Acts 15
15.1 in all the Bible there are just a few real watershed moments. Acts 15 is one of those moments. The single most important change in the new church occurs at this council. The division among leaders is intense and they need a solution. The meeting is confrontational. Circumcision was the leading or principal rite of the Jewish religion. It was indispensable to the name and privileges of a Jew. Proselytes to their religion were circumcised as well as native-born Jews, and they held it to be indispensable to salvation. It is evident from this that Paul and Barnabas had dispensed with this rite in regard to the Gentile converts, and that they intended to found the Christian church on the principle that the Jewish ceremonies were to cease.
15.2-11 dissension here is the Greek word stasis, and denotes intestine war. We would use a modern term “gut wrenching”. Important principles were to be settled in regard to the organization of the church. Much was at stake in the decision of this gathering of the Church. If the Jewish party triumphed, Christianity sank to the level of a Jewish sect. The proponents of following Moses raised the question of circumcision. They contended that the way from paganism to Christ must be through Moses. They especially insisted that Gentiles must become Jews by submitting to the initial rite of circumcision. This oppositional teaching followed Paul throughout his life, and produced many of the noble arguments and appeals of his epistles. We can easily understand the vehemence with which he protested. Finally it was determined to submit the question to the judgment of the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem. The journey to Jerusalem was a triumphal progress. The story of the Gentile conversions that God had produced with the labors of the two missionaries, not only filled all hearts with joy, but was the conclusive answer to the Judaizing teachers who were the cause of all the trouble. The question as to the conditions on which Gentiles could be received into Christian communion had already been raised by the case of Cornelius, but it became more acute after Paul’s missionary journey. The struggle between the narrower and broader views was bound to come to a head. The first address at the meeting was by Peter, who quoted his own experience at the household of Cornelius. He contended that God accepted the Gentiles (without circumcision), the same as He accepted the Jews (with circumcision). This is the last time we hear of Simone Peter in Acts.
15.12 next came the reports from Paul and Barnabas about the many conversions of gentiles.
15.13-21 James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, spoke next. James had a prominent position in the Jerusalem church, because he was the Lord’s brother and a man of remarkable holiness and prayerfulness. He laid emphasis on the divine program, which moved forward from Jew to Gentile, from the rebuilding of the ruined Tabernacle of David to the seeking of the Lord by the residue of men. The implication was that though God dwelt in a special manner with the Jewish people, yet the Gentiles would come seeking Him directly and without becoming incorporated with the Jews.
15.22-35 the letter: What letter in the history of the world is signally as important as this letter? This one hand written document affects the future of planet earth and all of eternity! By this one decree untold millions will be freed from the bond of Jewish religion. The multitudes of Asia, Acacia, Macedonia and Galatia, are seen as equals in Christ Jesus. What a monumental moment! The wall that had been between the Jew and the gentile was finally broken down. It was solved in the Holy Ghost. The manifold rejoicing that must have swept through the gentile converts. That letter still affects us to this day. We have never been the same, and are forever changed. Upon the return to Antioch, the epistle is read. There was great rejoicing, spiritual harmony, and peace in the church.
15.36-41 The Bible does not hide our moments of human element. Paul and Barnabas had just witnessed the greatest decision made in the New Testament. They had witnessed first hand the healing hand of the Holy Ghost direct the church for worldwide evangelism. The next verse, these two men could not resolve a simple disagreement of who should accompany them on the visit to the churches they had established. The disagreement became so intense, they parted ways. Barnabas goes home (Cyprus), and fades from Bible history forever. Paul embarks on missionary journey number two and continues to change the known world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The power of a heated decision proves it can change your future forever. And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren.