13 And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: 14 Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:
The final and decisive voice in the Jerusalem Council was not Peter or Paul but James, the leader of the Jerusalem church. James based his argument on prophecy.
Up to this point in God’s dealings with man, He dealt with a nation, the nation of Israel. The codes of the Law were to be set aside for the doctrine of grace, which Paul develops in his report on the Jerusalem Council in Galatians 2.
And after they had become silent,
Peter silenced the Council from further debate by harking back to the direct revelation he received from God about unclean animals referencing the Gentiles.
James answered, saying,
James was the half-brother of Jesus and wrote the book of James was the final speaker at the Jerusalem Council. He followed the presentations by Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:12). He is the brother who did not believe until the Lord appeared to him privately after the resurrection (1 Co 15:7).
“Men and brethren, listen to me:
The brother of Jesus calls for people to listen carefully to his exposition of Scripture.
Simon [Semitic name for Peter] has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.
James affirms what Peter said about the Gentiles. Peter was the “first” to reach Gentiles. Cornelius and those with him were among the “first” Gentiles to become believers. In choosing Gentiles, God established a “people” for His name.
God “visited” the nations. A visitation by God is a divine intervention. The term “visited” conveys the idea of intervening in the affairs of nations. God did this by Peter’s visit to Cornelius and offered a Gentile the privilege of salvation. The upshot is to “choose a people for his name from the Gentiles” (Ex 6:7 LXX; Dt 4:20, 34). God has intervened to incorporate Gentiles into His plan for the new economy. From this point forward, Gentiles can call themselves “a people for his name.” God created a new people for Himself, representing people from all nations.
The idea here is that God took a people for Himself consisting of Gentiles (1 Pe 2:9). “People” was a designation for Jews alone in the Old Testament, but now Peter applied the term to Gentile Christians.
And with this the words of the prophets agree,
James makes an added point that the prophets agree with Peter. The word “prophets” is in the plural, indicating that James referred to prophets other than Amos; that is, it is characteristic of the Old Testament prophet to affirm Gentile conversion. The idea is Amos was representative of the prophets of the Old Testament in affirming Gentiles will be saved in future days.
James says, in effect, that the prophets of the Old Testament agreed that salvation would come to Gentiles apart from becoming a Jew (Ga 2:16; Ro 11:12).
just as it is written:
James quotes Amos 9:11-12 from the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) to establish the previous verse that God is in the process of raising a new people. The Hebrew Old Testament may be translated as “That they possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations… .” James uses “mankind” in verse 17 rather than “Edom.”
Note that James’ quote from Amos 9:11, 12 does not say the calling out of Gentiles in Acts was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Amos, but rather Amos’ quote agreed with the words of the prophets. The Old Testament predicted that God would visit the Gentiles for salvation. Gentiles will not be required to become Jewish proselytes to be saved.
Biblical authors used the Bible to establish their point.
It is important to note that James did not say that the Amos prophecy and other prophets predicted the salvation of the Gentiles as a fulfillment of those particular prophecies. He asserted the prediction of future Gentile salvation harmonized with the salvation currently in James’ day (Ga 2:16). The Amos quote was representative of what the Old Testament prophets claimed. God is yet to restore Israel in the future Millennium.
The authors of Scripture consistently used other Scripture to establish their arguments. Believers today need to hark to the Bible to establish what they believe.