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Bible Commentaries
Acts 15

The Bible Study New TestamentBible Study NT

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Verse 1


Some men came from Judea. This chapter shows us something of the sharp conflict which shook the church of that day. Was Christianity just an extension of Judaism, or, was it something completely new??? The Jerusalem and Judean Christians remained strict Jews (Acts 21:20-21). The Samaritan Christians were already circumcized. Peter and his fellow believers were amazed that Cornelius and his friends could be baptized into Christ without first being circumcized. The planting of the Gentile church at Antioch in Syria, and the great crowds of Gentiles who became Christians without being circumcized, caused a certain group of Jews to react with anger! Unless you are circumcized. These Jews made this the supreme test of fellowship! Read the literal translation of Paul’s inspired comment in Galatians 5:12. The issue of authority had to be settled, and the Jerusalem Meeting was called to show that the apostles and elders did not authorize forcing the Gentiles to be circumcized. This important question would decide whether Christianity would also be Jewish (following Jewish tradition), or, be free as God’s sons. Paul calls these “men from Judea” spies who pretended to be brothers (Galatians 2:4).

Verse 2


Had a fierce argument. This shows the importance of the issue. These men were from Jerusalem, and could claim they were acting by the authority of the apostles. Should go to Jerusalem. The Twelve were there.

Verses 3-4


They were sent on their way by the church. This was an official mission. Johnson thinks a special escort of church-members went along with them to Jerusalem. They visited the churches in Phoenicia and Samarai as they went through, and told them what God was doing among the Gentiles. [The Holy Spirit produces faith through the hearing of the message (Romans 10:17). The Gentiles heard, believed, and turned to God.]

Verse 5


But some of the believers. Like Paul, they had converted to Christ, but unlike him, they had not given up their prejudice (see Acts 21:20-21). Some may have been Paul’s old friends. They quickly raised the question when Paul and Barnabas gave the report of Acts 15:4.

Verse 6


The apostles and the elders met together. W. M. Ramsay gives 49 A.D. as the date of this. [Johnson gives 51 A.D.] The Twelve had been reduced by one (Acts 12:2). James, the Lord’s brother, was a chief man in the Jerusalem church. Historians often call him the pastor or bishop. Note that both of these titles mean “elder,” and there were more than one. Galatians 2:12 implies that James was the leader of the “circumcision party.”

Verses 7-11


After a long debate. Some Jews believed God was their personal property, and that the Gentiles had to accept their Law and Tradition and come to God through them. Paul and others knew that God had terminated the Law (Colossians 2:14), and of course, Tradition had no authority at all. Peter stood up. He tells about the Gentiles being accepted by God (see Acts 10:11). He made no difference between us and them. God’s SAME terms of salvation are for BOTH Jew and Gentile. He purified their hearts. The Jews believed Gentiles were religiously unclean, and that they had to convert to Judaism and become a “Jew” before God’s promises could be available to them. So then. The Law was a load which no one could carry. To force this on the believers was the same thing as opposing God. Compare Acts 5:39. Just as they are. BOTH Jew and Gentile must believe and be saved by grace (Romans 3:27-31).

Verse 12


The whole group was silent. They are amazed! The miracles show that God approves the work among the Gentiles.

Verse 13


James spoke up. Note it is James, the brother of Jesus, who takes charge of the situation. See Galatians 2:9 and the introduction to James.

Verse 14


Simon bas just explained. Read what Simon Peter said in Acts 15:7-11. This is what James refers to.

Verses 15-18

15–18. The words of the prophets. James paraphrases Amos 9:11-12. Raise David’s fallen house. Restore the glory of David in the Messiah. Note that James applies this to what had already happened. And so all other people. This prophecy of the Gentiles being called to God, does not mention circumcision. So says the Lord. Making salvation available to the Gentiles has been part of God’s Plan all along! David’s fallen house is restored in the Gentiles coming to Christ.

Verse 19


It is my opinion. James can plainly see that this is God’s will, so he must agree with it. See note on Acts 15:6.

Verse 20


We should write a letter. Four things are mentioned, all of which were common practices in the Gentile world. Food that Is unclean. Johnson thinks this includes everything that went into the worship of idols (see note on Revelation 2:20). But this must be understood in view of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:23-33. Immorality. Sex activity with someone not a marriage partner of the one involved. This included adultery, homosexuality (both male and female); “peeping-tom-ism.” etc. That has been strangled. This kept the blood in the animal. Romans would drown birds in wine, then cook and eat them. Or any blood. Blood was drunk in idol worship, and it was common to drink blood and wine together. This use of blood would horrify any Jew, so wisdom required this prohibition against eating blood. For the Law of Moses. Some would be afraid the Law would be forgotten (Acts 21:20-25). Also, there should be nothing to cause schism between Jewish and Gentile Christians.

Verses 22-29


Together with the whole church. The entire group of Christians were in agreement about this. They chose Judas. He was a prophet (Acts 15:32). Silas, He became Paul’s associate (Acts 15:40). They sent the following letter by them. The letter explains the question and the answer. The Holy Spirit and we. This is not just a human decision. The Holy Spirit directed what they did. The four prohibitions are explained in the notes on Acts 15:20-21.

Verses 30-35


They were filled with joy. Because the Law did not apply to them, and because of the good will of their Jewish brothers in Christ. Judas and Silas. Prophets: see note on Ephesians 4:11. They had supernormal knowledge. They were sent off in peace. This shows the close fellowship between the Jewish and Gentile Christians. But Silas. This verse is omitted in most manuscripts, but there is some authority for it. It agrees with the facts. Paul and Barnabas. They stayed almost a year. Since the New Testament had not been written down, the Christians had to depend upon those teachers who had supernormal knowledge, for the word of the Lord.

Verses 36-41


Let us go back. This begins the second tour of missions. W. M. Ramsay gives the date as 50 A.D. (by the corrected calendar). Barnabas wanted to take John Mark. See notes on Acts 13:5; Acts 13:13. They had a sharp argument. Neither one would “give in,” yet note this was not a fight, but a friendly disagreement. And separated from each other. This solved the problem. Now there were two teams making this second tour. Commended by the brothers. This implies that a meeting of the church was held to “identify” them (see notes on Acts 13:2-3). Both teams had their blessings. Syria and Cilicia. See Galatians 1:21.

Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Acts 15". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ice/acts-15.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.
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