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Acts 15:1-35

After Paul and Barnabas had completed their first missionary journey, they returned to Antioch in Syria,
and reported to the assembly there on all that the Lord had accomplished in Cyprus and Asia Minor. The
mission is thought to have taken about a year to complete, during which time Paul and Barnabas witnessed
the overwhelming response of the Gentiles to the gospel – a fact that would have caused the primarily
Gentile church in Syrian Antioch to greatly rejoice.

Paul and Barnabas would stay in Syrian Antioch for about a year more before the Lord sent them out a
second time. This time was spent continuing to preach the gospel to the city of Antioch, and to teach the
assembly the Scriptures and the doctrine of Jesus (Acts 15:35).

Meanwhile, a controversy surfaced that was to cause quite a stir within the Antioch assembly, for it reached
down to the very foundation of the faith. The issue was no less than what one must do to be saved. At
stake was the liberty of the gospel.

15:1 Luke indicates that these “certain men” came from Judea – specifically, they were from Jerusalem, as
later James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem will indicate that they “went out from us” (v. 24). That
would indicate that these men were actually part of the assembly there, but James will later make it very
clear that these men were not authorized representatives of the Jerusalem church.

It is apparent that these men were Jews, being part of the Jerusalem assembly, which was almost entirely
Jewish in origin; that they were Jews is also evident because of the content of what these men were
teaching in Antioch.

Although these men were not authorized by Jerusalem, they took it upon themselves to instruct the
relatively new Gentile believers at Antioch. These men were intent upon introducing to this assembly what
they perceived was absolutely imperative for salvation – circumcision – and it was something they knew
Paul and Barnabas had neglected to inform their new converts. These men intended to take care of that
omission.

It is believed by most that this incident, and the subsequent meeting in Jerusalem, were described from
Paul’s perspective in his letter to the assemblies in Galatia. Turn to Galatians chapter 2. Although there
cannot be absolute certainty as to how the accounts in Acts 15 and Galatians 2 mesh, I will provide a likely
scenario.

Paul wrote this letter to correct heretical thinking that had been taken in by some in the Galatian
assemblies: that in order to be fully justified, they must add to their faith in Christ the keeping of the Law,
and its companion rite, circumcision (Gal 5:3). Where did the Galatians get this thinking? From false
teachers that had instructed them in a salvation based on the works of the Law.

[Galatians 2:1-5]

v. 1-3 This is 14 years after what Paul spoke of in the first chapter, which is the time that he went up to
Jerusalem following his own conversion. You may remember that at first, the assembly in Jerusalem was
afraid of Paul’s overtures to them, as he had previously been their chief persecutor. But Barnabas
convinced the assembly that Paul’s conversion was genuine, and then Paul was able to meet with some of
them, including James and Peter.
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Paul was there only two weeks, during which time he boldly preached Jesus as Israel’s Messiah, debating
with the Hellenist Jews in their synagogues, until they were ready to kill him; at which time, the brethren in
Jerusalem whisked him off to Caesarea and shipped him back home to Tarsus, presumably until things
cooled off (Acts 9:26-30).

Years later, Barnabas sought him out for the work at Antioch. So a total of 14 years after Paul’s conversion
and first trip to Jerusalem, he returned with Barnabas and Titus. This corresponds very well with the dating
presumed for the meeting in Jerusalem – around 50 AD. Now, this is not to say that Paul did not go up to
Jerusalem anytime in between his conversion and the meeting; in fact, we know he was there with Barnabas
to deliver the famine relief funds from the church in Antioch around 47-48 AD.

Paul indicates that he went up to Jerusalem by revelation – that is, the Holy Spirit revealed to him to make
the trip. Why would the Holy Spirit have done this? Well, the Lord knew that this heretical thinking had
the potential to cause division within His Body on earth, between Jew and Gentile. A house divided against
itself cannot stand (Mk 3:25).

