ACTS 15 - THE JERUSALEM COUNCIL

Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., Pastor, Grace Bible Church of Costa Mesa, California

Copyright 1995-2014 Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., All Rights Reserved


The first missionary journey is over and a very important council convenes in Jerusalem to settle the issue of law and Grace.

The Occasion of The Council

Certain Jewish Christians in Acts 15:1-2 were declaring that the newly converted Gentiles must be circumcised and place themselves under the Law of Moses.

And some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue. (Acts 15:1-2)

The Decision of The Council

A. The apostles did not agree with the dispute - Acts 15:4-6.

And when they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. But certain ones of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed, stood up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses." And the apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. (Acts 15:4-6)

B. Peter's presentation of the heart of the gospel - Acts 15:7-11.This sermon was the turning point of the council because they realized that God had instituted a new era.

And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. "And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. "Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? "But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are." (Acts 15:7-11)

1. God had used Peter to reach the Gentiles - Acts 15:7

And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. (Acts 15:7)

2. The Gentiles had experienced salvation like the Jews - Acts 15:8-9

"And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. (Acts 15:8-9)

3. None can keep the law - Acts 15:10

"Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? (Acts 15:10)

4. This is the age of Grace - Acts 15:11 and Ephesians 2:8-9

"But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are." (Acts 15:11)

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

C. The presentation of Paul and Barnabas - Acts 15:12

And all the multitude kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were relating what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. (Acts 15:12)

D. James suggests action - Acts 15:13-35. They would not require the Gentiles to be subject to Moses, only to Christ.

And after they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, "Brethren, listen to me. "Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. "And with this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, 'AFTER THESE THINGS I will return, AND I WILL REBUILD THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID WHICH HAS FALLEN, AND I WILL REBUILD ITS RUINS, AND I WILL RESTORE IT, IN ORDER THAT THE REST OF MANKIND MAY SEEK THE LORD, AND ALL THE GENTILES WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME,' SAYS THE LORD, WHO MAKES THESE THINGS KNOWN FROM OF OLD. "Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. "For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath." Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas-- Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, and they sent this letter by them, "The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings. "Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls, it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. "Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth. "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell." So, when they were sent away, they went down to Antioch; and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. And Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message. And after they had spent time there, they were sent away from the brethren in peace to those who had sent them out. But it seemed good to Silas to remain there. But Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, teaching and preaching, with many others also, the word of the Lord. (Acts 15:13-35)

The Separation of Paul And Barnabas

A. The decision to return and visit the churches - Acts 15:36

And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are." (Acts 15:36)

B. The disagreement over John Mark - Acts 15:37-39. The gospel team is broken up. It is possible that God used this unfortunate circumstance to get more teams out proclaiming the gospel. God uses many witnesses. - 2 Timothy 2:1

And Barnabas was desirous of taking John, called Mark, along with them also. But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. (Acts 15:37-39)

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:1)

Study Questions

1. What was the difference between apostles and elders? - Acts 15:2

And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue. (Acts 15:2)

2. What is meant by the term "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ?" - Acts 15:11

"But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are." (Acts 15:11)

3. The Gentile Christians were not required to keep the Jewish customs. What was required of them?

4. Were all of the people content with the decisions of the council? - Acts 15:22 and Acts 15:30-31

Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas-- Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, (Acts 15:22)

So, when they were sent away, they went down to Antioch; and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. (Acts 15:30-31)

5. Was it good for these new churches to have some "outside help" for their problems?

6. Since there had been "disputing" as seen in Acts 15:7, how could the council say that they were of "one accord?"- Acts 15:25

And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. (Acts 15:7)

it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, (Acts 15:25)

7. What does it mean by "confirming the churches?" - Acts 15:41

And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (Acts 15:41)

8. How does the teaching of grace in the New Testament differ from the teachings of the Law in the Old Testament? (see Galatians)


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