Acts 15 Bible Commentary

The Geneva Study Bible

(Read all of Acts 15)
15:1 And 1 a certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, [and said], Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.

(1) The Church is at length troubled with dissension within itself, and the trouble rises from the proud and stubborn intellects of certain evil men. The first strife was concerning the office of Christ, whether we are saved only by his righteousness apprehended by faith, or if we also have need to observe the Law.
(a) Epiphanius is of the opinion that this was Cerinthus.

15:2 2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.

(2) Meetings of congregations were instituted to suppress heresies, to which certain were sent by common consent on behalf of all.

15:3 And b being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.

(b) Courteously and lovingly brought on their way by the Church, that is, by certain ones appointed by the Church.

15:6 3 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.

(3) The matter is first handled, both parts being heard, in the assembly of the apostles and elders, and after is communicated to the people.

15:7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, 4 Men [and] brethren, ye know how that a c good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.

(4) God himself, in the calling of the Gentiles who are uncircumcised, taught that our salvation consists in faith, without the worship appointed by the Law.
(c) Literally, "of old time", that is, even from the first time that we were commanded to preach the Gospel, and immediately after that the Holy Spirit came down upon us.

15:9 And put no d difference between us and them, purifying their hearts e by faith.

(d) He put no difference between us and them, with regard to the benefit of his free favour.
(e) Christ proclaims those blessed who are pure of heart: and here we are plainly taught that men are made pure of heart by faith.

15:10 5 Now therefore why f tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

(5) Peter, passing from the ceremonies to the Law itself in general, shows that no one could be saved, if salvation were to be sought for by the Law, and not by grace alone in Jesus Christ; and this is because no man could ever fulfil the Law, neither the patriarch nor the apostle.
(f) Why do you tempt God, as though he could not save by faith?

15:12 6 Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.

(6) A true pattern of a lawful council, where God's truth alone reigns.

15:13 And after they had held their peace, g James answered, saying, Men [and] brethren, hearken unto me:

(g) The son of Alphaeus, who is also called the Lord's brother.

15:14 7 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.

(7) James confirms the calling of the Gentiles out of the word of God, in this agreeing with Peter.

15:18 h Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.

(h) And therefore nothing comes to pass by chance, but only by God's appointment.

15:19 8 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:

(8) In indifferent matters, we may be patient with the weakness of our brethren with the end in view that they may have time to be instructed.

15:20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from i pollutions of idols, and [from] fornication, and [from] things strangled, and [from] blood.

(i) From sacrifices, or from feasts which were kept in idol's temples.

15:22 9 Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; [namely], Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:

(9) In a lawful synod, neither those who are appointed and chosen judges, appoint and determine anything tyrannously or upon a lordly superiority, neither do the common multitude stir up disorder against those who sit as judges by the word of God: and the like manner of doing things is also used in proclaiming and ratifying those things which have been so determined and agreed upon.

15:24 10 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which k went out from us have troubled you with words, l subverting your souls, saying, [Ye must] be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no [such] commandment:

(10) The council of Jerusalem concludes that the ones who trouble men's consciences are they who teach us to seek salvation in any other means than in Christ alone, apprehended by faith, no matter where they come from, and whoever they pretend to be the author of their calling.
(k) From our congregation.
(l) A borrowed type of speech taken of those who pull down that which was built up: and it is a very common metaphor in the scriptures, to say "the Church is built", for "the Church is planted and established".

15:28 11 For it seemed good to the n Holy Ghost, and o to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these p necessary things;

(11) That is a lawful council, which the Holy Spirit rules.
(n) First they made mention of the Holy Spirit, so that it may not seem to be any man's work.
(o) Not that men have any authority of themselves, but to show the faithfulness that they used in their ministry and labour.
(p) This was no absolute necessity, but in respect of the state of that time, so that the Gentiles and the Jews might live together more peaceably, with less occasion to quarrel.

15:29 12 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

(12) Charity is required even in indifferent matters.

15:30 13 So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle:

(13) It is required for all people to know certainly what to hold in matters of faith and religion, and not that the Church by ignorance and knowing nothing, should depend upon the pleasure of a few.

15:33 And after they had tarried [there] a space, they were let go in q peace from the brethren unto the apostles.

(q) This is a Hebrew idiom, which is the same as saying, "as the brethren wished them all prosperous success, and the church dismissed them with good leave."

15:36 14 And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, [and see] how they do.

(14) Congregations or churches easily degenerate unless they are diligently watched over, and therefore these apostles went to oversee the churches they had planted, and for this reason also synods were instituted and appointed.

15:37 15 And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.

(15) A lamentable example of discord between excellent men and very great friends, yet not because of profane matters or their own private affairs, neither yet because of doctrine.

15:39 16 And r the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;

(16) God uses the faults of his servants to the profit and building of the Church: yet we have to take heed, even in the best matters, that we do not let our anger overflow.
(r) They were in great heat: but in this we have to consider the power of God's counsel, for by this means it came to pass that the doctrine of the Gospel was spread into many places.