Acts 15

The Council at Jerusalem

1 Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”
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.
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 believers very glad.
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.
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 keep the law of Moses.”
6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question.
7 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.
8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.
9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.
10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?
11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.
13 When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me.
14 Simon[a] has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles.
15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:
16 “ ‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it,
17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’[b]
18 things known from long ago.[c]
19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.
20 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.
21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”

The Council’s Letter to Gentile Believers

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, men who were leaders among the believers.
23 With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings.
24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said.
25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul—
26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing.
28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:
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.
30 So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter.
31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.
32 Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers.
33 After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them.[d]
35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.

Disagreement Between Paul and Barnabas

36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.”
37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them,
38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.
39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus,
40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord.
41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Acts 15 Commentary

Chapter 15

The dispute raised by Judaizing teachers. (1-6) The council at Jerusalem. (7-21) The letter from the council. (22-35) Paul and Barnabas separate. (36-41)

Verses 1-6 Some from Judea taught the Gentile converts at Antioch, that they could not be saved, unless they observed the whole ceremonial law as given by Moses; and thus they sought to destroy Christian liberty. There is a strange proneness in us to think that all do wrong who do not just as we do. Their doctrine was very discouraging. Wise and good men desire to avoid contests and disputes as far as they can; yet when false teachers oppose the main truths of the gospel, or bring in hurtful doctrines, we must not decline to oppose them.

Verses 7-21 We see from the words "purifying their hearts by faith," and the address of St. Peter, that justification by faith, and sanctification by the Holy Ghost, cannot be separated; and that both are the gift of God. We have great cause to bless God that we have heard the gospel. May we have that faith which the great Searcher of hearts approves, and attests by the seal of the Holy Spirit. Then our hearts and consciences will be purified from the guilt of sin, and we shall be freed from the burdens some try to lay upon the disciples of Christ. Paul and Barnabas showed by plain matters of fact, that God owned the preaching of the pure gospel to the Gentiles without the law of Moses; therefore to press that law upon them, was to undo what God had done. The opinion of James was, that the Gentile converts ought not to be troubled about Jewish rites, but that they should abstain from meats offered to idols, so that they might show their hatred of idolatry. Also, that they should be cautioned against fornication, which was not abhorred by the Gentiles as it should be, and even formed a part of some of their rites. They were counselled to abstain from things strangled, and from eating blood; this was forbidden by the law of Moses, and also here, from reverence to the blood of the sacrifices, which being then still offered, it would needlessly grieve the Jewish converts, and further prejudice the unconverted Jews. But as the reason has long ceased, we are left free in this, as in the like matters. Let converts be warned to avoid all appearances of the evils which they formerly practised, or are likely to be tempted to; and caution them to use Christian liberty with moderation and prudence.

Verses 22-35 Being warranted to declare themselves directed by the immediate influence of the Holy Ghost, the apostles and disciples were assured that it seemed good unto God the Holy Spirit, as well as to them, to lay upon the converts no other burden than the things before mentioned, which were necessary, either on their own account, or from present circumstances. It was a comfort to hear that carnal ordinances were no longer imposed on them, which perplexed the conscience, but could not purify or pacify it; and that those who troubled their minds were silenced, so that the peace of the church was restored, and that which threatened division was removed. All this was consolation for which they blessed God. Many others were at Antioch. Where many labour in the word and doctrine, yet there may be opportunity for us: the zeal and usefulness of others should stir us up, not lay us asleep.

