What is God Doing?

Acts 15:1-35

Jerry A Collins




u    Is salvation by faith enough to get us to heaven?

u    How should we respond to false teaching?

u    What is the basis of unity in the church?


You will sometimes find yourself exhausted by what you may only be able to describe as attacks against you. They can be external type like you may receive at work from an honest mistake you made or an irritated boss you have or a jealous co-worker you are confronted with. Then it seems that while you are trying to manage these kinds of attacks they also take place internally, at home, in your marriage and family or in your own personal life. These alternating attacks from without and within, externally and internally can mount against you and bring discouragement as well as being depressing trying to resist pressures from all sides. You have been there, So was the early church in Acts 15. It had just experienced another external attack in chp 14 and no another blow internally is about to take place. Satanís technique of attacking externally then internally has been taking place since chp 4 (4 ext- 5 Int; 5:17ff ext- 6:1-7 int). How did the church manage this and what can we learn about this for today?


(1) The question raised in vs. 1 is originally having to do with salvation. Apparently salvation was invalid unless you were also circumcised. The simplicity of salvation has been attacked ever since. For instance, Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. All throughout Acts Jesus Christ has been preached and believed. As simple as that. But that seems to simple. There has to be more.

(2) Looking at vs. 5 tho, the issue seems to include more. These Pharisees were believers. And in vs. 11 Peter takes for granted that salvation is by grace thru faith in Jesus Christ. We can conclude that the real issue raised was not so much whether Gentiles could be saved without circumcision but whether necessary vs. 5 to impose the law as a rule of life on them. This seems to be the main issue addressed in the council to follow. These were not agreeing with those in error in vs. 1 but they wanted to use the occasion to press for a pharisaical manner of life among the Gentiles.

(3) vs. 2-4 tell us that Paul & Barnabas argued vigorously against this error before suggestion to settle it in Jerusalem. Both on the way there and upon arrival in Jerusalem they made it a point to declare Gentile conversions which they never doubted thrilling some and informing others. It was Godís work. It is thrilling to labor in the field of God. There you witness much of His power, see people changed, God at work and a deepening of your commitment to His word and His gospel. Yet you also understand that the truth is always challenged even from those from within as you report back about that work. Laboring in Godís field also includes confronting false teaching.


The Jerusalem Council decision has a three-fold witness.

(1) The experience of Peter in Corneliusí house 7-11. Peter stood up and 3 times referenced faith (7, 9, 11). He says that the issue was settled years ago when in the early days when God saved Cornelius and his household apart from circumcision, law-keeping and ritual. Looking back about 10 yrs ago they heard the gospel and believed. It was then that they also received the HS and the sign that they had was their speaking in tongues (10:44-45) just as the Jews had when they first received the HS in Acts 2. There was no doubt that what had happened to the Jews had also happened to the Gentiles. There is no need for more evidence vs. 10. Imposing a yoke not imposed by God would challenge and question Godís gracious gospel. There was sufficient proof they were saved and no need to impose a yoke on them that Israelwas not even able To bear when they had it. Besides, since they all realized that salvation was by grace, this imposition would prove nothing anyway vs. 11.

(2) The miracles of Paul & Barnabas 12. Here they paraded Godís wondrous works before this assembly showing Godís stamp of approval on their teaching and ministry.

(3) James recites OT scripture 13-21. James confirms these experiences with the Word of God. A) In 14 affirms God inaugurating this work upon Gentiles thru Peter. B) 15-17 the testimony of OT from Amos 9:11-12. The point being that this testimony verifies that Gentiles will be in the kingdom too. Gentiles will be saved as Gentiles without becoming Jews first. When the kingdom is established there will be a saved group of Gentiles who are still gentiles and not Jewish proselytes. While Peter began by stressing that Gentiles in the past were saved and not circumcised, James affirms that this will also be the case in the future according to OT. Therefore Gentile salvation should not be troubled with any obligations to the Law. Vs 18 he affirms that what is presently being seen is but the outworking of Godís purposes from the beginning. We may be surprised God is not! So in view of the presence of Jewish synagogues everywhere 4 offensive practices avoided by Gentile believers giving minimum offense to Jews. (food offered to idols, fornication, strangled & blood, dietary laws).The reason for this in vs. 21 limits applying it in our own day. Not something that insisted upon for the church in NT.


(1) Key word here 4 times seemed good (22, 25, 28, 34). Suggests an agreement with the truth. This letter discreditís the heresy being spread in vs. 1. 1st effect of their teaching unsettles soul 24. 2nd content given no instruction 24. 3rd authority totally denied 24. There is no polite way to deal with false teaching. NT commands us to fervently confront it. In contrast esteem attached to Paul & Barnabas 25-26. They have the credentials risking their lives for the truth. Do not be quick to turn away from those of proven Xian character to men relatively unknown into error. In vs. 28 under grace the true stress falls on our privilege rather than our obligation as here to lay upon you no greater burden thanÖ (2) 3 outcomes: 1. Believers strengthened 30-33 (encouraged & peace). Souls unsettled now consoled and added ministries of Judas & Silas strengthens the work. 2. Companion prepared for Paul 34. Unknown to Paul & Barnabas was approaching rif. God foresees it and plans for it for now it seems good to Silas to stay in Antioch and a companion for Paul is prepared when the need arises. In service of the Lord contingencies for future service foreseen by Him. Faithfulness brings provision.3. Word of God taught & proclaimed 35. Obstacles removed the Word of God can be ministered effectively.