Intro. The church council in Jerusalem is considering the issue of the relationship of the Gentile believer to the ceremonial law of Moses. The bottom line is, is it necessary to become a Jew in order to be saved? This is exactly what the Jews had believed for years. Now that Gentile believers are being saved through faith in Christ, is it necessary that they go through the ritual of circumcision and the other ceremonial requirements of the Mosaic law in order to be saved. This is not an issue of keeping the moral laws of God, they are nonnegotiable. Peter has presented his arguments before the council. His conclusion is that God has saved them by His grace, and that they should not try to put on them the yoke of bondage that neither they nor their fathers were able to bear. Peter has finished his arguments and the chair now recognizes Paul and Barnabas.
I. PAUL AND BARNABAS ARE THE ONES WHO TOOK THE GOSPEL OUT TO THE GENTILE WORLD IN THE FIRST MISSIONARY JOURNEY.
A. We read that the multitude kept silence.
1. There had been much disputing on the subject earlier, verse 7, but now there is the courtesy to be silent and let them speak.
2. I think that courtesy is a Christian grace that is sometimes overlooked.
B. They gave audience to Barnabas and Paul. That is, they listened to them as they spoke.
1. Theirs was a testimony of their first missionary journey and all of the miracles and wonders that God had done among the Gentiles through them.
2. Luke does not give us any details of their testimony, for he has just taken us with them on that journey and told us of those miracles and wonders.
C. Basically they were just confirming what Peter had said, and that was that God was obviously working among the Gentiles, apart from their observance of the ceremonial laws.
II. IT NOW COMES TIME FOR JAMES TO SPEAK. Act 15:13
: AND AFTER THEY HAD HELD THEIR PEACE, JAMES ANSWERED, SAYING, MEN AND BRETHREN, HEARKEN UNTO ME:
A. After Paul and Barnabas had spoken, the people held their peace. By this it seems that they had no further argument.
1. It is sort of when you are in the court and the attorney declares, "The defense rests."
2. The arguments have been presented and now the time for the verdict.
B. This, of course, could not be the James, the brother of John, for he was put to death by Herod, in chapter 12.
1. That leaves us with two other possibilities.
a. James the son of Alphaeus. He is listed as one of the disciples, and also was possibly the brother of Matthew, for he is also known as the son of Alphaeus.
b. The other is James the brother of Jesus. In Mark's gospel there is a listing of the names of the brothers of Jesus and among those names is James.
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.
But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.
2. Most commentaries favor James the brother of Jesus.
3. It is interesting to note that James is the one who chaired this council, and declares the sentence.
4. It would seem that he had a greater prominence in the church in Jerusalem even than Peter. Peter is just one of the witnesses in the case. It is James that makes the decision.
5. Oh well, so much for Peter being the first pope.
6. James demands their attention, "Hearken unto me."
III. SIMON HAS TESTIFIED OF THE FIRST VISIT OF GOD TO THE GENTILES, TO TAKE OUT FROM THEM A PEOPLE FOR HIS NAME.
A. He had testified of the call of God to go to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile.
B. This work of God among the Gentiles is something that all of the prophets agreed upon.
All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.
Give unto the LORD, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the LORD glory and strength.
And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.
I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;
For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name [shall be] great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense [shall be] offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name [shall be] great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.
C. "After this," After the gospel is taken to the Gentiles He will return again to build the tabernacle of David which had fallen down.
1. God is not through with the nation of Israel, and anyone who teaches that teaches against the plain teaching of the scriptures.
I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid.
If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments;
Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.
Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.
My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.
Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David.
His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me.
It shall be established for ever as the moon, and [as] a faithful witness in heaven.
And the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah, saying,
Thus saith the LORD; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season;
[Then] may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of [his] government and peace [there shall be] no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness.
Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.
I am sought of [them that] asked not [for me]; I am found of [them that] sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation [that] was not called by my name.
I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way [that was] not good, after their own thoughts;
In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old:
That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this. This is the actual passage that James is quoting.
IV. Act 15:18
: KNOWN UNTO GOD ARE ALL HIS WORKS FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD.
Who hath wrought and done [it], calling the generations from the beginning? I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I [am] he.
Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.
And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them.
Remember the former things of old: for I [am] God, and [there is] none else; [I am] God, and [there is] none like me,
Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times [the things] that are not [yet] done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: