Notes for my weekly Bible Study group.
- In Acts 15, the authority of sharing the gospel comes into question when Gentiles were converted to follow Jesus.
- A group of men from Judea (known as Judaizers) were teaching that circumcision was required to be saved. They also wanted Christianity to become a sect of Judaism (they wanted Gentile believers to become Jewish proselytes). Paul and Barnabas are called to meet with other Christian leaders in Jerusalem to discuss making circumcision a requirement for faith in Jesus. This would be like trying to re-stitch the veil in the temple after it had been torn in two. Jesus removed the barriers but the Judaizers wanted to put them back up.
- A group of Christian leaders (the Jerusalem Council) are identified to decide if circumcision should be required and if Jewish laws should be applied to Christians. The issues are debated until Peter reminds everyone that God called him to deliver the gospel to the Gentiles. God gave Gentlie believers the Holy Spirit. Peter explains how God makes no distinction between Jews and Gentiles and questions why they were trying to put an extra yoke on the Gentile believers.
- James (Jesus’ half brother) suggests that circumcision shouldn’t be required and proposes variables that they should abstain “from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from eating anything that has been strangled, and from blood.” The Jerusalem Council agrees with James’ proposals.
- The decision unites the church, preventing it from being split by disagreements.
- The decision creates a united approach to how the church could witness to the lost.
- The sharing of the decision blesses the churches and the believers who receive it.
- The decisions are shared in a letter to Antioch, and the believers there rejoice because of its encouragement.
- Messengers take the decision back to the brothers in Jerusalem, while Paul and Barnabas, among others, remain in Antioch to continue preaching the message of Christ.
- Paul and Barnabas plan to return to the places they had previously preached to check on how the new converts are doing. Barnabas wants John Mark to accompany them, but Paul objects because John Mark had left them one time before. This causes such a disagreement between Barnabas and Paul that they part company. Barnabas takes John Mark to Cyprus while Paul takes Silas to Syria and Cilicia.