Acts Chapter Fifteen

 

Read Acts 15:1-5

 

v1.  “AND CERTAIN MEN WHICH CAME DOWN FROM JUDAEA TAUGHT THE BRETHREN, and said, EXCEPT YE BE CIRCUMCISED AFTER THE MANNER OF MOSES, YE CANNOT BE SAVED.”

 

            Paul and Barnabas have completed their first missionary journey, returned to Antioch of Syria and have now been with the church there for a “long time.”  A controversy arises concerning the keeping of part of the Jewish tradition.  Men come from Jerusalem trying to bind on the Gentile Christians something that God does not require.  These certain men said that circumcision, which was “AFTER THE MANNER OF MOSES”, or part of the Mosaic Law was required of all men who would be saved.  While practiced under the Law given through Moses was the practice of circumcision first commanded as part of the Mosaic law?  No.

 

Genesis 17:9-10  AND GOD SAID UNTO ABRAHAM, THOU SHALT KEEP MY COVENANT THEREFORE, THOU, AND THY SEED AFTER THEE IN THEIR GENERATIONS.  THIS is MY COVENANT, WHICH YE SHALL KEEP, BETWEEN ME AND YOU AND THY SEED AFTER THEE; EVERY MAN CHILD AMONG YOU SHALL BE CIRCUMCISED.”

 

            This was part of the Patriarchal law given to Abraham and as such was required of all peoples descended from Abraham, not just the children of Israel.  This practice was carried forward during the time of the Mosaic Law but the only commandment I could find given during that period dealt with God commanding Joshua to circumcise all the males that crossed Jordan into the promised land.  Apparently the practice had been stopped during the wandering in the wilderness.  (Joshua 5)  Jesus, himself, tells us that:

 

“MOSES THEREFORE GAVE UNTO YOU CIRCUMCISION; (NOT BECAUSE IT IS OF MOSES, BUT OF THE FATHERS;) AND YE ON THE SABBATH DAY CIRCUMCISE A MAN.” John 7:22 

 

So the practice was part of God’s law under the Patriarchs, was carried forward to Israel but is not part of the law of Christ today.  But, just as men are prone to do today, these Jews wanted to bind upon God’s children something that God had not bound and as we know the result was much harm, division and controversy.

 

Galatians 2:12  FOR BEFORE THAT CERTAIN CAME FROM JAMES, HE DID EAT WITH THE GENTILES: BUT WHEN THEY WERE COME, HE WITHDREW AND SEPARATED HIMSELF, FEARING THEM WHICH WERE OF THE CIRCUMCISION.”

 

Galatians 5:1-2  STAND FAST THEREFORE IN THE LIBERTY WHEREWITH CHRIST HATH MADE US FREE, AND BE NOT TANGLED AGAIN WITH THE YOKE OF BONDAGE.  BEHOLD, I PAUL SAY UNTO YOU, THAT IF YE BE CIRCUMCISED, CHRIST SHALL PROFIT YOU NOTHING.”

 

 

v2.  “WHEN THEREFORE PAUL AND BARNABAS HAD NO SMALL DISSENSION AND DISPUTATION WITH THEM, THEY DETERMINED THAT PAUL AND BARNABAS, AND CERTAIN OTHER OF THEM, SHOULD GO UP TO JERUSALEM UNTO THE APOSTLES AND ELDERS ABOUT THIS QUESTION.”

 

            As we noted earlier; Paul and Barnabas have been in Antioch of Syria for some time.  When these teachers from Jerusalem insisted that the Gentile christians be circumcised Paul and Barnabas opposed them; knowing that this requirement wasn’t part of the salvation that they had been preaching and teaching by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  The dissension was apparently pretty sharp.  So they decided to go up to Jerusalem to seek advice from the other apostles and elders of the church there.

 

v3.  “AND BEING BROUGHT ON THEIR WAY BY THE CHURCH, THEY PASSED THOUGH PHENICE AND SAMARIA, DECLARING THE CONVERSION OF THE GENTILES: AND THEY CAUSED GREAT JOY UNTO ALL THE BRETHREN.”

 

            As they traveled, they used the normal means of transportation and routes used to reach Jerusalem.  Consequently they pass through the country of Phoenicia and Samaria, most of which lies in the present country of Lebanon.  As they went they told the Christians there about the Gentiles being converted and saved.  This wonderful news caused great joy among these people.

 

v4.  “AND WHEN THEY WERE COME TO JERUSALEM, THEY WERE RECEIVED OF THE CHURCH, AND of THE APOSTLES AND ELDERS, AND THEY DECLARED ALL THINGS THAT GOD HAD DONE WITH THEM.”

 

            When Paul and Barnabas arrive at Jerusalem they are welcomed by the church its apostles and its elders.  Then they proceeded to make a report of all the things that had happened to them since they were at Jerusalem last.  Since most scholars date this visit at about A.D. 50 it’s been 15 or 20 years since Christ died and the church was established on that Pentecost Sunday.  It’s also been several years since Paul was in Jerusalem.

 

v5.  “BUT THERE ROSE UP CERTAIN OF THE SECT OF THE PHARISEES WHICH BELIEVED SAYING, THAT IT WAS NEEDFUL TO CIRCUMCISE THEM, AND TO COMMAND them TO KEEP THE LAW OF MOSES.”

 

            Apparently many of the Pharisees that had been converted to Christ still tried to hold on to their olds ways didn’t they?  They not only wanted the Gentile Christians to be circumcised but also to be required to obey the law of Moses.  How wide spread was this problem in the early church?  It was common wasn’t it?  We have the entire book of Hebrews written to counteract this false teaching.  Let’s look at a part of this writing

 

Read Hebrews 10:1-10

 

Read Acts 15:6-11

 

v6.  “AND THE APOSTLES AND ELDERS CAME TOGETHER FOR TO CONSIDER OF THIS MATTER.”

 

            This verse doesn’t state this fact, we get that from other verses in this chapter, but the entire church has come together to consider the issue of circumcision.  The apostles and elders are providing the necessary leadership.

 

v7.  “AND WHEN THERE HAD BEEN MUCH DISPUTING, PETER ROSE UP, AND SAID UNTO THEM, MEN and BRETHREN, YE KNOW HOW THAT A GOOD WHILE AGO GOD MADE CHOICE AMONG US, THAT THE GENTILES BY MY MOUTH SHOULD HEAR THE WORD OF THE GOSPEL, AND BELIEVE.”

 

            Peter had been directed by the Holy Spirit to go with the messengers to Cornelius:

 

Acts 10:19-20 “WHILE PETER THOUGHT ON THE VISION, THE SPIRIT SAID UNTO HIM, BEHOLD, THREE MEN SEEK THEE.  ARISE THEREFORE, AND GET THEE DOWN, AND GO WITH THEM, DOUBTING NOTHING: FOR I HAVE SENT THEM.”

 

As you remember Peter went to from Joppa to Caesarea:

 

Acts 11:12  AND THE SPIRIT BADE ME TO WITH THEM, NOTHING DOUBTING.  MOREOVER THESE SIX BRETHREN ACCOMPANIED ME, AND WE ENTERED INTO THE MAN’S HOUSE.”

 

and as a result of Peter’s preaching the entire Gentile household of Cornelius was baptized.

 

v8.  “AND GOD, WHICH KNOWETH THE HEARTS, BARE THEM WITNESS, GIVING THEM THE HOLY GHOST, EVEN AS he did UNTO US;”

 

            God knows our hearts, that fact should give us a reason for meditation?  And it’s true, just as David tells Solomon:

 

I Chronicles 28:9  AND THOU, SOLOMON MY SON, KNOW THOU THE GOD OF THY FATHER, AND SERVE HIM WITH A PERFECT HEART AND WITH A WILLING MIND: FOR THE LORD SEARCHETH ALL HEARTS, AND UNDERSTANDETH ALL THE IMAGINATIONS OF THE THOUGHTS: IF THOU SEEK HIM, HE WILL BE FOUND OF THEE; BUT IF THOU FORSAKE HIM, HE WILL CAST THEE OFF FOR EVER.”

 

and just as God had poured out the Holy Spirit on the apostles at Pentecost as Peter had testified at the time, he also poured out the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles:

 

Acts 10:44  WHILE PETER YET SPAKE THESE WORDS, THE HOLY GHOST FELL ON ALL THEM WHICH HEARD THE WORD.”

 

v9.  “AND PUT NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN US AND THEM, PURIFYING THEIR HEARTS BY FAITH.”

 

            God had told Peter to not call common or unclean what he had cleansed didn’t he?

 

Acts 10:15  AND THE VOICE spake UNTO HIM AGAIN THE SECOND TIME, WHAT GOD HATH CLEANSED, that CALL NOT THOU COMMON.”

 

            Peter understood the significance of the vision God had provided and told Cornelius and the others present that he understood.

 

Acts 10:28  “AND HE SAID UNTO THEM, YE KNOW HOW THAT IT IS AN UNLAWFUL THING FOR A MAN THAT IS A JEW TO KEEP COMPANY, OR COME UNTO ONE OF ANOTHER NATION; BUT GOD HATH SHOWED ME THAT I SHOULD NOT CALL ANY MAN COMMON OR UNCLEAN.”

 

The Holy Spirit gives us the same message through Paul.

 

Romans 10:11-12  FOR THE SCRIPTRUE SAITH, WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH ON HIM SHALL NOT BE ASHAMED.  FOR THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE JEW AND THE GREEK: FOR THE SAME LORD OVER ALL IS RICH UNTO ALL THAT CALL UPON HIM.”

 

            Paul even addresses the first letter to the church at Corinth to both Jew and Greek, both “THEIRS AND OURS”:

 

I Corinthians 1:2  “UNTO THE CHURCH OF GOD WHICH IS AT CORINTH, TO THEM THAT ARE SANCTIFIED IN CHRIST JESUS, CALLED to be SAINTS, WHICH ALL THAT IN EVERY PLACE CALL UPON THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD, BOTH THEIRS AND OURS:”

 

v10.  “NOW THEREFORE WHY TEMPT YE GOD, TO PUT A YOKE UPON THE NECK OF THE DISCIPLES, WHICH NEITHER OUR FATHERS NOR WE WERE ABLE TO BEAR?”

 

            Peter tells them that they are tempting or making trial of God because of their demand for physical circumcision.  Peter calls it a yoke that they were unable to bear, just like the Jewish fathers, elders and others that Jesus described:

 

Matthew 23:4  “FOR THEY BIND HEAVY BURDENS AND GRIEVOUS TO BE BORNE, AND LAY them ON MEN’S SHOULDERS; BUT THEY themselves WILL NOT MOVE THEM WITH ONE OF THEIR FINGERS.”

 

Paul uses the same kind of language in his writing on the same subject:

 

Galatians 5:1  STAND FAST THEREFORE IN THE LIBERTY WHEREWITH CHRIST HATH MADE US FREE, AND BE NOT ENTANGLED AGAIN WITH THE YOKE OF BONDAGE.”

 

v11.  “BUT WE BELIEVE THAT THROUGH THE GRACE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST WE SHALL BE SAVED, EVEN AS THEY.”

 

            This may be a little backwards compared to the way we might word it today but Peter says that they will be saved (that is the Gentiles) even as we (that is the Jews, for Peter was Jew) will be saved.

 

“FOR ALL HAVE SINNED, AND COME SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD; BEING JUSTIFIED FREELY BY HIS GRACE THROUGH THE REDEMPTION THAT IS IN CHRIST JESUS.” Romans 3:23-24 

 

and that salvation comes by the grace of God.  We can’t earn it but we have to be in God’s family, citizens of God’s kingdom to receive it:

 

Ephesians 2:8  FOR BY GRACE ARE YE SAVED THROUGH FAITH; AND THAT NOT OF YOURSELVES: it is THE GIFT OF GOD.”

 

and that grace is available to all men:

 

Titus 2:11  FOR THE GRACE OF GOD THAT BRINGETH SALVATION HATH APPEARED TO ALL MEN.”

 

Read Acts 15:12-29

 

v12  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.”

 

            Peter’s speech has silenced the crowd.  This reasoning is sound and solid, his testimony is about circumstances with which they are all familiar.  They have no comment or rebuttal in the face of it.  Then, as though to seal the discussion for good; Paul and Barnabas speak of all the wonderful things that God has done through them to convert the Gentiles during their journey.  The gospel of Christ has been preached and the church established in at least one city that didn’t even have enough of a Jewish population to organize a synagogue.

 

v13.  “AND AFTER THEY HAD HELD THEIR PEACE, JAMES ANSWERED, SAYING, MEN and BRETHREN, HEARKEN UNTO ME:”

 

            There has been a lull in the debate.  First there seemed to have been general discussion, Peter spoke, then Paul and Barnabas and now as everyone held their peace James starts to speak.  This is not the apostle James?  How do we know?

 

Acts 12:1-2  NOW ABOUT THAT TIME HEROD THE KING STRETCHED FORTH his HANDS TO VEX CERTAIN OF THE CHURCH.  AND HE KILLED JAMES THE BROTHER OF JOHN WITH THE SWORD.”

 

No, this is James the brother of Jesus, the author of the epistle of James.

 

v14.   “SIMEON HATH DECLARED HOW GOD AT THE FIRST DID VISIT THE GENTILES, TO TAKE OUT OF THEM A PEOPLE FOR HIS NAME.”

 

            James here refers to God calling Cornelius and his household out of the Gentile nations to be his people.  Everyone fully recognized and realized that God had a direct influence on what had happened in Joppa and Caesarea.  James also recognizes that certain of the Gentiles were God’s chosen people just as the Jews were.

 

v15.  “AND TO THIS AGREE THE WORDS OF THE PROPHETS; AS IT IS WRITTEN:”

 

            James is not only going to declare that God now has chosen people outside of the family of Israel but also going to declare that God through his prophets had told them that this would be so.

 

v16.  “AFTER THIS I WILL RETURN, AND WILL BUILD AGAIN THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID, WHICH IS FALLEN DOWN; AND I WILL BUILD AGAIN THE RUINS THEREOF, AND I WILL SET IT UP:”

 

            This is taken from the prophecy of Amos:

 

Amos 9:11  “IN THAT DAY WILL I RAISE UP THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID THAT IS FALLEN, AND CLOSE UP THE BREACHES THEREOF; AND I WILL RAISE UP HIS RUINS, AND I WILL BUILD IT AS IN THE DAYS OF OLD:

 

God is going to cause the temple of David to be restored, raised up again and rebuilt as of the days of old.  If he is speaking of the physical house of David the stone building in Jerusalem that did happen didn’t it?  If he is speaking symbolically of the spiritual temple the church that happened also didn’t it?  So however we choose to interpret this verse it was fulfilled.

 

v17.  “THAT THE RESIDUE OF MEN MIGHT SEEK AFTER THE LORD, AND ALL THE GENTILES, UPON WHOM MY NAME IS CALLED, SAITH THE LORD, WHO DOETH ALL THESE THINGS.”

 

Amos 9:12  THAT THEY MAY POSSESS THE REMANT OF EDOM, AND OF ALL THE HEATHEN, WHICH ARE CALLED BY MY NAME, SAITH THE LORD THAT DOETH THIS.”

 

            Both Amos and James continue to state without hesitation that this is going to benefit the “remnant of Edom and of all the heathen”; or James simply says “Gentiles”.  Now James quotes only one prophecy but there were others weren’t there?

 

Isaiah 2:2-4  “AND IT SHALL COME TO PASS IN THE LAST DAYS, that THE MOUNTAIN OF THE LORD’S HOUSE SHALL BE ESTABLISHED IN THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAINS, AND SHALL BE EXALTED ABOVE THE HILLS; AND ALL NATIONS SHALL FLOW UNTO IT.  AND MANY PEOPLE SHALL GO AND SAY, COME YE, AND LET US GO UP TO THE MOUNTAIN OF THE LORD, TO THE HOUSE OF THE GOD OF JACOB; AND HE WILL TEACH US OF HIS WAYS, AND WE WILL WALK IN HIS PATHS: FOR OUT OF ZION SHALL GO FORTH THE LAW, AND THE WORD OF THE LORD FROM JERUSALEM.  AND HE SHALL JUDGE AMONG THE NATIONS, AND SHALL REBUKE MANY PEOPLE: AND THEY SHALL BEAT THEIR SWORDS INTO PLOWSHARES, AND THEIR SPEARS INTO PRUNINGHOOKS: NATION SHALL NOT LIFT UP SWORD AGAINST NATION, NEITHER SHALL THEY LEARN WAR ANY MORE.”

 

            And there are others.

 

v18.  “KNOWN UNTO GOD ARE ALL HIS WORKS FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD.”

 

            This is just not known in prophecy is it?  No God’s plan for the redemption of mankind for sin as promised to Abraham was universal wasn’t it, and known from the beginning, from the first promise to Abraham wasn’t it?

