Those who are ever so well taught have need to stand upon their guard that they be not untaught again, and having known liberty in Christ Jesus should again be brought into bondage to law which cannot save. In a multitude of counselors there is safety and satisfaction if the counselors are men whom God has approved and who are instructed in His Word. When serious differences in regard to God’s Word arise, let men of God come together in solemn meeting for prayer and mutual advice.
1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.
3 And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.
4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.
5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
6 ¶ And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck 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, even as they.
12 ¶ Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.
13 ¶ And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:
14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.
15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,
16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:
17 That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.
18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.
22 Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:
23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:
24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:
25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.
28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
30 So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle:
31 Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.
32 And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.
33 And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles.
34 Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still.
35 Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
36 ¶ And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do.
37 And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.
38 But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.
39 And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;
40 And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.
41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.
Acts 15:1 – J. Vernon McGee
Acts 15:2 – J. Vernon McGee
Acts 15:3-6 – J. Vernon McGee
Acts 15:7-9 – J. Vernon McGee
Acts 15:10-11 – J. Vernon McGee
Acts 15:12 – J. Vernon McGee
Acts 15:13-14 – J. Vernon McGee
Acts 15:15-18 – J. Vernon McGee
Acts 15:19-21 – J. Vernon McGee
Acts 15:22-35 – J. Vernon McGee
Acts 15:36-41 – J. Vernon McGee
Acts 15:1-11 – One Way of Salvation for All
Paul and Barnabas were quietly resting in Antioch after their arduous toils, when these persons from Jerusalem stealthily commenced to undermine their influence. They contended that the way from paganism to Christ must be through Moses. They especially insisted that Gentiles must become Jews by submitting to the initial rite of Judaism. This insidious teaching followed Paul throughout his life, and extracted from him many of the noble arguments and appeals of his epistles. We can easily understand the vehemence with which he protested.
Finally it was determined to submit the question to the judgment of the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem. The journey thither was a triumphal progress. The story of the seal that God had placed on all the labors of the two missionaries not only filled all hearts with joy, but was the conclusive answer to the Judaizing teachers who were the cause of all the trouble. The first great address at the solemn conclave was by Peter, who quoted his own experience at the house of Cornelius to prove that God at least made no difference between Jew and Gentile. Notice his statement that the believing heart is cleansed by receiving the Holy Spirit, Acts 15:11. —Through the Bible Day by Day
Acts 15:4, 12 – They declared.
There is a difference between these two assertions. They are in exquisite harmony, but each contributes a different note. In the first we have the co-operation of the Holy Spirit with every faithful worker whom He sends forth; so that, while the servant speaks to the outward ear, the Lord simultaneously addresses the heart. In the second, we have the work of the Holy Spirit wrought through a yielded life which has become his pure channel and mouth-piece. This is his twofold ministry.
His witness with us.—As we speak of Jesus crucified, risen, ascended, the blessed Spirit convicts men of sin, righteousness, and judgment. To every faithful word of testimony there is a deep resonant affirmation from this hidden but mighty Co-operant. If we say, “Behold the Lamb of God”! He adds, “which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). If we say, “It is sown in weakness;” the Spirit adds, “It is raised in power” (1 Corinthians 15:43). If we say, “Receive not the grace of God in vain.” He adds, “Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:1-2). If the Bride says Come, the Spirit joins his voice to hers.
His witness through us.—“The word which ye hear”, said our Lord, “is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me” (John 14:24). And that which was his glory may be ours also. We speak not of ourselves. This is the secret of a fruitful life—to be the yielded channel; the cleansed vessel; the bugle at the castle gate on which the King may sound his summons; the lute on whose strings the Divine hand may play. Oh, be sure that the most lasting work in this world is only possible when we can say with Paul that we will not boast of anything save what Christ has wrought through us to make men obedient to the Gospel. —Our Daily Homily
Acts 15:12-21 – A Generous Conclusion
When their turn came to speak, Paul and Barnabas contented themselves with emphasizing the signs and wonders by which God had set His seal on their words and methods. Would He have done so if they had followed a wrong course? Notice the two prepositions that they used in describing their work. They first told of what God had done in co-operation with them and then of what He had done by them, Acts 14:27; 15:4,1 2. Consider also that remarkable phrase about God bearing witness, Acts 15:8. See also Acts 14:3 and Hebrews 2:1-4.
James had a prominent position in the Jerusalem church, because he was the Lord’s brother and a man of remarkable holiness and prayerfulness. He laid emphasis on the divine program, which moved forward from Jew to Gentile, from the rebuilding of the ruined Tabernacle of David to the seeking of the Lord by the residue of men. The implication was that though Jehovah dwelt in a special manner with His Chosen People, yet the Gentiles would come seeking Him directly and without becoming incorporated with the Jews. —Through the Bible Day by Day
Acts 15:22-41 – “Confirming the Churches”
This letter was a noble document and fitted for its immediate purpose, but it does not apply directly to us, as the circumstances which called it forth have long since passed away. It was explicit in denying that the rite of circumcision was needful for salvation. It bore ample testimony to the character and work of the two great missionaries whose action had been impugned. It denounced the false teachers whose intrusion had broken the peace of the Church, and laid down the principles which had been embodied in James’ speech. Notice the conjunction of the Holy Spirit with the persons who issued this letter, Acts 15:28. Here is convincing proof that the Spirit of God is a person; that He presides in the Church; and that He is willing to become our guide and teacher whenever we are perplexed.
The arrival of Judas and Silas, attesting by their presence the importance that the mother church attached to the question at issue, and the reading of the letter, brought great relief to the believers at Antioch, and a blessed season of teaching and preaching ensued.
It is unpleasant to see the contention between the two leaders over John Mark, but God overruled it for good and Paul could later write to Timothy, “Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11). —Through the Bible Day by Day