Notes and References
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"The person who can rightly divide Law and Gospel has reason to thank God. He is a true theologian." Martin Luther
1 Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. 2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.
This is the account of Acts chapter 15. Seventeen (17) years after the conversion of Paul and 14 years after first meeting Peter and now we are reading an account of 24 years after the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
15:1 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.
15:2 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.
15:3 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.
15:4 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.
15:5 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.
15:6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
15:7 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.
15:8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
15:9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
15:10 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?
15:11 But we believe that through the grace of the LORD Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
15:12 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.
15:13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:
15:14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.
15:15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,
15:16 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:
15:17 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.
15:18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
15:19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
15:20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
Paul has to defend his gospel to the Gentiles before the Apostles, "who were of reputation", at Jerusalem and get the matter settled, because it is being subverted by disciples from Jerusalem. If this had not been settled, then the Christianity would never have survived. These accounts are Christian verses Christian and more accurately Jew verses Gentile. These scriptures prove Paul's gospel was different than that of the apostles. First, the apostles were not evangelizing the Gentiles and if they were it was a Jewish Mosaic Law message, because in Acts 11:19 they were preaching to"to none but Jews only". Second, if they were in agreement the would not have had to "consider the matter"(Acts 15:6) and there would not have been "much disputing" (Acts 15:7) or arguing!
3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:
Titus, a Greek Gentile, uncircumcised and would not be persuaded. He is mentioned in 2 Corinthians chapter 7 and 8 as a fellow workman and partner of Paul and is also the recipient of the epistle of Paul to Titus.
4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:
These men were brought in by someone(s) to teach the Law of Moses. Now keep in mind there is a mix of believers here in Galatia. Not all were necessarily Gentile. As a Jewish believer it is hard to accept lifelong held rituals, even when the truth is revealed, are not to be observed by the Gentiles.
false brethren = pseudadelphos ψευδαδελφος G5569 from pseudes meaning false or deceptive and adelphos or brother
This phrase bothered me, because their gospel was not untrue for Jewish believers and Paul calls them false brethren as though something evil or anti-Christ was preached. The message was not occult or denouncing Jesus Christ. I have pondered this many times since the Acts study and then realized exactly why Paul called them pseudadelphous, false brothers, from Gal 4:17, "They zealously affect you, not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them." These men did not love the Gentiles as fellow heirs and brothers. The Gentile Christians are considered by these Christians from Jerusalem as unclean, unholy, and not good enough for these pious Jews. In other words the Gentiles might give them a bad name, bring trouble from unbelieveing Jews, or venture to say infer unto them uncleanness! Were they jealous of the Gentiles' liberty and not have to work as hard?
1 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.
2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.
5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.
6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?
7 They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.
8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.
9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,
12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
Again if you do not study the scriptures, you would not understand the hostility towards these believers by the non-believing Jews. Most of Paul's troubles came from the Jews! These pseudadelphous Jews wanted to avoid trouble and have these Gentiles circumcised, not only that but outwardly practice Judaism! Hypocrites!
5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
Who is 'you'? Gentiles! Paul and company didn't give in for a minute during the confrontation at Jerusalem with the Apostles!
6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:
These were important people in the Jerusalem congregation, whether they were of the eleven remaining apostles or even of the 70 whom Jesus gave power to witness, it did not matter to Paul.
Now I can understand the conundrum here.
- The Apostles and the 70 were sent only to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel", no Gentiles, no Samaritans, Jews only. Matt 10:5, 6
- After the conversion of the Centurian Cornelius, the gospel was not being preached to Gentiles by any of the remaining eleven Apostles nor the Jewish believers at Jerusalem, and when they ventured to Antioch, Syria they preached "to none but Jews only". Acts 11:19
- This gospel of Paul's was a revelation of a mystery revealed only to Paul by Jesus Christ, after His ascension into heaven. Eph 3:4-6
Acts 15 settled it, the council at Jerusalem is what Paul is speaking of here in these verses, but some of these so-called important men would not comply and continued to subvert Paul's message and in reality Jesus Christ's message to the Gentiles. These men specifically heard Jesus while he was still on earth, before the crucifixion, tell them what to do. Now this new thing comes along and they are zealots for the Jesus' words, no matter the evidence of truth that Jesus spoke to Paul. Power wrought in Paul by signs and wonders, equal to that of Peter, verified his ministry and validated the new revealed message. These men are now become enemies of the grace of Christ.