So the Lord sought to preserve the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3). His Spirit brought
together the leaders of the Jewish and Gentile believers, and shared with them the Lord’s mind on the
matter – so they could all be of one mind – Christ’s.

From this letter, we see that Paul first met with leaders of the Jerusalem church privately. Later, he will
name James, Cephas (Aramaic for Peter) and John (v. 9); we can assume that they were the specific leaders
with whom he met. Paul’s intent was to share with them what he had been teaching, to see if they were all
in agreement.

It is likely that at the time of this first meeting, Paul had assumed that the “certain men” who had come
from the Jerusalem assembly were authorized by the church to teach in Antioch; therefore, Paul may have
thought that what they were teaching in Antioch reflected the thinking of at least some of the leaders in
Jerusalem.

Instead, and much to his relief, Paul would have found out that James, Peter and John had the exact same
gospel he had – that one can be saved by faith in Jesus, and in Him alone.

It is here in Paul’s letter that we read that Titus also accompanied Paul and Barnabas. Titus at this time was
a recent convert to the faith.

As a man who was fully Gentile in nationality, yet uncircumcised (v. 3), Titus would have been the perfect
example of one who had simply believed into the Lord Jesus Christ to receive his salvation and His Holy
Spirit. The Life of Christ within Titus would surely have been evident in speaking to him, providing living
testimony that salvation is by faith alone – which is exactly why Paul brought him to Jerusalem with them.

v. 4-5 Here Paul states the reason why the Spirit revealed to him to go up to Jerusalem. Notice that Paul
calls the “certain men” who were teaching a salvation of works “false brethren”; that is, they professed to
believe into Jesus, it was not a true belief. Their teaching is evidence of what they truly believed in
themselves: if you must be circumcised to be saved, you are saying that salvation must be earned.

If you believe that Jesus alone is insufficient for your salvation, you do not believe in Jesus at all. If you
believe you have to work for your salvation, you are refusing the free salvation based on the work of Jesus
for you.
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These false brethren assembled with the believers in Jerusalem, but they could have no true fellowship with
them, for they were not like-minded. And these false brethren had never experienced true peace, because
they had never been reconciled to God. They had no true love, for they refused the provision of their
loving God.

They had no real power, to rule over the sin within them; they merely had the Law, which they could never
in themselves keep; a nagging reminder of their bondage to sin. Nonetheless, they sought to impose the
bondage of the Law upon the Gentiles, for the conscience of the religious is relieved when spreading
religion – at least, momentarily (Gal 6:13). Not to mention, misery loves company!

Paul writes that these false brethren were “secretly brought in”. It seems likely that there were false
brethren in Antioch as well, Jews who disapproved of the freedom that the Gentiles were enjoying in their
simple faith in Jesus. No doubt, these sent word back to Jerusalem, condemning the actions of Paul and
Barnabas; naturally, it would have been the legalists who responded to the call, to check it out – on the sly –
under cover. Does that sound like something a Christ One would do?

But Paul indicates that he and the other true teachers of the gospel in Antioch did not give in for one
moment to these false brethren. I’m sure that these men tried to rattle the “legal chains” of Paul and
Barnabas, as former Jews; but those chains had long since been cast off by them, in Christ. They were free.

Paul and Barnabas, and those who were like-minded, continued to hold up the truth of the gospel to this
fledging assembly in Antioch – so that the Light would show up the dark teaching of the false brethren for
what it really was – anti-God and anti-Christ – the lie of religion – the words of the evil one, designed to
keep one in bondage, far from the glorious liberty of Christ (Gal 5:1).

[Return to Acts 15]

Whereas Paul indicates that he and Barnabas did not yield to the false brethren, Luke tells what form this
took: they actively debated with them; they questioned what they were saying, and reasoned with them.

v. 2 It would seem that both sides held their ground. Finally, the brethren at Antioch decided to send Paul,
Barnabas and certain others to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles and elders there about the issue.