 

Genesis 12:1-3  “NOW THE LORD HAD SAID UNTO ABRAM, GET THEE OUT OF THY COUNTRY, AND FROM THY KINDRED, AND FROM THY FATHER’S HOUSE, UNTO A LAND THAT I WILL SHOW THEE:  AND I WILL MAKE OF THEE A GREAT NATION, AND I WILL BLESS THEE, AND MAKE THY NAME GREAT; AND THOU SHALT BE A BLESSING: AND I WILL BLESS THEM THAT BLESS THEE, AND CURSE HIM THAT CURSETH THEE: AND IN THEE SHALL ALL FAMILIES OF THE EARTH BE BLESSED.”

 

v19.  “WHEREFORE MY SENTENCE IS, THAT WE TROUBLE NOT THEM, WHICH FROM AMONG THE GENTILES ARE TURNED TO GOD.”

 

            James goes on here to state that it’s his thought that they shouldn’t trouble these Gentiles who chose to accept Christ, who are turned to God.  Because it is God’s will that this should happen.

 

v20.  “BUT THAT WE WRITE UNTO THEM, THAT THEY ABSTAIN FROM POLLUTIONS OF IDOLS, AND from FORNICATION, AND from THINGS STRANGLED, AND from BLOOD.”

 

            He further suggests that they write unto them.  That in this writing they tell them certain things regarding how they should conduct themselves.  Is James speaking by the power of the Holy Spirit here?  Yes, and Luke has recorded his instructions as instructions to Christians today, Jew or Gentile.  Good advice we’re getting, why?

 

I Corinthians 6:9  KNOW YE NOT THAT THE UNRIGHTEOUS SHALL NOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD?  BE NOT DECEIVED: NEITHER FORNICATORS, NOR IDOLATERS, NOR ADULTERERS, NOR EFFEMINATE, NOR ABUSERS OF THEMSELVES WITH MANKIND,”

 

Ephesians 5:3 “BUT FORNICATION, AND ALL UNCLEANNESS, OR COVETOUSNESS, LET IT NOT BE ONCE NAMED AMONG YOU, AS BECOMETH SAINTS;”

 

We find instructions to refrain from things strangled only in the book of Acts; no direct references are found in the epistles.  Likewise this admonition to abstain from blood is found only in three verses in Acts 15:20, 15:29 and 21:25.  But God’s commandment regarding this restriction was first given to Noah and his descendants in Genesis 9:4.

 

v21.  “FOR MOSES OF OLD TIME HATH IN EVERY CITY THEM THAT PREACH HIM, BEING READ IN THE SYNAGOGUES EVERY SABBATH DAY.”

 

            What did they read in the synagogue worship.  The Old Testament, the Law of Moses, just as we read and study the New Testament the Law of Christ today and the schoolmaster (that is the Old Testament) to help us better understand the new.

 

v22.  “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.”

 

A recommendation has been made, a conclusion has been reached.  We’re going to send representatives to the church at Antioch to communicate these decisions to the church there.  God through the Holy Spirit and his apostles, James wasn’t one of the twelve, or fourteen now with Matthias and Paul adding to the original number, but he seems to be the principle leader of the church in Jerusalem.  They send chief men among the brethren, men who could speak with authority, men who were recognized among God’s people.  We don’t hear of Judas Barsabas again but we do Silas, don’t we; he later becomes Paul traveling companion and also was well known to Peter when he writes years later:

 

I Peter 5:12  BY SILVANUS, A FAITHFUL BROTHER UNTO YOU, AS I SUPPOSE, I HAVE WRITTEN BRIEFLY, EXHORTING, AND TESTIFYING THAT THIS IS THE TRUE GRACE OF GOD WHEREIN YE STAND.”

 

v23.  “AND THEY WROTE letters BY THEM AFTER THIS MANNER, THE APOSTLES AND ELDERS AND BRETHREN send GREETING UNTO THE BRETHREN WHICH ARE OF THE GENTILES IN ANTIOCH AND SYRIA AND CILICIA:”

 

            Their letter was brief and to the point, it was from the apostles, the elders at Jerusalem and from the brethren.  That would be much the same as we would possibly do today except there would be no apostles to write or sign the letter that we would write.  The elders and the brethren could sign or approve of the communication or just the elders, as is most often done, writing in the name of the entire congregation. 

 

v24.  “FORASMUCH AS WE HAVE HEARD, THAT CERTAIN WHICH WENT OUT FROM US HAVE TROUBLED YOU WITH WORDS, SUBVERTING YOUR SOULS, SAYING, Ye must BE CIRCUMCISED, AND KEEP THE LAW: TO WHOM WE GAVE NO such COMMANDMENT.”

