Daily Devotion Text

September 18, 2019

Acts 15 – 2019-09-18

By carmenhsu In Acts, Devotion Text with Comments Off on Acts 15 – 2019-09-18
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     v.1: Who were these “some men” who came down from Judea to Antioch?

     “Judaizers, some Jewish Christians, took the position that Gentiles must become Jewish first to be eligible for salvation. They believed this because they were devout, practicing Jews who found it difficult to set aside a tradition of gaining merit with God by keeping the law.  They thought grace was too easy for the Gentiles.  They were afraid of seeming too non-Jewish in the practice of their new faith – which could lead to death.  The demands on the Gentiles were a way of maintaining control and authority in the movement.”[1]

    v.4: “The debate over circumcision could have split the church, but Paul, Barnabas, and the Jews in Antioch made the right decision – they sought counsel from the church leaders and from God’s Word.  Our differences should be settled the same way, by seeking wise counsel and abiding by the decisions.” [2]

    vv.10-11: “Peter went right to the heart of the question. In this whole dispute the deepest of principles was involved. Can a man earn the favor of God? Or must he admit his own helplessness and be ready in humble faith to accept what the grace of God gives? In effect, the Jewish party said, ‘Religion means earning God’s favor by keeping the Law.’ Peter said, ‘Religion consists in casting ourselves on the grace of God.’ Here is implicit the difference between a religion of works and a religion of grace. Peace will never come to a man until he realizes that he can never put God in his debt; and that all he can do is take what God in his grace gives. The paradox of Christianity is that the way to victory is through surrender; and the way to power is through admitting one’s own helplessness.”[3]

    vv.16-18: “In arguing for the full inclusion of Gentiles into the church Peter appealed to direct guidance and intervention from God, and Barnabas and Paul appealed to God’s confirmation of their work through signs and wonders.  James appeals to Scripture, showing that ‘the words of the prophets are in agreement’ with what has happened. James quotes Amos 9:11-12 and sees its fulfillment in the Gentile mission […]

    v.20:Why did they include sexual immorality with dietary restrictions?  The Greek and Roman world was filled with pagan religions.  To help the Gentiles break with their past and to ease sensitive Jewish consciences, Gentiles were told to cut themselves off from anything related to pagan worship.  They were not to eat food offered to idols. Nor were they to participate in pagan religious festivals – often marked by sensual revelry and sexual immorality.  These prohibitions were not intended to cover the whole picture of morality.”[4]

    Why wasn’t faith alone enough? Why did the Gentiles have to follow four additional requirements?  The council had already settled the issue of salvation: it was by grace through faith alone (15:6-11).  The four additional requirements had nothing to do with how the Gentiles would be saved; it had everything to do with how they could live and worship with Jewish believers who were particularly offended by these four types of behavior.  These instructions were intended to maintain peace and unity in the church.”[5]

    v.22: The Church was wise in sending a person as well as a letter. One of the earliest Christian writers declared that he had learned more from the living and abiding voice than from any amount of reading. A letter could have sounded coldly official; but the words of Judas and Silas added a friendly warmth that the bare reception of a letter could never have achieved. Any amount of trouble might be avoided many a time if only a personal visit is paid instead of someone being content with sending a letter.”[6]

    “A representative from the Jewish believers and one from the Gentile believers were appointed as delegates to go with Paul and Barnabas to deliver the council’s decision … Judas was a Jew; Silas was a Greek.  Their presence together would give credence to the council’s ruling.”[7]

    vv.24-27: “In this letter, the Jerusalem church disassociated itself from those men who had troubled the Gentile converts regarding circumcision.  They had received no such instructions from the apostles and had been acting without their approval.  They were not to be regarded as spokesmen for the church.  Rather, the men bringing the letter (Paul, Barnabas, Judas, and Silas) had been chosen as representatives of the church, with authority to speak on behalf of the elders and apostles.” [8]

    vv.28-29: “The letter implies a clear leading of God in the decision rendered (it seemed good to the Holy Spirit). Two of the council’s requirements involved issues of morality (avoiding idolatry and sexual immorality), and two involved issues of food.  The dietary restrictions were because the early church often shared common meals (similar to modern day church potluck dinners).  Sometimes called “love feasts” and held in conjunction with the Lord’s Supper (see 1 Cor 11:17-34), these meals would bring Jews and Gentiles together.  In such settings, a Gentile might horrify the Jewish Christians by eating meat that was not kosher.  In this compromise agreement, legalistic Jews no longer insisted that the Gentiles had to be circumcised to be saved, and the Gentiles accepted a change in their eating habits.  These decisions should not be regarded as divine ordinances but rather as stipulations for fellowship between the two parties. Their concerns were not so much theological as practical.”  [9]

