Here in Acts 15 we have the first official church council in Jerusalem. Also, we have a significant discussion that sets the precedent for future church doctrine. Paul and Barnabas called this council because some Jews told the brand new Gentile Christian believers that they had to be circumcised! In other words, did the Gentiles have to become Jews before they could be saved? This angered Paul so much that he got a delegation together from the church in Antioch of Syria and headed to Jerusalem to discuss this issue with the church leadership. Let’s dig in…
While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the believers: “Unless you are circumcised as required by the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 Paul and Barnabas disagreed with them, arguing vehemently. Finally, the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, accompanied by some local believers, to talk to the apostles and elders about this question. 3 The church sent the delegates to Jerusalem, and they stopped along the way in Phoenicia and Samaria to visit the believers. They told them—much to everyone’s joy—that the Gentiles, too, were being converted.
4 When they arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul were welcomed by the whole church, including the apostles and elders. They reported everything God had done through them. 5 But then some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted, “The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses.”
6 So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue. 7 At the meeting, after a long discussion, Peter stood and addressed them as follows: “Brothers, you all know that God chose me from among you some time ago to preach to the Gentiles so that they could hear the Good News and believe. 8 God knows people’s hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. 10 So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? 11 We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”
12 Everyone listened quietly as Barnabas and Paul told about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. (We covered this in Acts 10.)
13 When they had finished, James stood and said, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Peter has told you about the time God first visited the Gentiles to take from them a people for himself. 15 And this conversion of Gentiles is exactly what the prophets predicted. As it is written:
16 ‘Afterward I will return
and restore the fallen house of David.
I will rebuild its ruins
and restore it,
17 so that the rest of humanity might seek the Lord,
including the Gentiles—
all those I have called to be mine.
The Lord has spoken—
18 he who made these things known so long ago.’ [Amos 9:11-12, Isaiah 45:21]
19 “And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood. 21 For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations.”
The Letter for Gentile Believers
22 Then the apostles and elders together with the whole church in Jerusalem chose delegates, and they sent them to Antioch of Syria with Paul and Barnabas to report on this decision. The men chosen were two of the church leaders—Judas (also called Barsabbas) and Silas. 23 This is the letter they took with them:
“This letter is from the apostles and elders, your brothers in Jerusalem. It is written to the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. Greetings!
24 “We understand that some men from here have troubled you and upset you with their teaching, but we did not send them! 25 So we decided, having come to complete agreement, to send you official representatives, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We are sending Judas and Silas to confirm what we have decided concerning your question.
28 “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no greater burden on you than these few requirements: 29 You must abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. If you do this, you will do well. Farewell.”
30 The messengers went at once to Antioch, where they called a general meeting of the believers and delivered the letter. 31 And there was great joy throughout the church that day as they read this encouraging message.
32 Then Judas and Silas, both being prophets, spoke at length to the believers, encouraging and strengthening their faith. 33 They stayed for a while, and then the believers sent them back to the church in Jerusalem with a blessing of peace. 35 Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch. They and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord there.
Paul and Barnabas Separate
36 After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are doing.” 37 Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. 38 But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. 39 Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. 40 Paul chose Silas, and as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care. 41 Then he traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches there.Acts 15 NLT
Points to Ponder
- This is the last time we hear from Peter in the Book of Acts, and the first time we hear from the Apostle James, the half-brother of Jesus, who was a latecomer to the fold. Clearly, James here is the leader or head of the church. NOT PETER! Peter was never the head of the church in Jerusalem never mind Rome! (Read this article on my historical research on the Apostle Peter.)
- We are cleansed by faith in Jesus Christ. Not by baptism. We are not saved by any baptism, either. We are saved by God’s Grace alone! Adult Christian baptism is an outward and inward show of dying to our old selves and rising to a new life in Jesus Christ.
- All born again Christians are united by the same Holy Spirit!
What God did with the Gentiles back then He can do for You NOW!
Both Peter and Paul told of how God moved in miraculous ways among the Gentiles. This is fulfilling what Jesus told them to do in Acts 1. It’s what was prophesied in the Old Testament as we read here. It was time to leave the old Jewish traditions, rites and rituals behind and just trust that God knew what He was doing when He sent Jesus to die on the cross so we wouldn’t have to.
Roman Catholic rites, rules, traditions, and rituals don’t save you. They can’t save you! They are man-made. They are not found anywhere in the Bible!
You Must Study the Bible, Don’t Just Read It!
Everything we learn as Christians should be based in God’s Word, the Bible — nowhere else! Don’t trust any other source! Furthermore, be very careful of anything that is added to what God has said. We read in the very last book of the Bible, Revelation, in the very last chapter, in the very last page…
17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life. 18 And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. 19 And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book.Revelation 22:17-19 NLT
How do you know if something is true, twisted or watered-down?
You MUST study the Bible for yourself. Moreover, just reading it is not enough. You have to study it slowly. That’s where these free Bible apps help tremendously…
Recommended Bible Study Apps:
Before I do each of my blogs and podcasts, I read the chapter a couple of times. I love listening to it in the YouVersion Bible app in the NTL version. It’s not a computer voice, but a real, professional person reading it. For this series on Acts, I’m using 2 different study plans which give me different insights on various passages in each chapter. Finally, I listen to the lesson in Through the Word. That’s studying the Bible.
Why shouldn’t you study it? It’s God Word, God speaking to YOU!
Likewise, if you have the Holy Spirit in your heart, He will help you discern — tell the difference — if what you’re hearing in church, or anywhere else, is true or not.
Do you have the Holy Spirit in your heart?
If you’re not sure if you’re saved or not, if you truly want to be born again and have the assurance of salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, and get a 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven after you die, or that you won’t be left behind at the Rapture, this is what you have to do…