 

            They have heard that certain members of the Jerusalem church have gone out to preach and teach these Gentile Christians.  Could it be that there was a faction within the Jerusalem church that had grown strong enough over the years that they started to expand their influence, had gone recruiting, as it were?  That’s much the way this sort of thing is done today isn’t it?  The disciplining movement and our denominationally minded brethren have done just that, gone recruiting among faithful churches.

            They had subverted, what does that mean?  Our English version is really a French word that means literally to “turn from beneath”.  The English dictionary will give you a definition of 1.) “to overturn or overthrow from the foundation: ruin;” 2)  “to pervert or corrupt by an undermining of morals, allegiance, or faith,”  The word used in the Greek means “to pack up baggage” (Vines) and was used to describe what soldiers did when they dismantled or plundered a town.  Vine also says that the word is used metaphorically in Acts 15:24 to mean the “unsettling or subverting the souls of the believers.”  So the Jews teaching circumcision were subverting the church at Antioch.

            They were doing this by demanding that these Christians also be bound to the Mosaic Law and practice, specifically, the rite of circumcision for religious purposes.

            The apostles and elders at Jerusalem further wanted these Gentile Christians to know that they didn’t send these false teachers, they had given them so such commandment.  This same kind of problem is what generated the warning that Paul gave Titus:

 

Titus 1:10-11  “FOR THERE ARE MANY UNRULY AND VAIN TALKERS AND DECEIVERS, SPECIALLY THEY OF THE CIRCUMCISION: WHOSE MOUTHS MUST BE STOPPED, WHO SUBVERT WHOLE HOUSES, TEACHING THINGS WHICH THEY OUGHT NOT, FOR FILTHY LUCRE’S SAKE.”

 

v25.  “IT SEEMED GOOD TO US, BEING ASSEMBLED WITH ONE ACCORD, TO SEND CHOSEN MEN UNTO YOU WITH OUR BELOVED BARNABAS AND PAUL,”

 

            The apostles and elders have assembled together, they’re of one mind and have decided to send men from among them these churches along with Paul and Barnabas.  They are very firmly endorsing what Paul and Barnabas have been teaching, denying the teaching of the circumcision party and sending witnesses to further confirm that.

 

v26.  “MEN THAT HAVE HAZARDED THEIR LIVES FOR THE NAME OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.”

 

            These witnesses being sent are not just ordinary men but men so dedicated to Christ and his teaching that they have willing placed themselves in great danger, even the danger of physical death for His cause.

 

v27.  “WE HAVE SEND THEREFORE JUDAS AND SILAS, WHO SHALL ALSO TELL you THE SAME THINGS BY MOUTH.”

 

            These men, Judas and Silas would confirm by mouth the same things being written.  There was another man with this group that Luke doesn’t mention, do we know who?  Titus was with Paul and Barnabas, speaking of this meeting in Jerusalem Paul writes later:

 

Galatians 2:3  BUT NEITHER TITUS, WHO WAS WITH ME, BEING A GREEK, WAS COMPELLED TO BE CIRCUMCISED.”

 

v28.  “FOR IT SEEMED GOOD TO THE HOLY GHOST, AND TO US, TO LAY UPON YOU NO GREATER BURDEN THAN THESE NECESSARY THINGS;”

 

            “IT SEEMED GOOD TO THE HOLY GHOST  Literally a statement that this instruction came from the Holy Spirit, came from God’s own messenger given to the apostles for this purpose.  These were special requirements but they would not be a great burden.  And what are these requirements?

 

v29.  “THAT YE ABSTAIN FROM MEATS OFFERED TO IDOLS, AND FROM BLOOD, AND FROM THINGS STRANGLED, AND FROM FORNICATION: FROM WHICH IF YE KEEP YOURSELVES, YE SHALL DO WELL.  FARE YE WELL.”

 

            These are the same things that James mentions in his sermon aren’t they?  They were not to eat meat that had been offered to idols and this has always been a subject of discussion among brethren.  We conjure up images in our minds about these Christians having to be concerned about what would be offered in the marketplace but I don’t think that’s what James is talking about.  Observe with me, if you will, the practice of the idol worshippers:

            In our study of Acts 14 we found, not in the scripture itself, but through other study that these idol worshippers killed the sacrifices, poured the blood on their idols altar as the offering and then had a feast in celebration with the meat itself.  Its not the eating of this meat itself that is the problem but rather the joining in with the feast, let’s look at Paul’s writing.

