The Yoke that Peter could not bear

The yoke that neither Peter nor their fathers had been able to bear was the ritual law

   Peter was talking about the yoke that represented the strict obedience of the ritual law. Why I say it was the ritual law? Because every time someone sinned, he had to come from Galilee to Jerusalem, and bring a sacrifice to the Temple. This was almost impossible for those who lived far from the Temple, and for the poor, who could not afford the constant sacrificing.

   During the time prior to Christ's sacrifice, in order to purge his sins, the believer had to sacrifice lambs, go through the ceremonial washing and countless other rituals.

   A regular person that sinned by work, word or thought two or three times a month could not present all the sacrifices or ceremonies required.  Such would be economically prohibitive for any ordinary man, especially if we take into consideration not only his sins but those of his family.

   In addition, there was the logistic impossibility. Those not living in Jerusalem, near the Temple, had to travel there in order to offer their sacrifice, since the law prohibited and punished sacrifices outside of the Temple. No one could make a three or four day trip two or three times a month, every time he, his wife, or any of his children sinned. And that in addition to the three yearly celebrations during which it was required they traveled to Jerusalem.

   That is why Peter says here that the ritual laws were a yoke that neither he nor his fathers could bear. Of course, it was almost impossible to obey all the ritual laws necessary to be redeemed, every time anyone sinned in any way; especially those living far, like Peter and the other apostles who lived in Galilee.

   This becomes even clearer when we read Acts 15:10-11, especially verse 11, which is written as a direct consequence of the previous verse 10.


    10 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? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they”.     (Act 15:10-11)

   As we can see, Peter was already convinced that to be forgiven of our sins it was not necessary any more to go offer lamb sacrifices to the Temple, but we were clean by the grace of the Lord Jesus, who was the true Lamb of God. Due to that knowledge he could not agree to impose on the Gentiles the ritual law, since the symbolism that those sacrifices, rituals and ceremonies represented were already present in the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.

   If we read the origin of this argument in 15:1-2 and 5-6 we will see that what they wanted to impose on the converted Gentiles as a condition for salvation, were the rituals of the Jewish law, starting with circumcision. It wasn't that the apostles rejected God's law for human behavior; they rejected the continuation of ritual law as a requirement for salvation, as it had been done so far.


    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. 2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question”.                                   (Act 15:1-2)



    5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. 6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter”.   (Act 15:5-6)

   The yoke that Peter says that neither he nor their fathers could bear was the yoke of the ritual law. Add to that the enormous burden that the scribes and Pharisees had added to both the laws for human behavior and the ritual laws, as the Lord himself declared in Luke 11:46, and we can see why Peter said the yoke was unbearable.


    And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! For ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers”. (Lk 11:46)

   It is obvious that the yoke that the believers before Christ could not bear was the yoke of the ritual law, and the impositions of the scribes and Pharisees, and not the Ten Commandments and other laws for human behavior that God had established.

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