Evening Bible Study
On the day of Pentecost, the church was born. It began with the Holy Spirit
filling the believers. As the apostles preached about Jesus, the church began
By chapter seven, the church was beginning to experience persecution.
Stephen was the first one to die for his faith. One of the main men behind the
persecution was a man named Saul. But when Saul headed for the city of Damascus
to pursue the Christians there, he was knocked off his horse by a bright light
and he met Jesus. Saul will be more well known by his Roman name, Paul.
By chapter 10, the gospel began to reach even the Gentiles, starting with a
Roman Centurion named Cornelius.
In chapter 13, we began a new section of Acts as we began to focus on the
ministry of Paul.
Play First Missionary Journey map clip
Paul and Barnabas were a part of the church in Antioch of Syria. They were sent out as missionaries, and their
first trip took them through the island of Cyprus and into the area of Galatia.
After reaching out to the city of Derbe, rather
than going forward to Tarsus and Antioch, they chose to back track through the
places they had ministered to, and encourage and build up the churches.
They are now back in Antioch of Syria.
15:1-5 Circumcision Controversy
:1 And certain men came down from Judea and
taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of
Moses, you cannot be saved.”
:1 Unless you are circumcised
These teachers are called “Judaizers”. Their basic belief was that a Gentile could only
be saved by becoming a Jew first.
:2 Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small
dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and
certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders,
about this question.
– stasis – a
standing, station, state; an insurrection; strife, insurrection
:2 dispute – suzetesis (“together” + “seeking”) – mutual questioning, disputation,
The words made it sound like a spirited debate.
We will see another example of a “church fight” at the end of the chapter.
Though this particular “fight” is a huge theological moment in the church,
the fight at the end has harsher language.
:3 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.
:4 And 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.
Play Antioch to Jerusalem map clip
Paul and Barnabas make their way south to Jerusalem, passing through
Phoenicia (modern Lebanon) and Samaria.
:5 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.”
:5 the sect of the Pharisees who
We usually think of the Pharisees as the guys in the black robes and black
hats because they seem to be the “bad guys” in the gospels, always causing
trouble with Jesus.
Keep in mind, they are the strict, orthodox,
Bible-believing religious people.
There were Pharisees who had come to believe in Jesus as their Messiah.
They were making their case that for a Gentile to be saved, they had to
come into the fold of Judaism and follow all the law
of Moses, including circumcision.
Jesus Himself said,
(Mt 5:17–20 NKJV)
—17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did
not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one
jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever
therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so,
shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them,
he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say
to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the
scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
You can see why the early church was confused and why there was a dispute.
Not all Pharisees believed what this group did. Paul was also a
Pharisee. He wrote,
(Php 3:4–9 NKJV) —4 though I
also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have
confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the
tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning
zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law,
Paul saw things differently concerning “righteousness” and how it was attained.
7 But what
things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed
I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ
Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them
as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is
from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the
righteousness which is from God by faith;
Paul considered his own “righteousness” as garbage compared to the
righteousness that God gives us through believing in Jesus Christ. The only way for your righteousness to exceed
a Pharisee’s is to have Jesus’ righteousness.
15:6-21 Jerusalem Council
:6 Now the apostles and elders came together to
consider this matter.
:6 came together to consider this matter
We have a record of the first “council” of the church where the church will
gather to discuss controversy in the area of doctrine and come to a conclusion
about the matter. This takes place in the year AD 50.
:7 And 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.
:7 by my mouth
Peter was the first one to actually preach the gospel to the Gentiles, back
in Acts 10, when he went to speak to Cornelius.
:8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them
by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us,
:9 and made no distinction between us and them,
purifying their hearts by faith.
:9 purifying their hearts by faith
The people in Cornelius’ house weren’t required to be circumcised before
they were baptized in the Holy Spirit.
They simply heard, believed, and were saved.
:10 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
:10 putting a yoke on the neck
This is how Peter is describing the Law.
Something that was unable to be kept perfectly, something that was a
:11 But we believe that through the grace of the
Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”
:11 through the grace
Peter is clarifying the simple message that they too had realized that they
were not saved by their own good works, but they were saved by the gift that
Jesus had given them, and it happened when they believed.
The gift (grace) that they were given was the death of Jesus, a sacrifice
that paid for our sins.
If the Jewish believers were saved by grace, why would it be any different
for the Gentiles?
Paul would later write:
(Eph 2:8–9 NKJV) —8 For by
grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is
the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
:12 Then all the multitude kept silent and
listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had
worked through them among the Gentiles.
:12 how many miracles
Paul and Barnabas now share about their amazing mission trip (Acts 13-14)
The point of sharing the miracles was to show that God was behind this
preaching to the Gentiles.
God had born witness to saving the Gentiles through the miracles.
:13 And after they had become silent, James
answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me:
:13 James answered
This is James, the half-brother of Jesus.
James and Jesus had the same mother (Mary), but different fathers
He is the author of the book of James.
:14 Simon has declared how God at the first
visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.
:15 And with this the words of the prophets agree,
just as it is written:
:16 ‘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;
:17 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.’
:15 just as it is written
They have listened to Peter’s reasoned arguments about how God had saved
the Gentiles at Cornelius’ house without being circumcised.
They have listened to Paul and Barnabas’ testimonies of the miracles that
God had done, without the Gentiles being circumcised.
Now comes the final and most important element of
their decision – the Word.
James quotes from Amos 9:11-12.
And repair its damages;
We have lots of things that help us make our decisions, and they’re not all
For our nation, the Constitution is supposed to be one of our guiding
documents that helps us make choices.
As Christians, the most important tool we have though is God’s Word.
(Ps 1:1–3 NKJV)
—1 Blessed is the man Who walks
not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the
scornful; 2 But his
delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His
law he meditates day and night. 3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings
forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall
(2 Ti 3:16–17
NKJV) —16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is
profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in
that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every
How important is it to you that you have a “Biblical world view”?
I think the truth of your response ought to be measure by the time you
invest in learning and studying God’s Word.
I commend you who are here tonight for that very reason.
:18 “Known to God from eternity are all His works.
:18 Known to God
In other words, there are no surprises with God. God has hints throughout
the Scriptures about the Gentiles being saved.
:19 Therefore I judge that we should not trouble
those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God,
:20 but that we write to them to abstain from
things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things
strangled, and from blood.
:21 For Moses has had throughout many generations
those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every
:19 Therefore I judge that …
It seems that James is the one making the final decision.
James is the leader of the church in Jerusalem. I imagine that would make some Roman
Catholics uncomfortable since it’s not Peter that’s deciding.
:20 idols … immorality … blood
These are the only restrictions given to the Gentiles.
It seems to me that in the context of this chapter, keeping these rules aren’t intended to bring salvation, but to keep people from
stumbling. Salvation comes from God’s grace through faith. But it’s important
that we be careful with the kinds of lives we live in order not to cause others
things polluted by idols
In ancient days, the cheapest meat you could purchase could be found at the
meat market located behind your local pagan temple – like “Aphrodite’s Alpha
The pagan priests would sacrifice the animals dedicated to the gods, and
then resell the meat in the local market.
The problem with this for some people was that they considered this meat to
belong to that “god”, as if you are honoring Aphrodite by eating her meat.
Even though Paul makes the case that there’s nothing inherently wrong with
eating meat sacrificed to idols, believers ought to avoid it so they don’t
cause any of their newly converted Gentile friends to think they were still
honoring the gods.
NKJV) —14 I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is
nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers
anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 Yet if
your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking
in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.
As we have learned from the DirectTV commercials,
one thing leads to another.
There’s another way we can end up in a roadside ditch…
What we often forget is that flirting leads to the ditch…
So much of our society today seems to be centered on sex.
Some of us even get to thinking that a little “flirting” never hurt anyone.
Some of us think that as long as I’m only “flirting” with images on my
computer, there’s no harm, no foul.
Don’t be fooled. You
will end up in a ditch.
Watch that video one more time. Note that EVERYONE who was flirting got into
Yorker Flirting commercial
Sexual immorality is any kind of sexual activity outside the boundary of
(1 Co 6:18–20
NKJV) —18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the
body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Or do you
not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you,
whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you
were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit,
which are God’s.
You have been purchased by a great price. You belong to God.
strangled … blood
Though these might refer to two separate things, I think they are talking
about the same issue.
The issue is about blood, not eating meat with the blood in it.
If an animal is killed by strangling it, then the animal’s blood is still
Why is this an issue?
The reason comes from Leviticus:
17:10–11 NKJV) —10 ‘And whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who
dwell among you, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who
eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people. 11 For the
life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the
altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that
makes atonement for the soul.’
The life of an animal is represented by its blood. The pouring out of blood during a sacrifice
was a picture of pouring out the life of the animal. The blood sprinkled on the altar was to be a
picture of the animal giving its life as a substitution for you.
This blood picture was prophetic, getting us ready for what took place in the
Pe 1:18–19 NKJV) —18 knowing
that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold,
from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with
the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
At the last supper,
26:27–28 NKJV) —27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them,
saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new covenant,
which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
The Gentiles needed to be taught to honor the blood.
:21 For Moses has had …
These restrictions weren’t the requirements for salvation.
They were all about not causing the Jews living among the Gentiles to
While there’s a chance to reach the beloved Jewish people, James doesn’t
want them turned away by the pagan practices of these Gentile Christians.
The church still considers themselves a “sect” of
There are some areas in today’s society that seem to be a little on the
Movies, TV, alcohol, smoking
Some people are stumbled by various standards. If you know a person is stumbled by it, why
do it? It’s not “walking in love” if you
try to rub it in their face.
(Ro 14:15 NKJV) Yet if
your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking
in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.
(1 Co 8:13 NKJV) Therefore,
if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother
15:22-29 The Decree
: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.
:22 to send chosen men …to Antioch
An official delegation is put together to help carry the decree of the
council in Jerusalem.
If just Paul and Barnabas return with the decision, the Judaizers
might accuse them of making up a story.
:22 Judas … Barsabas
He may have been also called “Joseph”, or was related to another Joseph …
(Ac 1:23 NKJV) And they
proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was
surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
These were the two fellows who had been nominated to replace Judas Iscariot.
Silas will one day be a traveling companion with Paul.
:23 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.
:24 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
:24 we gave no such commandment
They acknowledge that the Judaizers had been part
of the church in Jerusalem, but the message they were carrying was their own
message, not a message from the church.
:25 it seemed good to us, being assembled with one
accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
:26 men who have risked their lives for the name
of our Lord Jesus Christ.
:27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who
will also report the same things by word of mouth.
:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to
us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:
:29 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.
:28 it seemed good to the Holy Spirit,
and to us
The letter is short and sweet.
:29 no greater burden
There are groups today who teach that Christian must follow the Law of
It’s kind of strange since the early church has already settled the issue.
:30 So when they were sent off, they came to
Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the
:31 When they had read it, they rejoiced over its
:31 they rejoiced over its encouragement
They are filled with joy that they do not have to live under the burden of
the Law of Moses.
I imagine that there were a few of the men who were glad they didn’t have
to become circumcised.
:32 Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets
also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words.
:33 And after they had stayed there for a
time, they were sent back with greetings from the brethren to the apostles.
:34 However, it seemed good to Silas to remain
While Judas heads back to Jerusalem with the greetings from Antioch, Silas
decides to stick around awhile. That
will be important in a minute.
:35 Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch,
teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
15:36-41 Division over Mark
:36 Then 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.”
:36 Let us now go back
This second missionary trip was not originally planned to do anything more
than just go back and visit the places they had already been to. God will have
:37 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them
John called Mark.
:37 John … Mark
John Mark is Barnabas’ cousin. (Col. 4:10)
It was at John Mark’s mother’s house that Peter showed up when he was
miraculously released from prison (Acts 12:12).
John Mark had initially travelled with Paul and Barnabas when they had first
come back to Antioch after taking the offering to Jerusalem (Acts 12:25).
He had been with Paul and Barnabas at the beginning of their first
missionary journey, but had quit and gone back to Jerusalem after having gone
through Cyprus with them. (Acts 13:13)
We were never told why he had left, only that he
John Mark must have come back to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas after the
council of Jerusalem (Acts 15).
:38 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.
:38 departed – aphistemi – to make stand off; to excite to
revolt; to desert; to fall away, become faithless; to shun, flee from
It’s not a very subtle word. Paul
has negative memories of John Mark “departing” on the last trip. They were not pleasant memories.
:39 Then the contention became so sharp that they
parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus;
:39 contention … sharp – paroxusmos – (“paroxysm” (convulsion)) an inciting, incitement; irritation
from paroxuno – to make
sharp; to irritate, provoke, arouse to anger; to exasperate
Remember the last “fight”? The last
“fight” (Acts 15:2) was over doctrine, the language hear sounds as if this
particular “fight” was much more emotional.
:39 they parted from one another
Two mature Christian men, both considered “apostles”, both considered
heroes of the faith, both called “beloved” by the leaders in Jerusalem.
They come to such a disagreement that they part ways.
We don’t know if they ever saw or worked with each other again.
Who was right? Who was wrong? Who was filled with the Spirit? Who was being fleshly?
Both sides of the argument have merit.
Barnabas wanted to give John Mark a second chance. That’s a good thing.
In the end Mark does become a very useful disciple, being
a companion to Peter and writing the gospel of Mark.
Even Paul would say at the end of his life:
Ti 4:11b NKJV) …Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for
Paul’s issue might have been that Mark was not mature and
dependable enough for an important work like planting churches.
Spurgeon used to tell his pastoral students that if they
could pursue any other profession, they ought to.
The ministry is extremely difficult, and people in the
church don’t need leaders who flake out on them or abandon ship.
Over the years I’ve heard many opinions suggested about what happened here.
Some have said that “division is good” because now instead of one team
travelling and sharing the gospel, there are two teams.
God does take our messes and work them for the good, but I don’t know that
division is ever good.
We never hear from Barnabas again.
That doesn’t mean that he stopped serving the Lord. We simply never hear of him again.
About the only accurate lesson I can think of from this passage is that
We’ve had church splits. I remember
feeling at the time that there was something wrong with us/me. The truth is it’s a miracle if any two people
get along for any period of time.
Unity is good
(Ps 133:1–3 NKJV)
—1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren
to dwell together in unity! 2 It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on
the beard, The beard
of Aaron, Running
down on the edge of his garments. 3 It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the
Lord commanded the blessing— Life
endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of
:40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being
commended by the brethren to the grace of God.
:41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia,
strengthening the churches.
:41 he went through Syria and Cilicia
While Barnabas heads to his homeland, the island of Cyprus, Paul heads
towards his homeland, Tarsus (Cilicia), and on to the churches they planted in