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  • JAMIESON-FAUSSET-BROWN - ACTS 15
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    CHAPTER 15

    Ac 15:1-35. COUNCIL AT JERUSALEM TO DECIDE ON THE NECESSITY OF CIRCUMCISION FOR THE GENTILE CONVERTS.

    1, 2. certain men--See the description of them in Ga 2:4.

    2. Paul and Barnabas--now the recognized heads of the Church at Antioch.
    - had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined--that is, the church did.
    - that Paul and Barnabas, and certain others of them--Titus was one (Ga 2:1); probably as an uncircumcised Gentile convert endowed with the gifts of the Spirit. He is not mentioned in the Acts, but only in Second Corinthians, Galatians, Second Timothy, and the Epistle addressed to him [ALFORD].
    - should go up to Jerusalem . . . about this question--That such a deputation should be formally despatched by the Church of Antioch was natural, as it might be called the mother church of Gentile Christianity.

    3-6. being brought on their way by the church--a kind of official escort.
    - they passed through Phenice--(See on Ac 11:19).
    - and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles, and they caused great joy to the brethren--As the converts in those parts were Jewish (Ac 11:19), their spirit contrasts favorably with that of others of their nation.

    4. And when they were come to Jerusalem--This was Paul's THIRD VISIT TO JERUSALEM after his conversion, and on this occasion took place what is related in Ga 2:1-10. (See there).
    - were received of the church, and the apostles and elders--evidently at a meeting formally convened for this purpose: the deputation being one so influential, and from a church of such note.
    - they declared all things that God had done with them--(See on Ac 14:14-27).

    6. the apostles and elders came together to consider of this--but in presence, as would seem, of the people (Ac 15:12, 22, 23).

    7. Peter, &c.--This is the last mention of him in the Acts, and one worthy of his standing, as formally pronouncing, from the divine decision of the matter already in his own case, in favor of the views which all of Paul's labors were devoted to establishing.
    - a good while ago--probably about fifteen years before this.
    - made choice . . . that the Gentiles by my mouth--(See on Ac 11:21).

    8. God, which knoweth the hearts--implying that the real question for admission to full standing in the visible Church is the state of the heart. Hence, though that cannot be known by men, no principle of admission to church privileges which reverses this can be sound.

    9. put no difference between us and them: purifying their hearts by faith--"Purification" here refers to "sprinkling (of the conscience by the blood of Jesus) from dead works to serve the living God." (See on 1Co 6:11). How rich is this brief description of the inward revolution wrought upon the genuine disciples of the Lord Jesus!

    10. why tempt--"try," "provoke"
    - ye God--by standing in the way of His declared purpose.
    - to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, &c.--He that was circumcised became thereby bound to keep the whole law. (See Ga 5:1-6). It was not then the mere yoke of burdensome ceremonies, but of an obligation which the more earnest and spiritual men became, the more impossible they felt it to fulfil. (See Ro 3:5; Ga 2:4, &c.).

    11. through the grace of the Lord Jesus--that is, by that only.
    - we shall be saved, even as they--circumcision in our case being no advantage, and in their case uncircumcision no loss; but grace doing all for both, and the same for each.

    12. Then all . . . gave audience to Barnabas and Paul--On this order of the names here, see on Ac 15:25.
    - declaring what miracles and signs God wrought among the Gentiles by them--This detail of facts, immediately following up those which Peter had recalled to mind, would lead all who waited only for divine teaching to see that God had Himself pronounced the Gentile converts to be disciples in as full standing as the Jews, without circumcision; and the attesting miracles to which Paul here refers would tend, in such an assembly to silence opposition.

    13. James answered, saying, &c.--Whoever this James was (see on Ga 1:19), he was the acknowledged head of the church at Jerusalem, and here, as president of the assembly, speaks last, winding up the debate. His decision, though given as his own judgment only, could not be of great weight with the opposing party, from his conservative reverence for all Jewish usages within the circle of Israelitish Christianity.

    14-17. Simeon--a Hebrew variation of Simon, as in 2Pe 1:1; (Greek), the Jewish and family name of Peter.
    - hath declared how God at the first--answering to Peter's own expression "a good while ago" (Ac 15:7).
    - did visit the Gentiles to take out of them--in the exercise of His adorable sovereignty.
    - a people for his name--the honor of his name, or for His glory.

    15. to this agree the words of the prophets--generally; but those of Amos (Am 9:11) are specified (nearly as in the Septuagint version). The point of the passage lies in the predicted purpose of God, under the new economy, that "the heathen" or "Gentiles" should be "called by His name," or have "His name called upon them." By the "building again of the fallen tabernacle of David," or restoring its decayed splendor, is meant that only and glorious recovery which it was to experience under David's "son and Lord."

    18, 19. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning--He who announced these things so long before, and He who had now brought them to pass, were one and the same; so that they were no novelty.

    19. Wherefore, my sentence--or "judgment."
    - is, that we trouble not--with Jewish obligations.
    - them which from among the Gentiles are turned to God--rather, "are turning." The work is regarded as in progress, and indeed was rapidly advancing.

