Acts 15

Acts 15:4

When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them.

The church in Jerusalem had been so severely persecuted that all the Christians fled, except the apostles (Acts 8:1). But like a well-pruned tree, the church grew and thrived again.

Acts 15:5

But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.”

The Law of Moses refers to the commandments, ordinances, punishments, and ceremonial observances given to the nation of Israel through Moses (Jos. 8:31, John 1:17, 7:19). This law is sometimes referred to as the law of commandments (Eph. 2:15) or the law of the Jews (Acts 25:8). See entry for The Law.

Acts 15:7

After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe.

(a) Hear the word of the gospel and believe. Faith comes from hearing the good news of Jesus Christ (see entry for Rom. 10:17).

(b) The gospel refers to the gospel of Christ or the gospel of God or the gospel of the kingdom. These are all different labels for the gospel of grace. See entry for The Gospel.

(c) Believe. Like Jesus before them, the apostles preached for a verdict (Mark 1:15). We are to believe the gospel. Believing the good news about Jesus is both the work of God and his command (John 6:29, 1 John 3:23).

Acts 15:9

and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.

Cleansing their hearts by faith. All of God’s blessings, including forgiveness, salvation, righteousness and sanctification, come to us freely by grace and are received by faith. Faith does not compel God to forgive us or sanctify us. But faith is the conduit through which grace flows. See entry for Eph. 2:8.

Acts 15:11

“But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.”

(a) Saved through the grace. We are not forgiven, saved, or made right on account of anything we have done (Rom. 11:6, 2 Tim: 1:9); we are saved because God loves us and out of the goodness he did what needed to be done to rescue us from our captivity to sin (Eph. 2:7). Salvation is entirely of God (Php. 1:28, Rev. 19:1). See entry for Salvation.

(b) In the same way, that is, by faith.

Acts 15:20

but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.

Abstain from things contaminated by idols. In idol-worshipping cultures, meat that had been offered to idols was often sold for public consumption (1 Cor. 10:25). This raised several issues for Christians, the first of which was, is it okay to eat this meat? To this question James said no.

Living in Jerusalem in a church full of ex-Jews, the consumption of idol meat was not a major issue. The Jews abhorred idols and had little to do with them. But in the Greek-speaking cities the situation was very different. When Paul travelled to Athens, he found a “city full of idols” (Acts 17:16). Gentile believers had to deal with a host of questions that the Jews never faced. For this reason Paul devoted at least four chapters to the subject of idol food (Rom. 14, 1 Cor. 8–10).

A Gentile convert had been exposed to idol worship his entire life. Could such a person continue to buy meat from the market if there was a chance that meat had been offered to idols? Paul said it depends (see entry for 1 Cor. 8:9).

Acts 15:29

that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.”

(a) Abstain from things sacrificed to idols; see entry for Acts 15:20.

Acts 15:35

But Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, teaching and preaching with many others also, the word of the Lord.

(a) Teaching. Biblical teaching is the ability to reveal Jesus the Living Word of God (Acts 4:2, 13:12, 15:35, 18:11, 28:31, Col. 3:16). Teaching also includes the ability to unpack the scriptures (Acts 2:42).

(b) Preaching. Announcing the good news. The original word for preaching (euaggelizo) is closely related to the word for gospel (euaggelion). This is one of three words that are commonly translated as “preaching” in the New Testament. See entry for Acts 5:42.

(c) The word of the Lord is synonymous with the word of God. The gospel of Jesus, in other words. See entry for Acts 12:24.

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