“[God] purifies their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15:9-11, NIV)
So says Peter to “the believers who belong to the party of the Pharisees” who are calling for the Gentiles to “be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.” (Acts 15:5)
Peter argues God shows His acceptance of these Gentile believers by giving them the Holy Spirit just as He gives Him to Jewish believers. After all, says Peter, God “knows the heart.” (Acts 15:8) James agrees with Peter, speaking before “the whole assembly” (Acts 15:12) that they “should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” (Acts 15:19) A letter is sent to “the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia” telling them that “it seems good to the Holy Spirit not to burden you with anything beyond” a few things they would “do well to avoid.” (Acts 15:28, 29)
We are able, if willing, to learn a lot from Peter and James. Often we burden babes in Christ and even mature believers with impossible rules, requirements, regulations — you’ve got to do this and not do that or God will not be pleased. We forget God knows the hearts of His people; He knows long before we do who hears and believes the good news. So, let’s not “test God.” (Acts 15:10) Let’s refrain from burdening ourselves and one another with a yoke God has removed.