 

I Corinthians 8:4  “AS CONCERNING THEREFORE THE EATING OF THOSE THINGS THAT ARE OFFERED IN SACRIFICE UNTO IDOLS, WE KNOW THAT AN IDOL is NOTHING IN THE WORLD, AND THAT there is NONE OTHER GOD BUT ONE.”

 

I Corinthians 8:8-10  BUT MEAT COMMENDETH US NOT TO GOD; FOR NEITHER, IF WE EAT, ARE WE THE BETTER; NEITHER, IF WE EAT NOT, ARE WE THE WORSE.  BUT TAKE HEED LEST BY ANY MEANS THIS LIBERTY OF YOURS BECOME A STUMBLINGBLOCK TO THEM THAT ARE WEAK.  FOR IF ANY MAN SEE THEE WHICH HAST KNOWLEDGE SIT AT MEAT IN THE IDOL’S TEMPLE, SHALL NOT THE CONSCIENCE OF HIM WHICH IS WEAK BE EMBOLDENED TO EAT THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE OFFERED TO IDOLS;”

 

            So Paul says that whether we eat this meat or not is not the problem.  But rather the influence it might have on those who do not completely understand God’s requirements.  Our actions, since they may be looking to us for their Christian example, could cause them to stumble.  A modern day parallel, perhaps, is the participation in various denominational fund raisers and activities.

            They’re also not to eat anything strangled, why?  Because the blood is not drained from a strangled animal; and they are not to eat blood.  We make sure that animals are bled completely today, probably for reasons of health and sanitation rather than for religious reasons, though religion is the original source of this practice.  They were also to abstain from fornication.

 

Read Acts 15:30-35

 

v30.  “SO WHEN THEY WERE DISMISSED, THEY CAME TO ANTIOCH: AND WHEN THEY HAD GATHERED THE MULITUDE TOGETHER, THEY DELIVERED THE EPISTLE:”

 

            When the meeting ended with the letter written as recommended by James; Paul, Barnabas, Judas and Silas left Jerusalem and returned to Antioch, Syria.  There they gathered the church together, the multitude and delivered the letter or epistle sent from the apostles in Jerusalem.

 

v31.  Which WHEN THEY HAD READ, THEY REJOICED FOR THE CONSOLATION.”

 

            When these Gentile Christians read the letter they rejoiced.  They were glad to hear that the rites of the Mosiac Law were not binding upon them.  What does the word “consolation” mean in this verse?  Encouragement, our scholars tell us that the word consolation and exhortation are very similar in meaning and usage.

 

v32.  “AND JUDAS AND SILAS, BEING PROPHETS ALSO THEMSELVES, EXHORTED THE BRETHREN WITH MANY WORDS, AND CONFIMED them.”

 

            Back in verse 22 we were introduced to Judas and Silas as being “CHIEF MEN AMONG THE BRETHREN” and now we’re told that they’re prophets as well.  Does that mean that they went about foretelling the future?  No the word prophet, even in the Greek from which it is translated has a much more general meaning than that.  Vines gives the definition as “a proclaimer of a divine message; denoted among the Greeks an interpreter of the oracles of the gods.”  That definition covers just about all teachers and preachers of God’s word doesn’t it?  The prophets of old brought a divine message that was given to them directly by God; we today, bring a divine message given by God’s recorded revelation, the Bible.

            They encouraged and exhorted the Antioch church, we’re told and “CONFIRMED”.

 

v33.  “AND AFTER THEY HAD TARRIED there A SPACE, THEY WERE LET GO IN PEACE FROM THE BRETHREN UNTO THE APOSTLES.”

 

            And after they had been there a while, they decided to go back to the apostles in Jerusalem; that is Judas did, Silas didn’t

 

v34.  NOTWITHSTANDING IT PLEASED SILAS TO ABIDE THERE STILL.”

 

            Silas stayed, not much else is said, in fact the ASV omits this verse completely.

 

v35.  “PAUL ALSO AND BARNABAS CONTINUED IN ANTIOCH, TEACHING AND PREACHING THE WORD OF THE LORD, WITH MANY OTHERS ALSO.”

