Acts 15:1-35 Comments by Stephen Ricker
one tidbit at a time read & study work the soil kind & courteous be serious about books the lion king stay connected to now dig in deep CLICK TO GO TO Bible Study HOME PAGE

After This I will Return and Rebuild's David's Fallen Tent
Comments for Study 17

Acts 15:1-35
Memory Verse: 16


I. The Disagreement (1-4)

>1. Who would come down from Jerusalem and teach about the need to be circumcised?

* Acts 15:1 "Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved."

* "Some men" -The names are not given. Verse 5 states that they were "believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees." The Pharisees were the most influential group of the time. They are constantly stated in all four gospels as the one most against Jesus. They tried desperately to deface and demean Jesus's teachings and person. Jesus had answered every one of their objections with wisdom and truth. He called them "old wine skins" because they could not accept his teachings being so filled up with their own. (Matt. 9:17) More than any other group after his disciples, Jesus taught the Pharisees. Yet the Pharisees rejected him as the Messiah, as did the Sadducees and Herodians. Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived during this time, says there was about six thousand of them and that they controlled the synagogues. They were the elders of the Jewish religion. One of Jesus' biggest rebukes to them was observing the law to the point of burdening the people and missing the point of the law. Some came to believe that they were wrong about Jesus and the apostles were right, no small thing to a proud man. They accepted Jesus was the Messiah and joined the apostles. In Jerusalem they would have been under the authority of the apostles, turning over their leadership positions in the synagogues to the apostles who were eventually forced by those who did not accept Jesus to start new Messianic synagogues.

* "came down from Judea to Antioch" -Judea contained Jews and people who became Jews. The only Gentiles in the area were the few occupying Romans and Herod's court. The Mosaic law and customs associated with it had been strongly taught and strictly enforced for generations in Judea. As previous chapters point out, now in surrounding areas and beyond Gentiles were becoming Christians without having to become Jews and knowing all the man made laws of the Pharisees. Barnabas and Paul had been teaching the Gentile believers in Antioch for years, and what they taught was Jesus, the Messiah the fulfilment of the law. The environment these Pharisees faced when they arrived in Antioch was a totally new way to live. When I went to Africa and other places on short term overseas mission trips I saw many different ways to conduct a worship service. None were what I had experienced as a youth in Catholic mass and a late teenage, twenty-something and thirty-something old fashion style Protestant worship service. I have some sense of what these arriving Pharisees experienced except I was open minded and understood the grace we have in Christ.

* "were teaching the brothers" -While Barnabas and Paul were on their first missionary journey just before this, these men must have come into Antioch to fill their opened teaching positions until they returned. Since the Pharisees knew the Old Testament so well, having the best "seminary" credentials to be found the church, the Antioch congregation must have thought they made a good decision in letting them teach. Yet, what these men lacked was a deep and strong personal relationship with Jesus, the creator God. These Pharisees hung onto their traditions and laws rather than accepted what Jesus had said to their kind. Since none of the New Testament had been written, it would have been hard for the church in Antioch to see these teacher's errors. Nor does it seem that the Antioch congregation was filled with the Holy Spirit enough to be told of the errors, until Paul and Barnabas returned from their mission trip.

* "circumcised" -removing of the retractable foreskin of the male's organ.

* Pain from circumcision of an infant only last a few hours. Pain for an youth lasts a little longer. Pain for an adult will be several days and it would be hard for him to walk around.

* "according to the custom taught by Moses" -The Pharisees regarded Moses very highly, to the point of given more honor to Moses rather than the God of Moses.

* "you cannot be saved" -They were absolute that the person would not be saved from sin and death. Therefore, they taught that the person would not be in the kingdom of God. Thus, they taught that obeying the law would be the means for a Christian to be saved. This is not what Jesus taught, nor Moses.

>Where would they get this idea? (Gen. 17:9-14)

* Genesis 17:9-14 "Then God said to Abraham, "As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner--those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant."

* God made several promises (covenants) with Abraham;
    1) When he called him (12:1-3)
    2) When Abraham arrived in the promised land (12:7)
    3) When Abraham and Lot separated (Gen. 13:14-17)
    4) After Abraham rescued Lot (Gen. 15). Note: at this time the Lord said, "I am your shield, your very great reward."
    5) After the incident with Hagar, Sarah's maidservant, and Ishmael, Abraham's son by Hagar. (Gen. 17) Note: this is when circumcision was given to Abraham.
    6) Before the Lord destroyed Sodom he visited Abraham promising the son of promise would come a year later. (Gen. 18:10)
    7) When Hagar and Ishmael was sent off the Lord gave him the promise of the Messiah. (Gen. 21:12-13)
    8) When he was about to offer Isaac (Gen. 22:15-18)

* Since Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, the Jews often said that Moses gave them circumcision. However, Jesus pointed out that it came from Abraham. (John 7:22)

>What covenant was God talking about in Genesis and at what time in Abraham's life did he give it?

