Acts 15: Denominational Dispute

Why did the Jews think circumcision was so important?

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Acts 15:1 Men from Judea showed up. “You can’t be saved,” they said, “if you aren’t circumcised according to the Law given by Moses.”
King James
Acts 15:1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.

What do you suppose had happened to give Paul and Barnabas reason to disagree with them?

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Acts 15:2 Paul and Barnabas had many heated arguments with them and were finally sent with others to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles and church leaders to settle the issue.
King James
Acts 15:2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.

Why was it important to consult leaders in Jerusalem to settle the issue?

Author’s Thoughts
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Acts 15:2 Paul and Barnabas had many heated arguments with them and were finally sent with others to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles and church leaders to settle the issue.
King James
Acts 15:2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.

Early in Jesus’ ministry, many Samaritans became followers, even though they were considered outcasts to the Jewish faith. Why might they rejoice at news of other foreigners becoming believers?

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Acts 15:3 On the way, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, where they told stories about many foreigners becoming followers of Jesus and brought great rejoicing among the believers.
King James
Acts 15:3 And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.

Which do you think would naturally be more receptive to news about Jesus, Jews or foreigners? Why?

Author’s Thoughts
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Acts 15:3 On the way, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, where they told stories about many foreigners becoming followers of Jesus and brought great rejoicing among the believers.
King James
Acts 15:3 And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.

How important to their deliberation would it be to tell stories of the uncircumcised being healed and filled with the Holy Spirit?

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Acts 15:4 When Paul and Barnabas arrived in Jerusalem, they were greeted by the church, including the apostles and leaders, and they reported some of what God had accomplished through them.
King James
Acts 15:4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.

After hearing that God had accepted uncircumcised people, why would some Jews think they still had to be circumcised?

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Acts 15:5 From among the believing Pharisees, one man said, “These foreigners should be circumcised and need to keep the Law given by Moses.”
King James
Acts 15:5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.

How much time might have been spent among the apostles and church leaders, debating the issue?

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Acts 15:6 So the apostles and church leaders had a special meeting to consider the matter.
King James
Acts 15:6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.

Do you think Peter’s perspective was guided by the Holy Spirit or was based on what he thought was a practical solution. Why did his words end the debate?

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Acts 15:7 After considerable debating, Peter stood and said, “My friends, you’ve heard my story how God used me to take the message of Christ to foreigners, and they believed.
15:8 God, who knows every person’s heart, gave them the Holy Spirit the same as he did for us.
15:9 He made no distinction between them and us, but saw their faith and cleansed their hearts.
15:10 Therefore, why should we burden believers with a weight that was too heavy for us or our ancestors to carry?
15:11 We believe that we are saved by the grace of God through Jesus Christ, and so do the foreigners.”
15:12 Peter’s words silenced the debate and made it possible for Paul and Barnabas to say more about the wonders and miracles God had worked among the foreigners.
King James
Acts 15:7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
15:8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
15:9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
15:10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
15:11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
15:12 Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.

Why might it have been important for Paul and Barnabas to say more about the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit among foreigners?

Author’s Thoughts
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Acts 15:12 Peter’s words silenced the debate and made it possible for Paul and Barnabas to say more about the wonders and miracles God had worked among the foreigners.
King James
Acts 15:12 Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.

How much difficulty do you think the Jewish believers had in accepting non-Jews into their fellowship?

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Acts 15:13 After they finished speaking, James said, “Listen, people,
15:14 Peter told us how God first visited these foreigners, bringing out a people who honor his name.
King James
Acts 15:13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:
15:14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.

James quoted the words found in Amos 9:11–12 to show that God’s plan had always been to reach out to foreigners. How would James have been aware of that passage and connect it to this situation?

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Amos 9:11 In that day, I’ll restore David’s house that has fallen, closing the gaps in its walls. I will rebuild it from the ruins and restore its glory.
9:12 Israel shall acquire what is left of Esau’s sons and every foreigner who calls upon my name. The Lord has declared this, and it will surely come to pass.
Acts 15:15 What has happened agrees with what our prophets foretold, as Amos wrote:
15:16 When I come again, I’ll restore David’s house that has fallen. I’ll rebuild it from the ruins and restore its glory.
15:17 Israel shall acquire what is left of Esau’s sons and every foreigner who calls upon my name. The Lord has declared this, and it will surely come to pass.
15:18 God’s plan for the nations was made known in the beginning.
King James
Amos 9:11 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:
9:12 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.
Acts 15:15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,
15:16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:
15:17 That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.
15:18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.

Why did it matter what James had to say?

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Acts 15:19 So I say we should not make trouble for the foreigners who have turned to God.
King James
Acts 15:19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God.

What aspects of the Jewish faith would James have seen as troublesome for foreigners?

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Acts 15:19 So I say we should not make trouble for the foreigners who have turned to God.
King James
Acts 15:19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God.

Why do you think James proposed only four requirements and not the Ten Commandments given to Moses?

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Acts 15:20 We should instruct them to abstain from idolatry, sexual immorality, and bloodshed. They should not eat meat from strangled animals.
15:21 These are fundamental requirements from Moses, being read in our synagogues every Sabbath.”
King James
Acts 15:20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
15:21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

The assembly could have sent their decision-making letter with Paul and Barnabas. Why was it important for Silas and Judas Barsabas to go with them to Antioch?

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Acts 15:22 The assembly with its apostles and leaders agreed that men from their church should go to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. From among their leaders, they sent Silas and Judas Barsabas
15:23 with this letter: From the apostles, leaders, and believers in Jerusalem, we greet the followers of Jesus in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, those who are not Jews.
15:24 We have heard about the men from Jerusalem who stirred trouble among you by saying you must be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses, but we did not send them.
15:25 Our assembly agreed that we should send representatives with your beloved Paul and Barnabas,
15:26 men who have surrendered their lives for the sake of Jesus Christ.
15:27 Therefore, we have sent Silas and Judas to confirm the truth concerning this issue.
15:28 We and the Holy Spirit are pleased not to burden you with anything more than a few basic requirements.
15:29 Abstain from idolatry, sexual immorality, and bloodshed. Do not eat meat from strangled animals. Follow this practice and you will fare well, remaining strong in the Lord.
15:30 Then Silas and Judas went to Antioch, where they gave the letter to the church.
King James
Acts 15:22 Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:
15:23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:
15:24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:
15:25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
15:26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
15:27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.
15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
15:29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
15:30 So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle.

How did the believers in Antioch respond to the letter?

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Acts 15:31 And the people rejoiced when the admonition was read.
King James
Acts 15:31 Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.

What might Silas and Judas have said to encourage believers?

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Acts 15:32 Moved by the Holy Spirit, Silas and Judas gave many more encouraging words to the believers, strengthening their faith.
King James
Acts 15:32 And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.

Why do you think Silas and Judas stayed in Antioch for a while, and then only Judas returned to Jerusalem?

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Acts 15:33 After staying for a while, the delegation was sent with a blessing to return to the apostles and believers in Jerusalem,
15:34 but Silas chose to remain in Antioch
15:35 where Paul and Barnabas and many others were teaching and preaching the message of Christ Jesus.
King James
Acts 15:33 And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles.
15:34 Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still.
15:35 Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

What motivated Paul to want to revisit the places where he had so often been ridiculed, beaten, and imprisoned?

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Acts 15:36 Sometime afterward, Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s visit all the cities where we preached Christ before and see how the new believers are doing.”
King James
Acts 15:36 And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do.

Why might Barnabas have insisted that John Mark go with them, when Paul so strongly objected?

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Acts 15:37 Barnabas agreed and wanted to take John Mark with them.
15:38 But Paul didn’t like the idea, because John Mark had forsaken them during their work in Pamphylia.
King James
Acts 15:37 And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.
15:38 But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.

Do you think Paul and Barnabas going their separate ways was a good or bad decision? Why?

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Acts 15:39 Their disagreement intensified to the point that Barnabas left Paul and set sail for Cyprus with Mark.
King James
Acts 15:39 And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus.

Why might Silas have been an excellent help to Paul in his ministry?

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Acts 15:40 Paul took Silas with him after the believers blessed them in the Lord.
15:41 So they traveled through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
King James
Acts 15:40 And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.
15:41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.