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ACTS
The continued Life of Jesus through the Apostles

CHAPTER FIFTEEN 

"Law vs. Grace"
Key Verse = Acts 15:11

  1. Conflict Over Circumcision 3. Paul and Barnabas Return to Antioch
  2. The Jerusalem Council 4. Division Over John Mark


Chapter 15 is the turning point in the book of Acts,  and this can be seen in several ways:
(1) Jerusalem is no longer central.
Until the time of the Jerusalem Council (verse 6) all roads led either to or from Jerusalem,  but after Chapter 15 Jerusalem is mentioned only once (Chapter 21), and there it is in connection with the story of Paul.
(2) Peter is mentioned for the last time in Chapter 15;
and Barnabas,  who may be regarded as representative of Jerusalem Christianity,  is no longer active in the narrative after this chapter.  In fact,  Barnabas has a dramatic break with Paul (verse 39),  around whom the rest of the narrative of Acts is centered.
(3) The apostles no longer hold their high positions in sending forth the Christian message
(they are last mentioned in Acts 16:4),  and "the elders" of the various churches now become he recognized leaders of the Christians movement.
(4) The Gentile mission, which had its beginning in Antioch (11:19 ff.) and which was again forced upon Paul and Barnabas after their experiences in Antioch of Pisidia (13:46 ff.),  now receives primary focus throughout the remainder of the book.
(from the UBS New Testament Handbook Series. Copyright © 1961-1997, by United Bible Societies.)

CONFLICT  OVER  CIRCUMCISION

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THE FIRST CHURCH CONFERENCE
Group Position Reasons
Judaizers
(some Jewish Christians)
Gentiles must become Jewish first to be eligible for salvation 1. They were devout, practicing Jews who found it difficult to set aside a tradition of gaining merit with God by keeping the law.
2. They thought grace was too easy for the Gentiles.
3. They were afraid of seeming too non-Jewish in the practice of their new faith—which could lead to death.
4. The demands on the Gentiles were a way of maintaining control and authority in the movement.
Gentile Christians Faith in Christ as Savior is the only requirement for salvation 1.  To submit to Jewish demands would be to doubt what God had already done for them by grace alone.
2.  They resisted exchanging their pagan rituals for a system of Jewish rituals - neither of which had power to save.
3.  They sought to obey Christ by baptism (rather than be circumcision) as a sign of their new faith.
Peter and James The final decision:
Faith is the only requirement, but there must be evidence of change by rejecting the old lifestyle.
1.  They tried to distinguish between what was true from God's Word versus what was just human tradition.
2.  They had Christ's command to preach to all the world.
3.  They wanted to reserve unity.
4.  They saw that Christianity could never survive as just a sect within Judaism.
(from The Tyndale Handbook of Bible Charts & Maps. Copyright 2001 (c) by Neil S. Wilson & Linda K. Taylor, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois)

Acts 15:1
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."

And certain men who had come down from Judea taught the brethren, Unless you are circumcised in accordance with the custom of the law you cannot be saved.


The rapid progress of Gentile evangelization in Antioch itself and in Cyprus and Asia Minor presented the more conservative Jewish Christians with a serious problem. They feared that the influx of so many Gentile believers would bring about a weakening of Christian moral standards, and the evidence of Paul’s Corinthian correspondence shows that their misgivings were not unfounded. How was this new situation to be controlled?

False Doctrine - The 10th Attempt of Satan to Destroy the Church

Certain men...from Judea
We take these men to be the same as the “certain” who “came from James” in Paul’s narrative in Galatians 2:12. These men exceeded the terms of their commission (whatever their commission was) and took matters into their own hands by their insistence that circumcision and submission to the Mosaic Law were necessary for salvation. The Epistle to the Galatians enables us to fill out the brief summary here provided by Luke.

These were undoubtedly men who had been Jews,  but who were now converted to Christianity.  The fact that they were willing to refer the matter in dispute to the apostles and elders (verse 2) shows that they had professedly embraced the Christian religion.
Violent persecutions had raged, and had fully occupied the attention of Christians. But now the churches were at peace.
They enjoyed great external prosperity in Antioch, and the great enemy of souls took occasion then, as he has often done in similar circumstances since, to excite contentions in the church itself, so that when external violence could not destroy it, an effort was made to secure the same object by internal dissension and strife.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Taught the brethren
Edidaskon tous adelfous - in Greek grammar this is inchoative imperfect active - began to teach and kept it up. Their attitude was one of supercilious superiority.
(from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright © 1985 by Broadman Press.)

Circumcised according to the customer of Moses
This was the leading or principal rite of the Jewish religion.  It was indispensable to the name and privileges of a Jew.  Proselytes to their religion were circumcised as well as native-born Jews,  and they held it to be indispensable to salvation.

Let us consider:
1. Where did circumcision originate?
Genesis 17:24-27
Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised,  and his son Ishmael was thirteen;  Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that same day.  And every male in Abraham's household,  including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner,  was circumcised with him.    (NIV)
2. What was the purpose of circumcision?
Genesis 17:11
You are to undergo circumcision,  and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.   (NIV)
3. Why did they say “after the manner of Moses?”
Exodus 4:24-26
At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met [Moses] and was about to kill him.  But Zipporah took a flint knife,  cut off her son's foreskin and touched [Moses'] feet with it.  "Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,"  she said.  So the Lord let him alone.    (NIV)

It is not surprising that there were people in the Jerusalem church who were strong advocates of the Law of Moses but ignorant of the relationship between Law and grace.  These people were Jews who had been trained to respect and obey the Law of Moses;
and, after all, Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews had not yet been written!
There was a large group of priests in the Jerusalem assembly (Acts 6:7),  as well as people who still followed some of the Old Testament practices (see Acts 21:20-26).
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

The grounds on which they would press it on the attention of Gentile converts would be very plausible, and such as would produce much embarrassment. For:
(1) It would be maintained that the laws of Moses were the laws of God,  and were therefore unchangeable.
(2) It would doubtless be maintained that the religion of the Messiah was only a completing and perfecting of the Jewish religion that it was designed simply to carry out its principles according to the promises,  and not to subvert and destroy anything that had been established by divine authority.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

These men did not understand that they were no longer under the Old Covenant,  but now were under the New Covenant.
Jeremiah 31:31-34
"Behold,  the days are coming, says the LORD,  when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah -- not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD.
But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD:  I will put My law in their minds,  and write it on their hearts;  and I will be their God,  and they shall be My people.
No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."    (NIV)

From the Amplified Bible
(1)  But some men came down from Judea and were instructing the brethren, Unless you are circumcised in accordance with the Mosaic custom, you cannot be saved. [Genesis 17:9-14.]

Acts 15:2 & 3
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(2)  Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.

And there was great dissension and controversy between them and Paul and Barnabas, and it reached such a point that it was necessary for Paul and Barnabas and others with them to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this question.

(3)  So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren.

They were given an escort and sent on their way by the church, and they traveled through all Phoenicia and the territory of the Samaritans, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren.


