While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the Christians: "Unless you keep the ancient Jewish custom of circumcision taught by Moses, you cannot be saved."
Paul and Barnabas, disagreeing with them, argued forcefully and at length. Finally, Paul and Barnabas were sent to Jerusalem, accompanied by some local believers, to talk to the apostles and elders about this question.
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.
When they arrived in Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas were welcomed by the whole church, including the apostles and elders. They reported on what God had been doing through their ministry.
But then some of the men who had been Pharisees before their conversion stood up and declared that all Gentile converts must be circumcised and be required to follow the law of Moses.
So the apostles and church elders got together to decide this question.
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.
God, who knows people's hearts, confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he gave him to us.
He made no distinction between us and them, for he also cleansed their hearts through faith.
Why are you now questioning God's way by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear?
We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the special favor of the Lord Jesus."
There was no further discussion, and everyone listened as Barnabas and Paul told about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.
When they had finished, James stood and said, "Brothers, listen to me.
Peter has told you about the time God first visited the Gentiles to take from them a people for himself.
And this conversion of Gentiles agrees with what the prophets predicted. For instance, it is written:
'Afterward I will return, and I will restore the fallen kingdom of David. From the ruins I will rebuild it, and I will restore it,
so that the rest of humanity might find the Lord, including the Gentiles -- all those I have called to be mine. This is what the Lord says,
he who made these things known long ago.'
And so my judgment is that we should stop troubling the Gentiles who turn to God,
except that we should write to them and tell them to abstain from eating meat sacrificed to idols, from sexual immorality, and from consuming blood or eating the meat of strangled animals.
For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations."
Then the apostles and elders and 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.
This is the letter they took along 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!"
"We understand that some men from here have troubled you and upset you with their teaching, but they had no such instructions from us.
So it seemed good to us, having unanimously agreed on our decision, to send you these official representatives, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So we are sending Judas and Silas to tell you what we have decided concerning your question."
"For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no greater burden on you than these requirements:
You must abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or eating the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. If you do this, you will do well. Farewell."
The four messengers went at once to Antioch, where they called a general meeting of the Christians and delivered the letter.
And there was great joy throughout the church that day as they read this encouraging message.
Then Judas and Silas, both being prophets, spoke extensively to the Christians, encouraging and strengthening their faith.
They stayed for a while, and then Judas and Silas were sent back to Jerusalem, with the blessings of the Christians, to those who had sent them.
Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch to assist many others who were teaching and preaching the word of the Lord there.
After some time Paul said to Barnabas, "Let's return to each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are getting along."
Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark.
But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not shared in their work.
Their disagreement over this was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus.
Paul chose Silas, and the believers sent them off, entrusting them to the Lord's grace.
So they traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia to strengthen the churches there.