Select Page
Read Introduction to Acts

 

1 And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question. 3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren. 4 And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them. 5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”

 

Acts 15 introduces us to the Jerusalem Council, which affirmed the gospel of grace and its privilege for Gentiles. Circumcision was not to be imposed on Gentiles.

15:1

And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren,

Certain teachers came from Judea to the church Antioch of Syria to proclaim that Gentiles must be circumcised to be saved. The church there consisted primarily of Gentiles.

“Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

Circumcision was the symbol of being a Jew. The Judaizers taught that the salvation of the soul came by circumcision (Ga 2:4). Many Gentiles in the church at Antioch had already become Christians before these Judaizers came to Antioch. We can imagine the stir these legalists caused by claiming it was necessary to add things to trust in the work of Christ on the Cross for salvation.

15:2

Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them,

Paul and Barnabas entered a significant conflict with these Judaizers, who taught salvation and sanctification through works. The apostles at Antioch were not willing to live and let live when it came to fundamental doctrine. Paul and Barnabas did not give an inch on this issue (Ga 2:5).

they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.

The Antioch church sent Paul and Barnabas from Antioch to Jerusalem to settle the matter of the doctrine of grace and its consequence that people do not have to be circumcised to receive salvation. The distance between Antioch and Jerusalem was over 250 miles. The delegation included Titus, a Gentile who was not circumcised but a believer (Ga 2:3). Titus became a test case at the Council.

15:3

So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles;

Having left Antioch of Syria, Paul and Barnabas went through Phoenicia and Samaria on their way to Jerusalem. The churches in these locations consisted primarily of Gentiles. They reported on the salvation of Gentiles on their first missionary journey.

and they caused great joy to all the brethren.

Their report of great numbers of Gentiles coming to Christ on the first missionary journey was an occasion of great joy to Gentile believers in Phoenicia and Samaria.

15:4

And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders;

When the apostles from Antioch arrived in Jerusalem, they went to the leaders in Jerusalem first, before going to the general Council.

and they reported all things that God had done with them.

Again, they told the story of how God had marvelously worked among Gentiles on their first missionary journey.

15:5

But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying,

Later, Jews from the sect of the Pharisees rose to proclaim salvation by grace plus circumcision and keeping the law of Moses. These Pharisees were a different group from those in Acts 15:1.

“It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”

The Pharisees argued that faith in Christ’s death on the Cross plus two other requirements are necessary for salvation. To add anything necessary for salvation other than faith in the work of Christ on the Cross is to assert He did not finish paying for sins on the Cross.

PRINCIPLE:

God gives Christian leaders a mandate to protect the purity of essential doctrine.

APPLICATION:

The modern evangelical church has lost the mandate to protect Bible doctrine. Christian leaders today are more concerned about placating, appeasing, and accommodating the dictates of culture. However, the Word of God warns us that false teachers will always attempt to pervert Christian doctrine (2 Pet 2:1; Acts 20:20-30). We can look down the corridors of church history and see that false teachers have invaded the church in every era.

Share