JUDAIZERS VERSUS PAUL
As the debate raged between the Gentile Christians and the Judaizers, Paul found it necessary to write to the churches in Galatia. The Judaizers were trying to undermine Paul’s authority.  The debate over Jewish laws and Gentile Christians was officially resolved at the Jerusalem council.

What the Judaizers said about Paul Paul’s defense
They said he was perverting the truth. He had received his message from Christ himself (Acts 9:15; Galatians 1:11-12).
They said he was a traitor to the Jewish faith. He was one of the most dedicated Jews of his time. Yet, in the midst of one of his most zealous acts, God had transformed him through a revelation of the good news about Jesus (Acts 9:1-30; Galatians 1:13-16).
They said he compromised and diluted his message for the Gentiles. The other apostles declared that the message Paul was preaching was the true gospel (Acts 9:28; Galatians 2:1-10).
They said he was disregarding the law of Moses. Far from degrading the law, Paul put the law in its proper place. He wrote that it shows people where they have sinned and points them to Christ (Galatians 3:19-29).
(from The Tyndale Handbook of Bible Charts & Maps. Copyright 2001 (c) by Neil S. Wilson & Linda K. Taylor, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois)

Had no small dissension

The word rendered "dissension" - stasis (NT: 4714) - denotes sometimes "sedition," and sometimes "earnest and violent disputation or controversy," as used in Acts 23:7, 10 (a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees...The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them).
 

From Paul's Testimony

To the Church in Galatia
Galatians 2:11-14

Now when Peter had come to Antioch,  I withstood him to his face,  because he was to be blamed;
for before certain men came from James,  he would eat with the Gentiles;  but when they came,  he withdrew and separated himself,  fearing those who were of the circumcision.
And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him,  so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.
But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel,  I said to Peter before them all,
"If you,  being a Jew,  live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews,  why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?"

Go up to Jerusalem
It is generally agreed that this is the journey to which Paul refers in Galatians 2:1-10.

There was no prospect that the controversy would be settled by contention and argument.  It would seem,  from this statement,  that those who came down from Judea were also willing that the whole matter should be referred to the apostles at Jerusalem.  The reason for this may have been:
(1) That Jerusalem would be regarded by them as the source of authority in the Christian church, as it had been among the Jews.
(2) Most of the apostles and the most experienced Christians (elders) were there. They had listened to the instructions of Christ himself; had been long in the church; and were supposed to be better acquainted with its design and its laws.
(3) Those that came from Judea would not be likely to acknowledge the authority of Paul as an apostle: the authority of those at Jerusalem they would recognize.
(4) They might have had a very confident expectation that the decision there would be in their favor. The question had not been agitated there. They had all been Jews, and it is certain that they continued as yet to attend in the temple service, and to conform to the Jewish customs.  They might have expected, therefore, with great confidence, that the decision would be in their favor, and they were willing to refer it to those who resided at Jerusalem.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Being sent on their way by the church
Propemfthentes (NT:4311) "Being sent on their way"  - an old verb,  to send forward under escort as a mark of honor as in Acts 20:38; 21:5; 3 John 6.   They were given a grand send-off by the church in Antioch.

Passed through
Dieerchonto (NT:1330)  Imperfect middle describing a triumphal procession.
Along the great Roman road which followed the coast line from north to south, through Phoenicia and Samaria.

They caused great joy
First, notice what they did NOT do -
They did NOT carry the disagreement along with them, spreading dissention and division along the way.
This would have been the natural thing to do.
They did NOT carry the disagreement along with them, gathering support for "their side" along the way.
This would have been the human thing to do.

Now, notice what they DID do -
They gave a good report as they went, spreading encouragement along the way.
This was the spiritual thing to do.
They rejoiced with the believers as they went because of the conversion of the Gentiles, spreading great joy along the way.
This was the Godly thing to do.

The brethren
We have seen that some of the scattered disciples "traveled as far as Phenice and Cyprus, preaching to none but unto the Jews only" (Acts 11:19). Here we have the fruits of their labor in those parts.
(from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(2)  And when Paul and Barnabas had no small disagreement and discussion with them, it was decided that Paul and Barnabas and some of the others of their number should go up to Jerusalem [and confer] with the apostles (special messengers) and the elders about this matter.
(3)  So, being fitted out and sent on their way by the church, they went through both Phoenicia and Samaria telling of the conversion of the Gentiles (the heathen), and they caused great rejoicing among all the brethren.

 Acts 15:4 & 5
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(4)  And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them.

On their arrival at Jerusalem, they were received by the church, and by the apostles and elders; and they reported everything 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."

But some of the men who had been converted from the sect of the Pharisees rose up and said, You must circumcise them and command them to keep the law of Moses.


Were received
Paradechomai  (NT:3858)  "to receive or admit with approval"

They were received by
The Church Ekklesia (NT:1577)  in the Christian sense, an assembly of Christians gathered for worship. This was not a building, but the assembling together of the believers in Jerusalem.
The Apostles Apostolos (NT:652) one who is sent with a message.
Either the whole or part of the twelve; though we read of none but John, Peter, and James. (Galatians 2:9)
The Elders Presbuteros  (NT:4245)  presbyters.  Comparative of presbus (elderly); older;  as noun, a senior.  Among Christians,  those who presided over the assemblies.

Here it was a public reception for Paul and Barnabas provided by the whole church including the apostles and elders, at which an opportunity was given to hear the story of Paul and Barnabas about God's dealings with them among the Gentiles.
(from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright © 1985 by Broadman Press.)

Some of the sect of the Pharisees
Dissatisfaction was voiced in particular by some members of the Jerusalem church who were associated with the Pharisaic party.
1. Pharisees,  as believers in the doctrine of resurrection,  could become Christians without relinquishing their distinctive beliefs.
2. To what they already believed they added the belief that Jesus of Nazareth had been raised from the dead and thus divinely proclaimed to be Lord and Messiah.
3. But if their Christianity did not amount to more than this,  they remained legalists at heart – unlike their illustrious fellow-Pharisee Paul,  whose whole outlook was radically reoriented by his revolutionary conversion.
4. These Pharisees,  then,  were the leaders in insisting that Gentile converts should be instructed to submit to circumcision and the general obligation to keep the Mosaic law.  (Notice, it says some of the Pharisees - not all.  There were also those Pharisees who had been sincerely converted.)
5. These men have since become known as “Judaizers.” See the study in Galatians: Law + Grace = 0

Among the Pharisees,  the stricter school of Shammai may have prevailed at this time; the school of Hillel,  which predominated later,  was much more generous toward Gentiles.  Other Jews respected Pharisees for their piety,  and the Jerusalem church no doubt accorded them high status for their knowledge of the law.
(from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)

There are hinderers in the Church as well as outside.  This position was not only Pharisaic,  it was founded upon a narrow reading of the letter.  If Christianity is a square with well-defined walls,  there are men who could stand in the middle of it and defend it bravely;  but if Christianity is a horizon which recedes as we advance,  and which has room enough within it for other universes tenfold larger than our own,  they become bewildered,  the letter is of little use to them,  and so they make four corners for themselves,  and subside within the prison of a creed.
(from The Biblical Illustrator Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006 Ages Software, Inc. and Biblesoft, Inc.)

Keep the Law of Moses - see verse 1

From the Amplified Bible
(4)  When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were heartily welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they told them all that God had accomplished through them.
(5)  But some who believed [who acknowledged Jesus as their Savior and devoted themselves to Him] belonged to the sect of the Pharisees, and they rose up and said, It is necessary to circumcise [the Gentile converts] and to charge them to obey the Law of Moses.



THE  JERUSALEM  COUNCIL

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Acts 15:6-9
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(6)  Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.

Then the apostles and elders assembled to consider this matter.

(7)  And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.

And after much controversy, Simon Peter rose up and said to them, Men and brethren, you know that from the early days God chose that from my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the Gospel and believe.

(8)  So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us,

And God, who knows what is in the heart, has testified concerning them and has given them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us.

(9)  and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

And he did not discriminate between us and them, because he purified their hearts by faith.


Came together to consider this matter
The question was too important,  and,  perhaps, the persons who advanced the objections too considerable,  to allow of a decision to be taken on the spot.  A special meeting of the Church was called to consider the matter.
(from The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

There had been much dispute
Zetesis (NT:2214)  "a seeking,"  then,  "a debate,  dispute,  questioning"  (some texts have suzetesis,  "reasoning,"  in both verses).
(from Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers.)

What were these legalists actually doing and why were they so dangerous?
They were attempting to mix Law and grace and to pour the new wine into the ancient brittle wineskins (Luke 5:36-39).
They were stitching up the rent veil (Luke 23:45) and blocking the new and living way to God that Jesus had opened when He died on the cross (Hebrews 10:19-25).
They were rebuilding the wall between Jews and Gentiles that Jesus had torn down on the cross (Ephesians 2:14-16).
They were putting the heavy Jewish yoke on Gentile shoulders (Acts 15:10; Galatians 5:1) and asking the church to move out of the sunlight into the shadows (Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 10:1).
They were saying, "A Gentile must first become a Jew before he can become a Christian! It is not sufficient for them simply to trust Jesus Christ They must also obey Moses!"
Several important issues are involved here,
not the least of which is the work of Christ on the cross as declared in the message of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Hebrews 10:1-18).
God pronounces a solemn anathema on anyone who preaches any other Gospel than the Gospel of the grace of God found in Jesus Christ His Son (Galatians 1:1-9).
When any religious leader says,  "Unless you belong to our group,  you cannot be saved!"  or,  "Unless you participate in our ceremonies and keep our rules,  you cannot be saved!"  he is adding to the Gospel and denying the finished work of Jesus Christ Paul wrote his Epistle to the Galatians to make it clear that salvation is wholly by God's grace,  through faith in Christ plus nothing!
Another issue involved was the nature of the church's missionary program.
If these legalists (we call them "the Judaizers') were correct, then Paul and Barnabas had been all wrong in their ministry. Along with preaching the Gospel, they should have been teaching the Gentiles how to live as good Jews. No wonder Paul and Barnabas debated and disputed with these false teachers! (Acts 15:2,7)
The Antioch believers were being "troubled" and "subverted" (Acts 15:24),  and this same confusion and disruption would soon spread to the Gentile churches Paul and Barnabas had founded.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

Peter rose up and said
The debate continued and no progress was in sight until Peter arose and made his speech.  It is interesting to note that his final act in Acts was to endorse Paul and his ministry,  as did also Peter's last written words (2 Peter 3:15-16).
(from Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New Testament. Copyright © 1992 by Chariot Victor Publishing, an imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved.)
2 Peter 3:15
"and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation — as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him,  has written to you"

A good while ago
Peter is referring here to Cornelius and his house to whom Peter had been sent 10 years ago (Acts 10:1)

God...acknowledged them...and made no distinction
Though they had not been circumcised,  and though they did not conform to the Law of Moses.  Thus,  God showed that the observance of these rites was not necessary in order to the true conversion of people,  and to acceptance with him.  He did not give us,  who are Jews,  any advantage over them,  but justified and purified all in the same manner.
This demonstrated that the plan on which God was now about to show favor to people was not by external rites and ceremonies,  but by a scheme which required faith as the only condition of acceptance.  It is further implied here that there is no true faith which does not purify the heart.
(From Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

God is the one who considered the Gentiles fit to be saved.  For God to bear witness is simply approving and setting His seal upon a thing. In this case,  God gave the Gentiles the same Spirit baptism that He gave at Pentecost and made no difference between Jews and Gentiles in Christ  (1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11).  He did this without the Gentiles being circumcised or without keeping the law or sabbath.
(from Dake Annotated Reference Bible © 2007 by Dake Publishing. All rights reserved in U.S.A. and Other Countries.)

1 Corinthians 12:13
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
Galatians 3:28
here is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Colossians 3:11
where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

Peter reminded the church of four important ministries that God had performed for the Gentiles,  ministries in which he had played an important part.
First God made a choice that Peter should preach the Gospel to the Gentiles.
The Apostles and brethren in Judea had censured Peter for visiting the Gentiles and eating with them, but he had satisfactorily defended himself (Acts 11:1-18).
Second God gave the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles to bear witness that they truly were born again.
Peter's message was "whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:43), not "whoever believes and obeys the Law of Moses."
Third God erased a difference.
For centuries,  God had put a difference between Jews and Gentiles,  and it was the task of the Jewish religious leaders to protect and maintain that difference (Leviticus 10:10; Ezekiel 22:26; 44:23).  Jesus taught that the Jewish dietary laws had nothing to do with inner holiness (Mark 7:1-23),  and Peter had learned that lesson again when he had that vision on the housetop in Joppa.
Fourth God's fourth ministry was the removing of the yoke of the Law.
The Law was indeed a yoke that burdened the Jewish nation,  but that yoke has been taken away by Jesus Christ (Galatians 5:1 ff; Colossians 2:14-17).  After all,  the Law was given to the Jewish nation to protect them from the, evils of the Gentile world and prepare them to bring the Messiah into the world.  The Law -
cannot purify the sinner's heart (Galatians 2:21)
impart the gift of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:2)
give eternal life (Galatians 3:21)
What the Law could not do, God did through His own Son (Romans 8:1-4).  Those who have trusted Christ have the righteousness of God's Law in their hearts and, through the Spirit, obey His will.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

Purifying...by faith

Katharizoo (NT:2511)  purify -
1. to make clean, to cleanse
a. from physical stains and dirt
b. in a moral sense
to free from the defilement of sin and from faults; to purify from wickedness
to free from the guilt of sin, to purify
to consecrate by cleansing or purifying
2. to pronounce clean in a Levitical sense
(from Thayer's Greek Lexicon, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2000, 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Pistis (NT:4102faith -
The main elements in "faith" in its relation to the invisible God,  as distinct from "faith" in man
1.. a firm conviction, producing a full acknowledgement of God's revelation or truth
2. a personal surrender to Him
3. a conduct inspired by such surrender
(from Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers.)
 
