Acts 15:10
Now therefore why tempt you God, to put a yoke on the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
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(10) Why tempt ye God.—To tempt God was to make the experiment whether His will, manifested in the acceptance of the Gentiles, or man’s will, resenting and resisting it, was the stronger of the two. Nothing but defeat and condemnation could be the issue of such a trial.

To put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples.—No words of St. Paul’s, in relation to the Law, could be stronger or clearer than these. They reproduced our Lord’s own language as to the “heavy burdens” of the Pharisaic traditions (Matthew 23:4) and His own “easy yoke” (Matthew 11:30). They were echoed by St. Paul when he warned the Galatians not to be entangled again in the yoke of bondage (Galatians 5:1). The words that follow, on the one hand, speak out the experience of the Apostle himself in terms that are hardly less striking than those of St. Paul in Romans 7:7-8, though they deal with the Law in its positive rather than its moral aspects, and contain an implied appeal to the experience of his hearers. Was it worth while to “tempt God” by resisting His teaching in history in order to bring the Gentiles down to the level from which they themselves, Jews as they were, were thankful to have risen?

15:7-21 We see from the words purifying their hearts by faith, and the address of St. Peter, that justification by faith, and sanctification by the Holy Ghost, cannot be separated; and that both are the gift of God. We have great cause to bless God that we have heard the gospel. May we have that faith which the great Searcher of hearts approves, and attests by the seal of the Holy Spirit. Then our hearts and consciences will be purified from the guilt of sin, and we shall be freed from the burdens some try to lay upon the disciples of Christ. Paul and Barnabas showed by plain matters of fact, that God owned the preaching of the pure gospel to the Gentiles without the law of Moses; therefore to press that law upon them, was to undo what God had done. The opinion of James was, that the Gentile converts ought not to be troubled about Jewish rites, but that they should abstain from meats offered to idols, so that they might show their hatred of idolatry. Also, that they should be cautioned against fornication, which was not abhorred by the Gentiles as it should be, and even formed a part of some of their rites. They were counselled to abstain from things strangled, and from eating blood; this was forbidden by the law of Moses, and also here, from reverence to the blood of the sacrifices, which being then still offered, it would needlessly grieve the Jewish converts, and further prejudice the unconverted Jews. But as the reason has long ceased, we are left free in this, as in the like matters. Let converts be warned to avoid all appearances of the evils which they formerly practised, or are likely to be tempted to; and caution them to use Christian liberty with moderation and prudence.Why tempt ye God? - Why provoke him to displeasure? Why, since he has shown his determination to accept them without such rites, do you provoke him by attempting to impose on his own people rites without his authority, and a against his manifest will? The argument is, that God had already accepted them. To attempt to impose these rites would be to provoke him to anger; to introduce observances which he had shown it was his purpose should now be abolished.

To put a yoke - That which would be burdensome and oppressive, or which would infringe on their just freedom as the children of God. It is called in Galatians 5:1, "a yoke of bondage." Compare the notes on Matthew 23:4. A "yoke" is an emblem of slavery or bondage 1 Timothy 6:1; or of affliction Lamentations 3:27; or of punishment Lamentations 1:14; or of oppressive and burdensome ceremonies, as in this place, or of the restraints of Christianity, Matthew 11:29-30. In this place those rites are called a yoke, because:

(1) They were burdensome and oppressive; and,

(2) Because they would be an infringement of Christian freedom. One design of the gospel was to set people free from such rites and ceremonies.

Which neither our fathers ... - Which have been found burdensome at all times. They were expensive, and painful, and oppressive; and as they had been found to be so, it was not proper to impose them on the Gentile converts, but should rather rejoice at any evidence that the people of God might be delivered from them.

Were able to bear - Which are found to be oppressive and burdensome. They were attended with great inconvenience and many transgressions, as the consequence.

10. why tempt—"try," "provoke"

ye God—by standing in the way of His declared purpose.

to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, &c.—He that was circumcised became thereby bound to keep the whole law. (See Ga 5:1-6). It was not then the mere yoke of burdensome ceremonies, but of an obligation which the more earnest and spiritual men became, the more impossible they felt it to fulfil. (See Ro 3:5; Ga 2:4, &c.).

Why tempt ye God? Why would you make a doubt of, and put it to a trial, whether God did in good earnest admit the Gentiles to his favour, and whether he remains firm and constant in such his kindness towards them? They did tempt God also, by disliking the calling of the Gentiles, and would have brought God’s will, were it possible, unto theirs; not submitting their wills, as they ought, unto God’s: for he that sins in any kind, does tempt God; that is, he tries God’s patience, power, and righteousness.

