|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
15:1-6 Some from Judea taught the Gentile converts at Antioch, that they could not be saved, unless they observed the whole ceremonial law as given by Moses; and thus they sought to destroy Christian liberty. There is a strange proneness in us to think that all do wrong who do not just as we do. Their doctrine was very discouraging. Wise and good men desire to avoid contests and disputes as far as they can; yet when false teachers oppose the main truths of the gospel, or bring in hurtful doctrines, we must not decline to oppose them.
Verse 1. - Came down... and taught for which came down... taught, A.V.; saying for and said, A.V.; custom (ἔθος) for manner, A.V. Except ye be circumcised, etc. The question thus raised nearly effected the disruption of the Church, and was the most serious controversy that had yet arisen. If the views broached by these Judaean Christians had prevailed, the whole character of Christianity would have been changed, and its existence probably cut short. How great the danger was appears from even Peter and Barnabas having wavered in their opinion. (For St. Paul's treatment of the subject, see Romans 2:25, etc.; 4; Galatians 5:2-6; Galatians 6:12-15, etc.) The expression, Τινὲς κατέλθοντες ἀπὸ τῆς Ἰουδαίας, is so like that in Galatians 2:11, Πρὸ τοῦ ἐλθεῖν τινὰς ἀπὸ Ἰακώβου as to suggest very strongly the consideration whether Peter was not at Antioch at this time, and whether the scene related in Galatians 2:11, etc., did not precede, and in fact cause, the Council of Jerusalem. In this case the "dissension and disputation" spoken of in ver. 2 would include and directly point to the memorable rebuke given by Paul to Peter; and we should understand that Peter, accepting Paul's rebuke, preceded him and Barnabas, and prepared the way at Jerusalem for the solution arrived at. And, indeed, Peter's words at Jerusalem are almost an echo of Paul's words addressed to him at Antioch. If Barnabas had shown a leaning towards the Judaizing party, he would the more readily have been accepted by them as one of the embassy. The chief objection to this hypothesis is that in Galatians 2:11 Peter's visit to Antioch seems to be spoken of as something subsequent to the journey of St. Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem. But it is not in the least necessary so to understand it. St, Paul's mention of his visit to Jerusalem might naturally recall the incident which had led to it, and which was another example of his own independence. Farrar places Peter's visit to Antioch between the Council of Jerusalem and the quarrel with Barnabas, in the time indicated in ver. 35 of this chapter (vol. 1. Acts 23.), and so do Conybeare and Howson (vol. 1. p. 238), Meyer, and Alford ('Proleg.,' p. 24; note on Acts 15:36, and Galatians 2:11). Renan ('St. Paul,' p. 290, etc.) and Lewin (vol. 1. Acts 13.) place it after St. Paul's return to Antioch, at the conclusion of his second missionary journey (Acts 18:22, 23). No absolute certainty can be arrived at, but see note to ver. 35. Custom (see Acts 16:21); τὰ ἔθη is the technical term for the Mosaic institutions, used by Josephus and Philo (see too Acts 6:14; Acts 21:21, note).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And certain men which came down from Judea,.... To Antioch; they were not sent by the apostles, they came down of "themselves"; who they were, is not certain; that they were "judaizing" Christians, and teachers among them, is plain from the following account: according to Epiphanius (g) they were Cerinthus, and some of his followers: these
taught the brethren; the Gentile converts at Antioch, who are styled "brethren", though they were Gentiles, because they were regenerated by the grace of God, and were of the same faith with the believing Jews, and in the same church state with them at Antioch: and said,
except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses; or custom of Moses, which had been used from the time of Abraham, and was revived and reinforced by Moses; wherefore the Syriac version renders it, "the law of Moses"; See Gill on John 7:19.
ye cannot be saved; these men were not only for retaining circumcision, which was now abolished, but they made it necessary to salvation; which was carrying the matter further than even the unbelieving Jews themselves did, at least some of them: for though indeed it is a notion with them, that no circumcised persons go to hell, but are all saved; and some of them say, that God rejects uncircumcised persons, and brings them down to hell (h); yet others of them speak of the godly among the nations of the world, and of the proselytes of the gate, who keep the seven precepts of Noah, as persons that shall be saved; so Ananias the Jew, preceptor to King Izates, when he signified his great desire to be circumcised, in order to put him off of it, told him, that if he was determined to follow the customs of the Jews, he might worship God without circumcision, which was more peculiar to the Jews than to be circumcised (i).
(g) Contra Haeres. l. 1. Haeres. 28. (h) Shemot Rabba, sect. 19. fol. 104. 4. (i) Joseph. Antiqu. l. 20. c. 2. sect. 5.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ac 15:1-35. Council at Jerusalem to Decide on the Necessity of Circumcision for the Gentile Converts.
1, 2. certain men—See the description of them in Ga 2:4.
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