Acts 15

The Council at Jerusalem

1 1Some men came down from Judea and began teaching 2the brethren, "Unless * you are 3circumcised according to 4the custom of Moses, you cannot * be saved."
2 And when Paul and Barnabas had great * dissension and 5debate with them, 6the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the 7apostles and elders concerning this issue.
3 Therefore, being 8sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both 9Phoenicia and Samaria, 10describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all 11the brethren.
4 When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and 12the apostles and the elders, and they 13reported all that God had done with them.
5 But some of 14the sect of the 15Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, "It is necessary to 16circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses."
6 17The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter.
7 After there had been much 18debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brethren *, you know that in the early days 19God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of 20the gospel and believe.
8 "And God, 21who knows the heart, testified to them 22giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us;
9 and 23He made no distinction between us and them, 24cleansing their hearts by faith.
10 "Now therefore why do you 25put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which 26neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?
11 "But we believe that we are saved through 27the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are."
12 All the people kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were 28relating what 29signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.

James's Judgment

13 After they had stopped speaking, 30James answered, saying, "Brethren *, listen to me.
14 "31Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name.
15 "With this the words of 32the Prophets agree, just as it is written,
19 "Therefore it is 39my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles,
20 but that we write to them that they abstain from 40things contaminated by idols and from 41fornication and from 42what is strangled and from blood.
21 "For 43Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath."
22 Then it seemed good to 44the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to 45Antioch with Paul and Barnabas -Judas called Barsabbas, and 46Silas, leading men among 47the brethren,
23 and they sent this letter by them, "48The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to 49the brethren in 50Antioch and 51Syria and 52Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, 53greetings.
24 "Since we have heard that 54some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have 55disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls,
25 56 it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
26 men who have 57risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
27 "Therefore we have sent 58Judas and 59Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth.
28 "For 60it seemed good to 61the Holy Spirit and to 62us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials:
29 that you abstain from 63things sacrificed to idols and from 64blood and from 65things strangled and from 66fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell."
30 So when they were sent away, 67they went down to Antioch; and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter.
31 When they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement.
32 68Judas and 69Silas, also being 70prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened 71the brethren with a lengthy message.
33 After they had spent time there, they were sent away from the brethren 72in peace to those who had 73sent them out.
34 [But it seemed good to Silas to remain there.]
35 But 74Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, teaching and 75preaching with many others also, 76the word of the Lord.

Second Missionary Journey

36 After some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us return and visit the brethren in 77every city in which we proclaimed 78the word of the Lord, and see how they are."
37 Barnabas wanted to take 79John, called Mark, along with them also.
38 But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had 80deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.
39 And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took 81Mark with him and sailed away to 82Cyprus.
40 But Paul chose 83Silas and left, being 84committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord.
41 And he was traveling through 85Syria and 86Cilicia, 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 86

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

Footnotes 21

Acts 15 Commentaries