It is likely that this thought came to the assembly out of considering the matter before the Lord in prayer.
As we read in Galatians, Paul indicated that he went up to Jerusalem by revelation – the Spirit showed him
to go. Perhaps it was Paul, then, who suggested it, and the assembly concurred. It is certain that the false
brethren would have returned as well, separately, for they would wish to present their case.

v. 3 On their way to Jerusalem from Antioch, a trip of perhaps 2 weeks by foot, Paul and Barnabas passed
through regions in which the gospel had previously borne fruit. As they went, they told of what God had
done in Syrian Antioch, Cyprus and Asia Minor.

This was joyous news to the believers in Phoenicia and Samaria, who shared a common heritage with
Gentiles (the Samaritans were half-Jew, half-Gentile). It would also be remarkable for the people to realize
that the gospel was indeed beginning to go to the uttermost parts of the earth – just as their Lord had said it
would (Acts 1:8).
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v. 4 The Greek word for “received” means received kindly or hospitably in this context. The assembly in
Jerusalem gave Paul, Barnabas and the others from Antioch a warm reception. It is likely that this is the
time when Paul met privately with James, Peter and John, to discuss his gospel with them. Sometime after
that, Paul and Barnabas gave an account to this assembly, including the elders and the apostles, as to what
God had done through them in the Gentile mission fields.

v. 5 Paul had labeled as false brethren the men who came to Antioch opposing him, teaching that
circumcision was necessary for salvation. But here in Acts, we see that Luke is indicating there were some
of the sect of the Pharisees in Jerusalem who were believers, and they also were opposing Paul, declaring
that it was not only necessary to circumcise the Gentiles, but also that they must keep the Law of Moses.

Did Luke really mean that these were genuine believers – or did they just profess to believe, as the false
brethren likely did? I think there is a very good chance that these Pharisees genuinely believed in Jesus for
their salvation, but had not yet realized all that it implied.

The evidence for this will be seen in the response of the assembly in Jerusalem to the testimonies given; for
the whole church will agree in their conclusion that salvation can only be had through faith in Jesus alone
(v. 22). Also, notice that the Pharisees did not say that these things were necessary to be saved; they simply
said they were ….. necessary.

Remember that the Pharisees were the legalists, in the Jewish realm; all of their lives, they had fully
subscribed to the religion of Judaism, with its rules and rituals. They knew their Scriptures; and they
carried that Messianic hope within their hearts, that God would soon send His Savior to free them from the
oppression they lived under.

In the past, these Pharisees had bought the lie of their religion – that circumcision qualified them as one of
the covenant people of God, and that in keeping the Law, they were assured of a place in God’s kingdom.
Except, there was never a true peace in their hearts about it all – because they couldn’t keep the Law.

The message of John the Baptist had brought that all to the surface, bringing into focus their true status, as
sinners; and John declared that the One for whom they had been waiting, who could save them, was about
to appear; the Kingdom of heaven was at hand, for the King was coming.

Then Jesus came, the only man of Israel to ever keep the Law perfectly. His life fulfilled the Scriptures, as
did His death and resurrection – something the Pharisees has always firmly believed in, that there is bodily
life after death.

I think that these Pharisees came to the conclusion that Jesus was indeed the Messiah for whom they had
been waiting; and they placed their faith in Him, to save them; but they had yet to come to terms with
where that left the Law, and circumcision.

As proselytes to Judaism were also to be circumcised, and taught the Law, these Pharisees assumed that it
would be a requirement for those Gentiles who, like Jews such as themselves, had placed their faith in
Israel’s Messiah, now known to be Jesus.

But had the Pharisees ever considered the meaning of circumcision? Circumcision had been given as a sign
of the covenant that God made with Abraham, a mark of the people of God. Circumcision is a cutting away
of the flesh from the male reproductive organ – the part which generates life.
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The meaning of it is that the outer man must be put off, in order that God can work to bring forth Life (Col
2:11). It is a definitive statement that the flesh profits nothing; it is the Spirit that gives Life (Jn 6:63). But
what had Judaism done with circumcision? They had turned it into a Life-giving work in itself – the very
opposite of its intended meaning.

