UDAIZERS AND THE JERUSALEM COUNCIL
A crisis now developed which, if not quickly resolved, could have greatly hindered the spread of Christianity to the Gentiles.
A group of Jewish Christians from Judea visited the church at Antioch and began to teach that circumcision and the keeping of the Mosaic law were necessary for salvation (Acts 15:1).
Acts 15:1 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.”
Paul and Barnabas, however, held that circumcision was not necessary for the Gentile converts. As a result “no small dissension and disputation” arose between the 2 parties (v 2).
15:2 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.
Finally the believers at Antioch decided that the matter should be taken to the leaders of the church at Jerusalem, and that Paul and Barnabas and certain others were to go there (v 2).
This move may have been suggested by Paul, who later said that he had received a revelation concerning the matter and had gone up with Barnabas and Titus, a Greek convert, to consult the leaders (Gal 2:2, 3).
15:3 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.
Arriving at Jerusalem, Paul and his companions were cordially welcomed by the believers (Acts 15:4).
nd 15:4 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.
They began to recount how God had blessed the work among the Gentiles, but certain Pharisees, members of the church, soon raised the question of the necessity of circumcision and the keeping of the Mosaic law (v 5).
15:5 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.”
Consequently, a council convened to decide the question (v 6).
Verse 6 Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.
The matter was debated at length, with Peter, Barnabas, and Paul speaking against pressing the ceremonial law upon the Gentiles (vs 7–12).
nd 15:7 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.
Hnd 15:8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us,
Hnd 15:9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
Hnd 15:10 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?
Hnd 15:11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”
Hnd 15:12 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.
Their view prevailed, and it was ruled that the Gentile converts should not be expected to be circumcised or to keep the Law of Moses. They were, however, told to abstain from pollutions of idols, fornication, things strangled, and blood (vs 13–21).
nd 15:13 And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me:
Hnd 15:14 Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.
Hnd 15:15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:
Hnd 15:16 ‘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;
Hnd 15:17 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.’
Hnd 15:18 “Known to God from eternity are all His works.
Hnd 15:19 Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God,
Hnd 15:20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.
Hnd 15:21 For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”
Their mission successfully completed, Paul and the rest of the delegation from Antioch returned to that city, accompanied by certain brethren commissioned to go with them, carrying with them letters from the Jerusalem church. The outcome of the meeting was favorably received by the Antioch believers (Acts 15:22–31). The Jerusalem Council was held probably in a.d. 49.
nd 15:22 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.
Hnd 15:23 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: Greetings.
Hnd 15:24 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—
Hnd 15:25 it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
Hnd 15:26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Hnd 15:27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth.
Hnd 15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:
Hnd 15:29 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. Farewell.
Hnd 15:30 So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter.
Hnd 15:31 When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement.
Once again Paul and Barnabas took up their work of teaching and preaching in Antioch (Acts 15:35).
Hnd 15:35 Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
It is possible that the sequel to the Jerusalem Council, which is related in Gal 2, took place during this time.
Peter came to visit the believers at Antioch, and in keeping with the spirit of the council decision he ate with the Gentiles, a practice that was anathema to the Jews.
However, when certain Judaizing Christians arrived in the city, Peter, possibly fearing a repetition of the former disputes on the subject of the ceremonial law, discontinued this practice (Gal 2:11, 12).
Galatians 2:11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed;
Gal 2:12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.
In this compromise he was joined by Barnabas and others (v 13).
Galatians 2:13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.
Learning of this, Paul severely rebuked him in public for his behavior (vs 14–21).
Gal 2:14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?
Gal 2:15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
Gal 2:16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
Gal 2:17 “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!
Gal 2:18 For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
Gal 2:19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.
Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Gal 2:21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
Paul’s mind now turned to the churches of Asia Minor. He suggested to Barnabas that they again visit them (Acts 15:36).
Acts 15:36 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.”
Barnabas agreed, with the insistence that John Mark also go with them (v 37),
Hnd 15:37 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark.
But Paul refused on the ground that Mark had failed them before and was not to be depended upon (v 38).
Acts 15:38 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.
This difference of opinion grew into a contention that caused the 2 to separate; Paul chose a new traveling companion, Silas, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus (Acts 15:39).
Hnd 15:39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus;