Acts 15:22-41 (web)

Final Defeat of the Circumcision in Antioch

15:22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole assembly,
to choose men out of their company, and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas:
Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, chief men among the brothers.
15:23 They wrote these things by their hand:
"The apostles, the elders, and the brothers,
to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: greetings. 
15:24 Because 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 commandment; 
15:25 it seemed good to us, having come to one accord, 
to choose out men and send them to you 
with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 
15:26 men who have risked their lives 
for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
15:27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, 
who themselves will also tell you the same things by word of mouth. 
15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, 
to lay no greater burden on you than these necessary things: 
15:29 that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols, from blood,
from things strangled, and from sexual immorality, 
from which if you keep yourselves, it will be well with you. Farewell." 
15:30 So, when they were sent off, they came to Antioch. 
Having gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter. 
15:31 When they had read it, they rejoiced over the encouragement. 
15:32 Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves,
encouraged the brothers with many words, and strengthened them. 
15:33 After they had spent some time there,
they were sent back with greetings from the brothers to the apostles. 
15:34 {Some manuscripts add: But it seemed good to Silas to stay there.} 
15:35 But Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch,
teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. 

New Teams Form

15:36 After some days Paul said to Barnabas, 
"Let's return now and visit our brothers in every city 
in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, to see how they are doing." 
15:37 Barnabas planned to take John, who was called Mark, with them also. 
15:38 But Paul didn't think that it was a good idea
to take with them someone who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia,
and didn't go with them to do the work. 
15:39 Then the contention grew so sharp that they separated from each other. 
Barnabas took Mark with him, and sailed away to Cyprus, 
15:40 but Paul chose Silas, and went out, 
being commended by the brothers to the grace of God. 
15:41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the assemblies. 


The problem started when men of the cult of the circumcision came proporting to be from James. Easy enough to discredit them by James himself sending his own official messengers.  The circumcision wasn't finished yet though. For we find them later infiltrating the Galatian churches, in response to which Paul wrote the book of Galatians. Throughout the New Testament, and even in the early chapters of Revelation, we find conflicts with cults and false ideas which have to be dealt with. Don't expect the church life to be one of complete peace and harmony. We're not in heaven yet. We must be ready to stand on the truth and resist false ideas. That means we are going to face conflict. However, we also must not take the other extreme, which unfortunately many have taken, in being overly divisive over minor or non-application oriented issues. The Christian life is lived in accordance with the Spirit. It is neither dogmatically legalistic nor licentiously liberal.

vs 22-29 Note the Paul and Barnabas were spoken of as not being involved in the making of this decree. I think Paul's decision to not to speak up and directly confront James on this issues was a major mistake. I think Paul's strategy was simply to ignore James' decree and certainly he taught contrary to it. Galatians deals more with this issue in detail. There despite speaking of the Acts 15 meeting Paul didn't even mention the decree. In fact he made an issue of not getting his gospel from the other apostles, and certainly not from James.

vs 31 No doubt the men particularly rejoiced that they wouldn't have to have the foreskin of their penis cut off!

vs 36-41 Paul and Barnabas split over the issue concerning Mark as he has left them apparently inappropriately in Acts 13:13 when they first arrived in Galatia. Barnabas saw potential in Mark as he had seen potential in Paul when others wouldn't accept him. Colossians 4:10 also reveals that Mark was the cousin of Barnabas, and thus we find another basis for the bond. But I get the impression that Paul and Barnabas had a subtle difference of opinion concerning ministry. I feel that Paul just wanted to get the job done. He had a commission to fulfill. He wanted people on his team to be reliable and objective-oriented. Barnabas I feel had the perspective that it was the process of ministering itself which was part of the objective. He was thinking not just of preaching the message, nor just of making disciples, but making Mark into a disciplemaker. What better way than to follow Jesus' example of making disciples than by taking him along on a missionary journey. I think that Paul also later adopted this attitude when he began discipling Timothy. We find also in Paul's last letter that he tells Timothy to "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." 2Tim 4:11 Which is a reflection of the change both in Mark and Paul. Mark went on to write the gospel of Mark and Eusebius tells of him starting the church in Alexandria and developing the Christian community there. Jesus said, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." And such was the effect also on those who followed the apostles.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jan 28,2022