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Salvation By Grace and God’s Grace Act Alone

Acts 15:10 (ESV) … “Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?”

Peter warned that by making strict adherence to the law a prerequisite for salvation, the church would be guilty of putting God to the test (that is, doubting his wisdom and plan and thus arrogantly pursuing a different course of action). Furthermore, the Jewish believers would be putting an unbearable yoke on the Gentiles. The word “yoke” was a common figurative term for religious “obligations.” It was the heavy wooden harness used by oxen to pull carts or plows. Here it suggests less of a religious duty and more of an onerous burden (see Matthew 23:4; 11:28–30).

If the law was a yoke that neither the Jews of that day nor their ancestors had been able to bear, however, how did having the law help them throughout their history? Paul wrote that the law had been a guide that had pointed out their sins so they could repent and return to God and right living (see Galatians 3:24–25). It was, and still is, impossible to obey the law completely. That would be a burden too hard for any human being.

In effect, Peter urged the council not to advocate a double standard. Salvation—whether for Jew or Gentile—is through the grace of the Lord Jesus (see Ephesians 2:8–9). What the law could never do, God did through Jesus Christ (Romans 8:1–4). “Grace” is God’s kindness to us.

People can do nothing to earn grace; it is simply given by God voluntarily to those he saves. No one deserves to be saved, and no religious, intellectual, or moral effort can earn salvation because it comes only from God’s mercy and love. Without God’s grace, no person can be saved. To receive God’s salvation, people must acknowledge that they cannot save themselves and that only God can save them. Then they must trust in Christ.[1]

[1] Barton, B. B., & Osborne, G. R. (1999). Acts (pp. 254–255). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House.

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