Defending the Truth

Key Verse: “My sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God.”
—Acts 15:19

Selected Scripture:
Acts 15:1, 2,
6-15, 19, 20

IN OUR LAST LESSON WE saw that God’s message of salvation had indeed been turned to the Gentiles. (Acts 14:27) Problems began to surface. The ecclesia in Antioch of Syria, was visited by various brethren from Jerusalem who questioned whether Gentiles could be saved outside of the keeping of the Law of Moses. These claimed that unless all new male converts to Christianity were circumcised they could not be saved. (Acts 15:1) Paul and Barnabas disagreed, and the church at Antioch decided to send them to Jerusalem to hold a council about this question and to resolve it. Later, the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans explained the true meaning of circumcision.—Rom. 2:28,29

It was difficult for some to see that a new dispensation was opening, that Gentiles, as well as Jews, were now under the Spirit’s direction. Strict conformity to the commands of the Law was no longer necessary.

At the council in Jerusalem some of the Pharisees claimed it needful to have Gentiles circumcised, and to keep the Law of Moses. Peter stood up and declared, “Why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.”—Acts 15:10,11

Earlier Peter had said, “God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them [the Gentiles] witness, giving them the Holy Spirit, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.”—Acts 15:8,9

The apostle’s words seemed to calm the multitudes. Paul and Barnabas went on to declare what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. (Acts 15:12) Then James spoke up and said “Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.”—Acts 15:13-17

For some of the Jews this was hard to accept. Did they not expect that when the great Messiah would come, he would exalt their nation? They forgot that God had rejected Israel. This very question was asked of our Lord after his resurrection. (Acts 1:6) They could not accept the fact that Jesus had forecast their downfall even before his death. (Matt. 23:37,38) A new work had begun and new doors were being opened, not to Jews only, but to Jew and Gentile alike. It was important that the new Gentile converts should know their relationship to the Mosaic Law.

James then suggested that they write to the Gentiles that “they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.” (Acts. 15:20) They said, “We have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, … saying, Ye must be circumcised.” They explained that they had not given any such command and would not lay any greater burden on Gentile brethren than the four items. This pleased the apostles and the elders and the whole church, and they sent a letter to Gentile brethren in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, by the hand of Barnabas and Paul, with Judas and Silas, from the Jerusalem congregation affirming this decision.—Acts 15:22-29

Dawn Bible Students Association
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