A yoke; so the law of ceremonies is called. Galatians 5:1, and was a yoke indeed, if we consider:

1. Their variety;

2. Their difficulty;

3. Their chargeableness;

4. Their inefficacy, being only shadows

of good things to come, Colossians 2:17.Now therefore why tempt ye God,.... By hesitating about this matter, by disputing upon this point, and by seeking for further proof and evidence of the will of God in this affair; when it is so plain a case, that it has been his will that the Gospel should be preached to Gentiles, without obliging them to circumcision; that he has given his Spirit both in his extraordinary gifts, and special grace, to uncircumcised persons; particularly he has bestowed faith in Christ upon them, whereby they have been led to the blood of Christ, typified in circumcision, and are thereby purged from all their filth and pollution, and so are the true circumcision: wherefore it is no other than tempting God, a manifest opposition to him, and what must give him offence, to debate about a point so clear; and especially to attempt

to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear. It is common with the Jews to call the law a yoke; frequent mention is made of and "the yoke of the commandments" (o), and , "the yoke of the law" (p): and by it here is meant, not circumcision only and barely, for that the Jewish fathers had been able to bear, and had bore it; nor the whole ceremonial law only, which consisted of a multitude of commands and ordinances very heavy and hard; but even the whole moral law, which circumcision obliged those who submitted to it to keep it perfectly; see Galatians 5:3, which neither the apostles, nor their fathers, were ever able to do, nor any mere man whatever; and therefore this yoke was intolerable and insupportable, and not to be put upon the necks of the Gentile believers; who here are called disciples, being taught the doctrine of the Gospel, and the way of salvation; which was not by circumcision, nor by any works of the law, but by the grace of Christ, as in the following verse.

(o) Targum in Cant. i. 10. & in Lamentations 3.27. Misn. Beracot, c. 2. sect. 2.((p) Echa Rabbati, fol. 56. 3. Pirke Abot, c. 3. sect. 5. Tzeror Hammor, fol. 39. 3.

{5} Now therefore why {f} tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

(5) Peter, passing from the ceremonies to the Law itself in general, shows that no one could be saved, if salvation were to be sought for by the Law, and not by grace alone in Jesus Christ; and this is because no man could ever fulfil the Law, neither the patriarch nor the apostle.

(f) Why do you tempt God, as though he could not save by faith?

Acts 15:10. νῦν οὖν: in Acts four times, nowhere else in N.T.; cf. Acts 10:35, nunc igitur: LXX, Genesis 27:8, etc.; 1Ma 10:71.—τί πειράζετε τὸν Θ., cf. Acts 5:9, they put God to the proof, as to whether He had not admitted unworthy persons into the Church.—ἐπιθ. ζυγὸν: on the infinitive see Burton, N. T. Moods and Tenses, p. 151; Blass, Gram., p. 221: metaphor common among the Rabbis, and also in classical literature, cf. Jeremiah 5:5, Lamentations 3:27, Sir 51:26 (Zephaniah 3:9), and Matthew 11:29 (Luke 11:46), Galatians 5:1. Possibly in Jeremiah 5:5 reference is made to the yoke of the law, but Psalms of Solomon, Acts 7:8, cf. Acts 17:32, present undoubted instances of the metaphorical use of the term “the yoke” for the service of Jehovah. In Sayings of the Jewish Fathers, iii., 8 (Taylor, second edition, p. 46), we have a definite and twice repeated reference to the yoke of Thorah, cf. Apocalypse of Baruch, xli., 3 (Charles’ edition, p. 66 and note), and also Psalms of Solomon, Ryle and James, p. 72, note. It would seem therefore that St. Peter uses an almost technical word in his warning to the first Christians.—τῶν μαθητῶν, i.e., of those who had learnt of Christ and knew the meaning of His yoke, Matthew 11:29.—ἰσχ. βαστάσαι: cf. Acts 13:39. St. Peter no less than St. Paul endorses the charge made by St. Stephen, Acts 7:53.—οὔτε ἡμεῖς: a remarkable confession on St. Peter’s lips: the conversations with Paul and Barnabas, Galatians 2:7, may well have confirmed the attitude which he had taken after the baptism of Cornelius (Zôckler).10. Now therefore] When you have this evidence of how God has already accepted the Gentiles.

