Acts 15:2
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.
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(2) When therefore Paul and Barnabas.—The two Apostles must obviously have agreed in feeling that the teaching of the Judaisers (it will be convenient to use that term henceforth) involved a direct condemnation of all the work in which they saw the triumph of God’s grace. They had proclaimed salvation through faith in Christ. Their converts were now told that they had been teaching a soul-destroying falsehood.

No small dissension and disputation.—The first of the two words was that which had been used by classical writers, like Thucydides (iii. 82) and Aristotle (Polit. v. 2), to express the greatest evil of all political societies—the spirit of party and of faction. In Mark 15:7; Luke 23:19, it is used of the “insurrection” in which Barabbas had been the ringleader. That element of evil was now beginning to show itself in the Christian Church.

They determined that Paul and Barnabas.—These were naturally chosen as the representatives of the cause of which they had been the chief advocates. The “certain others” are not named, but the prophets of Acts 13:1, and the men of Cyprus and Cyrene of Acts 11:20, were likely enough to have been chosen, and Titus was apparently taken up as an example of the fruits of St. Paul’s labours (Galatians 1:3). Looking to the Roman name which this disciple bore, it is not unlikely that he may have been among the first to whom the term Christian was applied. (See Note on Acts 11:26.) The fulness with which the history of the Council is given, suggests the possibility that St. Luke himself may have been present at it. If not, he must have based his report on materials supplied by St. Paul or one of the other delegates from Antioch, possibly Manaen (Acts 13:1).

Should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders.—The circumstances of the journey make it all but certain that we may identify it with that of which St. Paul speaks in Galatians 2:1. The only other visits that can dispute its claim are those of Acts 11:30; Acts 18:22; but though the latter view has been taken by some able writers (e.g., Lewin’s St. Paul, i., p. 302), there are, it is believed, decisive grounds for rejecting both. Against the first there are the facts, (1) that it is not easy to place fourteen years between the visit of Acts 9:27, and that of Acts 11:30; (2) the visit of Acts 11:30 appears in the history as confined to the single object of carrying relief to the suffering poor of the Church at Jerusalem; (3) the question as to enforcing circumcision had not then been raised, after its apparent settlement in the case of Cornelius; (4) had the agreement referred to in Galatians 2:9 preceded the Council, it would assuredly have been appealed to in the course of the debate at the Council. Against the second there are the facts (1) that the interval would, in that case, have been more than fourteen years; and (2) that it was not likely that the question should have been raised again after the decision of the Council. The only arguments of any weight on the other side are, (1) that the narrative of Acts 15 makes no mention of Titus; and (2) that that of Galatians 2 makes no mention of the Council; but these arguments from omission tell equally against both the other visits. These points will be dealt with as we proceed, and are, in any case, not sufficient to outweigh the evidence in the other scale. The reference of the question to the “Apostles and elders” is in many ways important. (1) As against the dogmatic system of the Church of Rome. On her theory, in its latest forms, the reference should have been to Peter, and to Peter alone, as the unerring guide of the Church into all truth. (2) As a recognition of the authority of the mother-Church of Jerusalem by the daughter-Church of Antioch; and as a precedent for referring local disputes to the decision of a central authority. (3) As showing the confidence which Paul and Barnabas felt that the decision would be in their favour. They could not believe that St. Peter would be false to the lesson which the history of Cornelius had taught him, nor that St. James would recall the definition which he had so recently given of “pure and undefiled religion” (James 1:27). (4) We note that St. Paul ascribes the journey to a “revelation” (Galatians 2:1). The thought came into his mind as by an inspiration that this, and not prolonged wranglings at Antioch, was the right solution of the problem.

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.Had no small dissension an disputation - The word rendered "dissension" στάσις stasis denotes sometimes "sedition" or "intestine war," and sometimes "earnest and violent disputation or controversy," Acts 23:7, Acts 23:10. In this place it clearly denotes that there was earnest and warm discussion; but it is not implied that there was any improper heat or temper on the part of Paul and Barnabas. Important principles were to be settled in regard to the organization of the church. Doctrines were advanced by the Judaizing teachers which were false, and which tended to produce great disorder in the church. Those doctrines were urged with zeal, were declared to be essential to salvation, and would therefore tend to distract the minds of Christians, and to produce great anxiety. It became, therefore, necessary to meet them with a determined purpose, and to establish the truth on an immovable basis. And the case shows that it is right to "contend earnestly for the faith" Jde 1:3; and, when similar cases occur, that it is proper to resist the approach of error with all the arguments which may be at our command, and with all the weapons which truth can furnish. It is further implied here that it is the duty of the ministers of the gospel to defend the truth and to oppose error. Paul and Barnabas regarded themselves as set for this purpose (compare Philippians 1:17, "Knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel"); and Christian ministers should be qualified to defend the truth, and should be willing with a proper spirit and with great earnestness to maintain the doctrines revealed.