1. Faith believes in sin as sin, and sees the horror of it as an offence against a holy and gracious God.
2. Faith delights to set Christ before the heart and to make it gaze upon His side pierced by sin, and therefore hates the sin which slew its best Friend.
3. Faith delighteth much in the Person of Christ, and therefore she sets before the soul His incomparable loveliness, as the well-beloved of saints. Thus is enkindled a vehement flame of love to Him, and this becomes a powerful purifier, for you cannot love Christ and love sin.
4. Faith has a wonderful art of realizing her gracious privileges.
5. Faith has yet further a wondrous power of bringing near the things to come. What could more effectually purify the heart than the vision of heaven which faith presents to us?
6. Power is gained by faith through pleading the promises of God. "Sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace."
7. Faith daringly lays hold upon the power of God Himself.
8. Faith brings us real power to conquer sin by applying the blood of Christ. The blood of Jesus is the life of faith and the death of sin. All the saints overcome through the blood of the Lamb.
9. Faith gives us power against sin by mixing herself with all gospel ordinances -- with hearing, communions, prayer, Bible study. Faith will enable you to draw nourishment out of ordinances, and make you vigorous against sin.
10. Faith rouses the new man to intense resistance of sin.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(from The Biblical Illustrator Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006 Ages Software, Inc. and Biblesoft, Inc.)

From the Amplified Bible
(6)  The apostles and the elders were assembled together to look into and consider this matter.
(7)  And after there had been a long debate, Peter got up and said to them, Brethren, you know that quite a while ago God made a choice or selection from among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the message of the Gospel [concerning the attainment through Christ of salvation in the kingdom of God] and believe (credit and place their confidence in it).
(8)  And God, Who is acquainted with and understands the heart, bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit as He also did to us;
(9)  And He made no difference between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith ( by a strong and welcome conviction that Jesus is the Messiah, through Whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God).

Acts 15:10 & 11
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(10)  Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

Now therefore why do you tempt God by putting a yoke upon the necks of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

(11)  But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they."

But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved even as they.


Test God
Peirazo (NT:3985)  to try, make trial of, test
To test one maliciously,  craftily to put to the proof his feelings or judgment.  To try or test one's faith,  virtue,  character,  by enticement to sin.
This word is used in:
Luke 4:2 Satan tempting Jesus
Matthew 16:1 Pharisees and Sadducees testing  Jesus
Matthew 22:18 Pharisees and Herodians testing  Jesus
Acts 5:9 Ananias and Sapphira testing the Spirit of the Lord
James 1:14 Our own desires tempting every believer

Why provoke God to displeasure?  Why,  since He has shown His determination to accept them without such rites,  do you provoke Him by attempting to impose on His own people rites without his authority,  and against his manifest will?  The argument is that God had already accepted them.  To attempt to impose these rites would be to provoke Him to anger;  to introduce observances which He had shown it was His purpose should now be abolished.

A yoke
That which would be burdensome and oppressive,  or which would infringe on their just freedom as the children of God.  It is called in Galatians 5:1, "a yoke of bondage."
A "yoke" is an emblem of
Slavery or Bondage (1 Timothy 6:1)
Affliction (Lamentations 3:27)
Punishment (Lamentations 1:14)
Or of oppressive and burdensome ceremonies,  as in this place,  or of the restraints of Christianity (Matt 11:29-30). In this place those rites are called a yoke, because:
(1) They were burdensome and oppressive
(2) They would be an infringement of Christian freedom
One design of the gospel was to set people free from such rites and ceremonies.

The term “yoke” was particularly appropriate in this connection:
(1) The Proselyte, when he undertook to fulfill the law, was said to “take up the yoke of the kingdom of heaven.”
(2) Among the Jews, at this particular time, the severe school of Shammai was dominant, and expounded the law as an especially heavy burden under which they groaned.
(3) By contrast with those “heavy burdens and grievous to be borne” (Matthew 23:4), Peter and his companions had learned to rejoice in the easy yoke of Jesus Christ.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

There is a curious story in Midrash Shochar, tof in Yalkut Simeoni, part 1 fol. 229, where Korah is represented as showing the oppressive nature of the law, and avarice of its priests, in justification of his rebellion.
"There was,"  said he,  "a widow in our neighborhood who had two orphan children: she had one field; and, when she began to plow it, one came and said,  Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together.
When she went to sow it, he said,  Thou shalt not sow thy field with divers seeds.
When she began to reap, and to gather the sheaves together, he said,  Leave a handful and the corners of the field for the poor.
When she prepared to thresh it, he said,  Give me the wave-offering, and the first and second tithes.
She did as she was commanded, and then went and sold her field, and bought two ewes, that she might clothe herself and family with the wool, and get profit by the lambs.
When they brought forth their lambs,  Aaron came and said, Give me the firstlings, for the holy blessed God hath said, All the first born, whatsoever openeth the womb, shall be thine.
She yielded to his demands,  and gave him two lambs.
When shearing time came, he said,  Give me the first fruits of the wool.
When the widow had done this, she said, I cannot stand before this man; I will kill my sheep and eat them.
When she had killed the sheep,  Aaron came and said,  Give me the shoulder, and the jaws, and the ventricle.  The widow said,  Though I have killed my sheep,  I am not delivered from this man;  I therefore consecrate the whole to God.
Then Aaron said,  ALL belongs to me, for the holy blessed God hath said,  Everything that is consecrated in Israel shall be his, i.e. the priest's.
He therefore took the whole carcasses, and marched off, leaving the widow and her orphan daughters overwhelmed with affliction."
This is a terrible picture of the requisitions of the Mosaic ritual; and, though exaggerated, it contains so many true features that it may well be said,  This is a yoke which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear.
(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

We shall be saved the same as they
The Issue: When the debate began in verse 5, the issue was whether the Gentile believers must be circumcised and come under the law  ("It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.").
The Answer: Not only should the Gentiles NOT be compelled to be circumcised and obey the law of Moses in order to be saved, but NEITHER SHOULD THE JEW!

A Jew under the Law would say the opposite and in reverse order ("they are saved as we are"),  but one who knew God's grace,  as Peter did,  would not say that. Salvation for anyone - Jew or Gentile - is by God's grace and is by faith (Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8).
(from Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries; Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries. All rights reserved.)

Galatians 2:16
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Ever since the work of Christ on Calvary, God has made no difference between Jews and Gentiles as far
as sin (Romans 3:9 "for we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin")
or salvation (Romans 10:9-13 "if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved ... there is no distinction between Jew and Greek ... whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved")
are concerned. Sinners can have their hearts purified only by faith in Christ; salvation is not by keeping the Law (Acts 15:9). We would expect Peter to conclude his defense by saying, "They [the Gentiles] shall be saved even as we Jews,"
but he said just the reverse!
"We [Jews] shall be saved, even as they!"
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

These final beautiful words in Peter's discourse are the last recorded words of Peter in the book of Acts.