why tempt ye God] Men are said “to tempt God” when they distrust his guidance, and in consequence disobey his revealed will (cp. Psalm 95:9). So the Jews tempted God in the wilderness (Hebrews 3:9) when they saw His mighty works and yet murmured at His leaders: so they are said to have tempted Christ (1 Corinthians 10:9) when they were punished by the fiery serpents; and Ananias and Sapphira are said to “have agreed to tempt the Spirit of the Lord,” by acting as though they thought they could deceive God in their offering. From these instances the force of the question in the text will be seen. Those who should act as the Pharisaic party would recommend, would be distrusting God’s knowledge of the hearts of men, and refusing to be guided by what His Spirit had made known in the conversion of Cornelius.

a yoke] So St Paul (Galatians 5:1) calls the ceremonial law “a yoke of bondage.” Christ uses the word “yoke” for his own precepts, knowing that a yoke was needed for men’s guidance, but He calls it “easy” (Matthew 11:30).

able to bear] How this was felt is shewn by the Rabbinic injunction to “make a hedge about the law,” i.e. so to fence in its precepts by additional regulations of their own, that there should be no chance of infringing the commandment. These additions, commandments of men, as our Lord styles them, had made the ceremonial observances into a killing load.Acts 15:10. Νῦν) now in particular (now at last), as if τὰ ἀρχαῖα, those ancient things [that good while ago, when God made choice that the Gentiles by me should hear the Gospel], Acts 15:7, saith Peter, are of no weight. An apostrophe to the Pharisees, and a severe reproof.—τί πειράζετε ἐπιθεῖσαι ζυγὸν, κ.τ.λ., why do ye try to impose a yoke?) After πειράζετε most editions insert τὸν Θεὸν, according to the very frequent phraseology of Scripture. But the shorter reading, τί πειράζετε ἐπιθεῖναι ζυγὸν; gives a mode of expression and a sense very free from difficulty. Comp. App. Crit., Ed. ii., on this passage.[85]—ζυγὸν, a yoke) Comp. Isaiah 10:27, “His (the Assyrian’s) burden (βάρος) shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck:” see Acts 15:28, below. Peter does not call circumcision in itself a yoke, but the whole law, of which circumcision formed a leading feature; and when the latter was abrogated, the Pharisees were apprehensive for the whole law. Therefore he connects the consequence (which is expressed in the form of a Metonymy of the consequent for the antecedent, as in ch. Acts 5:9; Galatians 2:14, at the end) in this way: Whilst ye establish the principle, that salvation cannot be obtained without circumcision, ye impose the yoke of the whole law on the necks of the disciples. Comp. Galatians 5:1, note. [Circumcision was regarded by the Jews more as a part of the law of Moses, than as a sign of the promise given to Abraham. In itself it was not a yoke; but the law, of which it is used as the sign, was the yoke, to which Christ and grace are opposed.] And since they were not averse from this imposition of the whole yoke (which afterwards was the very root of the Galatian error), Peter cut off this also, and opposes to circumcision, and still more to the yoke of the whole law, the saving grace of Christ, which was not altogether perceived by them: premising also the example of the Cæsareans, who obtained justification both without circumcision and without the law.—τῶν μαθητῶν, of the disciples) They are already disciples; they need not now at last (by the receiving of circumcision) to become so.—ὃν οὔτε, which neither) The cause of the abrogation of the law.—οὔτε οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν, nor our fathers) upon whom notwithstanding the law was imposed; the reason for which Paul everywhere shows. Unless it had been imposed at some time or other, no one would have been sensible that it is a yoke which cannot be borne. He does not mean in this place Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to whom circumcision was the seal of the promise, not a yoke; but the Israelites under Moses.—οὔτε ἡμεῖς, neither we) especially after having once tasted liberty.

[85] ABCDEde Vulg. Rec. Text and Iren. all have τὸν Θεόν: Hilary, Dominum. Jerome, and a few MSS. of the Vulg., are the only good authorities for omitting these words.—E. and T.Verse 10. - That ye should put for to put, A.V. The Greek words cannot be construed as the A.V. takes them. It is not a Greek construction to say πειράζειν τινα ποιεῖν κακόν, "to tempt any one to do evil." The infinitive ἐπιθεῖναι must be taken gerundially, "by placing," or "putting," and the sense is - Why do you try God's patience by your provocation in putting an unbearable yoke upon the necks of those who believe? Or, "as if he had not power to save by faith" (Chrysostom). Were able (ἰσχύσαμεν)

See on Luke 14:30; and Luke 16:3.

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