Notes and References
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Acts of the Apostles
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Acts Chapter 15 Preview
Acts 1-14 Progression of the Gospel
From Acts 1 to Acts chapter 10, the gospel was to Jews only. How did we know this? When the first Gentiles, Cornelius and his household, were filled with the Holy Spirit, in Acts 10, the believing Jews which were with Peter were "astonished"! If it were not a unique occurrence, they would not have been "astonished" but happy or rejoicing. They were "astonished". Acts 10 is 7-8 years after the resurrection.
The keeping of Mosaic Law and temple worship continued. Acts 2:46 "they continued daily in the temple." Peter was continually preaching at the temple. This was the commission of the twelve, to go to the lost sheep of Israel, beginning with Jerusalem. When the believers were being persecuted, they all fled Jerusalem, except the 12 apostles (Acts 8:1) And did continue keeping the Law of Moses and temple worship up until Paul's arrest in Jerusalem in 59 A.D. (Acts 21:20). And there is no indication in scripture they ever stopped.
18And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.
19And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.
20And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:
"They are all zealous of the law." - Can't get any clearer than that. They are not called "Christians", by James, but "Jews which believe". This is when the days of Jerusalem are coming to a close! In a few short years, there will be nothing left!
When Peter returned to Jerusalem from the house of Cornelius in Caesarea, in Acts 11, the believers confronted Peter regarding going into the house of a Gentile. Now they had heard he went into the house of a Gentile, they had to have heard the rest of the story. But as with zealots, the law was broken, the reason held no significance. This is how rigid law keepers are! Peter had to testify to them in Jerusalem, with 6 witnesses, 7 in total, that "what God hath cleansed, thou shalt not call common".
Did the conversion of the house of Cornelius change anything in Jerusalem or in the audience to whom the gospel was preached by the 12 apostles? No! Continuing on in chapter 11, those believers who were scattered preached to "none but Jews only", all the way to Antioch in Syria. Nothing had changed. It was still Jew only.
Acts 12 is the martyrdom of the first apostle, James the son of Zebedee, the brother of John, beheaded by King Herod Agrippa in 44 A.D. Later the same year was King Herod Agrippa's death, who was smote with worms by an angel at the end of Acts 12. Justice was swift!
Acts 13 and 14 are a 10 year period. After the conversion of Saul in Acts chapter 9, these chapters tell us the account of Saul, being sent forth with Barnabas, and his name changing to Paul. Paul and Barnabas mightily preach the gospel to the Jew first then the Gentile on a two year, ( as what many commentators believe was the time of the journey), 1235 mile journey to Cyprus, Pamphylia, and Pisidia. Then they returned to Antioch, Syria and spent a "long time" there.
In Acts chapter 9, Saul (Paul) is miraculously converted by the risen Christ himself on the road to Damascus and officially there is now an Apostle to the Gentiles. This occurred after the first martyr Stephen is stoned approximately 7 years after the resurrection in 36 A.D.
After Paul and Barnabas had traveled the regions of Cyprus, Pamphylia, and Pisidia, Judaisers, Jewish believers claiming authority from the apostles in Jerusalem, were disturbing the faith of the newly converted Gentiles, and "corrupting the simplicity of the gospel" (2Cor 11:3) which is justification by faith alone. These "false brethren" were telling the Gentiles they must follow the Law of Moses and be circumcised or they were not truly saved. This is what is leading us up to the next chapter in Acts.
Acts chapter 15 (17 years after the conversion of Paul) must happen. Or Paul says in Galatians 2:2, "he had run in vain". Why? Paul knew he could not fight the 11 apostles in Jerusalem, who had been with Jesus on earth. It was the apostles who must come together and make a decision regarding the Gentiles and stick with it. Peter had final say. Remember it was he whom Jesus gave the "keys to the kingdom" to make or redact doctrine for the fledgling church. It was Peter who had the vision from God regarding the unclean animals, in Acts chapter 10. It was Peter who witnessed the first baptism in the Holy Spirit of the first Gentiles.
Paul specifically and expressly speaks of these people in 2Cor 11:13 as "False Apostles" who were Jews. How do we know they were Jews? 2Cor 11:22 "Are they Hebrews?" "Are they Israelites?" "Are they the seed of Abraham?" Paul calls them ministers of Satan!
In Galatians 1:7 These Judaisers (believing Jews) "pervert" the gospel of Christ. In 1:8,9 Paul says, "let them be accursed" and "again...let them be accursed". He calls them "false bretheren" who "spy out our liberty", "that they might bring us into bondage" (Gal 2:4). Galatians 3:1, "Who has bewitched you?"
See how emphatically Paul calls those who try to bring in the Law of Moses and circumcision into the church evil? And says, "let them be accursed", not once but twice! In every epistle Paul's words are clear, justification only comes through faith in our risen Lord Jesus Christ. The law is "bondage".
Romans 3:28 "We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law."
In his final epistle, Peter also acknowledges the Apostle Paul and the wisdom God had given to Paul.
2 Peter 3:15-16
15And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
16As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
Who was Peter writing to?
2 Peter 1:1
1:1Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:
See how the language is no more Mosaic Law but "through the righteousness of God"?
2 Peter 1:3-8
3According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
4Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
5And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- virtue - αρετη - arete G703
- knowledge - γυωσις - gnosis G1108
- temperance - εγκρατια - egkrateia G1466
- patience - υπομονη - hupomone G5281
- godliness - ευσεβια - eusebia G2150
- brotherly kindness φιλαδελδφια philadelphia G5360
- charity - αγαπη - agape G26
There is no legalism in the above admonitions of Peter, and these follow in step with the admonitions of Paul! Liberty is NOT license to sin.
10And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.
After his sin, Adam now knew fear, which is what the knowledge of good and evil brought all mankind. Liberty IS freedom from fear. We now have freedom from fear by following the Holy Spirit, who will "guide us into all truth". The Spirit is freedom from human requisites, giving us peace of mind. For we know that when we believe in Jesus Christ, through faith in His death, burial, and resurrection and we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, we shall have everlasting life!