ACTS - CHAPTER 15 - THE GLORIOUS GOSPEL
ACTS - CHAPTER 15 – THE GLORIOUS GOSPEL
Tuesday Morning Bible Study
May 17, 2022
Pastor Carolyn Sissom
I have my teaching notes from May, 2000, on Chapter 15. Surely, it has not been 22-years since I taught this chapter. I wrote out a prayer as part of my notes. That prayer still stands before God:
“O’ Lord God, this chapter is so rich in the establishing of the Church with the glorious gospel of the Kingdom of God through your dispensation of Grace. Help me Holy Spirit to teach it as one who ministers by the Holy Spirit and by the hearing of faith. Help my inadequacy.”
I can say 22-years later that I am no more capable of teaching this glorious gospel now without the ministry of the Holy Spirit than I was then. “We are utterly dependent upon the Holy Spirit for anything we receive from God, by way of knowing and understanding truth” (Warnock).
Gal. 3:5: Therefore, He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Acts 15:1-2: Certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with then, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.
Paul and Barnabas are in Antioch, the headquarters for the Gentile church. Paul stood flat-footed in the face of this red-hot issue. We hear Paul’s passion as he attacks the false teachings of the Judaizers in his letter to the Galatians.
Gal. 1:6-7: I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.
Here we see one of Satan’s strategies: to exhaust ministers’ energy defending their work resulting in giving up. There are only three ways any minister can ever stop preaching (1) The Lord Jesus releases them; (2) The minister gives up on themself; (3) We cross over to our heavenly home.
The dissension is so strong that a Jew/Gentile split seemed imminent. Even though Luke does not say that Peter was in Antioch when the Judaizers arrived, Paul writes in Galatians 2:11 that he was there.
Gal. 2:11-13: When Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. When I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?
So, a council of Churches was called in Jerusalem. James, the brother of Jesus is head of the council in Jerusalem. He was martyred in 62 A.D.
15: 3-5: So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren. When they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them. But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”
The Law of Moses and the New Covenant/New Creation/Kingdom of God collide. These Pharisees who have been converted accepted salvation by adding Jesus as their Messiah to the Jewish traditions and laws. A new party formed inside Judaism. Paul and Barnabas were teaching the Gentiles that salvation is faith plus nothing. That Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament laws, feasts, sacrifices, temple and priesthood.
To Peter’s credit, he stood up and faced down the Pharisees establishing the Christian doctrine once and for all that Gentiles do not have to become Jews to be saved, that salvation is belief in the Lord Jesus Christ plus nothing.
15: 6-11: Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. When there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So, God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”
Peter stands strong, not as a pacifist, but in the truth of the Living God. He reminds them of the Cornelius visitation. He makes it clear that God has already made known his will in the matter.
He establishes three truths:
1. Salvation to the Gentiles at Cornelius house was God’s idea.
2. God bore witness to their salvation by giving them the Holy Spirit.
3. After God cleansed their hearts by faith, there could be no difference between Jewish and Gentile Christians.
Upon hearing Peter’s words, the crowd became silent. Paul and Barnabas are invited to speak. They declare what miracles and wonders God has done among the Gentiles.
Romans 2: 28-29: He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
Further argument would clearly be against the revealed will of God. Peter wisely saw the opening of the door to the Gentiles as a sign-post indicating a new move (phase three) on the Lord’s part. When the Lord moves, we best move with Him or we will miss Him. God has a plan and a time-table. It is known to him from the beginning of the ages. Those who hear His voice know when the cloud moves, we move with Him.
Galatians 2: 16-21: A man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, for by the works of the law, no flesh shall be justified. If, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners. Is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! If I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law, died to the law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.
Acts 15:13-17: After they had become silent, James answered saying, “men and brethren, listen to me: Simon has declared how God at the First visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. With this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: ‘After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David; which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up; so that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the LORD who does all these things.’
We are among those Gentiles spoken of by James to receive the blessedness of the communion of the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. James brought forth an argument from the scriptures that would settle the whole issue. James told the Council that they ought not try to make Jews out of Gentiles according to the old law, because God promised in the scriptures that the Tabernacle of David would be rebuilt and in that new order God would receive the Gentiles as His very own and place His Name upon them….James was clearly saying that God was now rebuilding the Tabernacle of David, as Amos had prophesied…”the residue of men (or the rest of mankind)” were in God’s plan from the beginning, and were now to be received as brethren in this hour of the rebuilding of the Tabernacle of David.”(David Warnock – From Tent to Temple)
The restoration of the Tabernacle of David is the principle of the restoration of the Church in the areas of worship and ministry (principle of divine order).
The Tabernacle of David comes between the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon. It remained approximately 40 years. It was given by revelation to David and was a single tent with a single piece of furniture, the Ark of the Covenant (Presence of the Lord).