And what about the Law? Was the Law given for men to keep – perfectly – so that God could accept them?
No man could keep it. And God never gave it with the intent that men should keep it. He gave it so that
men could see that they could not keep it. By the Law is the knowledge of sin (Rm 3:20). It is in trying to
keep the Law that men come to the conclusion that they are sinners.

And what had Judaism done with the Law? They tried – and tried – and tried – to keep it. They held it out
as the means by which men could be commended to God. But does the Law commend men? No, quite the
opposite – it condemns men (James 2:10). God gave men the Law to drive them into the arms of their
Savior. Instead, religion used the Law to keep men from the Savior, deceiving them into thinking they
could save themselves.

Both circumcision and the Law point to Christ. Circumcision is the sign of the eternal covenant, which
Jesus ratified through His shed blood on the cross. The Law shows picture after picture of the Savior, who
would come and put away sin. That was the purpose of both of them; they were just shadows of things to
come; but the substance – the reality – is Christ (Col 2:17); and Christ having come, all of these things have
been fulfilled – in Him (Lk 24:44, Rm 3:31).

Although these Pharisees had believed into Jesus, they most likely just continued in the rules and rituals in
which their culture had steeped them, never realizing that Christ had made them free from performing
them; that they no longer needed their religion, because now they had a relationship with God.

That is why they would have sought to impose those rules and rituals on the Gentiles; they were still caught
in the “proselyte loop”. But with the airing of “the Gentile issue” at this meeting in Jerusalem, these
Pharisees would encounter some new thinking concerning their religious ways – both for the Gentiles, as
well as for themselves.

These Pharisees had come to know the truth – Jesus – by whom they had been set free from sin (Jn 8:32).
Now they were going to get an opportunity to really know the Son – in a deeper way – so that they could be
free indeed (Jn 8:36) – free from themselves.

So the Pharisees interjected that the Gentiles needed to be circumcised, and that they must keep the Law.
I’m sure that the false brethren, who preached their lies in Antioch, were delighted with their statement; and
perhaps both groups thought they were on the same page. But as the Lord shed His Light on the matter, the
two groups would come to different conclusions.

v. 6 We will see later that this was actually all part of the same meeting of the entire assembly (v. 12, 22);
the apostles and elders are cited by Luke here because they tended to be the leaders in the assembly. But
who is the Head of all? Christ. And it is His Spirit that is directing the course of this meeting, and its
outcome. We will see that this assembly acknowledges the Spirit’s leading in their letter to the Gentile
churches (v. 28).

v. 7-9 The “disputing” that Luke speaks of in v. 7 speaks of deliberate inquiry, not necessarily heated
debate. It is likely that the apostles and elders asked questions of persons from both sides of the issue, to
get their perspective. Then Peter shared his thoughts.
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Remember that we last left Peter following his imprisonment by Herod, perhaps six or more years before.
It is likely that Peter left Jerusalem for a time, at least until Herod had died. By now, he had returned.

It was some time before Peter’s imprisonment that the incident with Cornelius had occurred – maybe 8 or 9
years past - a good while ago, as Peter had said. While Jesus was still alive, He had given Peter the keys to
the kingdom of heaven, choosing him to open it up, first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles, with the gospel of
Christ (Mt 16:19).

The Spirit opened Peter’s mind to the possibility of the Gentiles being equal partakers of the blessings of
Christ, then sent him to preach the gospel to Cornelius and his friends. And do you remember what
happened? Turn back to Acts chapter 10.

[Acts 10:44-48] So God, who is the heart-knower, recognized the response of faith on the part of
Cornelius and the other Gentiles, and poured out His Spirit upon them, which was manifest by them
speaking in tongues – just as had happened with the Jewish believers on Pentecost.

