Acts Chapter Fifteen (NIV)
Acts Chapter Fifteen (NASB)
Verses 1-21: The Council in Jerusalem.
Verses 22-35: The Council sends a letter.
Verses 36-41: Paul and Barnabas separate.
II. KEY PASSAGES
Acts 15:1--"Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, 'Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.'" The Jews were given the Law first, then the Gospel. Many of them therefore assumed that all believers should follow the same pattern--submit to the Law, then believe the Gospel. As Peter points out (vv. 8-9), the Holy Spirit had already come upon Gentiles, without their submitting to Jewish Law.
Acts 15:19-20--"Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 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." The decision from James shows his wisdom. Gentiles did not need to submit to the Jewish Law. However, many Jewish believers still adhered to Jewish dietary practices, etc. James orders the Gentile Christians to submit to some of the dietary restrictions so that there could be fellowship among the Jewish and Gentile believers. The additional command, to abstain from sexual immorality, was likely given because many of the Gentile believers would have been brought up in an atmosphere where sexual immorality was quite common. Thus, James places special emphasis on sexual purity.
Acts 15:39-40--"And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord." Throughout Acts, problems arise. Yet we see how those problems always turn out for the furtherance of the Gospel. Here, Paul and Barnabas part ways. But the result is two separate missionary teams.