* A covenant is an agreement between two parties. Genesis 17 speaks of a task that Abraham and his descendants had to do. That chapter does not speak of what God would do, for God had already promised him years earlier. God gave Abraham circumcision after the incident with Hagar. God wanted Abraham to be careful with where his seed went, the seed of the promise. Abraham was not saved by circumcision nor did he received it with a promise. The LORD had promised Abraham years earlier without any works of circumcision.

* Paul speaks of circumcision as a work in Romans chapter 4. Thus, Paul states that Abraham was called righteous (saved) by faith and not by the work of circumcision.

* 1 Corinthians 7:19 states, "Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcised is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts."

* Circumcision was a sign of the covenant; for Abraham it would symbolize his heart's circumcision. Deuteronomy 10:14-17 states, "To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the Lord set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes." And Deuteronomy 30:6 states, "The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live."

* Paul wrote extensively about the subject. "Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised." (Rom. 2:25) And Romans 2:28-29 states, "A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God."

>Is this or at least this type of thing still an issue today? Why or why not?

* Rituals and impressive services and buildings have way of giving comfort to a person's religion. They tempt us to believe we are accepted by God and pleasing while at the same time pushing God off the throne of our hearts and lives. These things give the excuse to say, "I do what God requires," while adding in our hearts, "so the rest of the time I can do what I want to do." Such thinking is not based in God's love and truth. Such thinking makes God out to be a kill joy and boring. Such practices become a burden after a while and causes us to hate God for making us do them, when in fact God never instituted them. That is why people in the millions have left churches at the end of this age. They believe that anything to do with God cannot be pleasing and God keeps us from anything that is fun and exciting. Nothing could be farther from the truth. And yet that is what man over the ages have taught their young.

>2. Who disagreed with the men from Jerusalem?

* Acts 15:2 "This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question."

* "sharp dispute and debate" -Either at this time or very near it Paul rebuked Peter on a very similar, if not the same subject. He recorded it in his letter to the Galatians, "When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (Gal. 2:11-21)

* Paul first visited Galatia on his first missionary journey (previous chapter, 46-48 A.D.). He passed through it again wanting to stop there, but was prevented from doing so on his second missionary journey (Acts 15:39-18:22, 50-52 A.D.). So Paul wrote Galatians during or just after that trip. In between the two mission trips is this chapter. Therefore, it is believed that the incident he wrote about in chapter 2 happened just before the council at Jerusalem. If so, Peter must have traveled with Paul and Barnabas from Antioch to Jerusalem for the counsel.

>What was decided?

* "Paul and Barnabas were appointed" -by the congregation at Antioch. Since Peter was only visiting he would not be mentioned if he was there (as I suppose). Also, Luke out of respect never shed a bad light on the apostles in his account of church history.

* "along with some other believers" -They were true Christians, perhaps this is how Luke includes Peter without mentioning his name.

* "to go to Jerusalem" -The site of the first church, containing many of the apostles and all of the oldest believers, those who heard Jesus' teachings.

* "apostles and elders" -Together as a body all the "leaders" of the church needed to settle this absolutely.

* "about this question" -Specifically circumcision, but more generally (as Galatians 2 indicates) whether the Gentile believers in Jesus needed to keep any of the laws given to the Israelites from Abraham onward.

>What did they do on their way and at Jerusalem?

* Acts 15:3 "The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the brothers very glad."

* "The church" -Indicating as I stated above that this was an act of the Antioch congregation only.

* "Phoenicia" -directly to the south of Antioch.

* "Samaria" -directly to the south of Phoenicia.

* "how the the Gentiles" -On Paul and Barnabas' missionary journey.

* "had been converted" -from paganism to faith in Jesus.

>What was the response to the news?

* "all the brothers" -All believers in Jesus are brothers in his family.

* "very glad" -All should be glad when new believers accept Jesus.

* Acts 15:4 "When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them."

* "they were welcomed" -A good reception.

* "by the church" -the body of believers in Jesus.