“They of the circumcision” – the Jewish believers who had accompanied Peter – were astonished – why?
Because these Gentiles had received the Holy Spirit in equal measure to the Jewish believers.

God had accepted these Gentile believers, just as He accepted believing Jews. On what basis?
Circumcision? No; they were uncircumcised Gentiles. Keeping the Law? No one could keep it – Jew or
Gentile. God accepted them, as He had the Jews, based on simple faith; they heard the gospel, and they
believed it.

God made no distinction between Jew and Gentile; both were purified of sin by believing into the blood of
Jesus, shed on their behalf. Here Peter was making a particularly meaningful statement, as the Gentiles
were considered by the Jews to be in a continual state of impurity, simply because they were Gentiles. A
pure Gentile – imagine that! Of course, the Jews were just as impure; for all have sinned, and fall short of
the glory of God (Rm 3:23). Both need to have their hearts purified by faith.

v. 10-11 In Jewish tradition, God’s Law was commonly referred to as a yoke. Proselytes who were
undertaking to keep the Law were said to be taking up the yoke of the kingdom of heaven. But is that
God’s thinking? No; the Law was a yoke of bondage that would only keep men out of the kingdom of
heaven.

Jesus said that the scribes and the Pharisees bound heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s
shoulders (Mt 23:4), referring to how they led men into thinking they must keep the Law, to earn their
salvation.

To those who labored and were heavy laden, Jesus made an offer – to come to Him – and He would give
them rest – eternal rest. To take His yoke upon them, and learn of Him, and in that way, find soul-rest. His
yoke is easy, His burden light – for in submission, Jesus does all the bearing (Mt 11:28-30).

[Return to Acts 15]

Peter’s question to the legalists was why they were testing God – why they were attempting to provoke
Him to displeasure – for God had already shown His determination to accept the Gentiles based on simple
faith in Christ, apart from imposing any rules or rituals upon them.
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And then Peter delivers a zinger; he puts the Gentiles first, as being saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus,
and the Jews second (v. 11); for whether they had realized it yet or not, the requirement of simple faith
applied to them, as well.

There was nothing they could do for God; nothing to earn their salvation. And Jesus had done it all for
them. To continue to follow rules and rituals was to suggest that what Jesus had done was insufficient for
their salvation. But if they really believed that, what was truly insufficient was their faith.

This certainly would have caused the Pharisees and perhaps the false brethren to examine their own hearts
– what did they believe about Jesus? The statement of Peter brought a silence over the assembly.

v. 12 Now Barnabas and Paul added their testimony to Peter’s. Note that Barnabas is listed first again, as
he was the best and longest known to the church in Jerusalem. It is likely that he did most, if not all, of the
talking.

Barnabas told of signs and wonders that the Lord had done through them, as they preached the gospel of
grace to the Gentiles. Luke had recorded two of these signs in detail – the blinding of Bar-Jesus, the
magician, in Cyprus (Acts 13:6-12), and the healing of the lame man in Lystra (Acts 14:7-10).

Would the Lord have given Barnabas and Paul the power to perform such miracles if they were not
proceeding according to His will? If they were preaching an erroneous gospel? Clearly not. Again, the
assembly fell silent – no one could contest what was said.

v. 13-18 This James was the half brother of the Lord Jesus, who had come to believe in Him after His
death and resurrection (Acts 1:14). James was acknowledged as the leader of the church in Jerusalem, and
was well respected by the Jewish brethren there.

James added the testimony of Scripture to what had already been said – specifically the testimony of the
prophets. The prophecy he quoted is from the book of Amos – either he cited the Septuagint version, or
Luke recorded it as such.

This prophecy speaks of the time when Messiah will return and set up His kingdom on earth (rebuilding the
tabernacle of David), with Israel as the head nation. At that time, the rest of mankind – the Gentiles – will
seek the Lord, and He will take out of them a people for His name.

