While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the believers: “Unless you are circumcised as required by the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Paul and Barnabas disagreed with them, arguing vehemently. Finally, the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, accompanied by some local believers, to talk to the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent the delegates to Jerusalem, and they stopped along the way in Phoenicia and Samaria to visit the believers. They told them—much to everyone’s joy—that the Gentiles, too, were being converted. When they arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul were welcomed by the whole church, including the apostles and elders. They reported everything God had done through them. But then some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted, “The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses.”Acts 15:1-5
So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue. At the meeting, after a long discussion, Peter stood and addressed them as follows: “Brothers, you all know that God chose me from among you some time ago to preach to the Gentiles so that they could hear the Good News and believe. God knows people’s hearts, and He confirmed that He accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for He cleansed their hearts through faith. So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear?We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”
Everyone listened quietly as Barnabas and Paul told about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. When they had finished, James stood and said, “Brothers, listen to me. Peter has told you about the time God first visited the Gentiles to take from them a people for Himself. And this conversion of Gentiles is exactly what the prophets predicted. As it is written: ‘Afterward I will return and restore the fallen house of David. I will rebuild its ruins and restore it, dso that the rest of humanity might seek the LORD, including the Gentiles—all those I have called to be Mine. The LORD has spoken—He who made these things known so long ago.’ And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood. For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations.”Acts 15:6-21
The Relevant Galatians Verses:
- Gal 1:18 Then three years later I went to Jerusalem to get to know Peter, and I stayed with him for fifteen days.
- Gal 1:19 The only other apostle I met at that time was James, the Lord’s brother.
- Gal 1:20 I declare before God that what I am writing to you is not a lie.
- Gal 1:21 After that visit I went north into the provinces of Syria and Cilicia.
- Gal 1:22 And still the Christians in the churches in Judea didn’t know me personally.
- Gal 2:1 Then fourteen years later I went back to Jerusalem again, this time with Barnabas; and Titus came along, too.
- Gal 2:2 I went there because God revealed to me that I should go. While I was there I met privately with those considered to be leaders of the church and shared with them the message I had been preaching to the Gentiles. I wanted to make sure that we were in agreement, for fear that all my efforts had been wasted and I was running the race for nothing.
- Gal 2:3 And they supported me and did not even demand that my companion Titus be circumcised, though he was a Gentile.
- Gal 2:4 Even that question came up only because of some so-called Christians there—false ones, really—who were secretly brought in. They sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. They wanted to enslave us and force us to follow their Jewish regulations.
- Gal 2:5 But we refused to give in to them for a single moment. We wanted to preserve the truth of the gospel message for you.
- Gal 2:6 And the leaders of the church had nothing to add to what I was preaching. (By the way, their reputation as great leaders made no difference to me, for God has no favourites.)
- Gal 2:7 Instead, they saw that God had given me the responsibility of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as He had given Peter the responsibility of preaching to the Jews.
- Gal 2:8 For the same God who worked through Peter as the apostle to the Jews also worked through me as the apostle to the Gentiles.
- Gal 2:9 In fact, James, Peter, and John, who were known as pillars of the church, recognised the gift God had given me, and they accepted Barnabas and me as their co-workers. They encouraged us to keep preaching to the Gentiles, while they continued their work with the Jews.
- Gal 2:10 Their only suggestion was that we keep on helping the poor, which I have always been eager to do.
- Gal 2:11 But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong.
- Gal 2:12 When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision.
- Gal 2:13 As a result, other Jewish Christians followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.
- Gal 2:14 When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions?
In what way does the public statement of Pater’s oppose Paul’s thoughts? Rather it seems to fall in line with exactly what Paul is saying. Both seem to be on the same page. Acts 15 is very difficult to harmonise with what is recorded in Galatians. Many think that these two accounts can’t be harmonised. Theories abound as to chronology between these two accounts. Two standard approaches are put forward by the scholars regard the timing of events between Acts 15 and Galatians. Most scholars place the place the Jerusalem Council between Paul’s first and second journey. But there are a group of scholars who believe the visit to Jerusalem described in Gal 2:1-10 is the same as that described in Acts 15. They believe Galatians was written some time before the Jerusalem Council while the circumcision controversy was at its height and tempers were raging. They also believe Peter’s visit to Antioch, described in Gal 2:11-21, occurred before the Jerusalem Council.
It is reasonable to assume the visit to Jerusalem described in Gal 2:1-10 and Acts 15:5-29 is in fact the same event. In Acts 15 Luke gives the outward publically expressed outline of the visit while Paul gives us the private behind the scenes encounter with the apostles at which time they agreed on their collective stand related to the Judaizers which was then presented publically. Luke is writing for the whole church while in Galatians, Paul is writing to particular people concerning specific issues. Naturally then the accounts differ but they are not contradictory, rather they complement each other to give us a well-rounded view on what happened in public and behind the scenes. The tension between Jew and Gentile has been an underlying theme throughout the Book of Acts from the beginning. This tension has always been bubbling beneath the surface. It was the first of a long series of controversies that plagued the early church. The particular issue of circumcision was of temporary significance but the underlying principles and the tensions between those who adhered to the law and those who were free in Christ were fundamental and on-going. The division of the Law into the moral and the ceremonial was not present at this time in history as it is today.
Some believe that in Gal 2:1-10 Paul is speaking of the visit recorded in Acts 11:30 and 12:25. However that is not possible. That view is not compatible with the facts and the flow of the text. There are a number of issues or discrepancies or just plain questions which pop up along the way as we read in Acts 15 in parallel with Galatians. See which ones strike you. Share them if you will or if you have the time to read both accounts and seek to understand them at a deeper level. One such issue that surfaces in my mind and as yet I have seen no satisfactory explanation thereof concerns the statement seen in Acts 15:2 where Luke writes “Paul and Barnabas and some of the others”. Clearly these “others” include Titus as we see in Gal 2:1. So why is Titus not mentioned specifically as being present? There is a mystery behind the text of these two accounts (Luke’s in Acts cf Paul’s in Galatians) as to why Titus is strongly to the fore in Paul’s letters but unmentioned in the Book of Acts. That is something for you to ponder.
From this point on we will focus our attention on the details of the text before us, starting with the introductory statements from Acts 15:1-5 in the next Gem.
Talk about your blessings more than you talk about your burdens.Ian Vail
If you love someone, be brave enough to tell them their inconsistencies.Ian Vail
Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.Albert Einstein
When you love someone, you love the person as they are, and not as you’d like them to be.Leo Tolstoy
But there are times when you need to shake the dust off your feet regarding the opposition or part from a mismatched colleague for the good of the team.Ian Vail
Staying connected Is not always a sign of approving someone, often it’s a sign of improving someone.Ian Vail