From the Amplified Bible
(10)  Now then, why do you try to test God by putting a yoke on the necks of the disciples, such as neither our forefathers nor we [ourselves] were able to endure?
(11)  But we believe that we are saved through the grace (the undeserved favor and mercy) of the Lord Jesus, just as they [are].

Acts 15:12-18
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(12)  Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles.

Then the whole congregation was silent and listened to Paul and Barnabas, who were declaring the miracles and signs among the Gentiles and everything which God had wrought by their hands.

(13)  And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, "Men and brethren, listen to me:

And when they had ceased speaking, James rose up and said, Men and brethren, hear me:

(14)  Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.

Simon Peter has told you how God from the beginning chose a people from the Gentiles for his name.

(15)  And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:

And with this the words of the prophets agree, as it is written,

(16)  'After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up;

After this I will return, and I will set up again the tabernacle of David which has fallen down; and I will repair what has fallen from it, and I will set it up,

(17)  So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord who does all these things.'

So that the men who remain may seek after the Lord, and also all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called; so said the Lord who does all these things.

(18)  "Known to God from eternity are all His works.

The works of God are known from the very beginning.


Listened to Barnabas and Paul
These apostles came forward next,  to corroborate what Peter had said,  by showing the miracles and wonders which God had by them performed among the Gentiles.

Peter stated facts: Paul and Barnabas confirmed the statement.
(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Barnabas and Paul described the miraculous signs and wonders that God had done among the Gentiles through them.  These would especially convince the Jews  (1 Corinthians 1:22 " For Jews request a sign")  so they listened in silence.  This response implied they would not argue against the testimonies of Peter,  Paul,  and Barnabas.
(from Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries; Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries. All rights reserved.)

James
James was a brother to Jesus (Matthew 13:55; Galatians 1:19) and the writer of the Epistle of James. He and his brethren were not believers in Christ until after the Resurrection (John 7:5; 1 Corinthians 15:7; Acts 1:14). James had strong leanings toward the Law (there are at least ten references to law in his epistle), so he was most acceptable to the legalistic party in the Jerusalem church.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

After a time of silence,  James spoke up.  He reminded the council of Peter's report of Gentile faith and that Amos the prophet had predicted God would save the Gentiles by grace (Amos 9:11-12).  He then announced the decision,  which apparently had been reached by consensus:  Circumcision would not be forced upon saved Gentiles,  but they should be encouraged to refrain from unclean food and from sexual immorality.
(from Willmington's Bible Handbook by Harold Willmington Copyright © 1997 by Harold L. Willmington. Produced with permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.)

This whole transaction shows that Peter had no such authority in the church,  for otherwise his opinion would have been followed without debate.  James had an authority not less than that of Peter.  It is possible that he might have been next in age (compare 1 Cor 15:7);  and it seems morally certain that he remained for a considerable part of his life in Jerusalem,  Acts 12:17; 21:18; Gal 1:19; 2:9, 12.

Simon
Literally "Sumeoón"  (Simeon).  This is a Hebrew name  (Jewish spelling,  used only here and in 2 Peter 1:1 in the New Testament).  The Greek mode of writing it commonly was Simon.  It was one of the names of Peter,  Matthew 4:18.  James used a name which would be logical in its setting in Jerusalem.  He began by discussing Peter's experience (Acts 10).

At first visited the Gentiles
The phrase at first is crucial because it affirmed that Paul and Barnabas were not the first to go to the Gentiles.  As Peter had already said (Acts 15:7-11) the question had actually been settled in principle (chaps. 10-11) before Paul and Barnabas went on their first journey.
(from Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries; Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries. All rights reserved.)

The prophets agree
The Judaizers did not understand how the Gentiles and the Jews related to each other in the church,  or how the church fit into God's promise to establish a kingdom for Israel.  The Old Testament declared both
the salvation of the Gentiles (Isaiah 2:2; 11:10)
the future establishing of a glorious kingdom for Israel
but it did not explain how they related to each other.   The legalists in the church were jealous for both
the future glory of Israel
the past glory of Moses and the Law
It seemed to them that their acceptance of the Gentiles as "spiritual equals" jeopardized the future of Israel.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

Quite properly the council desired more than the testimony of experience.  They wanted to know how it corresponded with the witness of the Scriptures.  This was the ultimate test.
To prove that Gentile salvation apart from circumcision was an Old Testament doctrine,  James quoted from Amos 9:11-12.  James here quoted a text similar to the Septuagint that differs from the Hebrew text.
The Hebrew of Amos 9:12 may be translated,  "That they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by My name."
James used the noun of men (or "of mankind"), not "Edom," and the verb seek, not "possess."
The Hebrew consonants for "Edom" and for "Adam" are identical  ('dm).
The confusion in the vowels (added much later) is easy to understand.
The only distinction in the Hebrew between  "possess"  (yaras)  and  "seek"  (daras)  is in one consonant.
The text James used may well represent the original.
Several observations need to be noted before the passage is interpreted:
(1) James did not say Amos 9:11-12 was fulfilled in the church;
he simply asserted that what was happening in the church was in full agreement with the Old Testament prophets.
(2) The word "prophets" is plural,
implying that the quotation from Amos was representative of what the prophets in general affirmed.
(3) James' main point is clear:
Gentile salvation apart from the Law does not contradict the Old Testament prophets.
(4) The words after this are neither in the Masoretic text nor the Septuagint;
both have "in that day."
Any interpretation of the passage must consider these factors.
(from Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries; Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries. All rights reserved.)

The prophets predicted the salvation of the Gentiles in addition to the verse quoted here (Amos 9:11, 12)
Isaiah 11:10
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.       (NIV)
Isaiah 42:1
Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight;  I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.       (NIV)
Isaiah 42:6
I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles.       (NIV)
Isaiah 49:6
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.
Malachi 1:11
My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun.  In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name,  because my name will be great among the nations," says the Lord Almighty.

The prophet Amos (Amos 9:8-10) had described the calamities which would come upon the nation of the Jews by their being scattered and driven away.  This implied that the city of Jerusalem, the temple, and the walls of the city would be destroyed.  But after that (Hebrew: "on that day," Amos 9:11, that is, the day when he should revisit them and recover them) he would restore them to their former privileges - would rebuild their temple, their city, and their walls, Amos 9:11.
And not only so,  not only would the blessing descend on the Jews,  but it would also be extended to others. The "remnant of Edom,"  "the pagan upon whom" his "name would be called" (Amos 9:12),  would also partake of the mercy of God,  and be subject to the Jewish people,  and a time of general prosperity and of permanent blessings would follow,  Amos 9:13-15.
James understands this as referring to the times of the Messiah,  and to the introduction of the gospel to the Gentiles
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

The complete fulfillment of Amos's prophecy will take place when the undivided realm of King David's time is restored. Meanwhile, this is a beginning.
(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)
.
Known to God
As if he had said,  This is not a new counsel of God:  he had purposed, from the time he called the Israelites, to make the Gentiles partakers of the same grace and mercy; and ultimately to destroy those rites and ceremonies which separated them from each other.  He therefore has sent the Gospel of his Son, proclaiming equally peace
to him that is afar off, the Gentiles,
and to him that is nigh, the Jews.
(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(12)  Then the whole assembly remained silent, and they listened [attentively] as Barnabas and Paul rehearsed what signs and wonders God had performed through them among the Gentiles.
(13)  When they had finished talking, James replied, Brethren, listen to me.
(14)  Simeon [Peter] has rehearsed how God first visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people [to bear and honor] His name.
(15)  And with this the predictions of the prophets agree, as it is written,
(16)  After this I will come back, and will rebuild the house of David, which has fallen; I will rebuild its [very] ruins, and I will set it up again,
(17)  So that the rest of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles upon whom My name has been invoked,
(18)  Says the Lord, Who has been making these things known from the beginning of the world. [Isaiah 45:21; Jeremiah 12:15; Amos 9:11,12.]

