 2:22-24 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

You’ll notice that the term “Law of Moses” is used in this passage, but you will also notice that it is interchanged with the term “Law of the Lord”. If you read that carefully, you will also notice that the term “Law of the Lord” is used to refer to the ceremonial law. Many teachers today teach that the term “Law of the Lord” is used only for the moral law, and the term “Law of Moses” is used only for ceremonial law. But the bible does not teach this as demonstrated above.

Regarding the “law of God” which is sometimes referred to as the “law of Moses” we read the following.

Malachi 4:4-6 Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

And the curse is written in the law, and the curse comes if we “continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”(Gal 3:10) not of works, but by grace through faith, even as they the fathers were saved. (Acts 15:11)


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