They determined - There was no prospect that the controversy would be settled by contention and argument. It would seem, from this statement, that those who came down from Judea were also willing that the whole matter should be referred to the apostles at Jerusalem. The reason for this may have been:

(1) That Jerusalem would be regarded by them as the source of authority in the Christian church, as it had been among the Jews.

(2) most of the apostles and the most experienced Christians were there. They had listened to the instructions of Christ himself; had been long in the church; and were supposed to be better acquainted with its design and its laws.

(3) those who came from Judea would not be likely to acknowledge the authority of Paul as an apostle: the authority of those at Jerusalem they would recognize.

(4) they might have had a very confident expectation that the decision there would be in their favor. The question had not been agitated there. They had all been Jews, and it is certain that they continued as yet to attend in the temple service, and to conform to the Jewish customs. They might have expected, therefore, with great confidence, that the decision would be in their favor, and they were willing to refer it to those who resided at Jerusalem.

Certain other of them - Of the brethren; probably of each party. They did not go to debate, or to give their opinion, or to vote in the ease themselves, but to lay the question fairly before the apostles and elders.

Unto the apostles - The authority of the apostles in such a case would be acknowledged by all. They had been immediately instructed by the Saviour, and had the promise of infallible guidance in the organization of the church. See the notes on Matthew 16:19; Matthew 18:18.

And elders - See the note at Acts 11:30. Greek: presbyters. See the notes on Acts 14:23. Who these were, or what was their office and authority, is not easy now to determine. It may refer either to the aged men in the church at Jerusalem, or to those who were appointed to rule and to preach in connection with the apostles. As in the synagogue it was customary to determine questions by the advice of a bench of elders, there is no improbability in the supposition that the apostles would imitate that custom, and appoint a similar arrangement in the Christian church (Grotius). It is generally agreed that this is the journey to which Paul refers in Galatians 2:1-10. If so, it happened fourteen years after his conversion, Galatians 2:1. It was done in accordance with the divine command, "by revelation," Galatians 2:2. Among those who went with him was Titus, who was afterward so much distinguished as his companion, Galatians 2:3.

About this question - The question whether the ceremonial laws of Moses were binding on Christian converts. In regard to the nature and design of this council at Jerusalem, see the notes on Acts 15:30-31.

2. Paul and Barnabas—now the recognized heads of the Church at Antioch.

had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined—that is, the church did.

that Paul and Barnabas, and certain others of them—Titus was one (Ga 2:1); probably as an uncircumcised Gentile convert endowed with the gifts of the Spirit. He is not mentioned in the Acts, but only in Second Corinthians, Galatians, Second Timothy, and the Epistle addressed to him [Alford].

should go up to Jerusalem … about this question—That such a deputation should be formally despatched by the Church of Antioch was natural, as it might be called the mother church of Gentile Christianity.

Paul, that meek apostle, who was willing to become all things unto all men, yet he enters into a holy war with them that would introduce circumcision into the Christian church; because,

1. He would have no works of the law to be an ingredient into our salvation; but the free grace of God in Christ to be all in all.

2. That our freedom from all the ceremonial law, acquired by the death of Christ, might not be diminished.

3. That the spreading of the gospel might not be hindered, but that Christ might be accepted and honoured amongst all. Now if circumcision had been retained, it would have kept possession for all the other ceremonies to have continued, or re-entered, there being the same reason for the one as for the other, and the circumcised person was obliged by his circumcision to observe them all, Galatians 5:3,4.

They determined; the church at Antioch, where this controversy was moved.

Unto the apostles; James, Peter, and John who are thought to have been then at Jerusalem, the rest being probably gone to preach Christ in other parts.

