"And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved". Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren. And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them. 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 Jerusalem Council
Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they."
Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, "Men and brethren, listen to me: Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: After! this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the Lord who does all these things.'
"Known to God from eternity are all His works. Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath."
The Jerusalem Decree
Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren.
They wrote this, letter by them: The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:
Since 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 such commandment — it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.
Continuing Ministry in Syria
So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter. When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement. Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words. And after they had stayed there for a time, they were sent back with greetings from the brethren to the apostles. However, it seemed good to Silas to remain there. Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
Division over John Mark
Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing." Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Meeting: The First “General” Council of Christians
Agenda: The Question of Salvation by Jesus vs. Law Keeping and Jesus
Up to this point, every dispute that challenged the church came from outside agitators who didn’t embrace Jesus Christ as Messiah. Those who opposed the new religion (Christianity) many times resorted to thugnacious acts of violence to press their displeasure over this new way of life. The churches now were finally at peace because of the large success in the Apostles spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and through many accepting the invitation of Salvation through Jesus Christ alone, the ministry work yielded many converts, both Jew and gentile. They enjoyed great external prosperity in Antioch, and of course, Satan, the great enemy of the souls of all men, women, boys, and girls took occasion then, as he has often done throughout history, especially during the time of the earthly ministry of Jesus and in similar circumstances since, to excite contentions and cause a “schism” in the church itself. So when external violence could not destroy the church of Jesus Christ, Satan through the unbelieving Jewish religious leaders would always make an effort to accomplish his objective (to steal, kill, and destroy the people of God) by internal dissension and strife.
Now Satan having been thwarted by the belief in Gospel and the faithfulness of the new converts who fully embraced it despite all external opposition, now changes his tactic and now launches an internal attack (schisms) against the Gospel of Jesus Christ itself and challenges Doctrine of Salvation through Jesus Christ alone. This chapter reveals to us a very important time in the history of the Christian church for 4 reasons:
1. This history, therefore, is particularly important, because it is the record of the first unhappy debate and dispute which arose in the bosom of the church.
2. It is further important, because it shows the manner in which doctrinal and social controversies were settled in apostolic time.
3. It established some very important principles respecting the perpetuity of the religious rites of the Jews.
4. This was settled at the conference in this chapter.
Important note: Even though the Jerusalem Church steeled the matter, many Christians, living in that time period in history were and many Christians living in this modern historic period even now are drawn away from the simple Christian faith in Jesus Christ by the fallacy of keeping the LAW.
Historically, the entire church body at Galatia went back under the law and were condemned by Paul in Galatians 1:6; 3:1-5; and 5:4. Sadly, Peter, Barnabas, and others were carried away with this false doctrine for awhile in Galatians 2:11-21. Paul in anger and disgust called out both Peter and Barnabas..
Biblical and Doctrinal fact concerning the Law of Moses
According to 2 Corinthians 3:6-15, Paul said the Law of Moses has been abolished and done away.
Paul said in Galatians 4:21-31, the “ Mosaic Law” has been cast out and abolished.
In Ephesians 2:15, Paul said the “LAW” has been blotted out.
In Colossians 2:14-17, Paul declared the “LAW” had been taken out of the way;
The “LAW” has been “changed” in Hebrews 7:12 , “disannulled” in Hebrews 7:18); “replaced” and has vanished in Hebrews 8:6-13; and Hebrews 10:9.
Doctrinal Dispute: The Question of “Keeping the Law” (verses 1-3)
False Doctrine taught according to “Certain men" from Judaea (Jews) (vs. 1)
They came behind Paul and Barnabas after they left Antioch and the surrounding regions undermining the ministry of Paul and Barnabas saying to the new churches in the region: “Except you be circumcised after the manner of Moses, (Law) you cannot be saved.
Paul and Barnabas opposed them on teaching this false doctrine: What makes his teaching a "false" teaching is Jesus Christ has fulfilled all the requirements of the Mosaic Law. Now being under grace and the ongoing stage of the "Church age" and now knowing that Jesus Christ is the only Messiah and the only way to be redeemed from sin, Paul and Barnabas were fully satisfied that it was never God’s intention to bring the converted Gentiles under the ”yoke” of “circumcision”. They knew that Jesus Christ was the end of the law for righteousness (justification) to everyone that believed which meant anybody who accepted Jesus Christ as Messiah was justified through HIM. Therefore they opposed this doctrine taught by the Judaizing teachers.
This was one of the first controversies in the Christian church; but, though the difference of sentiment was considerable, it led to no breach of Christian charity nor fellowship among themselves.
(So, the disciples at Antioch) They determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.] (vs.2)
Paul and Barnabas: Delegates from Antioch of (verses 3-4)
Their church paid their expenses to the council meeting, providing whatever they would possibly need for the journey.
On their way to the council, they , while passing through Phenice and Samaria, they openly declared that Gentiles were and could be saved by the Gospel.
Note: It was a miracle of God's mercy that the Gentiles should be received into the church of God; and they had now the fullest proof that they being saved was likely to become general, by the conversion of Cornelius, the conversion of the people of Antioch, of Cyprus, Pisidia, Pamphylia, Lycaonia, etc., etc. Remember, Jesus came to the Jews first, yet along the way He poured out His love on the Gentiles.
Arriving at Jerusalem, they were received by the Jerusalem church, the Apostles and elders and gave their report of everything they accomplished on the first missionary journey.
Convening of the Council: Agenda: Concerning “Circumcision” and “Keeping the Law of Moses” (verses 5-6)
Christian Pharisee sect:
"We believe it is needful to circumcise the Gentiles and command them to keep the Law of Moses”.
Notice they did not question the reality of the Gentile's conversion, or the propriety of recognizing them as believers, but contended that their right to the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant and their standing in the church was incomplete without circumcision. In other words, they believe the Gentiles could not be blessed under the Abrahamic Covenant unless they were circumcised.
The apostles and elders went in open discussion on this matter
Peter’s Address to the Council: ‘Why Tempt God”? (verses 7-11)
Peter gave a "factual" account of what God intended
a. God used me to preach to the Gentiles a while back (Acts 10 Cornelius’ household) that they should hear the WORD of the Gospel and believe. God who knows the hearts of all men considered the Gentiles worthy to be saved by doing the following:
God in these Gentiles gave them the Holy Spirit, in the same manner HE gave HIM to the converted Jews. (vs. 8)
God was not discriminate. HE put no difference between them and us purifying their hearts (the Gentiles of Cornelius’ household) They became a new creation in Jesus Christ that very moment. (vs. 9)
Now, therefore, Why tempt God to put a (the same) yoke upon the necks of the disciples (Notice Peter didn’t call them Gentiles, he called them disciples, putting them in the same standing with Christ as the believing Jews were.) which neither our fathers (forefathers of many generations before us leading up to us) nor we (the present generation of Jews once under that same yoke could not even bear. (vs. 10)
But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved (Ephesians 2:8-9) even as they. (vs. 11)
Paul and Barnabas’ Missionary Report: (vs. 12)
Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.
Barnabas was mentioned first in this verse because he was known among the brethren and had been in acquaintance with them longer that Paul who was the younger in the faith. Their report coming immediately after Peter's account of the introduction of Cornelius and his party into the Church without circumcision, was plainly designed to show that God had acted on the same principle with them, throughout all their missionary ministry and work, as he had done with Peter; the signs and wonders performed among the Gentiles through them having set the same divine seal on their proceedings, as the descent of the Spirit upon Cornelius and his friends had done upon those of Peter.
James the Apostle’s Summation: “The Prophet’s Position” (verses 13-18)“Men and brethren, listen to me”. (vs. 13)
We agree the “salvation” of the Gentiles is genuine and without the keeping of the LAW. Here are the facts:
Simeon declared first that God visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for HIS name. (vs.14)
Notice here in this meeting James served as chairman and presided over it. It was interesting that he called Peter by his given name rather than the name Jesus gave him. In all likelihood, James either wasn’t aware or didn’t understand that Jesus had given Peter the position of “head leadership” in ushering in the church the people and possibly thought (naturally) thought being the brother of Jesus that the leadership role fell upon him. However, James was rightfully was the chairman of the council meeting.
The prophets of old prophesied the salvation of the Gentiles
Scripture references are the following: Isaiah 11:10, 42:1, 6; 49:6, 22; 60:3. 66:19, Amos 9:10-11 and Malachi 1:11
New Testament Scripture references: Romans 9: 25-33
The promise to rebuild the fallen temple (the tabernacle of David) and set up worship practices. (Written and Prophesied by Amos in Amos 9: 11-12) And fulfilled in Acts16-17 (19th Old Testament prophecy) (vs. 15-16)
James here is referring to after the end of the church age and after the rapture of the church, God will begin to rebuild the nation of Israel getting it ready for the eternal reign of the Messiah.
Hosea 3:4-5; Isaiah 9:6-7; Daniel 7:13-14; Luke 1:32-33; Revelation 11:15; 20:1-10; 22:4-5.
The actual return of the Messiah and setting up the kingdom of David again will be when Christ returns. Millennial reign of Jesus Christ for 1,000 years
Matthew 24:29-31; 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; Revelation 19:11-21; Zechariah 14.
It’s going to be done in this manner:
That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, says the Lord, who doeth all these things. (vs. 17)
Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. (vs. 18)
Very Important to Remember:
God sees everything future.
God knows what he will accomplish.
God has a plan and all his works are so arranged in his mind that he sees everything distinctly and clearly. As he foretold these, (prophecy) it was a part of his plan; and as it was a part of his plan long since foretold.
“Conventional wisdom says God’s plans should not be opposed and resisted by us.”
James Renders the “Council’s Final Decision” (verses 19-21)
“We the council and we the church are not to trouble those Gentiles who have turned to God (who are converted) with the burden of keeping the Law and the burden of circumcision.” It is not theirs to keep and remember we did keep the whole Law
We will however write a letter to them to let them know what IS required of them: based on our judgment of the matter: (vs. 20)
4 Laws for Gentile Christians
Abstain from pollutions of idols. abstain (Acts 15:20,29; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 5:22; 1 Timothy4:3; 1 Peter 2:11).It literally means to have nothing to do with the practice of idolatry; stand aloof from idols, and all immoral acts attendant on such festivals (Acts 15:20,29; 1 Corinthians 8:7-13; 10:18-22 0
Abstain from fornication (Acts 15:20,29).
