(Acts 15:10) 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?
(Acts 15:11) But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
Acts 15 was a watershed moment in the development of Christianity. In this chapter, the apostles and elders in council at the Jerusalem church determined that Gentiles and Jews are alike saved by grace unconditionally; as touching justification before God, circumcision availeth nothing (GAL 6:15); and Gentile believers are not to be bound by Moses’ Law. Here is the background to Peter’s words in today’s text which shows that Gentile saints had been pressured by Jewish Christians from Jerusalem:
(Act 15:1) 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.
(Act 15:5) 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.
(Act 15:6) And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
(Act 15:7) And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
(Act 15:8) And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
(Act 15:9) And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
Peter was referring to the conversion of Cornelius’ household in Acts 10, the first uncircumcised N.T. saints (and a dramatic proof that the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile had been broken down, per EPH 2:14). That day at Cornelius’ house, God focused on the hearts (ACT 15:8), not the prepuces of those Gentiles. He gave them the Holy Ghost in a state of uncircumcision and before they were baptized (ACT 10:44-48), in stark contrast to the giving of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost to circumcised, baptized men. Neither was there any post-baptism requirement of circumcision for Cornelius or his household. This event quickly became popularly known among the apostles and brethren in Judea (ACT 11:1). Yet, the sect of the Pharisees in the Jerusalem church were somehow still trying to force circumcision on the Gentile believers, choosing to sow their leaven in places not under the immediate notice of the Jerusalem church! They that do evil hate the light which would reprove them (JOH 3:20). NOTE: the only Pharisee that is of genuine use to a gospel church is an ex-Pharisee like Paul who totally abandoned and renounced the corruptions of Pharisaism (2CO 4:2; PHIL 3:5-9). Judaism is (according to the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia) the religion of the ancient Pharisees: it has never been the religion of Moses and the prophets (which is why Jesus Christ denounced it at virtually every turn). Therefore, a modern day Jew’s conversion to Christ demands a complete break from and renunciation of Judaism, abandoning all of its Pharisaic doctrine, including its errant hope in a Jewish political kingdom of God on earth such as the Pharisees expected to come with observation:
(Luk 17:20) And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:
(Luk 17:21) Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
Anything less than such a complete abandonment and renunciation of Judaism/Pharisaism is an open door for trouble in true churches, even as those Pharisee “Christians” back then “...troubled you with words, subverting your souls...” (ACT 15:24). Their doctrine still today subverts souls, perverts Scripture, and enlists deluded Christians for the promoting of a messianic emperor of the world (the very thing which our Lord rejected, MAT 4:8-10; JOH 6:15; JOH 18:36).
A major point here was whether or not N.T. saints had to be circumcised in order to be saved (ACT 15:1; ACT 15:5). If ever there was a time for the standard Pedobaptist canard, “Baptism is come in the room of O.T. circumcision,” this was it: that could have been presented as a valid argument against the necessity of circumcision. But nowhere in this narrative is such an argument introduced. The apostles led by the Spirit Who was to guide them into all truth (JOH 16:13) were guided completely away from that faulty analogy.
The attempt to put the Gentile saints under the unbearable yoke (ACT 15:10) of the Law of Moses was folly, among other reasons, because of the impossible “do and live” righteousness which was the nature of that Law (ROM 10:5; GAL 3:10). But it was also in general tempting God: “...why tempt ye God,...?” (ACT 15:10), and Christ frankly says, “...Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (MAT 4:7). God had manifestly shown that He had received the Gentiles without any hint of conformity to the outward parts of Moses’ Law: no circumcision, no sacrifices, no ablutions, no ceremonial purifications, etc. (which were necessary elements to approach God in His house under Moses’ Law). To the contrary, Peter said of God’s work at Cornelius’ house, “And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” (ACT 15:9). This concurs with the Holy Ghost’s record of Abraham, whose faith was counted for righteousness, NOT his circumcision (ROM 4:8-11), and certainly not any of the outward rituals of the much later Law of Moses. Those uncircumcised Gentiles at Cornelius’ house were, on the basis of their limited faith, deemed fit for the gift of the Holy Ghost and put on equal footing before God with believing Jews: “And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us” (ACT 15:8).
Paul sums up the superior token of faith over outward tokens: “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love” (GAL 5:6). Those Pharisee Christians were not manifesting faith which worketh by love, but rather self-interest working by hypocrisy:
(Gal 6:12) As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.
(Gal 6:13) For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.
Genuine faith should not be the Judaizing of Gentiles (with Jewish rituals, sabbaths, millennialism and such) but rather the full Christianizing of Jews (indeed, of all who profess to follow Jesus Christ). Reversing this order is tempting God.