* "to whom they reported everything" -A meeting was called where Paul and Barnabas recounted their missionary journey. One could gather that their mission journey was the first of that kind; that is, the first organized sending of believers for the sole purpose of converting others to faith in Jesus.

II. Peter's and James' Insight (5-21)

>3. What happened during Paul's report? (5)

* Acts 15:5 "Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses."

* "Then" -Either during or after Paul and Barnabas' report.

* "some of the believers" -They believed that Jesus is both Lord and Christ who died and rose again.

* "who belonged to the part of the Pharisees" -The church consist of believers who by faith accept core truths and values as found in the Bible. The Westminster Shorter Catechism is a good definition of Christian core beliefs. Beyond that there are differing opinions about what is sometimes referred to as "grey areas".

* Calvin wrote, "We know how proud the Pharisees were, how haughty, how lofty their looks were; all which they would have forgotten if they had truly put on Christ. Like as there remained no Pharisee in Paul, but a great part had gotten the habit of stubbornness by long custom, which they could not shake off so easily by and by. For as much as there reigned most of all among them hypocrisy, they were too much addicted to external rites, which are coverings for vices. They were likewise puffed up with pride, so that they did tyrannously covet to make all other men subject to their decrees." (Calvin's Commentaries)

* "stood up and said" -They waited during the report for their chance to make their case. They knew why Paul was there and might have been with him and Barnabas as they traveled south. Since Paul and Barnabas stopped along they way these men might have sent some to avoid the stops and went straight to Jerusalem to give them a heads-up. Those who may have stayed with Paul and Barnabas probably heard the mission report several times.

* "The Gentiles must" -This is the first example of the church having a division over a belief. The church consist of believers who by faith accept core truths and values as found in the Bible. The Westminster Shorter Catechism is a good definition of Christian core beliefs. Beyond that there are differing opinions about what is sometimes referred to as "grey areas". The issue brought up by this group is not a grey area anymore. The apostles and elders settled the question over obeying the law of Moses and circumcision making it a core belief.

* At times some ask, "Why so many denominations?" The answer can be found here.

* 1 Corinthians 11:17-19 states, "In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval."

>What incident was Peter referring to in verses 6-9? (10:1-11:18)

* Acts 15:6-9 "The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith."

* "The apostles and elders met" -It appears that the main congregation was dismissed so that these men could address the statement.

* "after much discussion" -Many had say. Some must have had differing opinions and both might have had verses to back up what they were stating. As for the decision that was finally made only a few Old Testament verses would back it up. Yet, Jesus' teaching certainly does.

* "no distinction" -The Gentiles at Cornelius' houses was accepted by God as one of the true believers not based on following any law including circumcision. Rather they were accepted by faith in Jesus alone as Peter preached him to them.

* "purified their hearts by faith" -Salvation is by faith alone. Forgiveness of sins is purifying our hearts.

>How did Peter describe the Messianic Pharisees' demands? (10)

* Acts 15:10 "Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?"

* "why do you try to test God" -Strong words to a Jew. Deuteronomy 6:16 states, "Do not test the Lord your God as you did at Massah."

* "putting on the necks" -Two oxen or horses are tied together with a wood beam as they plow the field. It is a fitting description since Jesus often talked of planting the seeds of the word of God, the work of a disciple. Jesus offers to all, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matt. 11:28-30)

* Exodus 6:6-7 "Therefore, say to the Israelites: 'I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians." Also in Lev. 26:13.

* "neither we nor our fathers" -Generation after generation since the law was given, no Israelite could keep the law perfectly because we are all born with the sinful nature of Adam.

* "been able to bear" -The law is oppressive and overbearing because of our sinful nature. All the law is able to do is point out our sinfulness so that we may turn to Jesus for forgiveness.

>4. How is a person saved? (11)

* Acts 15:11 "No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."

* "grace" -unmerited divine assistance.

* "our Lord Jesus" -Jesus alone saves.

* Peter just explained the core of the gospel. He learned it through the dream just before his visit to Cornelius and saw it confirmed by the Holy Spirit when they believed.

>What does this mean about what God considers righteous? (Rom. 2:17-29, 3:21-31, 4:9-12, and 1 Cor. 7:18, Gal. 6:12-13)

* Romans 2:17-29 "Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth-- you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: "God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. If those who are not circumcised keep the law's requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker. A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.

* Romans 3:21-31 "But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law."

* Romans 4:9-12 "Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised."

* 1 Corinthians 7:17-20 "Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcised is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts. Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him."

* Galatians 6:12-15 "Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation."

