bible study

Bible Study: Acts 15

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


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.


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.


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.