This is one of the most important chapters in the Acts.
There were certain men who came from Jerusalem and taught the Gentiles that except they submit to the rite of circumcision as laid out in the law of Moses they could not be saved. Verse 1
This gave rise to a serious dispute, as Paul and Barnabas vigorously contested this teaching.
So fierce was the controversy over this matter that the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas with some other brethren to Jerusalem to settle this question once and for all. Verse 2
What was the question involved here?
Some of the converted Jews insisted that before a Gentile could be saved he must:
1. Be circumcised. Verse 1
2. He must keep the law of Moses. Verse 5
On the other hand…
Philip preached Christ unto the Samaritans. Chapter 8.
He also preached Jesus to the Ethiopian eunuch. Chapter 8.
Peter taught the Gentiles that the remission of sins was procured by believing in Christ. Acts 11:43.
Paul also preached that forgiveness of sins could only be had in Christ.
He also taught that any who believe in Christ are justified from all sins. Acts 13:38-39.
He also affirms that justification was impossible under the law of Moses. In other words salvation was not in the law (condemnation) but rather through faith in Christ and because of the grace of Christ. Ephesians 2:8-9
This new decision was hard for the Jews to accept, and many of them tried to mix law and grace, and unfortunately taught this as a scriptural doctrine.
This is what happened in Antioch.
Also as we read in the epistles that the new churches were plagued with these false teachers. Galatians. Another Gospel. Who has bewitched you?
Verse 4 When the delegation from Antioch reached Jerusalem they were received by the church there, and they gave a full report of their activities—the results—their doctrine.
Verse 5 Immediately opposition arose.
Some Pharisees who were believers opposed the doctrine of salvation through grace.
They said that to procure salvation one must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and also must keep the law.
Verses 7-11 Peter’s defense of salvation by grace.
He took them back to the event of Acts 10 where the Gentiles were saved by faith and received the Holy Spirit—in the same manner as the Jews did.
“There is no difference between us and them,” Peter declared.
“Why put a burden on them, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear.”
Finally, he declared, “We believe that we are saved through the grace of God, so are the Gentiles.”
Verse 12 Paul and Barnabas were given an opportunity to tell of God’s working among the Gentiles.
Verses 13-21 James adds his testimony. The Lord’s brother. Writer of the epistle.
Verse 14 He mentions Peter’s statement of God visiting the Gentiles.
Verses 15-18 Then he takes the words of Amos to substantiate this truth.
Verse 16 refers to the time when Christ will come and set up His kingdom.
Verse 17 The “residue of men” would mean the remnant of Jews.
“All the nations on whom My name is called” = Gentiles.
Verse 18 James says that God has made known all His works, including the receiving of the Gentiles by faith, through the prophets.
Verse 20 However James suggested that Gentile Christians should be advised to abstain from certain things.
This was not for their salvation, but rather to safeguard fellowship of all the believers.
Note the four things prohibited.
1. Pollution of idols.
James suggests that foods offered to idols should be avoided. To go on eating these foods—while they had liberty to do so—it might prove a stumbling block to weak Jewish brethren. Therefore to do this would be wrong.
Sexual immorality was the cardinal sin of the Gentiles. Believers were to abstain from this sin. This command has never been revoked.
3. Things strangled.
This prohibition goes back to the covenant God made with Noah after the flood. Genesis 9:4.
This prohibition then would be for the human race not just for the nation of Israel.
This also goes back to Genesis 9:4. This commandment was given prior to the law. It has never been abrogated, so could be in effect today. See also Leviticus 17.
This contains the report of the council sent back to Antioch.
It had been decided that Gentiles did not need to be circumcised in order to be saved.
The next step was to send official notice of this in writing to the church at Antioch.
They also designated Judas and Silas to return with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch.
The substance of the letter is given in Verses 23-29.
Verse 24 states that the false brethren who went from Jerusalem to Antioch had never received authorization or approval from the church in Jerusalem.
Verses 30-35 Subsequent events in Antioch.
When the letter was read it proved to be a great encouragement.
Verses 32-33 Judas and Silas had some meetings with the church.
Verse 34 Judas returned to Jerusalem—Silas remained.
He later became Paul’s traveling companion and is referred to as Silvanus in the Epistles.
Verse 36 denotes the commencement of Paul’s second missionary journey.
Verses 37-38 describe the difference of opinion between Paul and Barnabas over John Mark.
Verse 39 The contention was so great between them over this that they decided to go out separately.
Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cypress.
Paul chose Silas and were commended to the grace of God by the brethren.
This is the last time Barnabas is mentioned in the Acts.