ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
The council in Jerusalem
Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch for a long time. They were able to tell the people there how the Lord had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles – Acts. 14:27-28. The ones in Jerusalem must have heard about this and it did not please certain men there. These men came to Antioch and said, “except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved” Acts. 15:1. What they were trying to do was to put the Gentile believers under the Law which was given to Israel. There were true believers among the Gentiles. The apostles, Paul and Barnabas never told them to observe these things given to Israel. It was decided that Paul and Barnabas and some others should go to Jerusalem and meet with the apostles and elders there. On the way to Jerusalem, they passed through Phenice (Phoenicia) and Samaria. All of these believers were glad to hear about the work among the Gentiles.
The Council: some of the pharisees believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, but they still believed they had to continue with the things connected with the Jewish ways. The apostles and elders met together with Paul and Barnabas to consider the matter – Vs. 5-6.
The first speaker was Peter – Vs. 7-11. They knew Peter had gone to the Gentiles. We studied about this in Chapter 10. Remember that Peter had to have this object lesson given him by the Lord. Jews were forbidden to eat certain meats. He had to be shown three times that it was now allowed. He finally learned what the Lord was telling him. He knew that he could go and preach about Jesus to the Gentiles. He went to the house of Cornelius, who was a Gentile. Those people believed on Jesus, had their hearts purified, and received the Holy Ghost. God showed him that He put no difference between them and the Jews – V. 9. Peter did not tell them to be circumcised and keep the Law. He even went on to say, “Why tempt ye God to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which even their fathers could not bear.” Peter’s conclusion was that all, Jews and Gentiles, could be saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then they all kept quiet and heard what Barnabas and Paul had to say. They spoke of the miracles and wonders they witnessed as they preached to the Gentiles.
Now it was James’ turn to speak. Remember he was likely the chief elder (pastor) in Jerusalem. He was the brother of our Lord Jesus. He said that Simeon (Peter) had told about his experience with the Gentiles. Then James said that the prophets had written about the plan of God, and all this fit right in with it. He outlined the plan thus: Read this in Vs. 14-18.
A. God would visit the Gentiles to take out of them a
people for His name.
B. Then Jesus will return.
C. He will build the tabernacle of David.
D. After this the rest of men might seek after the Lord –
James gave his sentence – V. 19 – that they would not trouble the ones of the Gentiles who had turned to the Lord. There were things they should do, though, since they were believers. This was necessary because in every city there were Jews who would be offended if they were not careful about certain things.
Everyone was in agreement and they said they would send chosen men of their own company to Antioch when Paul and Barnabas returned. These men were Judas and Silas, chief men among the brethren. Not only that, but they wrote letters to send back with them. They sent greetings to Gentiles in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. They let them know that they hadn’t sent those men to Antioch which hade caused the trouble. These are the things the Gentile believers should avoid. (1) Not to eat meats offered to idols; (2) Don’t eat blood; (3) Don’t eat things strangled (for the blood would not have drained from the meat); (4) Abstain from immoral practices.
When they arrived back in Antioch and gathered the multitude together, they read the letter to them They rejoiced. Judas and Silas stayed for awhile and encouraged them. Silas continued to stay in Antioch.
This type of council never had to be repeated. It was settled then and there that the Gentiles were not under the Law. How were the early believers saved? Not by works, not by doing, but by believing. This is exactly how we are saved. Remember Eph.. 2:8-9, WE ARE SAVED BY GRACE. We didn’t deserve it – that is what grace means to us. It is by grace through faith. We must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and ask Him into our hearts. He will forgive all of our sins, and we become a part of God’s family. We just take God at His Word. Since He says He will forgive us, believe He will. It isn’t what we can do that makes us Christians, it is what we believe. We receive Jesus into our hearts. Have you ever done that? You never could work hard enough to be saved. Jesus took your place in death to give you life. Let us thank Him for this.