Acts chapter 15

Legalists try to take over in Antioch. Apostles and elders gather in Jerusalem for a Council. They write to Gentile believers. Paul and Barnabas part ways. [UPDATED]

 


 

LEGALISTS TRY TO TAKE OVER ANTIOCH

 

VERSE 1. Some men came down from Judea and taught the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised after the custom of Moses, you can’t be saved.”

Unless you are circumcised. Gentiles had been coming to faith in Jesus Christ. Now these new leaders arrive. They tell the Gentiles that faith in Jesus Christ is not enough. They must also become Jews.

you can’t be saved. Even though they have faith in Jesus Christ, unless they become Jews, they cannot be saved.

 

VERSE 2. Therefore when Paul and Barnabas had no small discord and discussion with them, they appointed Paul and Barnabas, and some others of them, to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about this question.

no small discord and discussion. Paul and Barnabas were able to manage a heated discussion quite well. They did not back down from what they believed to be of first importance.

 

VERSE 3. They, being sent on their way by the assembly, passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles. They caused great joy to all the brothers.

great joy to all the brothers. The amount of joy that the Apostles brought to people was “great.”How can we bring people joy? People need their joy strengthened.

 

VERSE 4. When they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the assembly and the apostles and the elders, and they reported everything that God had done with them.

 

VERSE 5. But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”

the sect of the Pharisees who believed. That is, Pharisee Jews who were also Christians. Being Pharisees, they are also legalists.

rose up, saying. The legalists start their shouting. Legalists were present in those very early days of the Christian movement. And they have infested the church ever since.

 

APOSTLES AND ELDERS GATHER IN JERUSALEM FOR A COUNCIL

 

VERSE 6. The apostles and the elders were gathered together to see about this matter.

 

VERSE 7. When there had been much discussion, Peter rose up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that a good while ago God made a choice among you that by my mouth the nations should hear the word of the Good News and believe.

by my mouth the nations should hear. That is, God chose him to preach to the Gentiles. He is not saying he is the apostle to the Gentiles. Rather, he is referring to the conversion of Cornelius.

 

VERSE 8. God, who knows the heart, testified about them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just like he did to us.

 

VERSE 9. He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.

 

VERSE 10. Now therefore why do you tempt God, that you should put a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

 

VERSE 11. But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.”

This verse is fantastic! Would you consider memorizing it? More great verses to memorize from the Acts of the Apostles and from the entire Bible.

we are saved through the grace. Salvation has nothing to do with merit. We are saved by grace.

of the Lord Jesus. The specific means through which that grace is given to us is the Lord Jesus.

just as they are. Both Jew and Gentile are saved in the same way.

Galatians 3:28. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

VERSE 12. All the multitude kept silence, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul reporting what signs and wonders God had done among the nations through them.

 

VERSE 13. After they were silent, James answered, “Brothers, listen to me.

 

VERSE 14. Simeon has reported how God first visited the nations to take out of them a people for his name.

 

VERSE 15. This agrees with the words of the prophets. As it is written,

 

VERSE 16. ‘After these things I will return. I will again build the tabernacle of David, which has fallen. I will again build its ruins. I will set it up

 

VERSE 17. that the rest of men may seek after the Lord; all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who does all these things.’

 

VERSE 18. “All of God’s works are known to him from eternity.

 

VERSE 19. Therefore my judgment is that we don’t trouble those from among the Gentiles who turn to God,

James was the half brother of Jesus, the head of the church in Jerusalem, and the author of the Epistle of James.

In this very tense meeting, he articulated the simple new standard required for Gentile Christians. We see him as a hero of setting standards.

Setting standards within a group is one of six important ways to nurture the personal relationships in your own Small Group. Read more »

 

VERSE 20. but that we write to them that they abstain from the pollution of idols, from sexual immorality, from what is strangled, and from blood.

James was the half brother of Jesus, the head of the church in Jerusalem, and the author of the Epistle of James.

In this very tense meeting, he articulated the simple new standard required for Gentile Christians. We see him as a hero of setting standards.

Setting standards within a group is one of six important ways to nurture the personal relationships in your own Small Group. Read more »

and from blood. We Christians are still prohibited from eating blood. This prohibition began in the Book of Leviticus:

Leviticus 3:17. “ ‘It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings, that you shall eat neither fat nor blood.’ ”

 

VERSE 21. For Moses from generations of old has in every city those who preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

 

VERSE 22. Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole assembly, to choose men out of their company, and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas: Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, chief men among the brothers.

 

THE COUNCIL WRITES TO GENTILE BELIEVERS EVERYWHERE

 

VERSE 23. They wrote these things by their hand: “The apostles, the elders, and the brothers, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: greetings.

 

VERSE 24. Because we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, ‘You must be circumcised and keep the law,’ to whom we gave no commandment;

You must be. This is what legalists do. They show up and impose their own rules on other people. They are experts at making their own rules seem like the right thing.

However, what they do is not from God. They just make it up.

 

VERSE 25. it seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose out men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,

 

VERSE 26. men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

VERSE 27. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who themselves will also tell you the same things by word of mouth.

 

VERSE 28. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay no greater burden on you than these necessary things:

no greater burden on you than these. At this point in the narrative, there are only four requirements for Gentile Christians. They are listed in the next verse.

 

VERSE 29. that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality, from which if you keep yourselves, it will be well with you. Farewell.”

Gentile Christians are to abstain from just four things:

  • things sacrificed to idols.
  • from blood.
  • from things strangled.
  • from sexual immorality. The Greek word is πορνεία (“porneia”). It means fornication. Some translations render it “unlawful marriage.”

1 Thessalonians 4:3. For this is the will of God: your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality,

 

VERSE 30. So, when they were sent off, they came to Antioch. Having gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter.

 

VERSE 31. When they had read it, they rejoiced over the encouragement.

 

VERSE 32. Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged the brothers with many words and strengthened them.

 

VERSE 33. After they had spent some time there, they were sent back with greetings from the brothers to the apostles.

 

VERSES 34 & 35 But Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

 

PAUL AND BARNABAS PART WAYS

 

VERSE 36. After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s return now and visit our brothers in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, to see how they are doing.”

 

VERSE 37. Barnabas planned to take John, who was called Mark, with them also.

John, who was called Mark. That is, John Mark. In our day, we call him the apostle Mark.

 

VERSE 38. But Paul didn’t think that it was a good idea to take with them someone who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia, and didn’t go with them to do the work.

 

VERSE 39. Then the contention grew so sharp that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus,

the contention grew so sharp. We get the impression that Paul had a fiery temperament.

 

VERSE 40. but Paul chose Silas and went out, being commended by the brothers to the grace of God.

 

VERSE 41. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the assemblies.

 


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