Notes and References


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Acts of the Apostles

A Bible Study

Acts Chapter 15



Acts 15
1And 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.
2When 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.
3And 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.
4And 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.
5But 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.
6And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.

First of all, what was the contention that brought Paul and Barnabas 300 plus miles back to Jerusalem, a 2 to 3 week journey? The Gentile converts were being told they were not really saved unless they were circumcised and keep the Law of Moses!

I have read so many commentaries stuck on circumcision only! Abraham was circumcised, but to be circumcised after the "manner of Moses", should have been a major clue to these scholars. Moses Law was being pushed upon these Gentiles for justification, not just circumcision.

Paul called the gospel of the Law of Moses mixed with grace "another gospel". He then says it is a perversion of the true gospel. There is only one gospel! GRACE ONLY!

Galatians 1:6-9
6I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
7Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
8But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
9As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Paul said anyone - himself, any other apostle, even an angel - preach anything but GRACE, "let him be accursed" twice for emphasis!! This was "no small dissention"! Souls were on the line and Paul had to argue his case before the 11 Apostles and elders of the Jerusalem assembly.


Acts 15
7And 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.
8And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
9And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
10Now 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?
11But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

"Much disputing", amazing how pleasant that sounds. I am sure it was very loud and very heated! Paul was zealous for the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ! As I read the books of Paul's epistles, I can hear Paul's argument before the apostles and elders regarding law verses grace. How the Old Testament prepared them for the redemption of creation by the work of the cross. It was a secret, a mystery, revealed to Paul by the ascended Lord Jesus Christ himself, Rom 16:25 & Eph 3:3, that the Gentiles would be fellowheirs of grace.

Matt 3:11 and Luke 3:16 "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire."

Greek Word Study of the day = G4442 πυρ pur a purifying fire.

Peter rose up and recounts his experience with the Gentiles some 14 -17 years earlier, curious how he does not name Cornelius by name. Peter calls the law a " yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear."

The gospel and redemptive work of the Spirit explained right here in these few verses:

  • God, which knoweth the hearts
  • bare them witness
  • giving them the Holy Ghost
  • purifying their hearts by faith
  • we believe
  • that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
  • we shall be saved

Peter does not put any law upon the Gentiles! He said the Jews could not bear it how could the Gentiles?

Acts 15
12Then 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.

Let me stop here. If among the Gentiles there were not miracles and wonders of that of an apostle, wrought by Paul the same as Peter, and the Holy Spirit did not fall on the Gentiles, we would still be Jewish proselytes under the Law of Moses.

Acts 15
13And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:
14Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.
15And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,
16After 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:
17That 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.
18Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
19Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
20But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
21For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

James puts written law on the Gentiles, although not burdensome. He recognized Peter as the first to witness a Gentile filled with the Holy Spirit, but goes on to pronounce his declaration. What is amazing here is only one of the mandates is not dietary. How stuck on religion he was and so blind. Even the Lord Jesus said:

Matthew 15:11
11Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

Acts 15
22Then 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:
23And 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:
24Forasmuch 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:
25It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
26Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
27We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.
28For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
29That 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.
30So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle:
31Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.

First the letter states from the authority it represents - the apostles.
Second, it calls the Gentile believers "brethren", by adoption of the Spirit of the Lord Jesus. This is a huge milestone! Acceptance!
Third, the letter states the apostles did not send those men who "troubled you".
Fourth, the letter states the full acceptance and commendation of Paul and Barnabas as " Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ".
Fifth, they sent two witnesses from Jerusalem, Judas and Silas.

The Law from Jerusalem to the Gentiles - Abstain from:

  • meats offered to idols
  • blood
  • things strangled
  • fornication

James does explain that in every city in synagogues Moses is preached and they can learn there. He does not stop believing the Law of Moses must be followed.

What a relief! They REJOICED!

Acts 15
32And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.
33And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles.
34Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still.
35Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
36And 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.
37And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.
38But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.
39And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;
40And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.
41And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.

We read earlier that John Mark did not finish traveling with Paul and Barnabas and left them to return to Jerusalem. Obvioulsy this caused some distrust with Paul. You have to remember, it is not like traveling today in relative safety. Perilous is an appropriate term and yet diminishing at the same time. These men depended upon each other and needed to be able to trust their traveling companions as faithful. John Mark failed and Paul was not willing to give him another go. Barnabas was related to the young man and stood his ground. The "contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other."


Paul contended there is not another gospel:

Galatians 1:6-7
6I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
7Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

Then why would there be a different message to the Jews? Why would not this council determine the law for the Gentile be the same law for the Jew?

Paul received a revelation of the "mystery" directly from the ascended savior the Lord Jesus Christ, that salvation is by faith alone and not of the works of the law. Gal 1:12, Gal2:6, Rom 16:25

Galatians 2:16
16Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Paul preached ONE gospel, faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ, the mashiac of Israel. That is all that is necessary for right relationship with God.

