Acts 15:1

And certain men came down from Judea (kai tine katelqonte apo th Ioudaia). Evidently the party of the circumcision in the church in Jerusalem ( Acts 11:2 ) had heard of the spread of the gospel among the Gentiles in Cyprus, Pamphylia, and South Galatia (Phrygia, Pisidia, Lycaonia). Possibly John Mark after his desertion at Perga ( Acts 13:13 ) told of this as one of his reasons for coming home. At any rate echoes of the jubilation in Antioch in Syria would be certain to reach Jerusalem. The Judaizers in Jerusalem, who insisted that all the Gentile Christians must become Jews also, had acquiesced in the case of Cornelius and his group ( Acts 11:1-18 ) after plain proof by Peter that it was the Lord's doing. But they had not agreed to a formal campaign to turn the exception into the rule and to make Christianity mainly Gentile with a few Jews instead of mainly Jewish with a few Gentiles. Since Paul and Barnabas did not come up to Jerusalem, the leaders among the Judaizers decided to go down to Antioch and attack Paul and Barnabas there. They had volunteered to go without church action in Jerusalem for their activity is disclaimed by the conference ( Acts 15:24 ). In Galatians 2:4 Paul with some heat describes these Judaizers as "false brethren, secretly introduced who sneaked in to spy out our liberty." It is reasonably certain that this visit to Jerusalem described in Galatians 2:1-10 is the same one as the Jerusalem Conference in Acts Acts 15:5-29 in spite of the effort of Ramsay to identify it with that in Acts 11:29 . Paul in Galatians is not giving a list of his visits to Jerusalem. He is showing his independence of the twelve apostles and his equality with them. He did not see them in Acts 11:29 , but only "the elders." In Acts 15 Luke gives the outward narrative of events, in Galatians 2:1-10 Paul shows us the private interview with the apostles when they agreed on their line of conduct toward the Judaizers. In Galatians 2:2 by the use of "them" (autoi) Paul seems to refer to the first public meeting in Acts before the private interview that came in between verses Galatians 15:5-6 . If we recall the difficulty that Peter had on the subject of preaching the gospel to the heathen ( Galatians 10:1-11:18 ), we can the better understand the attitude of the Judaizers. They were men of sincere convictions without a doubt, but they were obscurantists and unable and unwilling to receive new light from the Lord on a matter that involved their racial and social prejudices. They recalled that Jesus himself had been circumcised and that he had said to the Syro-Phoenician woman that he had come only save to the lost sheep of the house of Israel ( Matthew 15:24 ). They argued that Christ had not repealed circumcision. So one of the great religious controversies of all time was begun, that between spiritual religion and ritualistic or ceremonial religion. It is with us yet with baptism taking the place of circumcision. These self-appointed champions of circumcision for Gentile Christians were deeply in earnest. Taught the brethren (edidaskon tou adelpou). Inchoative imperfect active, began to teach and kept it up. Their attitude was one of supercilious superiority. They probably resented the conduct of Barnabas, who, when sent by the Church in Jerusalem to investigate the conversion of the Greeks in Antioch ( Matthew 11:20-26 ), did not return and report till a strong church had been established there with the help of Saul and only then with a big collection to confuse the issue. Paul and Barnabas were on hand, but the Judaizers persisted in their efforts to force their views on the church in Antioch. It was a crisis. Except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses, ye cannot be saved (ean me peritmhqhte twi eqei Mwusew, ou dunasqe swqhnai). There was the dictum of the Judaizers to the Gentiles. Paul and Barnabas had been circumcised. This is probably the precise language employed, for they spoke in Greek to these Greeks. It is a condition of the third class (undetermined, but with prospect of being determined, ean plus the first aorist passive subjunctive of peritemnw). There was thus hope held out for them, but only on condition that they be circumcised. The issue was sharply drawn. The associative instrumental case (twi eqei) is customary. "Saved" (swqhnai) here is the Messianic salvation. This doctrine denied the efficacy of the work of Christ.