Acts 15:19-21
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(19)  Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God,

Because of this I say, Do not trouble those who turn to God from among the Gentiles:

(20)  but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.

But let us send word to them that they abstain from defilement by sacrifices to idols and from fornication and from animals strangled and from blood.

(21)  For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath."

For Moses, from the very early centuries, had preachers in the synagogues in every city to read his books on every sabbath day.


James' conclusion amounted to this:  that all attempts to impose circumcision and its attendant legal obligations on Gentile converts must be refused.

The way of salvation and the terms of church fellowship were to be the same for Jews and Gentiles alike (Vs. 11) – their basis was God’s free grace in Jesus Christ, to be received by faith alone.
The fundamental principle of the Gospel was thus safeguarded.

There remained,  however,  a practical problem.  In most of the churches Gentile believers had to live alongside Jewish believers,  who had been brought up to observe various food-laws and to avoid dealings with Gentiles as far as possible.  While there was no more question of requiring the Gentiles to submit to the ceremonial law,  they would do well to behave considerately to their “weaker brethren” of Jewish birth,  not all of whom could be expected immediately to acquire such an emancipated outlook on food-laws and the like as had Peter and Paul.
 
Things polluted by idols Polluted = alisgema (That which has been ritually defiled)
 Verse 29 qualifies this as eating meats that have been offered to idols.
Sexual immorality Porneia – from which we get our word “pornography” – means not only fornication, but adultery, incestuous mixtures, and especially the prostitution which was so common at the idol temples.
Things strangled The pagans sometimes strangled their animals for the purpose of keeping the blood in the body; as such animals were esteemed a greater delicacy.
Blood Part of pagan ritual was drinking the blood.
The use of blood was common among the Gentiles. They drank it often at their sacrifices, and in making covenants or compacts.

Excerpts from The Bible Exposition Commentary
James advised the church to write to the Gentile believers and share the decisions of the conference. This letter asked for obedience to two commands and a willingness to agree to two personal concessions.
The two commands were that
the believers avoid idolatry
the believers avoid immorality
The two concessions were that
they willingly abstain from eating meat from animals that had died by strangulation.
they willingly abstain from eating blood.
The two commands do not create any special problems, for idolatry and immorality have always been wrong in God's sight, both for Jews and Gentiles. But what about the two concessions concerning food?
Keep in mind that the early church did a great deal of eating together and practicing of hospitality.  Most churches met in homes, and some assemblies held a  "love feast"  in conjunction with the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).  It was probably not much different from our own potluck dinners.  If the Gentile believers ate food that the Jewish believers - considered  "unclean,"  this would cause division in the church. Paul dealt clearly with this whole problem in Romans 14-15.
The prohibition against eating blood was actually given by God before the time of the Law (Genesis 9:4), and it was repeated by Moses (Leviticus 17:11-14; Deuteronomy 12:23).  If an animal is killed by strangulation, some of the blood will remain in the body and make the meat unfit for Jews to eat Hence, the admonition against strangulation. "Kosher" meat is meat that comes from clean animals that have been killed properly so that the blood has been totally drained from the body.
It is beautiful to see that this letter (verse 23)  expressed the loving unity of people who had once been debating with each other and defending opposing views.
The legalistic Jews willingly gave up insisting that the Gentiles had to be circumcised to be saved
The Gentiles willingly accepted a change in their eating habits
It was a loving compromise that did not in any way affect the truth of the Gospel.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

As it was necessary to write to the Gentiles what was strictly necessary to be observed by them,  relative to these points,  it was not so to the converted Jews;  for they had Moses,  that is,  the law,  preached to them in the city, that is, Antioch; and, by the reading of the law in the synagogues every Sabbath day, they were kept in remembrance of those institutions which the Gentiles,  who had not the law,  could not know.  Therefore,  James thought that a letter to the converted Gentiles would be sufficient,  as the converted Jews had already ample instruction on these points.
(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(19)  Therefore it is my opinion that we should not put obstacles in the way of and annoy and disturb those of the Gentiles who turn to God,
(20)  But we should send word to them in writing to abstain from and avoid anything that has been polluted by being offered to idols, and all sexual impurity, and [eating meat of animals] that have been strangled, and [tasting of] blood.
(21)  For from ancient generations Moses has had his preachers in every town, for he is read [aloud] every Sabbath in the synagogues.

Acts 15:22-29
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(22)  Then the apostles and the elders, together with the whole church, resolved to select men from among their number and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, [both] leading men among the brethren, and sent them.

Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, chose men from among themselves and sent them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judah who is called Barsabas and Silas, men who were leaders among the brethren;

(23)  With [them they sent] the following letter: The brethren, both the apostles and the elders, to the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings:

And they wrote a letter and sent it by them after this manner: The apostles and elders and brethren to the brethren of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings:

(24)  As we have heard that some persons from our number have disturbed you with their teaching, unsettling your minds and throwing you into confusion, although we gave them no express orders or instructions [on the points in question],

We have heard that certain men have gone out and disturbed you with words, thus upsetting your souls, saying, You must be circumcised and keep the law; concerning these things we have never commanded them.

(25)  It has been resolved by us in assembly to select men and send them [as messengers] to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,

Therefore, we have considered the matter while we are assembled, and we have chosen and sent men to you with our beloved Paul and Barnabas.

(26)  Men who have hazarded their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Men who have dedicated their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(27)  So we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will bring you the same message by word of mouth.

And we have sent with them Judah and Silas, so that they may tell you the same things by word of mouth.

(28)  For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to lay upon you any greater burden than these indispensable requirements:

For it is the will of the Holy Spirit and of us to lay upon you no additional burden than these necessary things:

(29)  That you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from [tasting] blood and from [eating the meat of animals] that have been strangled and from sexual impurity. If you keep yourselves from these things, you will do well. Farewell [be strong]!

That you abstain from sacrifices offered to idols and from blood and from animals strangled and from fornication; when you keep yourselves from these things, you will do well. Remain steadfast in our Lord.


With the whole church
The whole church (verse 12) was permitted to express itself on this issue.  Interestingly two witnesses were delegated to attend Paul and Barnabas for the protection of both sides (verse 2).  They would  "confirm by word of mouth"  what was written.  No one could claim there were poor communications about this delicate issue.
(from Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries; Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries. All rights reserved.)