The Tabernacle of David was the transplanting of the Most Holy Place. The Ark was not brought back to the Tabernacle of Moses on Mount Gibeon, but to the Tent that had been prepared on Mount Zion, the mountain of worship and sacrifice. Mount Zion is the habitation of the Lord’s presence in a people.
Simply stated the Tabernacle of David is a people for God’s NAME. The purpose of restoring and building again this people is that the remnant of Edom (the residue of men) might seek the Lord, and the heathen (Gentiles) might have the NAME of the Lord.
James continues to make a judgment and declaration of the revealed will of God from eternity. The Apostles have heard from the Holy Spirit.
Acts 15: 18-21: “Known to God from eternity are all His works. Therefore, I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”
“The plan of Redemption preceded the creation of man, and the fall of man. God had an “eternal purpose” even before the foundation of the world” (Warnock).
2 Co. 3:6-9: God made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. If the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away. How will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? If the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory.
James come into agreement with Peter, Paul and Barnabas. This is a strong chord of agreement. The apostles and elders agree with the words of the prophets in the Old Testament, thus coming into agreement with God’s eternal plan for salvation.
Acts 15: 22: Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren.
Judas, Barsabas, also known as Justus is one of the two candidates qualified to be chosen for the office of apostle after Judas Iscariot lost his apostleship when he betrayed Jesus and committed suicide. After the cast of lots, he was not chosen. The lot favored Matthias. Wherefore of these men who have companied with us, all the time that the Lord Jesus came in and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day wherein he was taken from us…they appointed two, Joseph, call Barsabas and surnamed Justus. (Acts 1: 21-26).
Silas is assumed to be the same as the Silvanus mentioned in four epistles. Paul, Silas and Timothy are listed as co-authors of the two letters to the Thessalonians. The Second Epistle to the Corinthians mentions Silas as having preached with Paul and Timothy to the church in Corinth. The first Epistle of Peter describes Silas as a faithful brother. He is recognized here as a prophet.
Acts 15:23-29: They wrote this letter by them: The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, to the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings, since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “you must be circumcised and keep the law” ---to whom we gave no such commandment. It seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have, therefore, sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.
Today, this letter stands as a Christian Bill of Rights speaking against all legalists who would put modern believers back unto the Law. A split was averted. The letter is simple, and makes only four stipulations. They were to abstain from:
3. The eating of strangled flesh
4. The eating of blood in any form.
This does not, however, mean that grace will remit sins without repentance and faith; or keep one automatically justified without walking and living in the Spirit. Faith will produce works. Salvation will produce righteousness. The fruit of the Spirit will produce godliness. Our love for Jesus, of God the father and the Holy Spirit will produce lives that reveal respect and honor for His character, name and commandments.
The entire Law was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Acts 15: 30-35: So, when they were sent off, they came to Antioch, and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter. When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement. Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets, also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words. After they had stayed there for a time, they were sent back with greetings from the brethren to the apostles. However, it seemed good to Silas to remain there. Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
The Holy Spirit sets men free from the yoke of bondage.
2 Co. 3:17: Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
Gal. 5:1: Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
Gal. 5:13: For you, brethren, have been called to liberty, only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
As Paul and Barnabas plan their second missionary journey, Satan moved to attack. Christians must always be on their guard after they have experienced a great victory in Christ. Two great friends separated. I have seen this happen so many times. The disagreement was over John Mark. Who was right? Both me were losers. Barnabas had a pastor’s heart. Paul charged with the spiritual oversight of the mission knew of John Mark’s past failure to complete the mission. As in all of God’s dealings, he used for good their failures. There were now two missionary teams. Barnabas and John Mark with to their native cypress. Paul returned to his native Cilicia.
15:36-41: After some days, Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Paul is God’s chosen man to lead the Gentile phase of God’s plan to establish His Son’s kingdom. Paul’s ministry marches on.
Barnabas now disappears from the Book of Acts. He is recognized as an apostle in Acts 14:14. Christian tradition says he went on to a successful ministry in Cyprus and possibly Egypt. He died as a martyr for Christ. It is probable that John Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark.
Paul chooses a new traveling companion, Silas. He was a Jewish Christian; a Roman citizen and he spoke Greek. Paul chose Silas and they were recommended unto the Grace of God.
What a blessing! Lord Jesus Christ recommend me, my family and church family unto the Grace of God.
After teaching Chapter 15 in May 2000, the Lord gave me a dream on May 6, 2000, about the Church-in-the-Law.
If time permits, I will share it in the bible study.
Carolyn Sissom, Pastor
Eastgate Ministries Church
Scripture from N.K.J.V. – I used my bible study notes from 2000, I forgot my sources, but think it was C. S. Lovett’s Lights on Acts, F. F. Bruce Bible Commentary. Comments and conclusions are my own and have been revised from my original notes.