The apostles and "those of reputation", Gal 2:2, were preaching the Gospel of Christ PLUS the Law of Moses. This was Paul's contention or dispute. The gospel alone is sufficient for right relationship and the proof or witness is the baptism of the Holy Spirit without the Law of Moses!

Gal 2:8, The "apostleship" was "mighty" in Paul "toward the Gentiles". The miracles and wonders were mighty among the heathen through Paul and Barnabas. They were made clean by the purifying baptism of fire of the Holy Ghost. Nothing else was necessary! Gal 2:9, "James, Cephas (Peter), and John, who seemed to be pillars". Paul was quite adamant his apostleship was as authentic and sanctionied by the Lord as the eleven in Jerusalem, more so because he had communicated with the ascended Lord Jesus Christ of heaven! The "mystery" of the faith of the Gentiles was revealed first only to Paul and he communicated it to this Jerusalem council. Peter obviously treated Cornelius as an anomaly.

The problem revolves around the Law of Moses mingled with grace. Paul makes it quite clear that we are NOT made righteous by keeping any part of the Law of Moses!

Galatians 2:20-21
20 …I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
21I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

Galatians is most probably some of the arguments Paul presented in Jerusalem, he being more educated in Judaism, the Law of Moses, and the prophets than most there attending the council. Sadly in the end we see the Law of Moses continue with the Jews at Jerusalem. Act 21:20 (approximately 59 AD, 5-6 years later) James proclaims to Paul the Jewish believers in Jerusalem were "all zealous for the law"!

The Gentiles believers were never really accepted as "clean" even after this council. No matter how pure the Holy Spirit made them, the religion could not accept them. Same holds true today.

Galatians 4:17
17They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.

The Jewish teachers zealously wanted to affect the Gentiles in their doctrine, but would not go near them as they might become unclean by associating too closely with them. Paul is angry that the Jewish believers look upon the Gentile believers as "unclean" and unacceptable. "They would exclude you"! We as Christians here in America, are self-righteous above measure! Yet, if we were in the congregation of the Jews in this time period, we would be considered unclean! How offended we would be!

So how do we get away from the "Law" that has crept into our assemblies?

Gal 4:22-31 "Cast out" the Law! Root out any form of it now! No matter how good it seems, how long its tradition, or how painful it seemingly might affect us.

How many laws does your church have? I can name a few I have been apart of and even supported in my congregation in error! For that I am truly sorry!

  • Going to church on Sunday come hell or high water! Hebrews 10:25 "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together" How did that happen? Now once a week law? Guilting and coercing people to come to church to get numbers up - the corporate church report to headquarters to justify existence?
  • Sunday as Sabbath - it is not! Where did it come from?
    • Paul was taking an offering from the different assemblies in the regions to take to Jerusalem for the relief of the poor saints there (they gave away all their money to the apostles). He suggested that they take up the offering on the first day of the week when the believers had assembled, so the offering is complete when he came. He was ensuring that they were not scrambling around to get funds after he was ready to receive it as he passed through the region. Somehow this one time offering collection on the first day of the week became "forever doctrine" in the church today. We read earlier in Acts the believers met "Daily". The apostles preached "Daily". What happened to that? Why isn't that "forever doctrine"? All the money collected in this offering went to the poor. What happened to that? Why isn't that "forever doctrine"?
  • Tithing - the church is so wrong on that one I cannot even begin to explain. Especially teaching God will withhold blessing from His children under grace and even cause them to question their relationship with our Lord if they do not muster 10% to a church that does not biblically receive and distribute the tithe lawfully. I am reminded of Paul's strong words regarding mixing law and grace in Gal 5:12 "I would they were even cut off (dead) that trouble you".
  • Communion, the Lord's Supper, is not a cracker and a sip of grape juice.
  • Baptism, not necessary for salvation or right standing with God.
  • The wine Jesus created was alcoholic.
  • We are so busy trying to be righteous, we have become entirely self-righteous going around in our Christian bubble trying not to offend some other entirely self-righteous Christian and all the while offending the lost and thus ensuring they stay lost. Pure Evil!


Paul wrote Galatians some time after the council at Jerusalem and specifically says twice "Let them be accursed" who would teach that it is necessary to keep the laws of Moses, whether in full or in part.

My main reasons of this study are:

  • To warn those teaching and mixing the Law of Moses with Grace.
  • To set at liberty those in bondage to the Old Testament Law and church legalism.

Much has been taught in ignorance. I know first hand. I did it, BUT NOW we must reject doctrines and traditions for truth of the Word of God that salvation is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone! That He died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. That He was buried but on the third day He rose from the dead! He ascended into heaven and is at the right hand of God the Father. He sent His own Holy Spirit as earnest for the promise that we would have everlasting life!