Judas called Barsabbas
He is supposed by some (see Grotius, Wolf, ad loc.) to have been one of the seventy disciples,  and brother of Joseph,  also surnamed Barsabas (son of Sabas),  who was proposed,  with Matthias,  to fill up the place of the traitor Judas (Acts 1:23)
(from McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Silas
Also referred to in the New Testament by his Roman cognomen  “Silvanus”  (2 Cor. 1:19; 1 Thess. 1:1; 1 Pet. 5:12),  and according to Acts 16:37,  he was also a Roman citizen  (whether he was free-born like Paul,  or purchased his citizenship,  we do not know).

He makes a further appearance in the narrative of Acts as a traveling companion of Paul’s.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

This is in keeping with Luke's style of bringing someone on the scene unobtrusively who later becomes a main character (verse 40).  These two leaders,  also "prophets"  (verse 32),  may have represented two groups in the Jerusalem church -
Judas for the Hebrew section
Silas for the Hellenists (Greeks - Gentiles)
(from Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries; Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries. All rights reserved.)

Judas and Silas are mentioned together  as  "prophets"  and  "chief men among the brethren"  at the metropolis,  "perhaps a member of the Presbytery" (Neander, P. and Tr. 1, 123).  After employing their prophetical gifts for the confirmation of the Syrian Christians in the faith
(from McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

The council agreed with this decision and wrote letters concerning it to the Gentile churches, sending these letters with Paul and his associates.  These admonitions were not official dogmas handed down by a superior body; they were wise suggestions that spiritual men had received as led by the Holy Spirit.  These prohibitions were not another "Law" but were rather admonitions that would help the Gentile Christians in their relationship with Jews, both saved and unsaved.
(from Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New Testament. Copyright © 1992 by Chariot Victor Publishing, an imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved.)

Antioch
Where the difficulty first arose.

Syria
Antioch was the capital of Syria,  and it is probable that the dispute was not confined to the capital.

Cilicia
Cilicia was adjacent to Syria. Paul and Barnabas had traveled through it,  and it is probable that the same difficulty would exist there which had disturbed the churches in Syria.  Tarsus, where Paul was born, was the capitol city of Cilicia.

They sent these messengers,
(1) To show their respect to the church at Antioch,  as a sister-church,  though a younger sister,  and that they looked upon it as upon the same level with them.
(2) To encourage Paul and Barnabas,  and to make their journey home the more pleasant (for it is likely they traveled on foot) by sending such excellent men to bear them company;  amicus pro vehiculo — a friend instead of a carriage.
(3) To put a reputation upon the letters they carried,  that it might appear a solemn embassy,  and so much the more regard might be paid to the message,  which was likely to meet with opposition from some.
(4) To keep up the communion of the saints,  and cultivate an acquaintance between churches and ministers that were at a distance from each other,  and to show that,  though they were many,   yet they were one.
(from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, PC Study Bible Formatted Electronic Database Copyright © 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All Rights reserved.)

These things
(1) In order to preserve the peace of the church.
(2) To conciliate the minds of the Jewish converts.
(3) To put a reputation upon the letters they carried,  that it might appear a solemn embassy,  and so much the more regard might be paid to the message,  which was likely to meet with opposition from some.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(22)  Then the apostles and the elders, together with the whole church, resolved to select men from among their number and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, [both] leading men among the brethren, and sent them.
(23)  With [them they sent] the following letter: The brethren, both the apostles and the elders, to the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings:
(24)  As we have heard that some persons from our number have disturbed you with their teaching, unsettling your minds and throwing you into confusion, although we gave them no express orders or instructions [on the points in question],
(25)  It has been resolved by us in assembly to select men and send them [as messengers] to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
(26)  Men who have hazarded their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(27)  So we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will bring you the same message by word of mouth.
(28)  For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to lay upon you any greater burden than these indispensable requirements:
(29)  That you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from [tasting] blood and from [eating the meat of animals] that have been strangled and from sexual impurity. If you keep yourselves from these things, you will do well. Farewell [be strong]!



PAUL  AND  BARNABAS  RETURN  TO  ANTIOCH

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Acts 15:30-32
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(30)  So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter.

Now when those who were sent came to Antioch and when the whole people were gathered together, they delivered the epistle;

(31)  When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement.

And when they had read it, the people rejoiced and were comforted.

(32)  Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words.

And Judah and Silas, being prophets themselves also, confirmed the brethren with gracious words.


The people were wonderfully pleased with the orders that came from Jerusalem.  They rejoiced for the consolation;  and a great consolation it was to the multitude,
(1) That they were confirmed in their freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law,  and were not burdened with that,  as those upstart teachers would have had them to be.  It was a comfort to them to hear that the carnal ordinances were no longer imposed on them,  which perplexed the conscience,  but could not purify nor pacify it.
(2) That those who troubled their minds with an attempt to force circumcision upon them were hereby for the present silenced and put to confusion,  the fraud of their pretensions to an apostolical warrant being now discovered.
(3) That the Gentiles were hereby encouraged to receive the gospel,  and those that had received it to adhere to it.
(4) That the peace of the church was hereby restored,  and that removed which threatened a division.
All this was consolation which they rejoiced in,  and blessed God for.
(from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, PC Study Bible Formatted Electronic Database Copyright © 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All Rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(30)  So when [the messengers] were sent off, they went down to Antioch; and having assembled the congregation, they delivered the letter.
(31)  And when they read it, the people rejoiced at the consolation and encouragement [it brought them].
(32)  And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets (inspired interpreters of the will and purposes of God), urged and warned and consoled and encouraged the brethren with many words and strengthened them.

Acts 15:33-35
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(33)  And after they had stayed there for a time, they were sent back with greetings from the brethren to the apostles.

And after they had been there some time, the brethren let them go in peace to the apostles.

(34)  However, it seemed good to Silas to remain there.

Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still.

(35)  Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

Paul also and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of God, with many others also.


For some time
It is not specified how long a time, however, some suggest several weeks, while others suggest several months.

Paul and Barnabas also remained
Again, how long a time is unknown.

It was probably during this time that Paul wrote the letter to the Galatian believers, conveying to them the truth of pure faith in Jesus Christ as confirmed by the council in Jerusalem.

From the Amplified Bible
(33)  And after spending some time there, they were sent back by the brethren with [the greeting] peace to those who had sent them.
(34)  However, Silas decided to stay on there.
(35)  But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch and with many others also continued teaching and proclaiming the good news, the Word of the Lord [concerning the attainment through Christ of eternal salvation in God's kingdom].



DIVISION  OVER  JOHN  MARK

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Acts 15:36-38
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(36)  Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing."

And some days after, Paul said to Barnabas, Let us return and visit the brethren in every city where we have preached the word of God and see how they do.

(37)  Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark.

Now Barnabas wanted to take John who was also called Mark.

(38)  But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work.

But Paul was unwilling to take him with them because he had left them when they were in Pamphylia and had not gone with them.


Let us ... visit our brethren
That is,  in the churches which they had established in Asia Minor, Acts 13:14.

