This past weekend was visiting my cousin who also happens to be one of my best friends. There is one thing about him however which can be extremely frustrating… he is easily one of the most stubborn people I’ve ever met. He is the definition of the horse which can be led to water and still will not drink. We were having a discussion about Sabbath keeping and I gave him the biblical foundations for it. What happened next taught me more about the wisdom of the Apostles and their decision in Acts 15 than any of the hundreds of articles, books and blogs I’ve ever read on the topic.
His first objection was that the Sabbath does not need to be on Saturday but could instead be any day as long as you do it every week (every 7 days).
He pointed out Deuteronomy 5:12-14
12‘Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. 13‘Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work…
He said, “look nowhere does it say that has to be on Saturday; if I want to do it on Tuesday I can do it on Tuesday.”
I then explained to him that the Jews did not name their days the way that we do; instead, they name their days based on their position in the week. I then went on to explain that Sunday was the 1st day, Monday the 2nd day and so on.
His next objection was that “the Sabbath is made for man and not man for the Sabbath.” By this he meant that if it was inconvenient for him to keep Sabbath on Saturday he didn’t have to. His belief was that God understands that in this modern day and age there some people that still have to work on Saturdays and corporations will punish people for wanting Saturdays off. He believed that God would never force somebody to keep Sabbath if it meant that he could lose his job.
He brought up that Sabbath is not a national holiday and because it is not a national holiday we cannot be expected to keep it on a day when we would be expected to work.
I brought up that Jesus commanded us in Matthew 24:20 to “pray that our flight may not be in winter or on Sabbath.” I was trying to make the point that God does not take Sabbath lightly, even at the end of time when Yeshua returns. He take it so seriously that Yeshua had to command to pray that we would not have to flee Jerusalem in a way which would cause us to break Sabbath.
His response was simply that Yeshua could very well have been saying, “pray that you don’t have to flee on your personal Sabbath.”
I wish I would’ve thought to bring up Exodus 16:27-28 where God does not give the manna on the 7th day; His Sabbath. Unfortunately I did not think to go there.
One thing you should know about me is that I believe when they truly redeemed person begins to follow Torah even in the slightest means possible; that their love for Torah and God’s ways will continue to grow and they will desire to learn more and seek to follow more of God’s ways.
What I mean by this is if a person begins to keep Sabbath on Tuesday, over time Holy Spirit will give them the desire to keep it on its proper day; the 7th day.
You begin by meeting a person where they are to get them started and over time Holy Spirit will teach them how to do things properly.
Later on that evening I suggested to my cousin that he choose a day which works for him and keep it as his Sabbath. It was at this point the truth came out…
He admitted that he didn’t want to keep Sabbath in any form.
This meant the whole discussion was really a waste of time.
So what does this have to do with Acts 15 you ask?
Every time I’ve ever read Acts 15 I thought of it from the point of view of someone receiving the letter. I try to think of what their decision means for me.
After this weekend however I got an understanding of what the decision meant for the apostles: their decision means that they are not going to bother arguing with people who do not have a heart to please God. This decision has many benefits for the apostles.
- They do not have to waste time arguing.
- They allow Holy Spirit time to initiate the change.
- They don’t push people who are unwilling to learn.
- They allow the other person to be responsible for their own life.
- They allow the other person to grow at their own pace.
- They, like God, respect that person’s free will.
- They trust that God is the one responsible for the change; not the apostles or anyone else.
As you can see the decision made in Acts 15 frees the Apostles up in many ways. It is not that they do not desire for the Gentiles coming into the faith to keep God’s laws and commands but they know that it will be a process. It will be a process which they do not have the time, energy or resources to oversee. They must trust that as the people are exposed to the Scriptures and the commands of God, that God will be the one who initiates the change in their lives (Acts 15:21).
Since this is the decision the Apostles came to, I must come to make that decision also. While I would love to see my cousin keeping Torah I know that he is not ready. The fact of the matter is, he may never be. Ultimately though it is not my responsibility it is God’s. I must trust that God will be the one who does the work and changes his heart; my responsibility is simply to share truth and pray for him.