Acts 15:1

The Jerusalem Council

1 1But some men came down from Judea and were teaching 2the brothers, "Unless you are 3circumcised 4according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."

Acts 15:1 Meaning and Commentary

Acts 15:1

And certain men which came down from Judea
To Antioch; they were not sent by the apostles, they came down of "themselves"; who they were, is not certain; that they were "judaizing" Christians, and teachers among them, is plain from the following account: according to Epiphanius F7 they were Cerinthus, and some of his followers: these

taught the brethren;
the Gentile converts at Antioch, who are styled "brethren", though they were Gentiles, because they were regenerated by the grace of God, and were of the same faith with the believing Jews, and in the same church state with them at Antioch: and said,

except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses;
or custom of Moses, which had been used from the time of Abraham, and was revived and reinforced by Moses; wherefore the Syriac version renders it, "the law of Moses"; (See Gill on John 7:19)

ye cannot be saved;
these men were not only for retaining circumcision, which was now abolished, but they made it necessary to salvation; which was carrying the matter further than even the unbelieving Jews themselves did, at least some of them: for though indeed it is a notion with them, that no circumcised persons go to hell, but are all saved; and some of them say, that God rejects uncircumcised persons, and brings them down to hell F8; yet others of them speak of the godly among the nations of the world, and of the proselytes of the gate, who keep the seven precepts of Noah, as persons that shall be saved; so Ananias the Jew, preceptor to King Izates, when he signified his great desire to be circumcised, in order to put him off of it, told him, that if he was determined to follow the customs of the Jews, he might worship God without circumcision, which was more peculiar to the Jews than to be circumcised F9.


F7 Contra Haeres. l. 1. Haeres. 28.
F8 Shemot Rabba, sect. 19. fol. 104. 4.
F9 Joseph. Antiqu. l. 20. c. 2. sect. 5.

Acts 15:1 In-Context

1 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."
2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.
3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers.
4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them.
5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, "It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses."

Cross References 4

  • 1. ver. 24
  • 2. ver. 3, 22, 23, 36, 40; See John 21:23
  • 3. ver. 5; Galatians 5:2; [1 Corinthians 7:18; Galatians 2:11, 14]
  • 4. Acts 6:14; Leviticus 12:3
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.