We notice here (as Howson remarks),  for the first time,  a trace of that tender solicitude for his converts,  that earnest longing to see their faces,  which appears in the letters which he wrote afterward,  as one of the most remarkable and attractive features of his character.  He thought,  doubtless,  of the Pisidians and Lycaonians,  as he thought afterward at Athens and Corinth of the Thessalonians,  from whom he had been lately  "taken in presence,   not in heart,  night and day praying exceedingly that he might see their face,  and perfect that which was lacking in their faith."'
(from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Barnabas determined - Paul insisted
1. Determined – ebouleusanto (NT: 1011) – a reasoned resolve,  willed, a deliberate determination.
2. Insisted – eexíou (NT:515) – (with the negative mee), to reckon not worthy, or right.

The Greek is far more effective than this English rendering.  It is
the imperfect active of axiooo, an old verb to think meet or right -
and the present active infinitive of the same verb sumparalambanoo with negative used with this infinitive.
Literally,  "But Paul kept on deeming it wise not to be taking along with them this one."
(from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright © 1985 by Broadman Press.)

John called Mark
He had been with them before as a traveling companion,  Acts 12:12; 13:5.  He was the son of a sister of Barnabas (Col 4:10),  and it is probable that Barnabas' affection for his nephew was the main reason for inducing him to wish to take him with him in the journey.

Departed
Aphistemi (NT:868) - to remove, i.e. (actively) instigate to revolt; usually (reflexively) to desist, desert

Transitive "to remove" either spatially or within a relationship, "to win over," "to seduce."  Only the personal use is important theologically,  and in the LXX the term becomes almost a technical one for religious apostasy.  In the New Testament this sense occurs in Acts 5:37 (drew away).
(from Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, abridged edition, Copyright © 1985 by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. All rights reserved.)

Why did Mark abandon his work?
Disappointed Expectation It is possible that Mark was taken along on the first trip to take care of the physical needs of Paul and Barnabas, and having been accustomed to having servants himself, felt this type of work was beneath him, and the actual work of the journey was nothing like he had imagined it would be.
Disappointed Affection It is possible that Mark was not able to emotionally accept the change in leadership from his relative Barnabas to Paul,  as Paul became the prominent leader as the journey progressed.
Why he did this is not known.  It was evidently, however, for some cause which Paul did not consider satisfactory, and which, in his view, disqualified him from being their attendant again.

The Epilog -
A. Colossians 4:10 About 12 years later Paul tells the Colossians to receive Mark if he comes to them
B. Philemon 24 About 12 years later Paul calls Mark his fellow laborer
C. 2 Timothy 4:11 About 14 years later Paul asks Timothy to bring Mark to him because he would be profitable to him for the ministry.
In this we see that in the end, Barnabas had been right about giving him another chance,  and rather than condemning him as a failure,  to work with him,  encourage him,  nurture him as Christ does each of us.

Paul would do well to remember that it was Barnabas that gave him his chance in Jerusalem when none of the other believers would have anything to do with him (Acts 9:27).

From the Amplified Bible
(36)  And after some time Paul said to Barnabas, Come, let us go back and again visit and help and minister to the brethren in every town where we made known the message of the Lord, and see how they are getting along.
(37)  Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark [his near relative].
(38)  But Paul did not think it best to have along with them the one who had quit and deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone on with them to the work.

THE SECOND MISSIONARY JOURNEY BEGINS
Acts 15:36–18:22

Acts 15:39-41
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(39)  Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus;

And because of this dispute, Paul and Barnabas separated from each other; and Barnabas took Mark, and they sailed to Cyprus.

(40)  but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God.

But Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God.

(41)  And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

And he traveled through Syria and Cilicia, establishing churches.


This "son of consolation" loses his temper in a dispute over his cousin and Paul uses sharp words toward his benefactor and friend.  It is often so that the little irritations of life give occasion to violent explosions.  If the incident in Galatians 2:11-21 had already taken place,  there was a sore place already that could be easily rubbed.  And if Mark also joined with Peter and Barnabas on that occasion,  Paul had fresh ground for irritation about him.
(from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright © 1985 by Broadman Press.)

Excerpts from "The Apostle: A Life of Paul"
That winter, after Judas and Silas returned to Jerusalem, Paul's body remained in Antioch but his heart and mind strayed more and more to Galatia.  A desire swelled until it hurt, to know whether his urgent letter had solved their problems, whether they were progressing or failing.  He spoke emphatically to Barnabas: "Let's definitely go back and visit our brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord."  Barnabas agreed.  He suggested taking his relative John Mark again.
Paul demurred.  He was not at all happy at having with them day by day the young man who had deserted at Perga.  Barnabas felt Paul was wrong.  He should give the lad another chance; Mark had the stuff of an evangelist in him if properly encouraged.  Paul declined the risk.  Hardships, disappointments, opportunities lay ahead, for he had no intention of stopping short in Galatia - he would press onward into the unknown.  His team must be close knit, thoroughly reliable.  He refused to accept Mark.
Feelings frayed.  Luke describes the sharp argument by a Greek word which denotes violent anger and is the root of the English word "paraxysm."  Whoever was right - they were both to blame  for letting the dispute grow fierce.  There must have been serious wrong in a situation which made the lovable, even-tempered Barnabas use angry words, and Paul had far to go before he could write, "Love is patient and kind . . . Love does not insist on its own way."
Barnabas recovered his characteristic love of conciliation: he removed himself, sailing away to Cyprus with Mark.  Paul chose Silas to replace Barnabas.  Silas would bring the expedition an advantage in that he was a Roman citizen.  But Silas had returned to Jerusalem.  Paul could not wait with the season of travel already on them and much to do on the way.  He sent a message, never doubting Silas would respond, and set off alone:  Luke is emphatic in saying "He departed . . . he went through Syria and Cilicia."  The "they" does not begin until after he has reached Derbe.
Thus in the spring of A.D. 50 Paul walked alone into the mountains northwest of Antioch and came down by the "Syrian Gates" to the splendid bay of Alexandria (Iskenderun) where probably he found one of the churches he wished to strengthen.  As he walked he could see the mountains of Cilicia ahead across the gulf where the Levant turns west to become southern Anatolia. He was coming home; though his family had repudiated him the mountains were the mountains he knew as a boy.
Whether he stopped awhile at Tarsus or approached his family is not recorded.  He spent time seeking out and encouraging congregations he had founded in his Hidden Years, and then joined the busy road over the Taurus through the Cilician Gates, probably early in May for the snow is gone by mid-April from the pass and the slightly higher plateau just to the north, and into the native kingdom of Commagene.
(From "The Apostle: A Life of Paul," by John Pollock; RiverOak Publishing, a division of Cook Communication Ministries)

From the Amplified Bible
(39)  And there followed a sharp disagreement between them, so that they separated from each other, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.
(40)  But Paul selected Silas and set out, being commended by the brethren to the grace (the favor and mercy) of the Lord.
(41)  And he passed through Syria and Cilicia, establishing and strengthening the churches.



(End of Chapter Fifteen)

 

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