* Since the letter of Romans was written after the meeting in this chapter, it appears that some did not accept the apostles and elder's decision. A schism was made because some rejected a core belief concerning the work of Jesus death and resurrection. The next would be Gnosticism based on a very similar disbelief concerning Jesus and what he did.

>What fact did Paul and Barnabas add to Peter's history lesson? (12)

* Acts 15:12 "The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them."

* "miraculous signs and wonders" -Testimony needed to prove who was right and who was wrong. Yet, Jesus as with Jesus' miracles some refused to accept them as proof that they were wrong. To this day people refuse to see God's work as a testimony.

>5. How did James describe the Gentile believers? (13-14)

* Acts 15:13-14 "When they finished, James spoke up: "Brothers, listen to me. Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself."

* "James" -the brother of Jesus. After James the apostle was killed and Peter was forced to leave Jerusalem because he escaped from jail and thus death (chapter 12), James' the brother of Jesus seems to have become the pastor (Latin for shepherd) of the Jerusalem congregation.

* "Brothers" -common greeting in the New Testament.

* "Listen to me" -All that was said cause many small conversations taking place, and perhaps even a few "loud" voices.

* "showed his concern" -Love

* "from the Gentiles a people for himself" -The same he had done with the Israelites, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We are a people, separate and yet one with Israel by faith, set aside for God's use and purpose.

>6. How did David's tent fall?

* Acts 15:15-18 "The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: "'After this I will return and rebuild David's fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things' that have been known for ages."

* James quoted from Amos 9:11-12, though not word for word as others have noted. why? Was it the Holy Spirit leading or a faulty memory? Either way the main point holds; that is, the Gentiles coming into the same faith and salvation is fulfillment of prophecy. What of the rest of it?

* "The words of the prophets are in agreement with this" -When seeking God's will and direction they went to the word of God for direction and confirmations; a practice good for all.

* "David's fallen tent" -The religious leaders had been for generation to generation slowly leading the people away from the Lord right up to the rejection of the Messiah, putting him to death on the cross.

* Many of Jesus' parables dealt with building a house. Paul in his letters also used the analogy.

>What does this have to do with Gentile believers? Think about what happened during and after David's son, Solomon's reign.

* The kingdom of Israel split in two after Solomon's reign; north and south. Both kingdom's sinned against the Lord and were brought into captivity for it. The northern kingdom never was re-establish as a nation again; the people scattered into the nations. The southern kingdom, Judea was established again. After they rejected the Messiah they were scattered into the nations. In 1948 the southern kingdom was again established as a nation and many have been returning from all over the world to Israel. Beyond this there as always been a remnant of Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah; right up to this very day we see many Jews for Jesus.

* In between the rejection of the Messiah and the 1948 restoration of Israel the Gentiles have been coming to the Lord Jesus Christ. We are called Chrstians, bearing his name. We have been few in number, a remnant, just as the Jews who returned to Jesus and now the land of Israel are a remnant.

* The NIV study Bible states, "Some have taken this quotation from Amos as setting forth a sequence of the end times; including (1) the church age (taking out 'a people for himself') (2) the restoration of Israel as a nation, (3) the final salvation of the Gentiles.

>How is Jesus, the son of David key to rebuilding David's fallen tent?

* Jesus has been constantly working to fulfill his purpose, seated at the right hand of the Father. Jesus is calling Israel to him again from the time of his ministry to this very day. Jesus has and is calling Jews and Gentiles to his name, making then who were not a people, a people.

* Calvin wrote, "After that God hath promised the restoring of the tabernacle of David, he saith also, that he will bring to pass that the Jews shall possess the remnants of Edom. In all that text, there appeareth nothing as yet whence the calling of the Gentiles can be fet or gathered; but that which followeth immediately after in the prophet, concerning the remnant of the Gentiles which shall call upon the name of the Lord, doth plainly show that the Jews and Gentiles shall make one Church, because that which was then proper to the Jews alone is given to both in general. For God placeth the Gentiles in like degree of honor with the Jews, when he will have them to call upon his name. Those of Idumea, and the people thereabout, were in times past under David subject to the Jews; but though they were tributaries to the people of God, yet were they nevertheless strangers from the Church. Therefore, this was news and a strange thing, in that God reckoneth them up with the holy people, that he may be called the God of them all; seeing that it is certain that they are all made equal in honor among themselves by this means. Whereby it doth plainly appear how well the testimony of the prophet agreeth with the present purpose. For God promiseth to restore the decayed tabernacle, wherein the Gentiles shall obey the kingdom of David, not only that they may pay tribute, or take [to arms] weapon at the king’s commandment, but that they may have one God, and that they may be one family to him." (Calvin's Commentaries)

>7. What was James' conclusion? (19-20)

* Acts 15:19-20 "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood."

* "not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God" -How many times have well intending people gone against this?

* The requirements given are simple, and yet we have broken even these few requirements (especially sexually) over and over again.

>What do you think he meant by bringing up the fact that Moses is read in every synagogue? (21)

* Acts 15:21 "For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath."

* At this time the new church meet in Jewish synagogues and consisted of many who grew up Jews. In a synagogue service every Saturday they read from the Scriptures. Thus, knowledge of the word of God was well established. Most knew the desires of God for as Paul wrote, "Everything is permissible for me"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"--but I will not be mastered by anything. "Food for the stomach and the stomach for food"--but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body." (1 Cor. 6:12-13) And Peter wrote, "For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity--for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them." (2 Peter 2:18-21)

* Calvin wrote, "(James) teaches that it cannot be that ceremonies can be abolished so quickly, as it were, at the first dash; because the Jews had now a long time been acquainted with the doctrine of the law, and Moses had his preachers; therefore, it stood them upon to redeem concord for a short thee, until such time as the liberty gotten by Christ might, by little and little, appear more plainly. (Calvin's Commentaries)

III. The Return to Antioch (22-35)

>8. Why was it so important for elders to be sent with Paul and Barnabas?

* Acts 15:22 "Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers."

* "their own men" -Perhaps excluding those who started the whole problem in Antioch.

* "leaders among the brothers" -By word and action.

* This group of four would not go against the decision and only encourage the new Gentile believers.

>What is significant about calling the Gentile believers brothers? (23)

* Acts 15:23 "With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings."

* "your brothers" -The apostles and elders, acknowledgement from Jewish believers in Jesus, that the Gentiles believers and they have been made into one people and family. Paul wrote, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit-- just as you were called to one hope when you were called-- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (Eph. 4:2-6)

>9. What did the apostles have to say about the men who started the disagreement even though there was some still in Jerusalem?

* Acts 15:24 "We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said."

* "without our authorization" -The laying on of hands is sign of being sent out by the church. These men did not have that. However, just because one leaves an area to go to another, as in after Stephen's murder, without the laying of hands does not mean that God is not with that person.

* "disturbed you, troubled your minds" -Holding onto salvation in Jesus by faith, confidence in the love of God, should not disturb the believer in Jesus. However, just because we are disturbed does not mean that we are not in Christ.

>How did the apostles acknowledge Paul and Barnabas?

* Acts 15:25-28 "So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul-- men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:"

* "our dear friends Barnabas and Paul" -Acknowledgement of who was right.


* "risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" -The men who preached circumcision did not risk their lives. They risked other's lives in Christ.

>10. What are the only restrictions placed on the new Gentile believers?

* Acts 15:29 "You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell."

* "food sacrificed to idols" -Doing so would be an acknowledgement of that idol and confuse others.

* "from blood" -The cross is the message of Jesus' blood cleansing us from sins. Drinking blood as was common in those days to acquire the animals soul, would confuse the message of the cross. The Israelites were forbidden by the law of Moses to eat blood (Deut. 12:23) and all the world was commanded this after the flood (Gen. 9:4).

* "the meat of strangled animals" -A practice to keep blood in meat for the same purpose as stated above.

* "sexual immorality" -Pagan religion practice always includes sexual immorality. We are to stay away from this culture and family destructive practice.

>Why only these?

* Calvin wrote, "The question is now, why James doth enjoin the Gentiles these four things alone? Some say that this was let [derived] from the ancient custom of the fathers, who did not make any covenant with any people which they could enforce to obey them but upon this condition; but because there is no fit author of that thing brought to light, I leave it in doubt and undecided. (Calvin's Commentaries)

* Love can not be regulated. However, love regulates the sinner for his own good.

>What was the response?

* Acts 15:30-35 "The men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers. After spending some time there, they were sent off by the brothers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord."

* "prophet... encouraged... strengthened... blessing of peace... taught and preached to word of the Lord." -signs of a healthy congregation.

>What does this say about the freedom of life when we live by the Holy Spirit's leading?

* The believer in Jesus first priority is to please his Savior and Lord. In all things we do we are to do it for the Lord.


Click the house to go to the Bible Study HOME Page