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Acts - Chapter 15

Bible Study Notes

Acts 15:1-5 Some Christian Jews were teaching you must be circumcised through the Law of Moses in order to be saved and be a Christian. They debated this with Paul and Barnabas, and when they could not get anywhere with them, they took this issue up with the Apostles in Jerusalem. On their way, they reported to the brethren in Phoenicia and Samaria how Gentiles came to faith on their first missionary journey. The news made the brethren very glad. When they arrived in Jerusalem, they reported all that happened on their missionary journey. The believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees agreed that the Gentiles needed to be circumcised.

Notes: The Jewish law contained not only basic moral provisions but many aspects of a more “ceremonial” nature, such as circumcision, the kosher food laws, and many requirements involving external purity and various kinds of sacrifices and festivals. These laws presented a problem for Gentiles: to live by them would make it virtually impossible to continue in their Gentile communities.

Acts 15:6-11 Peter rose and spoke his mind on the issue of circumcising the Gentiles. He argued that the Holy Spirit came upon them when they were not circumcised, so why the need to do something that belonged to the old covenant; especially since they are already saved? Salvation is simply through the grace of the Lord Jesus.

Notes: The apostles and the elders provided the main leadership at the council, but v. 22 indicates that “the whole church” was present for the occasion and apparently also gave consent to the decision.

Acts 15:12-21 After hearing the rest of the testimony from Paul and Barnabas, James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem (Jesus’ half-brother) spoke up. He quoted the Old Testament how God would bring the Gentiles to a saving faith with no mention of becoming a Jew first. The only suggestion he gave was to write to the Gentile churches and warn them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, sexual immorality, and from food that was strangled and is bloody.

Notes: things polluted by idols. Food offered to pagan gods and then sold in temple butcher shops. Because idolatry was so repulsive to Jews and forbidden by God. what has been strangled, and from blood. Dietary restrictions.

Acts 15:22-35 The Apostles and elders agreed, and they chose men to send back to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, along with a letter with greetings and to ensure them not to listen to the people who troubled them with the issue of becoming a Jew in order to be a Christian. The letter also contained the requirements spoken by James. When they arrived in Antioch, they delivered the letter to the church and they rejoiced from the encouragement. The other brothers returned to Jerusalem, but Paul and Barnabas remained, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord.

Acts 15:36-41 Paul and Barnabas decided to visit all the churches they previously proclaimed the word of the Lord and to see how they were doing. Barnabas wanted to take Mark (John) along with them, but Paul refused, because Mark abandoned them near the beginning of their first missionary journey. Because of their disagreement, they separated. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; Paul chose Silas and went to visit the churches.

Notes: disagreement . . . separated. This was not an amicable parting—they were in sharp disagreement regarding John Mark. The weight of the evidence favors Paul’s decision, especially since he was an apostle of Jesus Christ. That alone should have caused Barnabas to submit to his authority. But they eventually did reconcile. In the sovereignty of God, out of this disagreement came a doubling of their labor, for Barnabas went to strengthen the churches in Cyprus and Paul went to the churches in Syria, Cilicia, and then Galatia. In addition, both of their assistants (Mark and Silas) went on to have significant ministries themselves.

Silas. He was perfectly suited to be Paul’s companion, since he was a prophet and could proclaim and teach the word. Being a Jew gave him access to the synagogues (see note on 6:9). Because he was a Roman citizen (16:37), he enjoyed the same benefits and protection as Paul. His status as a respected leader in the Jerusalem fellowship helped to reinforce Paul’s teaching that Gentile salvation was by grace alone through faith alone

And thus begins Paul second missionary journey.

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