Lesson 4 – The Jerusalem Meeting


Acts 15.

Step One: The principle of reading Acts between the Gospels and the letters has been applied to the content in chapter fifteen: 

Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and then continued with the same general cast of characters as he began Acts of the Apostles.

Let us then first recall what Luke recorded in his Gospel about the main subject in this chapter.

The subject is how “The remnant of men may seek the Lord.” Acts 15:17. In other words, the Gentiles, as well as the Jews, may seek the Lord.

The following are some statements made by Jesus recorded in Luke’s Gospel. Some specifically mention the Gentiles, others may be suggestive.

  1. Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to be circumcised when He was eight days old. (See John 7:22, 23.) Simeon, a devout and righteous man, moved by the Holy Spirit took Jesus in his arms and quoting Isaiah said Jesus would be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2:32.
  2. Someone ask Jesus, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” Luke 13:23. After making a few comments about the scene at Judgment to His Jewish audience, Jesus said,

“There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.

Note: The lesson in this column called “Step One” is continued on the next page.

People will come from east and west and north and south, and take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Luke 13:28,29.

  1. Speaking in a prominent Pharisee’s house in Jerusalem, Jesus gave a parable in response to someone who proclaimed, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Luke 14:15.

Jesus’ parable is about a man who prepared a banquet for a certain group of people. (They very likely represented the Jews to whom Jesus was speaking.) When this group made a lot of excuses for not attending, the man invited “the poor, the crippled, the blind and lame.”

Still there was room for more.

The last group the man who made the great banquet called may represent the Gentiles. Luke 14:15-24.

  1. While teaching in the temple court, Jesus used a parable about a vineyard to warn the Jews about the lack of fruit they had produced for God. Then He ask, “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” Luke 20:15. He gave it to the Lord’s church. The ball is in our court. We must produce the fruit or suffer the possibility of losing our connection with the kingdom of God.
Step Two: The principle is that after we understood Jesus Christ was sent to be a light for the Gentiles in Luke’s Gospel, we can now see how Jesus became light for those in the Acts narratiive after He became king. 

Please review our study in Acts 9:32-12:24. “So then God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.” Acts 11:18.

With the foregoing in mind we are now prepared to read Acts Chapter Fifteen.

Scene one: 15:1-4. Jews went out from the church at Jerusalem and disturbed the church at Antioch.

  1. “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” V. 1.
  2. The church appointed Paul and Barnabas along with some other believers to go up to see the apostles and elders in Jerusalem about this matter.

Scene two: 15:5-21. The meeting in Jerusalem.

Note: At this time, church government still included the powerful office of the “apostolic ministry” working along with the ordained elders in every church. See Acts 11:30.

  1. Some Pharisees came into the church; however, they still held to the “old wineskins.” They wanted all males to be circumcised, etc.
  2. Peter’s speech: 7-11.
  1. God showed He accepted the Gentiles by giving the Holy Spirit to them.
  2. God purified their hearts by faith and saved them through the grace of our Lord Jesus.
  3. Peter admonished the Pharisees to stop testing God.

Note: The lesson in this column called “Step two” is continued on the next page.

  1. Paul and Barnabas related their experiences of converting Gentiles on their first missionary journey and in Antioch. V. 12.
  2. James, the elder, spoke: 13-21. (See Acts 21:18; I Cor. 15:7; Gal 1:19; 2:9; Matt. 13:55; Jas. 1:1).
  1. James said the prophets agreed with Peter about the acceptance of the Gentiles.
  2. “It is my judgment therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” V. 19. James then suggested that a letter be written for the churches in general and the church at Antioch, specifically. See Acts 15:23; 16:4.

Scene three: 15:22-29. The conclusion was taken by “the apostles and elders, with the whole church.”

  1. They would send Silas and Judas with Paul and Barnabas to confirm to the church at Antioch the content of the letter.
  2. The letter: See Acts 15:23-29.

Scene four: 15:30-41. The church in Antioch was very happy with the letter. Judas and Silas, both prophets, stayed around a while and encouraged the church before leaving to go back to Jerusalem. Finally, Paul and Barnabas decided to revisit the churches they had co-built with Jesus on their first journey. After some disagreement about John Mark they made two teams: John Mark and Barnabas sailed for Cyprus. Paul and Silas visited the churches that had been co-built by planting the word of God in Asia Minor. They then entered Europe with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Step Three of the Principle: Learn the details of the issue being discussed in this chapter by studying the letters. 

One. First we need to understand where circumcision was first introduced and what it represented. Read Romans 4:1-25.

  1. “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
  2. “Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised?” Did the blessing of being counted righteous by faith come before or after circumcision? It was not after but before. Vs. 9-10
  3. “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised in order that righteousness might be credited to them.” V. 11.
  4. Conclusion. The blessing we need in order to have peace with God is “justification by faith.” See Rom.  3:21-26.

How to have it was the issue being discussed in Acts 15. The blessing did not come by circumcision but by faith in Jesus’ crucifixion. See V. 25.

Note: The lesson in this column called “Step three” is continued on the next page.

  1. “Is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles, too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised by that same faith.” Rom. 3:30. See I Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:6.

Two. The term “circumcision.”

  1. The Apostle Paul used the “cutting off” concept in physical circumcision as an analogy of a Christian’s new birth. See Col. 2:11-15.
  2. Paul, also, used the word “circumcision,” for the identity of God’s people from the time of Abraham. It is used for the identity of Christians. “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh – … Philippians 3:3.
  3. God’s seal for His people today is our

gift and fellowship of the Holy Spirit. “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” II Cor. 1:21, 22.

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