How was the Spirit applying this, through James, to the current situation? Well, the Lord had returned, in
as sense, and set up His kingdom, in the person of His Spirit. The Lord had poured out the Holy Spirit
upon His Body of believers on earth, and now ruled through His Spirit in their hearts.

These believers had extended the Lord’s message of reconciliation to the rest of mankind – to the Gentiles
– and God was currently taking out of them a people called by His name – Christ Ones. This could be
considered a near-fulfillment of this millennial prophecy.

When James spoke of God visiting the Gentiles “to take out of them a people for His name” (v. 14), he used
the Greek word laos for people. This is most notable, for in the OT, the nations, or Gentiles – in the Greek,
ethne – stand in contrast to the people – laos in the Greek – which refers to Israel.

But in our passage, James was not speaking of taking a people in contrast to the Gentiles; but of Him
taking a people consisting of Gentiles – showing the Gentiles were now included as the people of God.
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Israel was God’s first called-out assembly. Now God had a second called-out assembly - the Body of
Christ, consisting of both Jew and Gentile.

James summed up God’s foreknowledge of His plan: Known to God from eternity are all His works. God
knew what He was doing, and had the right to decide the basis upon which He saved people – and whom
He saved. Could these believers trust God for that? James indicated that he could.

v. 19-21 James gave his opinion of the situation: leave the Gentiles alone. They were responding to God,
simply placing their faith in Christ, and God was clearly accepting them on that basis.

But James did recommend a short list of things from which he thought the Gentiles should abstain. Was
James’ intent to impose a shorter, more manageable list of laws on the Gentiles? Not at all.

The things that James was suggesting that the Gentiles refrain from were all considered ceremonially
defiling by the Jews, as well as particularly offensive. Meanwhile they were all things which the Gentiles
were inclined to do, from their culture. This request showed the wisdom of God, for in the Gentiles
abstaining from these things, the unity of the Spirit would prevail in mixed assemblies, as the brethren took
measures to ensure that they did not offend one another – for Love’s sake.

The Gentiles were to abstain from things polluted by idols. This refers to the Gentile custom of offering
animal sacrifices to their pagan gods, and then selling the meat in the temple butcher shops. Gentiles
would tend to buy these meats, as they were of high quality. But this was extremely offensive to Jews, with
their ceremonial food laws.

Likewise, eating the meat of a strangled animal, which still contained the blood, or drinking blood itself,
were common Gentile practices prohibited in the Law – and so, also sore points with the Jews.

Sexual immorality, or fornication, was so common among the Gentiles in that day that the conscience had
been dulled. In fact, fornication was actually part of the religious rites in the temples. There were no laws
against fornication for the Gentiles, and it was rampant. But the Jews abhorred it, and were prohibited from
fornication in their Law.

The Law of Moses was constantly in the mind of Jews, as it was read every week in the synagogue. That
indoctrination carried over even when a Jew became a believer into Christ; it was a difficult thing for a Jew
to become free from. Until they did, things that they formerly would have considered ceremonially defiling
would continue to be an obstacle to them.

All of the things James mentioned were very offensive to Jews, yet were completely acceptable – and
widely practiced – among the Gentiles. For the Gentiles to abstain from them would be a testimony of the
power of God in them, and a mark of the love of their Master for their Jewish brethren. It would remove the
obstacle that existed between Jewish and Gentile believers, and leave Love in its wake, so that Jew and
Gentile could have fellowship with one another.

The assembly responded to the recommendations of James.

v. 22 The whole assembly concurred. They resolved to send a letter back with Paul and Barnabas, and
have leading men from their own assembly accompany them.
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The brethren in Jerusalem wanted to ensure that the Gentile churches got the message – that they were in
full agreement with Paul and Barnabas. Salvation was through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, when
one put their faith in Him. And they added the recommendations of James to improve the social relations
between Jew and Gentile in the assemblies.

Did the false brethren concur with the decision of the church in Jerusalem? If they didn’t, they did not say
so. But Paul’s letters make it very clear that these or other false brethren continued to plague the young
assemblies. Later they became known as Judaizers – Jews that were false teachers, who tried to impose the
Law as a condition for salvation, in addition to believing in Jesus.

Two men accompanied Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch. Although Judas had the same nickname as
Joseph, who is mentioned in Acts chapter 1 as a possible replacement for Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:23), they
may well be unrelated. It is the last mention of this Judas in Scripture, but he and Silas were apparently key
men in the assembly who would properly represent the thinking of the church in Jerusalem.

We will hear quite a bit more of Silas, who, like Paul, was a Jew and a Roman citizen. He will later
become a traveling companion of Paul, evangelizing Philippi, Thessalonica, and Corinth, and later, a
companion of Peter.

Luke records the contents of the letter.

v. 23-29 The address (v. 23) shows that this was a circular letter, to be copied and circulated by its
messengers to these different regions – to the city of Antioch, as well as Syria, the region of that city; and to
the region of Cilicia. Apparently there were established assemblies in all these regions by this time. Notice
that the brethren in Jerusalem gave full recognition to the Gentiles as brothers in Christ.

The letter speaks of the false brethren from Jerusalem that had been troubling the brethren in Antioch. This
word for “trouble” properly means to collect together the household furniture for the purpose of removing
it. It is applied outside of Scripture to marauders, robbers, and enemies who remove and bear off property,
and thus produce distress, confusion and disorder. The idea here is that which disturbs or destroys,
producing an unsettled mind and distress.

These unauthorized men had intended to bear off that which had become the Gentiles’ property – for they
had chosen lay hold of Christ. These men were attempting to take Him away from them – their freedom to
receive Him through faith in Him alone - through the false doctrine of a salvation of works. You can see
how strong a statement the brethren in Jerusalem are making here, and they indicate that these men were
completely unauthorized.

Meanwhile, the entire assembly in Jerusalem was “in one accord” – they had one mind on the matter – now,
what mind would that be? The mind of Christ. Their thinking regarding this issue would be shared with
the Gentile churches both through the letter and through their authorized representatives, Judas and Silas.

Notice that the church wrote that these men were sent “with our beloved Barnabas and Paul” – a statement
of confidence in these men, who had been the leaders in this work among the Gentiles, a hazardous work
that they undertook for the sake of the Lord Jesus.

The brethren in Jerusalem show that their resolve is in line with the leading of the Holy Spirit, which is
apparent by the wisdom and love that mark the recommendations. The letter does not end with a demand
for obedience, but an encouragement – if you abstain from these things, you will do well. They were
exhorting the brethren to do their part, in love, so that all the brethren could dwell in unity.
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So the letter was sent, with the party from Jerusalem.

v. 30-31 This must have been a great relief to the brethren in Antioch, to know that they could be assured
of their salvation, based on their faith in Jesus. And they appeared to be receptive to the recommendations
as well, which would have been reinforced by Judas and Silas.

v. 32-35 Verse 34 is not in the best Greek manuscripts. We have the sense that Silas may have returned to
Jerusalem to make his report, then went back at some point, as we will read of Paul and Silas departing
from Antioch on a second missionary journey.

Through the leading of the Spirit, the foundation of the faith was secured in the churches – believe in the
Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31). Yet even today, the Judaizers are with us, aren’t
they? False brethren have crept into the churches, seeking to steal away the liberty which we have in Christ
– with the false teaching of a salvation of works.

The tendency of men will always be to seek to accomplish their own salvation – for that puffs them up. It
takes humility to receive the free gift that God offers – a willingness to acknowledge that Christ has done
what we ourselves could never do. He has saved us.

Next week: Finish chapter 15; 16.