    v.39: “Why would spiritual leaders argue with each other?  “Paul and Barnabas quarreled partly because they held such passionate convictions about God’s will.  For Paul, nothing could eclipse the mission of preaching the gospel and building churches.  If John Mark, jeopardized that mission, he should minister elsewhere. For Barnabas, nicknamed the son of encouragement, the restoration of one sincere Christian worker justified the risk.  In a sense, both Paul and Barnabas were right.  Yet in another sense, both were wrong: although they were spiritually mature, Paul and Barnabas allowed anger to influence them.”[10]

    v.40: “The narrative of Paul’s second missionary journey, which occupied him for about three years, is given in the section of Acts which extends from Ac.15:36 to Ac.18:23. It began from Antioch. Paul first made a tour of the churches of Syria and Cilicia. Then he re-visited the churches in the regions of Derbe, Lystra, Iconium and Pisidian Antioch. There followed a period when he could not see his way clear before him. That time of uncertainty ended with the vision at Troas. From Troas, Paul crossed to Neapolis and thence to Philippi. From Philippi he moved on to Thessalonica and Beroea. From there he went to Athens and then on to Corinth where he spent about eighteen months. From Corinth he traveled to Jerusalem by way of Ephesus and finally back to Antioch, his starting point. The great step forward is that with this journey Paul’s activity passed beyond Asia Minor and entered Europe.” [11]

    [1] Life Application Study Bible (Wheaton, Il: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1991), p. 1985.

    [2] Life Application Study Bible (Wheaton, Il: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1991), p. 1987.

    [3] William Barclay, Acts, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1975), 114-115.

    [4] The Quest Study Bible, study notes (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) 1528.

    [5] The Quest Study Bible, study notes (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) 1528.

    [6] William Barclay, Acts, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), 117-118.

    [7] Bruce B. Barton, et al., Life Application New Testament Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 2001), 527.

    [8] Bruce B. Barton, et al., Life Application New Testament Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 2001), 527.

    [9] Bruce B. Barton, et al., Life Application New Testament Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 2001), 527.

    [10] The Quest Study Bible, study notes (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) 1528.

    [11] William Barclay, Acts, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:   Westminster Press, 1975), 120.

  • ACTS 15:1-35 (ESV)


    1 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. 3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them.5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”

    6 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter.7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

    12 And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.13 After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,

    16 “‘After this I will return,
    and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen;
    I will rebuild its ruins,
    and I will restore it,
    17 that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord,
    and all the Gentiles who are called by my name,
    says the Lord, who makes these things 18 known from of old.’

    19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. 21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

    22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers,23 with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings.24 Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, 25 it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

    30 So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31 And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. 32 And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words. 33 And after they had spent some time, they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them. 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

  • Reflection Questions
  • Acts 15:1-21

    The decision described in this passage—that Gentile believers would not be required to observe Old Testament rituals—had a tremendous impact on the spread of Christianity while maintaining the apostolic unity of the Christian movement. Consider the fact that a decision was arrived at “after there had been much debate” (15:7). One commentator notes: This important theological issue in the early history of the church was not decided by a sudden decree spoken by a prophet but by careful reasoning and thoughtful argumentation based on Scripture. [1] 

    • What can I learn from this passage about the process of arriving at truth or of making important decisions? How does this compare to my response to dissensions or disagreements?

    Acts 15:7-11

    • Identify and reflect on the words of Peter that capture the essence of the gospel.

    Acts 15:22-35

    The letter was accompanied by representatives of the Jerusalem church who could testify to the reasoning that the consensus expressed.  James agreed with Peter that they should not trouble the Gentiles with the ritual laws. But he knew that Gentile Christians would have contact with Jewish Christians who still kept the ceremonial provisions, including laws about sacrifices, festivals, unclean foods, and circumcision. He offered a proposal by which Gentile Christians could have fellowship with Jewish Christians and avoid giving unnecessary offense. [2]

    • Consider the wisdom and sensitivity demonstrated by the apostles and elders in this passage. What can I learn from this?
    • What was the response of the Antioch church to the decision made by the apostles? What does this reveal about the authority of the apostles in the early church?

    [1] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2115). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

    [2] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2115). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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