Acts 15

Listen to Acts 15

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."
2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and 5debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and 6some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to 7the apostles and the elders about this question.
3 So, 8being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, 9describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and 10brought great joy to all 11the brothers.[a]
4 12When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and 13the apostles and the elders, and 14they declared all that God had done with them.
5 But some believers who belonged to 15the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, 16"It is necessary 17to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses."
6 18The 19apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter.
7 And after there had been much 20debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, 21that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear 22the word of 23the gospel and believe.
8 And God, 24who knows the heart, 25bore witness to them, 26by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us,
9 and 27he made no distinction between us and them, 28having cleansed their hearts 29by faith.
10 Now, therefore, why 30are you putting God to the test 31by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples 32that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?
11 But we 33believe that we will be 34saved through 35the grace of the Lord Jesus, 36just as they will."
12 And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul 37as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.
13 After they finished speaking, 38James replied, "Brothers, listen to me.
14 39Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them 40a people for his name.
15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,
16 41"'After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it,
17 that the remnant[b] of mankind 42may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles 43who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things
18 44known from of old.'
19 Therefore 45my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who 46turn to God,
20 but should write to them 47to abstain from 48the things polluted by idols, and from 49sexual immorality, and from 50what has been strangled, and from 51blood.
21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, 52for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues."

The Council's Letter to Gentile Believers

22 Then it seemed good to 53the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called 54Barsabbas, and 55Silas, leading men among 56the brothers,
23 with the following letter: 57"The brothers, both 58the apostles and the elders, to the brothers[c] who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, 59greetings.
24 Since we have heard that 60some persons have gone out from us and 61troubled you[d] with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions,
25 it has seemed good to us, having come 62to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our 63beloved Barnabas and Paul,
26 64men who have 65risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.
27 We have therefore sent 66Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth.
28 For it has seemed good 67to the Holy Spirit and 68to us 69to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements:
29 70that you abstain from 71what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell."
30 So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter.
31 And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement.
32 And Judas and Silas, who were themselves 72prophets, encouraged and 73strengthened 74the brothers with many words.
33 And after they had spent some time, they were sent off 75in peace by 76the brothers to those who had sent them.[e]
35 But 77Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

Paul and Barnabas Separate

36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us return and visit 78the brothers 79in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are."
37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them 80John called Mark.
38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one 81who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.
39 And there arose 82a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. 83Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus,
40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, 84having been commended by 85the brothers to 86the grace of the Lord.
41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, 87strengthening 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 87

  • 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
  • 5. ver. 7
  • 6. [Galatians 2:1, 2]
  • 7. ver. 4, 6, 22, 23; Acts 16:4; See Acts 5:12; Acts 11:30
  • 8. Acts 21:5; Romans 15:24; 1 Corinthians 16:6, 11; 2 Corinthians 1:16; Titus 3:13; 3 John 6; [Acts 17:15]
  • 9. See Acts 14:27
  • 10. Acts 11:18
  • 11. ver. 1
  • 12. [Acts 21:17]
  • 13. ver. 2
  • 14. [See ver. 3 above]
  • 15. See Acts 24:5
  • 16. ver. 1
  • 17. Galatians 5:3
  • 18. [ver. 12, 25]
  • 19. [See ver. 4 above]
  • 20. ver. 2
  • 21. Acts 10:20
  • 22. [Ephesians 1:13; Colossians 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:5]
  • 23. Acts 20:24
  • 24. Acts 1:24
  • 25. Acts 14:3
  • 26. Acts 10:44, 47; Acts 11:15, 17; [ver. 28; Galatians 3:2]
  • 27. Acts 11:12; Romans 3:22-24; Ephesians 3:6; [Acts 10:28, 34]
  • 28. Psalms 51:10; [Acts 26:18; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Peter 1:22]
  • 29. See Acts 10:43
  • 30. Psalms 106:14; Isaiah 7:12
  • 31. Galatians 5:1; [ver. 28]
  • 32. [Matthew 11:28; Matthew 23:4; Luke 11:46]
  • 33. [Acts 16:31]
  • 34. Ephesians 2:5, 8; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 2:11; Titus 3:7; [Romans 3:24; 1 Thessalonians 5:9]
  • 35. Romans 5:15
  • 36. [See ver. 9 above]
  • 37. ver. 4; See Acts 14:27
  • 38. See Acts 12:17
  • 39. [ver. 7]
  • 40. [Acts 18:10; Deuteronomy 7:6; Isaiah 43:21; Romans 9:24-26]
  • 41. Cited from Amos 9:11, 12; [Jeremiah 12:15]
  • 42. [Acts 17:27]
  • 43. Isaiah 43:7; Jeremiah 14:9; Daniel 9:19
  • 44. [Isaiah 45:21]
  • 45. [ver. 28]
  • 46. See Acts 14:15
  • 47. Acts 21:25
  • 48. [ver. 29; Ezekiel 4:13, 14; Daniel 1:8; Malachi 1:7, 12]
  • 49. 1 Corinthians 10:7, 8; Revelation 2:14, 20; See 1 Corinthians 6:18
  • 50. See Leviticus 3:17
  • 51. See Leviticus 3:17
  • 52. Acts 13:15; 2 Corinthians 3:14, 15; [Acts 13:27]
  • 53. ver. 2
  • 54. [Acts 1:23]
  • 55. See 1 Peter 5:12
  • 56. ver. 1
  • 57. [See ver. 22 above]
  • 58. [See ver. 22 above]
  • 59. Acts 23:26; James 1:1; [2 John 10, 11]
  • 60. ver. 1; [Galatians 2:4; Galatians 5:12; Titus 1:10]
  • 61. Galatians 1:7; Galatians 5:10
  • 62. See Acts 1:14
  • 63. [2 Peter 3:15]
  • 64. Acts 9:23-25; Acts 14:19
  • 65. [Acts 20:24; Acts 21:13; 2 Corinthians 4:11; 1 John 3:16]
  • 66. ver. 22, 32
  • 67. [ver. 8; Acts 5:32; John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 7:40]
  • 68. [ver. 19]
  • 69. [ver. 10; Revelation 2:24]
  • 70. See ver. 20
  • 71. Acts 21:25; 1 Cor. 8:1, 4, 7, 10; 1 Corinthians 10:19; Revelation 2:14, 20
  • 72. See Acts 13:1
  • 73. See Acts 14:22
  • 74. ver. 1
  • 75. Genesis 26:29; Hebrews 11:31; [1 Corinthians 16:11]
  • 76. [See ver. 32 above]
  • 77. Acts 13:1
  • 78. [See ver. 32 above]
  • 79. Acts 13:4, 13, 14, 51; Acts 14:6, 24, 25
  • 80. See Acts 12:12
  • 81. Acts 13:13
  • 82. [Acts 17:16(Gk.)]
  • 83. [Colossians 4:10]
  • 84. Acts 14:26
  • 85. ver. 1
  • 86. ver. 11; [Acts 11:23]; See Romans 16:20
  • 87. ver. 32; Acts 16:5

Footnotes 5

  • [a]. Or brothers and sisters; also verse 22
  • [b]. Or rest
  • [c]. Or brothers and sisters; also verses 32, 33, 36
  • [d]. Some manuscripts some persons from us have troubled you
  • [e]. Some manuscripts insert verse 34: But it seemed good to Silas to remain there

Acts 15 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.