Some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.” ~Acts 15:5
Does a believer need to follow the law of Moses to obtain God's promises? Does God really forgive every sin? These are important questions that stirred up controversy during the inception of the early church and caused divisions between the people and even the apostles themselves at times. The book of Acts tells the story of the various trials that erupted during the time that the apostles were debating the topic of sin and law with the Jewish people. Even 2000 years later, we see that many churches, preachers and people are still divided by the same topics.
In fact, much of the persecution that Paul experienced throughout his ministry came at the hands of those who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Many Pharisees believed in Jesus but still debated with Paul about the necessity of keeping the law of Moses. When Paul was preaching the gospel in the temple at Jerusalem, the Jews had Paul beaten and arrested shouting, "Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place." (Acts 21:28) What was Paul preaching that made the Jews so angry?
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins... ~Colossians 2:13
When Paul preached the forgiveness of sins to the Gentiles, the Jews were enraged because he did not require the Gentiles to keep the law of Moses. The apostles preached that Christ conquered sin and fulfilled the law of the Jewish covenant and when they debated with the Jewish believers on how the Gentiles should be instructed to follow God in Acts 15, Peter spoke up and said:
"Now then, why do you [Jews] try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors 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 15:10-11
Peter was referring to was the law of Moses when he spoke of the yoke that had burdened their Jewish ancestors. He tried to tell them that no one could be saved by keeping the law. This is why Paul wrote in Romans 9:30-32, "What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone."