Acts 15

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The Jeruslam Council

Verse 5: Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.” (NIV)

  • The problem doesn't appear to be evangelizing the Gentiles, but that once believers they should become Jews as well.
    • The issue, therefore, becomes one about whether Christianity is part of Judaism, or came from it.
    • The believers who had a problem with the Gentiles were still part of the Pharisee group.
      • The wording does not say that they were but are no longer Pharisees.
      • That means these were the people who still considered them as a group within Judaism.
      • The Greek is a little vague about exactly what time frame is involved in them being part of the Pharisees, but implies that while they joined a while back they were still part of it.
  • The circumcision is the number one thing they want to change, which is very interesting because no one sees if you're circumcised or not, you just know you are.
  • ”Law of Moses” is a very inclusive statement that implies everything the Jews believed and did.
  • This verse comes across as an accusation that needed addressing right then, but we already know that this question is the reason for Paul and Barnabas were sent to Jerusalem in the first place.

Verse 7: After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. (NIV)

  • Paul seems to have sat quietly at the beginning of this debate, which seems unlike Paul.
  • It is interesting that no other person is mentioned by name as arguing for the inclusion of the Gentiles, though the discussion was definitely going on without them.
  • The first thing that Paul establishes is his qualifications as an apostle chosen to speak for God on this matter.
  • It shows just how much had happened in the Church that Paul can refer to his calling as “the early days”.
  • This statement by Paul also establishes that the ability of Gentiles to be believers. That is no longer in question after Paul speaks. The only question left is what it takes for them to be believers.

Verse 14: Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. (NIV)

  • Simeon is the Hebrew form of Simon (Barrett 231). He probably told the story of Cornelius to those who had not heard it before.
  • There seems to be a great parallel to when God chose the Israelites, even the wording seems like it could be applied to the Jews originally. This is probably intentional, trying to point out how God once chose Israel and is now choosing a new group again.

Verse 15: The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: ()

  • This says “the prophets” not “prophet”. This could be referring to the Minor Prophets, which were sometimes just called “the prophets”, or James could have quoted more than Amos and we only have that one quote left (Barrett 231).

'Verse 16: After this I will return and rebuild David's fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it (NIV)

  • Rebuilding the “tent of David” is probably referring to the Davidic throne (Barrrett 232).
  • Referring to this verse with reference to the Gentiles reshapes it, however, into Gentiles becoming a new kingdom for God.

Verse 19: “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. (NIV)

  • James literally “judges” that Gentiles shouldn't be bothered. He assumes the deciding role, the spokesperson for the apostles. Whether he has the power to decide this for everyone or speaks from the community we don't know.

Verse 20: Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. (NIV)

  • There are a lot of ideas about why these particular things were chosen as things to keep away from.
    • One theory is that this is based on the three things Rabbi's said a Jew should be willing to die over, incest, idolatry, and the shedding of blood.

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