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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even ° as they.
Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.
And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,
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:
Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
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.
Forasmuch 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:
For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
That 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.
So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle:
Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.
And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles.
And 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.
And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.
And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;

New Defender's Study Bible Notes

15:1 certain men. Possibly these men were some of the priests who had become obedient to the faith, or at least they were of the Pharisees’ sect (Acts 15:5). At any rate, although these men believed in Jesus as the Messiah and in His substitutionary death and resurrection, they still felt that a convert must be either a Jew or Jewish proselyte to be eligible for salvation in Christ. They were called “Judaizers” and came to be a real problem in the early church. This particular form of legalism is not much of an issue today, but the problem of those who would add works to faith in Christ as a requirement for salvation is still very common. While genuine faith will surely produce obedience and good works (note Ephesians 2:8-10), they follow saving faith as a result, not as a condition.

15:13 James. James had, by this time, become a recognized leader (possibly a senior pastor) of the Jerusalem church, perhaps because the apostles themselves were often away preaching. He was the brother (or, better, half-brother) of Jesus, but had not been among the disciples until after Jesus’ death and resurrection. He later wrote the epistle of James (James 1:1; I Corinthians 15:7). He was presiding at this significant “Jerusalem conference.”

15:14 at the first. “At the first” means “for the first time,” probably referring to Peter’s (i.e., Simeon’s) experience at the house of Cornelius (Acts 10).

15:14 a people for his name. Compare Romans 11:25; Luke 21:24.

15:15 words of the prophets. James specifically quotes Amos 9:11 here, but then paraphrases and extends Amos 9:12 beyond the original meaning of the prophet himself (although, James’ use of it follows the Septuagint translation to some degree). In any case, no doubt by the guidance of the Holy Spirit (who inspired the prophecy of Amos in the first place, and who therefore can apply and extend it however He deems appropriate), James uses it to appropriate and summarize the words of other “prophets” (note the plural here in James’ statement) to show that God had long ago planned that Gentiles as well as Jews should come under Messiah’s reign (e.g., Psalm 2:8; Isaiah 42:6; 49:6; 60:3; Daniel 7:14; Zechariah 14:9).

15:16 tabernacle. The tabernacle of David—that is, the literal kingdom of Israel on earth—will indeed be restored under the Messiah when He comes again after the church, composed of both Jews and Gentiles, has been completed.

15:18 Known unto God. No event on earth takes God by surprise! He is the God of all creation and, although He elected for a time to work through one chosen nation, His purpose had always been that of “reconciling the world unto Himself” (II Corinthians 5:19).

15:20 abstain. It was not that these restrictions (any more than circumcision) were required for salvation, but rather for fellowship with the Jerusalem church and with Jewish Christians in general. These practices were all prevalent and characteristic in the pagan world and were particularly offensive to Jews, whether Christian or not, and therefore a real stumbling block. They would also be a real temptation through peer pressure to new Gentile believers and could easily lead them to backslide into paganism if not carefully avoided.

15:20 from blood. Refraining from eating “flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof” (Genesis 9:4; see also Leviticus 17:14) long antedated the laws of Moses. It was part of the ancient Noahic mandate; its restatement here indicates the latter is still in effect (note also Romans 13:1, 4). Furthermore, the primeval dominion mandate given to Adam, which the Noahic mandate merely reconfirmed and extended, is likewise still in effect. This means that Christians are responsible to obey Christ’s primeval command to exercise stewardship over the earth (see notes on Genesis 1:26-28), as well as His great commission to preach the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8).

15:34 Silas. Silas is short for Silvanus (e.g., II Corinthians 1:19); he was a God-called “prophet” (Acts 15:32), a leader in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:22), and would soon become Paul’s missionary companion (Acts 15:40).

15:39 the contention. Even though this contention seemed unfortunate, God used it for good. Now there were two missionary teams instead of one. Similar happenings still occur today. The ministry of Paul and Silas was extraordinarily fruitful, while also Mark was reclaimed spiritually (note II Timothy 4:11), and even was used to write one of the four gospels.

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