 

            Silas stayed and Paul and Barnabas stayed as well.  Continuing, we‘re told, to preach and teach the Word of God.

 

Read Acts 15:36-41

 

v36.  “AND SOME DAYS AFTER PAUL SAID UNTO BARNABAS, LET US GO AGAIN AND VISIT OUR BRETHREN IN EVERY CITY WHERE WE HAVE PREACHED THE WORD OF THE LORD, and see HOW THEY DO.”

 

            Paul is the leader now of the group, takes the initiative to plan another missionary trip or journey to see about the churches that he and Barnabas planted in Asia Minor.  Brother Boles says that the commonly accepted chronology, the study of the times and events, indicates that there were probably at Antioch for more than a year.

 

v37.  “AND BARNABAS DETERMINED TO TAKE WITH THEM JOHN, WHOSE SURNAME WAS MARK.”

 

            Now Mark was from where?  Jerusalem; Peter when released from prison by the angel of God:

 

“AND WHEN HE HAD CONSIDERED the thing, HE CAME TO THE HOUSE OF MARY THE MOTHER OF JOHN, WHOSE SURNAME WAS MARK; WHERE MANY WERE GATHERED TOGETHER PRAYING.” Acts 12:12 

 

            Paul and Barnabas had used John Mark earlier in their travels.  He came with them when they had left Jerusalem in an earlier lesson.  Barnabas insisted in taking his nephew along.  How do we know that Mark is Barnabas’ nephew?

 

Colossians 4:10  ARISTARCHUS MY FELLOWPRISONER SALUTETH YOU, AND MARCUS, SISTER’S SON TO BARNABAS, (TOUCHING WHOM YE RECEIVED COMMANDMENTS: IF HE COME UNTO YOU, RECEIVE HIM;)”

 

v38.  “BUT PAUL THOUGHT NOT GOOD TO TAKE HIM WITH THEM, WHO DEPARTED FROM THEM FROM PAMPHYLIA, AND WENT NOT WITH THEM TO THE WORK.”

 

            Paul doesn’t want to take him along; Barnabas does, so a dispute arises, why?  Mark had abandoned the work, as noted by Luke in Acts 15:38 and left them:

 

Acts 13:13  NOW WHEN PAUL AND HIS COMPANY LOOSED FROM PAPHOS, THEY CAME TO PERGA IN PAMPHYLIA: AND JOHN DEPARTING FROM THEM RETURNED TO JERUSALEM.”

 

Paul didn’t want someone with them who was going to quit on them or hold them back in any way.  Barnabas defends his nephew and is determined to take him to help in the work.  Paul had a change of mind later didn’t he?  Why?  Because Mark made a change:

 

II Timothy 4:11  ONLY LUKE IS WITH ME.  TAKE MARK, AND BRING HIM WITH THEE: FOR HE IS PROFITABLE TO ME FOR THE MINISTRY.”

 

v39.  “AND THE CONTENTION WAS SO SHARP BETWEEN THEM, THAT THEY DEPARTED ASUNDER ONE FROM THE OTHER: AND SO BARNABAS TOOK MARK, AND SAILED UNTO CYPRUS.”

 

            They have an argument, an argument strong enough to separate them and for Barnabas to go off without Paul but with his nephew.  So Barnabas takes Mark and returns to the original missionary road; apparently traveling over the same roads and byways as before, even though it’s been over a year and perhaps even two,

 

v40.  “AND PAUL CHOSE SILAS, AND DEPARTED, BEING RECOMMENDED BY THE BRETHREN UNTO THE GRACE OF GOD.”

 

            Paul chose Silas to replace Barnabas as his traveling companion.  One commentator tells us that Silas had gone back to Jerusalem and then returned to Antioch, thus was available to Paul.  Perhaps if we didn’t have verse 34, and which some translations omit, we would speculate that this is what happened also.  But the KJV tells us that Silas stayed in Antioch when Judas and the others returned to Jerusalem.  The church sends them again.  They’re recommended by the brethren, thus approved and sent out by the church at Antioch.

 

v41.   “AND HE WENT THROUGH SYRIA AND CILICIA, CONFIRMING THE CHURCHES.”

 

            Paul and Silas travel through Syria, the country just north of Palestine confirming the churches and through Cilicia.  This province is along the southern border of Asia Minor, between Tarsus and Pamphylia.  How did they travel this time?  My maps indicate that they went overland, through Tarsus of Cilicia.