7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; 8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) 9 And when James, Cephas (Peter), and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. 10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.
Paul's gospel to the Gentiles is approved by James, Peter, and John, "who seemed to be pillars." So here it is again, TWO gospel messages. These are not the same gospel. I have heard so many times preachers trying to wiggle these two together as being one and the same gospel, just that Peter preached to the Jews and Paul preached to the Gentiles. No!
There were two distinct and separate codes of conduct for believers. One for Jews, the other for gentiles. Paul never once said his gospel was to the Jews or the circumcision. He preached Jesus Christ Mashiac of Israel to the Jew. He preached grace through faith in Jesus Christ to the Gentile.
I found a great website for resources, but I could not convice the author of the site that the gospel of the Kingdom continued and the Jewish believers were following Mosaic Law long after Acts chapter 15. He could not see the difference between "we" and "they" in Acts 15. He fully understood Paul's gospel, grace, the mystery, salvation to the Gentiles, faith without works, etc. but refused to see that the Jews were not being taught the same message as the Gentiles.
The author's comment to me was this explanation, "James could continue to maintain the authority of the Law over the Jews and not proclaim the gospel of the kingdom."
The only reason I got into a dialog with this fellow was I asked this question, "When did the gospel message of the kingdom stop being preached? The destruction of the temple and Jerusalem followed by the dispersion of the Jews, or the deaths of the apostles?" His response was Acts 15, during the council at Jerusalem between Paul and the other apostles, is when the kingdom gospel ended and they decided to preach the same gospel, Paul's gospel, to both Jew and Gentile.
I have also heard from other teachers and scholars the gospel of the kingdom is no longer being preached or valid to the Jews. My question is, "Why Not?"
Other's teach the gospel of the kingdom is the same as Paul's gospel. The good news is the good news. Not true!
The Gospel of the Kingdom is everything the law and the prophets pointed to. It is the fulfillment of every promise of God to Israel. The Gospel of the Kingdom is not a NEW revelation with the advent of Christ. It is what was foretold for millenia to the Jew!
The Gospel of GRACE to the Gentiles, kept secret since the world began and revealed only to the Apostle Paul by the risen and ascended Christ, does not replace the Gospel of the Kingdom to the Jew!
Acts 15:19, 20 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
Who is "they"? Gentiles! Did James say "We"? No! "They"! Meaning them and not us. James inferred that "We Jews" must continue to keep the whole law! Can't get any clearer than that!
What were the Jewish believers doing in Acts 15 and continued to do?
Acts 21:20 James is speaking to Paul, "Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:"
How do we know it was not ok to teach the Jews not to follow the Mosaic Law? Continue reading in;
Acts 21:21 James is still speaking to Paul regarding accusations against Paul, "And they (the Jews which believe) are informed of thee (Paul), that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.
The Apostle James then reiterates what he had decreed some 7-10 years earlier continuing on in;
Acts 21:24, 25, "...and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication."
There ya go. Jews which believed never quit being Jewish in the light of divine revelation to the Gentile that it is 'The Faith' in Jesus Christ alone, with the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and is the power to save and make men righteous.
Why do I keep harping on the two gospel messages? Because if you read the New Testament as though you were a Jew, you would feel constantly condemned by your inaction of not following Jewish/Moses' laws / works. If you read the Old Testament as though you were a Jew and as though God was speaking to your nation, the only result is confusion. The same for the New Testament, the only result is confusion as to what exactly is salvation! If you read the little book of James and believe works must accompany faith in order to be saved, then you are the reason Paul wrote this epistle to the Galatians, to set you free from the belief your works will add to your salvation. Nothing can be added to perfection! Works, is not referring to our idea of Christian works, but the works of Moses' Law.
Paul's letter is written to ensure that Christians hold fast to his gospel which is faith alone in Jesus Christ who brings justification, righteousness, salvation, and everlasting life.