No Greater Burden

When the Apostles are first wrestling with how to integrate believing Gentiles into God’s spiritual community, they make a radical break with historic Judaism, which requires all to become Jewish to be right with God.  (Ac 15:1-2) The Apostles note that both nationality and culture have nothing to do with salvation. (Ac 15:11)

In addition, the Apostles recommend four things necessary for Gentiles to be welcome in synagogues (Ac 15:28-29), where they might hear Torah read and explained every Shabbat. (Ac 15:21) These four rules aren’t actually in Torah, so the Apostles aren’t identifying a subset of Mosaic Law pertinent to Gentiles; they’re providing helpful, extra-biblical guidelines which are easily derived from Torah.

They’re also sensitive to the fact that even these basic rules may pose an inconvenience, a burden of sorts for new believers embedded in pagan culture, affecting their ability to engage in society as they had before. These types of changes are often necessary, but must be proposed with sensitivity and a certain lenience, especially at first. The apostles start with no greater burden than the very basics, and have the Holy Spirit’s approval.

In handling this crisis, the Apostles say nothing like: “Gentiles don’t have to obey X and Y laws of Torah.” Such sentiment dishonors Christ’s command that His disciples teach all nations to observe all things He’s commanded them (Mt 28:19-20), ignores His teaching that even the least of Torah’s commands are obligatory (Mt 5:19), and denies its universal profitability. (2Ti 3:16-17)

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