Question: Acts 15 shows that the New Testament Church imposed only four requirements on new Gentile converts: "to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood" (Acts 15:20). The Sabbath, Holy Days and dietary laws are conspicuously absent, so why should today’s Christians observe them?
Answer: It is important to understand that the Acts 15 conference was discussing circumcision—not abrogation of the spiritual law and biblical statutes contained in the Books of Moses (the first five books of the Bible). Because Sabbath-keeping, Holy Day observance and dietary laws are not directly mentioned, some incorrectly assume that these were abolished by the conference. But note that seven of the Ten Commandments are also missing in Acts 15. Can a Christian thus take God’s name in vain, dishonor parents, murder, steal, lie and covet? Of course not! The Acts 15 conference did not void these laws, just as it did not annul Sabbath-keeping, Holy Day observance and dietary laws.
Notice Jesus Christ’s own words: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3—applying it to all humanity, both Jew and Gentile. The word of God to which Jesus referred was none other than the Old Testament.
Christ revealed God’s purpose for the Sabbath when He stated: "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27–28). Notice that the Sabbath was originally made for all humanity—not just for the Jews! Jesus clearly stated that He was the Lord of the Sabbath—revealing its relevance for God’s people. In addition, Jesus’ habit and custom included Sabbath-keeping (Luke 4:16). Later, we notice the Apostle Paul still observing—and encouraging by his example—observance of the Sabbath long after the Acts 15 conference (see Acts 17:2–3). The New Testament shows both Jews and Gentiles keeping the Sabbath; in Acts 13:42–44, we see an entire city assembling on the Sabbath to hear Paul preach.
Paul taught Christians to "keep the feast"—the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread (1 Corinthians 5:7–8). The New Testament also refers to the annual Holy Days of Pentecost and Day of Atonement (Acts 2:1; 20:6; 1 Corinthians 16:8; Acts 27:9). If these days, along with the remainder of God’s Feast days, were made null and void, then why were the Apostles and Gentile Christians still keeping them? The answer is obvious: God did not nullify His laws and special Feast days.
The Apostle Peter understood God’s dietary laws, which were mentioned in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 and were in existence before Moses (Genesis 7:2). When told in a vision to rise and eat common and unclean animals, Peter responded: "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean" (Acts 10:9–14). In this vision, Christ did not change the dietary laws; He revealed that Peter "should not call any man common or unclean" (v. 28)—thus opening the door of salvation to the Gentiles. This vision set the stage for the inspiring decisions recorded in Acts 15.
Acts 15 affirms the biblical laws as revealed in the Old Testament. The Apostles, by quoting the prophets when speaking to the Gentiles, demonstrated that all of God’s Word remained relevant for the Gentiles, and explained that new Gentile converts would later grow in understanding of God’s way: "For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath" (Acts 15:21). Rather than nullifying God’s laws, Jesus Christ and the Apostles reaffirmed them—revealing their spiritual importance! Jesus emphatically answered those who would think otherwise: "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17).