Episode #104. Today we’ll read Acts chapter 15 together: Peter gives a great speech at the Jerusalem Council; the elders send a letter to new Gentile believers; and Paul and Barnabas have a sharp disagreement.
Joy: You’re listening to the Lifting Her Voice podcast, Episode #104. Today we’ll read Acts chapter 15 together: Peter gives a great speech at the Jerusalem Council; the elders send a letter to new Gentile believers; and Paul and Barnabas have a sharp disagreement.
Welcome to the Lifting Her Voice podcast. I’m your host, Joy Miller, and I invite you to grab your Bible and join me as we simply read God’s word together. Some things require discipline and sometimes that’s just not easy to muster by yourself, no matter how badly you want to do it or how much you know you should. It’s just easier to do it with a friend. So refill your coffee or tea, get comfortable in your favorite chair and follow along as I read aloud. I’m so glad you’re here!
I truly believe the historical book of Acts is like a string of firecrackers, one significant event exploding onto the scene on the heels of the one before. Today’s chapter is no different. God turned the spread of the Gospel upside down when He called Paul to preach to the Gentiles. And of course, that caused a chain reaction of its own, which we now refer to as the Jerusalem Council. The elders and apostles were faced with the question, “Now that the Gentiles are part of The Way, what do we do with them?” I want you to notice what their knee-jerk reaction was. And then Peter stood up and gave one of his finest speeches with some great one-liners. Let’s read the chapter and then I’ll come back with some closing thoughts.
Acts Chapter 15
Dispute in Antioch
Some men came down from Judea and began to teach the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom prescribed by Moses, you cannot be saved.” After Paul and Barnabas had engaged them in serious argument and debate, Paul and Barnabas and some others were appointed to go up to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem about this issue. When they had been sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and they brought great joy to all the brothers and sisters.
When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church, the apostles, and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. But some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”
The Jerusalem Council
The apostles and the elders gathered to consider this matter. After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you are aware that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the gospel message and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he also did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now then, why are you testing God by putting a yoke on the disciples’ necks that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in the same way they are.”
The Prophets Agree
The whole assembly became silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul describe all the signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they stopped speaking, James responded, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has reported how God first intervened to take from the Gentiles a people for his name. And the words of the prophets agree with this, as it is written:
After these things I will return
and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
I will rebuild its ruins
and set it up again,
so that the rest of humanity
may seek the Lord —
even all the Gentiles
who are called by my name —
declares the Lord
who makes these things known from long ago.
Therefore, in my judgment, we should not cause difficulties for those among the Gentiles who turn to God, but instead we should write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from eating anything that has been strangled, and from blood. For since ancient times, Moses has had those who proclaim him in every city, and every Sabbath day he is read aloud in the synagogues.”
The Letter to the Gentile Believers
Then the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, decided to select men who were among them and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas: Judas, called Barsabbas, and Silas, both leading men among the brothers. They wrote:
“From the apostles and the elders, your brothers,
To the brothers and sisters among the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:
Since we have heard that some without our authorization went out from us and troubled you with their words and unsettled your hearts, we have unanimously decided to select men and send them to you along with our dearly loved Barnabas and Paul, who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who will personally report the same things by word of mouth. For it was the Holy Spirit’s decision — and ours — not to place further burdens on you beyond these requirements: that you abstain from food offered to idols, from blood, from eating anything that has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. You will do well if you keep yourselves from these things.
The Outcome of the Jerusalem Letter
So they were sent off and went down to Antioch, and after gathering the assembly, they delivered the letter. When they read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. Both Judas and Silas, who were also prophets themselves, encouraged the brothers and sisters and strengthened them with a long message. After spending some time there, they were sent back in peace by the brothers and sisters to those who had sent them. But Paul and Barnabas, along with many others, remained in Antioch, teaching and proclaiming the word of the Lord.
Paul and Barnabas Part Company
After some time had passed, Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit the brothers and sisters in every town where we have preached the word of the Lord and see how they’re doing.” Barnabas wanted to take along John who was called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take along this man who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone on with them to the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed off to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and departed, after being commended by the brothers and sisters to the grace of the Lord. He traveled through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Peter so nailed it! It was c-r-i-t-i-c-a-l to the spread of the Gospel and the formation of Christ’s Church that the status quo be challenged and modified. We have read over and over in the recounting of the Law and the Prophets that God had always intended to include Gentiles in His plan of salvation. In preparation for the Jerusalem Council, God wisely gave Peter that vision and the experience at Cornelius’ house. Peter was convinced. He was changed. He had the arguments at the ready that would ultimately make this council so pivotal. I always want to just leap up and applaud when Peter says, “…why are you testing God by putting a yoke on the disciples’ necks that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?” Score!
I just want to touch briefly on the parting of the ways between Paul and Barnabas. Remember back in chapter 13 when John Mark left Paul and Barnabas to head back to Jerusalem? Paul was not happy about it. As I recall, he used the word deserted. Now Barnabas (the Encourager) wanted to give him a second chance and Paul was having none of it. Something you’ll notice about Paul as we continue thru the New Testament, is that he has laser focus and is totally driven. He can be enormously instructive and nurturing, but he can also be stubborn and unyielding. This was one of those times. But don’t worry…they make nice later.
Let’s pray. Father God, I love You. I love the way You have chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise and chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. I love that we can’t figure You out or what You’ll do next. And I love how all things work together for good for them who love You and are called according to Your purpose. Amen
Thank you for joining me here today. I pray God will grow in you what has been planted and watered here. In this time of unprecedented struggle worldwide, we can look to God for guidance and comfort. Be sensitive to those in your circle of influence who need a word of encouragement and invite them to join us. If you like this show, it would be great if you give it a five-star review. Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. See you right here tomorrow. Be well!
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible(r), Copyright (c) 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible(r) and CSB(r) are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
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