Acts 15:22-41

Sunday Morning Bible Study

April 19, 1998


A controversy had sprung up in the church as more and more Gentiles were getting saved. There were a group of Jews who felt that the only way for a Gentile to be saved was if they were circumcised and became a Jew.

In response to this problem, the church in Jerusalem got together and after much discussion, agreed that salvation comes only by believing in Jesus, and that we are saved by grace, and not by the keeping of the Law.

:22-29 Letter written to Antioch

:22 Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men

The church wants to make sure that there’s no room for someone to question what has happened.

If the church just sent back Barnabas and Paul, then people could have accused them of not telling the whole story, or even worse, of making things up.


Clear Communication.

Don’t leave room for misunderstanding.

Take the extra step to make sure everything is communicated correctly and clearly understood.

Sometimes you get that little feeling inside that says, "It’s not that important that you make that extra phone call." Oh yes it is.

:24 troubled you with words, subverting your souls

troubledtarasso – to agitate, trouble, to render anxious or distressed

There are times when we need to be stirred up or "troubled" by a few "John the Baptist" types. But sometimes a person is no more than a self-appointed prophet, and all they do is cause trouble to people’s souls.

subvertinganaskeuazo – to pack up baggage in order to carry it away to another place; dismantling, plundering, ravage. It’s a picture of what your house would look like after someone broke in and ransacked it, except this is what’s done to your soul.

we gave no such commandment – James wants it to be clear that these Judaizers were not sent by the church in Jerusalem to circumcise the Gentiles. They were acting on their own, out of their own zeal.


Get support before taking action.

Don’t always be a "Lone Ranger".

I think it’s a good rule of thumb to make sure you’re not just a guy out on some lone crusade because you’ve got some kind of axe to grind.

Ask for counsel, wait for advice, wait for support.

Sometimes you have to indeed be the "lone voice crying in the wilderness", but be careful that you’re doing what God wants you to do, and that it’s not just some kind of a pride thing, or that you aren’t a person who can’t take advice from others.

:25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you

It seemed good – same word in verse 22 translated "then pleased it ..." (dokeo)

one accordhomothumadon – with one mind, with one accord, with one passion, we might say they were "unanimous" in their decision.

Even though there was "much disputing" at the beginning of the discussion (15:7), by the time they had talked it out, there was harmony and agreement.


There’s great power in unity.

It’s the same word used to describe the atmosphere when the Holy Spirit first descended on the early church.

(Acts 1:14 KJV) These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

(Acts 2:1-4 KJV) And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. {2} And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. {3} And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. {4} And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The spiritual principle here is that when we come together in unity, the power of the Holy Spirit is poured out even greater.

(Psa 133:1-2 KJV) A Song of degrees of David. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! {2} It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;

Unity brings anointing. Anointing is the Holy Spirit.

I have great hopes for the upcoming National Day of Prayer, when we are going to join with some of the other churches in Fullerton, to pray and worship together, Thursday, May 7, at E.V. Free Fullerton. Already the pastors are growing together in love. I can hardly wait to see what God is going to do in Fullerton!

:26 Men that have hazarded their lives

Paul and Barnabas had risked their lives to bring the gospel to the unsaved.

:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us

it seemed gooddokeo – the word dokeo ("it seemed good", "it pleased") is only used nine times in the entire book of Acts, and 1/3 of those times are right here in verses 22,25,28. I think Luke is trying to make a point here and show us a kind of theme running through these verses.

You see it building through the verses – in verse 22 seeming good to the apostles, elders and church; in verse 25 it seems good to "us" as we are in "one accord", and here he adds that it seems good to the Holy Ghost and us.

Even though the Church Council started off with a lot of disagreement and arguing, they kept talking it out until they came to a point of the greatest unity.


Work at the unity of the Spirit.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians –

(Eph 4:1-3 NASB) I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, {2} with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, {3} being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The church in Jerusalem has the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, but it’s something that takes work to preserve.

It comes with humility, gentleness, and patience. When we have pride that we’re the ones that are right, or when we’re rough with each other, or when we don’t take the time to be patient with each other, then there’s explosions.

:29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols

meats offered to idols – the cheapest meat could always be bought at the back of the pagan temples, after having been sacrificed to the pagan gods. Kind of like an "Aphrodite Alpha Beta".

As we mentioned a few weeks ago, the reason the Gentiles were encouraged to abstain from this kind of meat was for the sake of the Jewish people among them (15:21).

As these new churches were starting around the world, they were composed of Jews getting saved out of the synagogues, and Gentiles getting saved out of the pagan temples. And a BIG part of early Christian fellowship involved eating meals together.

As Paul would write to the Corinthians in 1Cor. 8; the truth is, there are no such things as "gods", and an idol is just a lump of wood or metal. There is no big deal to eating meat sacrificed to idols.

But if after having this knowledge, you flaunt it and cause a person who struggles with the subject of idols to stumble, then your knowledge has only puffed you up. Instead, you ought to operate in love, which is more concerned for the conscience of the other person rather than your own liberty.


I remember once years ago during a band practice that some of the guys started jamming and playing some very old secular rock and roll songs. They were pretty harmless songs. Something like that unintelligible song, "Louie, Louie".

But there was a married couple in the group which was very offended, because they had been into rock and roll as a profession, along with drugs and the rest of it. And those songs brought back some pretty bad memories for them.

A "knowledgeable" person might respond, "Hey, they’re just harmless little songs!" But a "loving" person would simply stop playing them.

For the sake of the Jewish people, for love’s sake, the Gentiles were encouraged to abstain from eating meat sacrificed to idols.

:29 and from blood, and from things strangled

These too were for the sake of the Jews, who were forbidden to eat meat that still had the blood in it. (Lev. 17:10-11)

:29 and from fornication

fornicationporneia – any kind of sex outside the bounds of marriage.

The first century world was not too much unlike our modern society.

(1 Th 4:3 KJV) For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:

:30-35 Letter delivered to Antioch

:31 they rejoiced for the consolation

consolationparaklesis – exhortation, admonition, encouragement, comfort

:32 being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren

exhortedparakaleo – to admonish, exhort; to console, to encourage

Sometimes we get the feeling that a "prophet" only tells us of gloom and doom. But there ought to be encouragement and strengthening in it as well!

(1 Cor 14:3 KJV) But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.

:36-41 The Split & 2nd Missionary Journey

:36 Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached

let us go againepistrepho – to turn to; to return, come back

Wiersbe – "For the Apostle Paul, the church at Antioch was not a parking lot: it was a launching pad."

visitepiskeptomai – to look upon, to inspect, examine with the eyes

This is what Paul intends to do, just visit the churches that have already been started and strengthen them. But it’s going to go far beyond that.


Often God’s leading starts with our own desires.

He’ll plant an idea into our heads to get us moving in the right direction.

It’s after we get moving that He’ll often redirect us to where He really wants us to go.

We’ll see this a little more when we get into chapter 16 when we see how God will get Paul and Silas out into Galatia, and once they’re in Galatia, He’ll turn them towards Macedonia.


The way the old ship captains used to navigate the Norwegian fiords at night was by sailing towards the lights. Once they entered into a fiord, they would head towards a certain light that was stationed to direct the ships. Then they got to a point where they came around a corner, and could see the next light, and they’d turn the ship and head toward the next light. You can’t get through the fiords in a straight line, you have to keep changing course as you see the next light.

Sometimes in our lives we might head out in a certain direction, only to find that God was just trying to get us to the point where we’d turn the corner and see where He was really leading us.

:37 And Barnabas determined to take with them … Mark

Mark was some kind of relative to Barnabas, either a nephew or a cousin (Col. 4:10)

On the last missionary journey, Mark had been with Barnabas and Paul, and had gone with them through the island of Cyprus, but when they hit the coast of Pamphylia, Mark split for some reason and headed for home to Jerusalem. Apparently he’s made his way back up north to Antioch, and has hooked up again with Barnabas.

determinedbouleuo – to deliberate with one's self, consider; to take counsel, resolve

This is not a weak word like thelo (to wish, desire). Barnabas seems to have some resolve, some determination in this, and apparently expressed it rather strongly.

:38 But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them

thought (not) goodaxioo – to think fit; to judge worthy. Literally, "But Paul kept on thinking it wise not to be taking along with them this one."

departedaphistemi –to depart from anyone, to desert

Who was wrong?

Was Paul wrong to be cautious over Mark, who had abandoned them? No.

Was Barnabas wrong to give Mark a second chance? No.

:39 And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other

contentionparoxusmos ("paroxysm") – an inciting; irritation, a sharp split. I do not see this as "agreeing to disagree". The disagreement here is so sharp that it splits apart the dynamic duo of Paul and Barnabas.

This is not a quality God desires in His people, it is not a quality of agape love –

1Co 13:5 (NAS) does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong [suffered,]

Lesson #1:

Real people cause real problems.

Paul and Barnabas were regular human-type guys, and that can spell trouble.

We need to keep in mind that they’re not going to be perfect.

Churches go through splits, relationships go through splits, the common denominator is always people.

Lesson #2:

Be careful about being inflexible.

From the start, the language used displays a sense in which both Barnabas and Paul stuck to their demands concerning Mark.

They were inflexible. Chuck always says, "Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be broken!"

Lesson #3:

It’s not what you think that counts.

It’s finding out what the Holy Spirit thinks that is important. And He may not be in agreement with you.

The church in Jerusalem had just gone through a great turmoil over what to do with the Gentiles. But they kept talking until they could say, "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us …"

:39 and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus

Cyprus was Barnabas’ home.

I’ve heard it taught that God would use this division between Paul and Barnabas to double the work. About half of my commentaries presented it this way.

That’s possible. But I have to be honest with you, Luke doesn’t record it that way.

Why I don’t think this split was that great, it doesn’t seem that Barnabas is really the same afterwards –

1) This is the last we hear of Barnabas.

2) Luke doesn’t say that Barnabas went to Cyprus to strengthen the churches (like he does about Paul). It just says he went home.

3) The church will seem to have taken a side in the dispute, choosing to support Paul. But they don’t seem to endorse Barnabas.


God doesn’t like divisions.

They are a product of our flesh –

(Gal 5:19-20 NKJV) Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are …dissensions, heresies,

Paul tells us to avoid those who cause divisions –

(Rom 16:17-18 KJV) Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. {18} For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

Paul warns against those who would harm the church –

In the context of writing to a church that was divided over which teachers were their favorite teachers, Paul writes,

(1 Cor 3:16-17 KJV) Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? {17} If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

:40 And Paul chose Silas

Silas will accompany Paul through what is called the "second missionary journey" which goes through Acts 18. The last that we see Silas with Paul is in Acts 18:5, when he and Paul have established the church in Corinth.

It’s while they’re in Corinth (around AD 51) that Silas will write a couple of letters with Paul (1Thess. 1:1; 2Thess. 1:1)

The last we hear of Silas (also known as Silvanus), he is helping Peter write his first epistle (around AD 63), along with John Mark (1Pet.5:12-13)

:40 being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.

This is the same phrase that was used when Barnabas and Paul began their first missionary journey –

Ac 14:26 And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.

It would appear that after the split between Paul and Barnabas, that Paul has the approval of the church in Antioch.

:41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia

Syria is the area that Antioch was in, Cilicia was the area to the north, where Paul’s hometown of Tarsus was.

This too, was kind of like going home for Paul, but it was also the shortcut to the Galatian churches as well, so they wouldn’t have to make a sea voyage.