Acts 15

Chapter 15: Acts 15: 1-40, Paul’s second missionary journey

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, we pray for soft, teachable, obedient hearts to learn your precept, open ears to hear Your voice, and open eyes to see Your face, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

VV 1-5, 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. 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. 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.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. 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.

Some Judaizers from Jerusalem traveled to Antioch and taught the Gentile Christians that they could not be saved unless they were circumcised. The Antioch church sent Paul, Barnabas, Judas, and Silas, to Jerusalem to resolve this controversy. On their way to Jerusalem, they evangelised to the people in Phoenicia and Samaria and brought great joy to them. On arrival, Paul and Barnabas explained the controversy to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. True to form, the Judaizers immediately insisted that Gentile believers be circumcised and follow Mosaic laws.

VV 6-11, 6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. 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. 8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us, 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 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? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

Peter explained to the council of apostles and elders, how God had divinely commanded him to preach the gospel to the Gentiles in Caesarea, Acts 10. God imparted the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles believers in Caesarea just as He did to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem at Pentecost. God did not discriminate between Jews and Gentiles. Jews should not test God by compelling the Gentiles to keep the Mosaic laws. Justification is by faith in Christ and not by the Mosaic law, Acts 13:38-39.

Acts 13: 38-39, ‘’Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins, and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses’’.

V 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.

After Peter’s address, Paul and Barnabas narrated their evangelistic experiences among the Gentiles during their first missionary journey.

VV 13-21, 13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me, 14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,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, 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.

Next, James, elder, and half-brother of Jesus addressed the council. James supported Peter, Paul, and Barnabas saying that God had chosen the Gentiles, quoting Amos 9:11. God will rebuild the tabernacle of David, so that all people including the Gentiles may seek and know Him.

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.”

VV 18-21, 18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. 19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God, 20 but that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

James declared that they should not burden the Gentiles with the Mosaic law. He instructed the Jerusalem council to free the Gentiles from the Mosaic law in writing. However, they would advise them to abstain from idol worship, sexual immorality, eating strangled animals, and drinking blood.

V 22, 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.

The apostles and elders accepted James’ decision to send a letter to Antioch via Paul, Barnabas, Judas, and Silas.

Vv 23-29, 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. 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. 25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things, 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.

The Jerusalem church wrote a letter to the Antioch church exempting them from keeping the Mosaic law and circumcision but advising them to abstain from idol worship, sexual immorality, eating strangled animals, and drinking blood.

VV 30-35, 30 So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle, 31 which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation. 32 And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them. 33 And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles. 34 Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still. 35 Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

The congregation in Antioch rejoiced when they heard the news. Judas and Silas, who were prophets, encouraged and strengthened their faith. Judas returned to Jerusalem, but Silas, Paul, and Barnabas remained in Antioch to minister, teach, and preach.

VV 36-41, 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. 37 And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. 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. 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, 40 and Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.

After some time, Paul suggested to Barnabas to start their second missionary journey. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark but Paul objected strongly to this. Paul and Barnabas parted company and went on separate missionary journeys. Barnabas took John Mark and traveled south by sea to Cyprus, Barnabas’ hometown. Paul took Silas and traveled north by land through Asia Minor, passing through Syria and Tarsus, Cilicia, Paul’s hometown. You can follow Paul’s second missionary journey on a map available on the internet.

Application:

Justification by faith in Christ alone is sufficient. Reject false doctrines that justification is by faith in Christ plus some other things, like water baptism, observing the sabbath, etc. This is not biblical. Water baptism is a public witness to salvation, not a prerequisite for salvation. Similarly, observing the sabbath is not a prerequisite to salvation.

Salvation by grace alone is sufficient. We are not under the law but grace. Reject legalism.

John 1:17, For the law, was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for the wise decision of the first-century Jerusalem council not to impose the Mosaic laws on Gentile believers. Thank You for grace and truth. Thank You for saving us by grace and justifying us by faith in Christ, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Acts 14

Chapter 14: Acts 14: 1-28, Paul’s first missionary journey, Part 2

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, You are the logos, Word of God, Word of creation, Word of Life, Word of Light, Word of Glory, Word of Grace and Truth, and Word of incarnation. We pray that You speak to us, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

VV 1-3, 1 Now, it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren. 3 Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

Paul and Barnabas left Antioch of Pisidia and traveled to Iconium. As usual, they spoke in the synagogue. A great number of Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving hostile Jews opposed and bad mouth Paul and Barnabas. Despite this, Paul and Barnabas stayed on for a long time in Iconium, sharing the gospel, moving in miracles, signs, and wonders.

VV 4-7, 4 But the multitude of the city was divided, part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles. 5 And when a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them, 6 they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region. 7 And they were preaching the gospel there.

The city folks were divided into two camps, some sided with the hostile Jews while the rest sided with Paul and Barnabas. Knowing that the Jews were plotting to stone them, they left Iconium, arrived at Lystra, and preached the gospel there. The ancient cities of Perga, Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe were provinces of Galatia in Asia Minor, which is now Turkey.

VV 8-13, 8 And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. 9 This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10 said with a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet!” And he leaped and walked. 11 Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes.

Paul healed a congenitally crippled man in Lystra. The people of Lystra thought that Paul and Barnabas were incarnations of their mythological gods, Zeus and Hermes. The priest of Zeus brought oxen and garlands. They wanted to sacrifice oxen to Paul and Barnabas and decorate them with garlands.

VV 14-18, 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out 15 and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, 16 who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” 18 And with these sayings they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them.

Paul and Barnabas tore their clothes and pleaded with them to stop worshiping them as gods. They preached an evangelistic sermon to them. They advise the people to turn away from idols and worship God who created heaven, earth, sea, and everything. God gave them rain, fruits, seasons, food, and joy. Still, the crowd could not resist sacrificing to them.

VV 19-20, 19 Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. 20 However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

The hostile Jews from Antioch of Pisidia and Iconium came to Lystra, stoned Paul, and dragged him out of the city, thinking that he was dead. When the disciples came, Paul miraculously woke up and went back into the city. The next day, Paul and Barnabas left Lystra and traveled to Derbe.

VV 21-26, 21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” 23 So when they had appointed elders in every church and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. 24 And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. 25 Now when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed.

Paul and Barnabas traveled backward to all the cities that they had visited and before, returned to Antioch of Syria. The first missionary journey took them 2 years from 44 to 46 AD, and 1400 miles on foot!

VV 27-28, 27 Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 So they stayed there for a long time with the disciples.

Paul and Barnabas reported to the church all that happened in their first missionary journey and stayed in Antioch for a long time.

Application:

We had a glimpse and lessons on missionary work. A missionary’s calling is very tough. Opposition was severe and the mission was dangerous. Paul was stoned and almost lost his life at Lystra. The Holy Spirit empowered Paul and Barnabas with miracles, signs, and wonders. At Lystra, the people wanted to worship them as gods. You must never worship or idolise people.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for this historical first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas from Antioch of Syria to Cyprus and Asia Minor. We offer our bodies to You as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing, as our acceptable worship. We pray for anointing to preach, teach, win souls for You, in Jesus’ name, Amen.