Verses 36-41 Here we have a private quarrel between two ministers, no less than Paul and Barnabas, yet made to end well. Barnabas wished his nephew John Mark to go with them. We should suspect ourselves of being partial, and guard against this in putting our relations forward. Paul did not think him worthy of the honour, nor fit for the service, who had departed from them without their knowledge, or without their consent: see ch. 13:13 . Neither would yield, therefore there was no remedy but they must part. We see that the best of men are but men, subject to like passions as we are. Perhaps there were faults on both sides, as usual in such contentions. Christ's example alone, is a copy without a blot. Yet we are not to think it strange, if there are differences among wise and good men. It will be so while we are in this imperfect state; we shall never be all of one mind till we come to heaven. But what mischief the remainders of pride and passion which are found even in good men, do in the world, and do in the church! Many who dwelt at Antioch, who had heard but little of the devotedness and piety of Paul and Barnabas, heard of their dispute and separation; and thus it will be with ourselves, if we give way to contention. Believers must be constant in prayer, that they may never be led by the allowance of unholy tempers, to hurt the cause they really desire to serve. Paul speaks with esteem and affection both of Barnabas and Mark, in his epistles, written after this event. May all who profess thy name, O loving Saviour, be thoroughly reconciled by that love derived from thee which is not easily provoked, and which soon forgets and buries injuries.

Cross References 56

  • 1. ver 24; Galatians 2:12
  • 2. S Acts 1:16
  • 3. ver 5; Galatians 5:2,3
  • 4. S Acts 6:14
  • 5. Galatians 2:2
  • 6. S Acts 11:30
  • 7. Acts 11:19
  • 8. Acts 14:27
  • 9. ver 12; Acts 14:27; Acts 21:19
  • 10. Acts 5:17
  • 11. Matthew 3:7
  • 12. ver 1
  • 13. Acts 10:1-48
  • 14. S Revelation 2:23; Acts 1:24
  • 15. S Acts 10:44,47
  • 16. Acts 10:28,34; Acts 11:12
  • 17. Acts 10:43
  • 18. Acts 5:9
  • 19. S Matthew 23:4; Galatians 5:1
  • 20. S Romans 3:24; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:5-8
  • 21. S John 4:48
  • 22. ver 4; Acts 14:27; Acts 21:19
  • 23. Acts 12:17; Acts 21:18; 1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19; Galatians 2:9,12
  • 24. 2 Peter 1:1
  • 25. Amos 9:11,12
  • 26. Isaiah 45:21
  • 27. 1 Corinthians 8:7-13; 1 Corinthians 10:14-28; Revelation 2:14,20
  • 28. 1 Corinthians 10:7,8; Revelation 2:14,20
  • 29. ver 29; Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 3:17; Leviticus 7:26; Leviticus 17:10-13; Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 12:16,23
  • 30. Acts 13:15; 2 Corinthians 3:14,15
  • 31. S Acts 11:30
  • 32. S Acts 11:19
  • 33. ver 27,32,40; Ac 16:19,25,29; 2 Corinthians 1:19; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; 1 Peter 5:12
  • 34. ver 1; S Acts 11:19
  • 35. S Luke 2:2
  • 36. ver 41; S Acts 6:9
  • 37. Acts 23:25,26; James 1:1
  • 38. ver 1; Galatians 1:7; Galatians 5:10
  • 39. Acts 9:23-25; Acts 14:19; 1 Corinthians 15:30
  • 40. S ver 22
  • 41. Acts 5:32
  • 42. ver 20; Acts 21:25
  • 43. S ver 22
  • 44. S Acts 11:27
  • 45. 1 Samuel 1:17; Mark 5:34; Luke 7:50; Acts 16:36; 1 Corinthians 16:11
  • 46. Acts 8:4
  • 47. S Acts 13:48
  • 48. Acts 13:4,13,14,51; Acts 14:1,6,24,25
  • 49. S Acts 13:48
  • 50. S Acts 12:12
  • 51. Acts 13:13
  • 52. S ver 22
  • 53. S Acts 11:23
  • 54. ver 23; S Luke 2:2
  • 55. S Acts 6:9
  • 56. Acts 16:5

Footnotes 4

  • [a]. Greek "Simeon" , a variant of "Simon" ; that is, Peter
  • [b]. Amos 9:11,12 (see Septuagint)
  • [c]. Some manuscripts "things’—" / 18"the Lord’s work is known to him from long ago"
  • [d]. Some manuscripts include here "But Silas decided to remain there."

Acts 15 Commentaries