It means to live a life of purity and chasity . Avoid living in uncleanness (homosexuality and other perversions) and prostitution which was so common at idol temples (Numbers 25:1-15).3.
Abstain from things strangled (Acts 15:20, 29; and 21:25). When animals were strangled the blood remained in their bodies contrary to Leviticus 17:10-14, this being considered as making a greater delicacy.
Abstain from blood (Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25; Genesis 9:4). This not only includes eating blood, but shedding blood through acts of all cruelty and murder in its various forms.
Moses preached The Law and the Law was read every Sabbath in every city. (vs. 22)
Conclusion: A “Unified” Christian Doctrine (verse 22)
Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:
Post Meeting: “The Christian Council’s Decision” Concerning the Gentiles submitting to Circumcision and Keeping the Law of Moses (verses 22-41)
Post Agenda: Write and send a Doctrinal statement to the Gentile Christians: Concerning “Necessary Things”
Introduction: The Council’s Decision:
“We the council and we the church are not to trouble those Gentiles who have turned to God (who are converted) with the burden of keeping the Law and the burden of circumcision.” It is not theirs to keep and remember we did not keep the whole Law
We will however write a letter to them to let them know what IS required of them: based on our judgment of the matter:
The Council fashioned 4 Laws for the Gentile Christians to adhere to because it was the council’s position that these 4 requirements were “necessary”.
The Gentiles were to abstain from pollutions of idols. This meant they were to stay away from and stand against idolatrous practices, participating in immoral acts or attend and such festivals that celebrated idolatry in any way
Scripture References:. Acts 15:20, 29… 1 Thessalonians 4:3; ..5:22; ….
1 Corinthians 8:7-13 and chapter 10:18-22….1 Timothy 4:3 and
1 Peter 2:11).
The Gentiles were to abstain from fornication (Acts 15:20, 29). It means to live a life of purity and chase . Avoid living in uncleanness (homosexuality and other perversions) and prostitution which was so common at idol temples (Numbers 25:1-15).
The Gentiles were to abstain from things strangled (Acts 15:20, 29; and 21:25).When animals were strangled the blood remained in their bodies contrary to Leviticus 17:10-14, abstaining from this was being considered as making a greater dedication toward living according to the principles Jesus taught.
The Gentiles were to abstain from blood (Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25; Genesis 9:4).This not only includes eating blood, but shedding blood through acts of all cruelty and murder in its various forms. Moses preached The Law and the Law was read every Sabbath in every city. (vs. 21)
of Doctrine for Gentile Christians (verses 23- 31)
The Church council as a group formulated the following formal letter of Doctrine to the Gentile Christians:
To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:
Since 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 such commandment.
Those who came to you with these troubling words were not sent to you by us, nor do they represent the doctrinal position of the church.
It seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth.
It’s fitting for us being of one accord (believing the same thing and speaking the same thing) that we (the Council) send to you along with Paul and Barnabas Judas and Silas ( they represent our position) who will tell you by words from their own mouth the same things we write to you now.
For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.* If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.
Why were these things “necessary?
(1) In order to preserve the peace of the church.
(2) To conciliate the minds of the Jewish converts
(3) In their circumstances particularly, because the crime which is specified-licentiousness was one to which all early converts were especially exposed.
II. The Effect of the letters and Exhortations (vs. 30-34)
The Gentiles rejoiced in the fact that they would not be subject to keeping the Law and circumcision and the rituals of the Jewish religion. Judas and Silas also encourage them. Silas was also compelled to stay with them a while longer.
III. Paul Begins His Second Missionary Journey (verses 35-39)
a. Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch preaching and teaching the WORD.
b. Paul decided and suggested that they revisit every city they ministered in and established churches in.
c. Barnabas became determined to take John Mark with them which didn’t set too well with Paul.
d. Paul said it wasn’t a good idea to take Mark because he abandoned them during their first missionary journey. Paul lost trust in Mark.
This created a strong contention between them to the point they separated (in peace). Barnabas took Mark, his relative and they sailed to Cyprus. (vs. 39
From this point, you never hear anything else about Barnabas in history.
Paul’s second missionary journey starts in Acts 15:36 and covers up to Chapter 18:22
Paul was determined because of righteousness, thinking it best for the work of the Lord. From Paul’s point of view, John Mark failed them and by abandoning them during the first missionary journey, Paul lost trust in Mark and in his eyes had done nothing to regain trust. (Acts 13:13).
Barnabas was determined because of love for a relative. His love led him to hope for the best. Barnabas would not give up and Paul would not change, so they agreed to disagree taking different parts of the work. This time Mark proved so faithful that even Paul later wrote for him (2 Timothy 4:11).
In Christ two can differ and not manifest bad tempers. The way it worked out, two parties instead of one accomplished more work than would have been done otherwise.
Dr. William Edward Boddie