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The opposition from the reactionaries

15 1-2 Then some men came down from Judea and began to teach the brothers, saying “unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses you cannot be saved”. Naturally this caused a serious upset among them and much earnest discussion followed with Paul and Barnabas. Finally it was agreed that Paul and Barnabas should go to Jerusalem with some of their own people to confer with the apostles and elders about the whole question.

The Church sent them off on their journey and as they went through Phoenicia and Samaria they told the story of the conversion of the Gentiles, and all the brothers were overjoyed to hear about it.

4-5 On their arrival at Jerusalem they were welcomed by the Church, by the apostles and elders, and they reported how greatly God had worked with them. But some members of the Pharisees’ party who had become believers stood up and declared that it was absolutely essential that these men be told that they must be circumcised and observe the Law of Moses.

Peter declares that God is doing something new

6-11 The apostles and elders met to consider the matter. After an exhaustive enquiry Peter stood up and addressed them in these words: “Men and brothers, you know that from the earliest days God chose me as the one from whose lips the Gentiles should hear the Word and should believe it. Moreover, God who knows men’s inmost thoughts has plainly shown that this is so, for when he had cleansed their hearts though their faith he gave the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles exactly as he did to us. Why then must you now strain the patience of God by trying to put on the shoulders of these disciples a burden which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? Surely the fact is that it is by the grace of the Lord Jesus that we are saved by faith, just as they are!”

12 These words produced absolute silence, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul while they gave a detailed account of the signs and wonders which God had worked through them among the Gentiles.

James expresses the feeling of the meeting

13-18 Silence again followed their words and then James made this reply: “Men and brothers, listen to me. Symeon has shown how in the first place God chose a people from among the nations who should bear his name. This is in full agreement with what the prophets wrote, as in this scripture: ‘After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen down. I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up, so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord who does all these things. ‘Known to God from eternity are all his works.’

19-21 “I am firmly of the opinion that we should not put any additional obstacles before any Gentiles who are turning towards God. Instead, I think we should write to them telling them to avoid anything polluted by idols, sexual immorality, eating the meat of strangled animals, or tasting blood. For after all, for many generations now Moses has had his preachers in every city and has been read aloud in the synagogues every Sabbath day.”

The Church’s deputation: the message to Gentile Christians

22-29 Then the apostles, the elders and the whole Church agreed to choose representatives and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. Their names were Judas, surnamed Barsabbas, and Silas, both leading men of the brotherhood. They carried with them a letter bearing this message: “The apostles and elders who are your brothers send their greetings to the brothers who are Gentiles in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. Since we have heard that some of our number have caused you deep distress and have unsettled your minds by giving you a message which certainly did not originate from us, we are unanimously agreed to send you chosen representatives with our well-loved Barnabas and Paul—men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. So we have sent you Judas and Silas who will give you the same message personally by word of mouth. For it has seemed right to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no further burden upon you except what is absolutely essential, namely, that you avoid what has been sacrificed to idols, tasting blood, eating the meat of whatever has been strangled and sexual immorality. Keep yourselves clear of these things and you will make good progress. Farewell.”

The message is received with delight

30-35 So this party, sent off by the Church, went down to Antioch and after gathering the congregation together, they handed over the letter to them. And they, when they read it, were delighted with the encouragement it gave them. Judas and Silas were themselves both inspired preachers and greatly encouraged and strengthened the brothers by many talks to them. Then, after spending some time there, the brothers sent them back in peace to those who commissioned them. Paul and Barnabas however stayed on in Antioch teaching and preaching the Gospel of the Word of the Lord in company with many others.

Paul and Barnabas flatly disagree, but the work prospers

36 Some days later Paul spoke to Barnabas, “Now let us go back and visit the brothers in every city where we have proclaimed the Word of the Lord to see how they are.”

37-41 Barnabas wanted to take John, surnamed Mark, as their companion. But Paul strongly disapproved of taking with them a man who had deserted them in Pamphylia and was not prepared to go on with them in their work. There was a sharp clash of opinion, so much so that they went their separate ways, Barnabas taking Mark and sailing to Cyprus, while Paul chose Silas and set out on his journey, commended to the grace of the Lord by the brothers as he did so. He travelled through Syria and Cilicia and strengthened the churches.