Acts 15

1 Some men came down from Judea and taught the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised after the custom of Moses, you can’t be saved.” 2 Therefore when Paul and Barnabas had no small discord and discussion with them, they appointed Paul and Barnabas, and some others of them, to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about this question. 3 They, being sent on their way by the assembly, passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles. They caused great joy to all the brothers. 4 When they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the assembly and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all things that God had done with them. 5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” 6 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to see about this matter. 7 When there had been much discussion, Peter rose up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that a good while ago God made a choice amongst you, that by my mouth the nations should hear the word of the Good News, and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, testified about them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just like he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why do you tempt God, that you should put a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.” 12 All the multitude kept silence, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul reporting what signs and wonders God had done amongst the nations through them. 13 After they were silent, James answered, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon has reported how God first visited the nations, to take out of them a people for his name. 15 This agrees with the words of the prophets. As it is written, 16 ‘After these things I will return. I will again build the tabernacle of David, which has fallen. I will again build its ruins. I will set it up, 17 that the rest of men may seek after the Lord; all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who does all these things. 18 All of God’s works are known to him from eternity.’ 19 “Therefore my judgement is that we don’t trouble those from amongst the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but that we write to them that they abstain from the pollution of idols, from sexual immorality, from what is strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses from generations of old has in every city those who preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” 22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole assembly, to choose men out of their company, and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas: Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, chief men amongst the brothers. 23 They wrote these things by their hand: “The apostles, the elders, and the brothers, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: greetings. 24 Because we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, ‘You must be circumcised and keep the law,’ to whom we gave no commandment; 25 it seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose out men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who themselves will also tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay no greater burden on you than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality, from which if you keep yourselves, it will be well with you. Farewell.” 30 So, when they were sent off, they came to Antioch. Having gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter. 31 When they had read it, they rejoiced over the encouragement. 32 Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged the brothers with many words, and strengthened them. 33 After they had spent some time there, they were sent back with greetings from the brothers to the apostles. 34 35 But Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. 36 After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s return now and visit our brothers in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, to see how they are doing.” 37 Barnabas planned to take John, who was called Mark, with them also. 38 But Paul didn’t think that it was a good idea to take with them someone who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia, and didn’t go with them to do the work. 39 Then the contention grew so sharp that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him, and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas, and went out, being commended by the brothers to the grace of God. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the assemblies.

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

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.

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