Acts 15:1 “…certain men… Unless you are circumcised…you cannot be saved”
Interesting situation due to their reasoning. They came from Judea so we can assume they knew of the story of Peter and Cornelius. Why would they now say a person had to become a Jew first when salvation by God had already occurred without it? Were they sincere in their belief that a person had to go through Judaism to reach Christ or were they those who constantly try to find ways of putting men under bondage, a means of control.
2 “…had no small dissension and dispute…”
Not just a casual conversation.
2 “…should go up to Jerusalem…”
Stop arguing about it, go get it settled.
3 “…passed through Phoenicia and Samaria…joy to all the brethren”
Obviously visiting local churches along the way, sharing the good news of what God had been doing.
5 “…some of the sect of the Pharisees…necessary to circumcise them…keep the law of Moses”
Old habits are hard to break. These were Pharisees who had believed so they weren’t as others who were completely stuck in their own ideas of salvation. But they had believed so long in the outward appearance and action that it was hard to lay aside, even though they have already seen God act outside of the old ways. I also need to give them the benefit of the doubt. They may believe those things were necessary and truly wanted to do as God wanted. How they react when confronted with the evidence will determine their true intent.
6 “Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.”
Verse four says they were received by the church, the apostles, and the elders. Then after they had shared what God was doing, some of the sect of the Pharisees spoke. Now we see that just the apostles and elders are coming together to consider the matter. Certainly the whole congregation would be involved in the decision as they had been in other things. But it is much more efficient for those who have been chosen as leaders to hash out the details then present their conclusions before the whole congregation. Much easier to get to the heart of the matter without having to take time for everyone’s opinion. Commentary doesn’t exactly agree. It suggests the discussion was done in the presence of all the people. That is possible. However, I feel from the text that there was something of a separation between the groups, either by location or participation. The discussion was orderly, not a chaos of opinions and ideas.
6 “…apostles and elders…”
Teachers and leaders of the church of Jerusalem. Interesting to know exactly how Luke considered the term apostle. One of the twelve or those who obviously had been gifted as teachers. He has already referred to both Paul and Barnabas as apostles.
7-11 “…Peter rose up…God chose…the Gentiles should hear…and believe…acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit…why do you test God…through the grace…we shall be saved in the same manner as they”
Exactly the point. God had already shown that His grace extended to the Gentiles without outward actions. He proved that by giving them the Holy Spirit and showing the same signs He displayed when He gave Him to the Jews. Why make the mistake of trying to add to what God has said. Salvation is through grace by faith in the saving actions of Jesus Christ and nothing else.
20 “…write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood”
These are the primary differences between Jewish and Gentile worship methods. Gentiles would offer sacrifices just as the Jews. But they would worship idols, use fornication in their rituals, strangle the sacrifices instead of slaughtering and draining the blood, and sometimes consume the blood as part of the rituals. Abstaining from all of that would show their departure from that way of life.
22 “…pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church…”
The issue has been discussed and now the whole church comes together for the decision.
22 “…and Silas…”
First mention of the one who would accompany Paul on another missionary journey.
24 “…to whom we gave no such commandment…”
So the men had acted on their own without discussing the matter with others beforehand.
36 “…go back and visit our brethren in every city…”
Paul’s idea wasn’t to cover new territory, but to go back to the churches they had started in their previous journey. Certainly he would take every opportunity to spread the Gospel, but his first concern was to strengthen the brethren already there.
37-41 “…Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark…Paul insisted that they should not…contention became so sharp that they parted…Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus…Paul chose Silas and departed…through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches”
Much discussion in all of this. Barnabas lived up to his title as an encourager by wanting to give John Mark another chance. Paul considered the work to be done too important to risk giving him one. Text says the contention became so sharp that they parted. There could have been some hard feelings, but considering the characters of the two men, I don’t think so. I think both felt well grounded in their opinions of what should be done, so they decided that the best thing to do was split and take both courses. Barnabas would give John Mark another chance while spreading the Gospel, and Paul would be able to revisit the churches as well as be open to new opportunities the Spirit gave him. Commentaries suggested they may have even discussed the directions they would go so as to cover more territory.
I hope you enjoy reading and studying His word. May it accomplish what He desires. Please feel free to comment or post questions. Thanks for reading!
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.