15:18 “Known to God from eternity are all His works. 19 Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”
Do you remember the verse in John 1:17 that changed everything? "The law came through Moses but grace and truth came through Jesus."
Until Jesus came the law of Moses was everything but the reality is that the law of Moses without Jesus was less than ideal. If you need glasses you can appreciate the reality that there are things you can see without your glasses that only become clear when you put them on. Jesus is the "glasses" that make the words of Moses have their proper meaning. Jesus clarifies the intent. He takes what I'd blurry and confusing and makes it obvious.
Without Jesus Judaism appeared to be another religious system like all the other pagan religions where you followed a list of requirements in order to gain the favour of an angry distant God. Chief among those requirements was circumcision. What the Jews missed was that multiple times Moses spoke of a circumcision of the heart. They were so focused on doing the "right things" to gain God's favour that they missed the gems of grace and truth scattered throughout the writings of Moses. Not until Jesus came was the "veil" removed and "blind eyes" were opened.
The entire controversy described here in Acts 15 was between religion the old way and the grace and truth revealed in Christ. Many of the Jews became followers of Jesus because they sensed His greatness and that His death and resurrection was important but they were still reading the Story without their glasses. In sincerity they thought Paul was cheating the Gentiles and leaving out a critical component. They saw salvation as Jesus + Judaism. Jesus saves me partially and I do the rest.
This teaching is still rampant today. So many Christians believe some kind of hybrid gospel where Jesus does some and we do the rest. Nothing could be further from the truth. Anything we try and add is like the man who brought his own sports jacket to the wedding feast. Nothing needs to be or can be added to what Jesus did. He died once for all. He is the Lamb that took away the sin of the whole world. In fact the few "rules" James outlined for the Gentiles to "keep" were things that in the end would destroy the powerful liberating truth that our hope is: Jesus. Alone.
Nothing more and nothing less.
He is our everything and we'll talk about the "rules" tomorrow.