Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch. Here is what they were teaching the believers. "Moses commanded you to be circumcised," they said. "If you aren't, you can't be saved."
But Paul and Barnabas didn't agree with this. They argued strongly with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed to go up to Jerusalem. Some other believers were chosen to go with them. They were supposed to see the apostles and elders about this question.
The church sent them on their way. As they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how those who weren't Jews had turned to God. This news made all the believers very glad.
When they arrived in Jerusalem, the church welcomed them. The apostles and elders welcomed them too. Then Paul and Barnabas reported everything God had done through them.
Some of the believers were Pharisees. They stood up and said, "Those who aren't Jews must be circumcised. They must obey the law of Moses."
The apostles and elders met to consider this question.
After they had talked it over, Peter got up and spoke to them. "Brothers," he said, "you know that some time ago God chose me to take the good news to those who aren't Jews. He wanted them to hear the good news and believe.
God knows the human heart. By giving the Holy Spirit to non-Jews, he showed that he accepted them. He did the same for them as he had done for us.
He showed that there is no difference between us and them. He made their hearts pure because of their faith.
"Now then, why are you trying to test God? You test him when you put a heavy load on the believers' shoulders. Our people of long ago couldn't carry that load. We can't either.
No! We believe we are saved through the grace of our Lord Jesus. Those who aren't Jews are saved in the same way."
Everyone became quiet as they listened to Barnabas and Paul. They were telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done through them among non-Jews.
When they finished, James spoke up. "Brothers," he said, "listen to me.
Simon Peter has explained to us how God first showed his concern for those who aren't Jews. He chose some of them to be his very own people.
The prophets' words agree with that. They say,
" 'After this I will return and rebuild David's fallen tent. I will rebuild what was destroyed. I will make it what it used to be.
Then the rest of the people can look to the Lord. This means all the non-Jews who belong to me. The Lord says this. He is the one who does these things.' (Amos 9:11,12)
The Lord does things that have been known for a long time.
"Now here is my opinion. We should not make it hard for the non-Jews who are turning to God.
Here is what we should write to them. They must not eat food polluted by being offered to statues of gods. They must not commit sexual sins. They must not eat the meat of animals that have been choked to death. And they must not drink blood.
These laws of Moses have been preached in every city from the earliest times. They are read out loud in the synagogues every Sabbath day."
Then the apostles, the elders and the whole church decided what to do. They would choose some of their own men. They would send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. So they chose two leaders among the believers. Their names were Judas Barsabbas and Silas.
Here is the letter they sent with them. The apostles and elders, your brothers, are writing this letter. We are sending it to the non-Jewish believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. Greetings.
We have heard that some of our people came to you and caused trouble. You were upset by what they said. But we had given them no authority to go.
So we all agreed to send our dear friends Barnabas and Paul to you. We chose some others to go with them.
Barnabas and Paul have put their lives in danger for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So we are sending Judas and Silas with them. What they say will agree with this letter.
It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to give you a load that is too heavy. So here are a few basic rules.
Don't eat food that has been offered to statues of gods. Don't drink blood. Don't eat the meat of animals that have been choked to death. And don't commit sexual sins. You will do well to keep away from these things. Farewell.
The men were sent down to Antioch. There they gathered the church together. They gave the letter to them.
The people read it. They were glad for its message of hope.
Judas and Silas were prophets. They said many things to give strength and hope to the believers.
Judas and Silas stayed there for some time. Then the believers sent them away with the blessing of peace. They sent them back to those who had sent them out.
Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch. There they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.
Some time later Paul spoke to Barnabas. "Let's go back to all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord," he said. "Let's visit the believers and see how they are doing."
Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them.
But Paul didn't think it was wise to take him. Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia. He hadn't continued with them in their work.
Barnabas and Paul strongly disagreed with each other. So they went their separate ways. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus.
But Paul chose Silas. The believers asked the Lord to give his grace to Paul and Silas as they went.
Paul traveled through Syria and Cilicia. He gave strength to the churches there.