    20. But . . . that they abstain from pollutions of idols--that is, things polluted by having been offered in sacrifice to idols. The heathen were accustomed to give away or sell portions of such animals. From such food James would enjoin the Gentile converts to abstain, lest it should seem to the Jews that they were not entirely weaned from idolatry.
    - and from fornication--The characteristic sin of heathendom, unblushingly practiced by all ranks and classes, and the indulgence of which on the part of the Gentile converts would to Jews, whose Scriptures branded it as an abomination of the heathen, proclaim them to be yet joined to their old idols.
    - and from things strangled--which had the blood in them.
    - and from blood--in every form, as peremptorily forbidden to the Jews, and the eating of which, therefore, on the part of the Gentile converts, would shock their prejudices. See on Ac 15:28.

    21. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him . . . every sabbath day--thus keeping alive in every Jew those feelings which such practices would shock, and which, therefore, the Gentile converts must carefully respect if the oneness of both classes in Christ was to be practically preserved. The wisdom of these suggestions commended itself to all present.

    22, 23. Judas surnamed Barsabas--therefore not the apostle "Judas the brother of James" (Ac 1:13), surnamed "Thaddeus" (Mt 10:3); nor can it be shown that he was a brother of "Joseph called Barsabas" (Ac 1:23). But nothing is known of him beyond what is here said.
    - and Silas--the same as "Silvanus" in the Epistles. He became Paul's companion on his second missionary journey (Ac 15:40).
    - chief men among the brethren--selected purposely as such, to express the honor in which they held the church at Antioch, and the deputies they had sent to the council, and, as the matter affected all Gentile converts, to give weight to the written decision of this important assembly. They were "prophets," Ac 15:32 (and see on Ac 11:27), and as such doubtless their eminence in the church at Jerusalem had been obtained.

    23. And they wrote . . . by them--This is the first mention in the New Testament history of writing as an element in its development. And the combination here of written and oral transmission of an important decision reminds us of the first occasion of writing mentioned in the Old Testament, where a similar combination occurs (Ex 17:14). But whereas there it is the deep difference between Israel and the Gentiles which is proclaimed, here it is the obliteration of that difference through faith in the Lord Jesus [BAUMGARTEN].
    - greeting--The only other place in the New Testament where this word occurs (except in the letter of Lysias, Ac 23:26) is Jas 1:1, which seems to show that both letters were drawn up by the same hand [BENGEL].
    - the Gentiles in Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia--showing that churches then existed in Cilicia as well as Syria, which owed their existence, in all likelihood, to Paul's labors during the interval between his return to Tarsus (Ac 9:30) and his departure in company with Barnabas for Antioch (see on Ac 11:25).

    24-27. Forasmuch as we have heard that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words--without authority or even knowledge of the church at Jerusalem, though they belonged to it, and probably pretended to represent its views.
    - subverting your souls--Such strong language is evidently designed to express indignation at this attempt, by an unauthorized party, to bring the whole Christian Church under judicial and legal bondage.

    25. our beloved Barnabas and Paul--Barnabas is put first here, and in Ac 15:12, on account of his former superior position in the church at Jerusalem (see Ac 9:27; 11:22) --an evidence this that we have the document precisely as written, as also of the credibility of this precious history.

    26. Men that have hazarded--literally, "rendered up," as in will they did.
    - their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ--Noble testimony to those beloved men! It was doubtless prompted more immediately by the narrative they had just listened to from their own lips (Ac 15:12), and judiciously inserted in this letter, to give them the highest weight as the bearers of it, along with their own deputies.
    - Judas and Silas . . . shall tell you the same . . . by mouth--Mark here how considerate and tender it was to send men who would be able to say of Barnabas and Paul what could not be expected to come from themselves.

    28, 29. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us, &c.--The One, inwardly guiding to and setting His seal on the decision come to: the other, the external ecclesiastical authority devoutly embracing, expressing, and conveying to the churches that decision:--a great principle this for the Church in all time.
    - to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things . . . from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well--The whole language of these prohibitions, and of Ac 15:20, 21, implies that they were designed as concessions to Jewish feelings on the part of the Gentile converts, and not as things which were all of unchanging obligation. The only cause for hesitation arises from "fornication" being mixed up with the other three things; which has led many to regard the whole as permanently prohibited. But the remarks on Ac 15:20 may clear this (see on Ac 15:20). The then state of heathen society in respect of all the four things seems the reason for so mixing them up.

    31-33. they rejoiced for the consolation--As the same word is in Ac 15:31 properly rendered "exhorted," the meaning probably is "rejoiced for the exhortation" (Margin), or advice; so wise in itself and so contrary to the imposition attempted to be practiced upon them by the Judaizers.

    32. Judas and Silas, being prophets themselves--that is, inspired teachers.
    - exhorted the brethren with many words--"much discourse."
    - and confirmed them--opening up, no doubt, the great principle involved in the controversy now settled, of gratuitous salvation, or the purification of the heart by faith alone (as expressed by Peter, Ac 15:9, 11), and dwelling on the necessity of harmony in principle and affection between the Gentile disciples and their Jewish brethren.

    33. were let go in peace--with peace, as the customary parting salutation.

    34, 35. it pleased Silas--Silas determined.
    - to abide there still--(The authorities against the insertion of this verse are strong. It may have been afterwards added to explain Ac 15:40). Doubtless the attraction to Antioch for Silas was Paul's presenc

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