On to day 15 of The Acts Challenge 2019! Today we are looking at some of the questions that came up for the new Gentile converts, including circumcision and the Law of Moses, and how the apostles handled that.
It was inevitable that things like this would come up in the early church. I’m thankful to be able to look at this recollection of the situation to see how they handled it. Things may not always have been perfect, but no one ever stood head and shoulders above the other. Let’s find out more!
If you missed the previous 14 chapters, here are the links to those:
- The Beginning: Chapter 1
- The Apostles: Chapter 2
- Rise Up & Walk: Chapter 3
- Peter & John: Chapter 4
- Apostle’s Persecution: Chapter 5
- Stephen & the Apostles: Chapter 6
- Stephen Recalls Moses & More: Chapter 7
- Philip & Simon: Chapter 8
- Saul of Tarsus: Chapter 9
- Cornelius & His Household: Chapter 10
- Gentiles Conversion: Chapter 11
- The Imprisonment of Peter: Chapter 12
- Paul in the Synagogue: Chapter 13
- Paul & Barnabus: Chapter 14
Trying To Add Burdens
(Vs. 1) And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
(Vs. 2) When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.
There were those who believed that because things were a certain way for them – having always been that way – it should be the same for everyone. This cause a major stir and Paul and Barnabas were sent to Jerusalem to find out exactly what was going on.
Gentile Conversion Brings Joy, But…
(Vs. 3) And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.
(Vs. 4) And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.
(Vs. 5) But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
(Vs. 6) And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
The Jews had always had to follow the law. But to the Gentiles, there had never been any law. Was that the reasons the Pharisees wanted to see them circumcised and made to follow the law, which was now already made of no effect?
Peter Talks Some Sense
(Vs. 7) And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
(Vs. 8) And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
(Vs. 9) And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
(Vs. 10) Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
(Vs. 11) But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
Peter had already been through this once. He’d not only had to accept the Gentiles on his own, which he would never have done had God not told him to do otherwise, but he’s also had to stand before a council and answer as to “why” he did that.
Peter had already seen God accept the Gentiles, and give them the gift of the Holy Ghost, with the evidence of speaking with other tongues. He’d also seen them baptized and joyfully serving God from right where they were. He could think of no reason to now bucking what God had already approved. And he didn’t want to see anyone else make that mistake either!
Paul & Barnabas Testify
(Vs. 12) Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.
Paul and Barnabas go on to discuss all that happened while they were with the Gentiles. God had worked miracles and wonders, signs that would never have been given without God’s approval on those He poured them out to. To Paul and Barnabas, anything else wouldn’t make sense! If they were expected to be circumcised and keep the law, then God would have waited until they were perfected before pouring these things out.
James Adds to the Argument
(Vs. 13) And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:
(Vs. 14) Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his Name.
(Vs. 15) And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,
(Vs. 16) After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:
(Vs. 17) That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.
(Vs. 18) Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
(Vs. 19) Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
(Vs. 20) But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
(Vs. 21) For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.
James had quite a bit more to say about the matter, taking his speech all the way back to words from the prophets. There were some things, he agreed, the Gentiles needed to stay away from to truly belong to God. Specifically, they should abstain from idols, fornication, and from eating strangled animals or their blood. This was enough, he said, that it would not be burdensome to serve the Lord.
Sealing the Decision
(Vs. 22) Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren.
(Vs. 23) And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:
(Vs. 24) Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:
(Vs. 25) It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
(Vs. 26) Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Vs. 27) We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.
(Vs. 28) For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
(Vs. 29) That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
So the apostles and elders have all reached the decision that seems right, and they wrote a letter to declare it. In order to make sure they understood the writing, they also sent Judas and Silas, to reiterate exactly what they were saying by mouth. In other words, they didn’t want it to even be rumored that the letters were not true and actually written by them.
Consolation for the Gentiles
(Vs. 30) So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle:
(Vs. 31) Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.
(Vs. 32) And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.
(Vs. 33) And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles.
They gathered everyone together and read the letter in their presence, which gave the Gentiles great consolation. Judas and Silas stayed on for a while to continue speaking with them about all the things they had discussed.
The Apostles Decide on Their Next Journey
(Vs. 34) Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still.
(Vs. 35) Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
(Vs. 36) And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do.
After remaining to teach and preach, Paul decided it would be good to pay a visit to all the believers in all the cities they had previously preached to and taught. Silas had remained with them also, but Judas went back to Jerusalem.
Another Argument & Parting Ways
(Vs. 37) And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.
(Vs. 38) But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.
Paul had his own reasons for not wanting to take Mark along on the journey. He had split ways with them before, and not bothered to go about the work that they had devoted themselves to. Why Barnabas thought it a good idea, we can’t be sure, but it wasn’t going well trying to convince Paul to take him with them.
Paul & Barnabas Split Ways
(Vs. 39) And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed to Cyprus;
(Vs. 40) And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.
(Acts. 41) And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.
The argument got bad enough that they split from one another. Barnabas took Mark with him and went on to Cyprus via chip, while Paul took Silas with them, moving on to Syria and Cilicia.