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Acts Chapter 15 

Memory verses for this week:   1 Th 5:24  Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.  

Introduction:     In Chapter 14, we saw Paul and Barnabas complete the work that they set out to do on their missionary journey.  At the end of the chapter, they returned to their home church and reported what God had accomplished in their efforts.  This week we see some men coming in from Judea and attempting to teach false doctrine concerning salvation.


I.  Men from Judea come to church in Antioch 

Acts 15:1  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. 

We see certain men coming down from Judea with the intention of teaching the church in Antioch that circumcision was necessary for salvation.  Anyone who adds to the pure gospel of salvation by grace is an enemy to the gospel that God has given to us.  These men wanted to add to the simplicity of the gospel of grace that Jesus provided when He died on the cross for our sins.  Jesus is the one who brings salvation, and no man has to help God to save us.  Jesus’ death on the cross provided the perfect gift of salvation to all who come and accept Him as their Lord and Savior.  These men claimed that one had to be circumcised after the manner of Moses. 

 Lev 12:3  And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.


II.  Paul, Barnabas, and others come to Jerusalem

Acts 15:2  When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.

Acts 15:3  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.

Acts 15:4  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.

 Paul and Barnabas took their stand on what they had preached at Antioch.  They had never preached that it was a requirement to keep the law of Moses in order to be saved.  What they explained was how that God had opened the door or salvation to all men (including the Gentiles), and that it was all by grace in the Lord Jesus Christ.  We see in verse 3 that the brethren had great joy in what the apostles had to say.     We see that they were readily accepted by the church and the apostles and elders of the church, and they declared unto them all the things God had done for them.


III.  The Question at Issue 

Acts 15:5  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.

Acts 15:6  And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. 

Some of the Pharisees which believed said it was needful to be circumcised and to keep the law of Moses.  This was the question that they were to discuss with all the apostles and elders. 

Acts 15:7  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.

Acts 15:8  And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;

Acts 15:9  And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

Acts 15:10  Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

Acts 15:11  But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.


Peter declares that this case has already been settled.   He brings to mind the circumstances and what God did at the house of Cornelius.  (Acts 11:1-18)  Peter tells them that if they would investigate the facts they would find that God had already settled this matter.  When you look at what God had done, there was no doubt that salvation was wholly of grace and that the law was impossible to keep in order to obtain salvation.   The law is our school master to bring us guilty before God concerning our sins.  If some law had been given that we could be saved, then Jesus would not have had to come and die for our sins.  Peter declares several truths in these verses. 

o       God knows the hearts of all men.    Jer 17:9  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jer 17:10  I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.


o       God bare them witness at the house of Cornelius.


o       God gave the Holy Ghost unto the Gentiles as He had the Jews.


o       He no longer put a difference between the Jews and the Gentiles.


o       All men are purified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.


o       Since neither their fathers (the Jews) were able to keep the law, why should they try to put this yoke of bondage upon the Gentiles.


o       All men, both in Old Testament times and New Testament times, were saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ by faith.


IV.  Paul and Barnabas Testify 

Acts 15:12  Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.

Acts 15:13  And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:

 The multitude listen as Paul and Barnabas told about the miracles that God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.  James backs up Peter’s statement concerning the Gentiles.


Acts 15:14  Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.

Acts 15:15  And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,

Acts 15:16  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:

Acts 15:17  That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.

Acts 15:18  Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. 

We know that James was the half brother of the Lord Jesus Christ, and he was the pastor of the church in Jerusalem.  He was one of the more influential men among the Hebrew Christians in all the world.   In J. Vernon McGee’s commentary on Acts, he states: “ James completely agrees with Peter.  They state the plan of God for today.  Is God saving the whole world?  No.  Is God bringing in His Kingdom?  No.  Then what is God doing today?  He is visiting the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.  We learn in Revelation that standing before the throne of God there will be those of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.  The Word of God is to go out into the world. There will be opposition to it and there will be apostasy, but the Word of God is to go out to all the world because God is calling out a people for His name.” 

James explains that what Simon Peter had said was backed up and confirmed by prophecy.  That prophecy stated that God would visit the Gentiles to take out a people for His name.   Verse 15, James declares that the prophets were all in agreement with this.  At the first of verse 16, James states “after this.”  After what you might ask… After the time of the Gentiles, God will return and build again the tabernacle of David.  He is going to reestablish the throne of David and Christ will come and reign on that throne.

Luke 21:24  And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. 

Luke 1:32  He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

Luke 1:33  And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

 God knew exactly what He was going to do from the very beginning of time.. even in eternity.

V.   Letters to be sent unto the Gentiles

Acts 15:19  Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:

Acts 15:20  But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.

Acts 15:21  For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

Acts 15:22  Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:


                  The council agrees that the issue concerning circumcision in regards to salvation had been settled, and that they would not burden the Gentiles with this old testament rule.  The send letters and representatives to Antioch to declare the decision on the matter.  Silas and Barsabas were chosen to testify the truth of the letters with Paul and Barnabas. 

 Acts 15:23  And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:

Acts 15:24  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:

Acts 15:25  It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,

Acts 15:26  Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Acts 15:27  We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.

Acts 15:28  For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;

Acts 15:29  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.

Acts 15:30  So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle:

Acts 15:31  Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.

Acts 15:32  And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.

Acts 15:33  And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles.

Acts 15:34  Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still.

Acts 15:35  Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. 

The apostles declare that they gave no such commandment as the brethren from Judea had claimed.   You notice that the church was in one accord concerning this issue.  The decision was reached by letting the Holy Spirit guide and direct them.   They were encouraged to abstain form meats offered to idols and from blood and things strangled.  They were to also avoid fornication.  When the epistles were received, the disciples rejoiced in the truth.  We see Judas returns to Jerusalem while Silas remained in Antioch.  Paul and Barnabas continued to teach and preach in Antioch.


VI.  Paul’s Second Missionary Journey 

Acts 15:36  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.

Acts 15:37  And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.

Acts 15:38  But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.

Acts 15:39  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;

Acts 15:40  And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.

Acts 15:41  And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches. 

You notice that it was Paul’s desire to return to the churches that they had established on their first missionary journey to see how they were doing.  When Paul refused to take Mark it caused contention between he and Barnabas.  We see that God worked this out by allowing both men to go, with Paul going with Silas and Barnabas going with John Mark.  They went throughout the land recommending the grace of God to the brethren.   This built up and confirmed the churches.  

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Prov 4:18  But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.


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