When therefore Paul and Barnabas,.... Who were the ministers of the uncircumcision, and were just returned from preaching the Gospel among the Gentiles, with success, and were advocates for them, being witnesses of the grace that was bestowed on them, and therefore opposed the sentiments of these men:

and had no small dissension and disputation with them; which was attended with much heat and sharpness, and continued some time, and occasioned much disturbance and uneasiness; nor could the affair be decided and issued: wherefore

they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them; that is, the members of the church at Antioch, taking this matter into consideration, and finding that the difference could not be composed, for the peace of the church, wisely came to a resolution, and made an order, that Paul and Barnabas, with others, as Titus, who went with Paul at this time, as appears from Galatians 2:1 and some others of the brethren, and it may be also certain, on, the other side of the question; that these

should go up to Jerusalem, unto the apostles and elders, about this question; concerning circumcision, and the necessity of it to salvation, that they might have the sense of James, and Peter, and John, who particularly were at Jerusalem at this time, as appears from Acts 15:7 and other apostles that might be there; and also of other ministers of the word, who are called elders. And the church of Jerusalem being the most ancient church, and several of the apostles residing here, who had seen Christ in the flesh, and had received their mission and commission from him, and had been extraordinarily endowed with the Holy Ghost; and here being many other preachers of the Gospel, and there being in a multitude of counsellors safety, the church at Antioch judged it advisable to send to them for counsel and direction; and it becomes churches to assist each other in this way.

{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.

(2) Meetings of congregations were instituted to suppress heresies, to which certain were sent by common consent on behalf of all.

Acts 15:2. στάσεως: the word, with the exception of Mark 15:7, and Hebrews 9:8 (in a totally different sense), is peculiar to St. Luke: twice in his Gospel, and five times in Acts; used in classical Greek of sedition, discord, faction, and so of the factious opposition of parties in the state; frequent in LXX, but only once in any similar sense, Proverbs 17:14.—συζητήσεως, but ζητ.: “questioning,” R.V., cf. John 3:25; three times in St. Paul, 1 Timothy 6:4, 2 Timothy 2:23, Titus 3:9, in a depreciatory sense in each case; not in LXX or Apocrypha.—οὐκ ὀλίγης, see on Acts 12:18 and Acts 14:28; eight times in Acts.—ἔταξαν, sc., οἱ ἀδελφοὶ, Acts 15:1; no. discrepancy with Galatians 2:2, see additional note.—τινας ἄλλους: Titus amongst them, Galatians 2:1; Galatians 2:3; expression found only here in N.T.; men like the prophets and teachers in Acts 13:1 may have been included. On the attempt to identify Titus with Silas see Zöckler, in loco, and further Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 390, for the entire omission of Titus from Acts and its probable reason; Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, p. 281; Farrar, St. Paul, ii., 532; Alford, iii., 106, Proleg. A Gentile convert, and so keenly concerned in the settlement of the question, and in himself a proof of the “repentance unto life” granted to the Gentiles.—πρεσβ.: first mentioned in Acts 11:30, cf. note, in all official communications henceforth prominent, Acts 15:2; Acts 15:4; Acts 15:6; Acts 15:22-23, Acts 16:4, Acts 21:18, Lightfoot, Phil., p. 193.—ζητήματος: five times in Acts, nowhere else in N.T.; once in LXX, Ezekiel 36:37 A (see Hatch and Redpath), and in classical Greek; “question,” A. and R.V.

2. When therefore Paul and Barnabas] These Apostles would at once repeat their testimony of what “God had done with them” among the Gentiles, and thus become the opponents of the “men from Judæa.”

dissension and disputation] The authorities of best account give a simple instead of compound noun for the last word, and it would be well rendered “questioning,” (so R. V.) as the subject in dispute is called a “question” at the end of the verse. The first noun rendered “dissension” does not imply any angry disputation, but only a division. They took different sides in the debate.

they determined (appointed)] i.e. the brethren of the church of Antioch. The verb, as well as the whole context, shews that the mission was sent by the whole Christian community, to which the question was one of most vital importance, probably affecting a large part of their members.

apostles and elders] Peter, John, and James we find were now at Jerusalem, and these seem, from other notices in the N. T. (Galatians 1:18-19; Galatians 2:9), to have been the Apostles who continued to live in the holy city. These with the elders appear now as the governing body of the infant church. And Jerusalem was for the Jew, until its destruction, the place of chief authority (cp. Isaiah 2:3). The overthrow of the holy city did as much as anything to help on the knowledge of the universality of the Christian religion. Those who had been bred in Judaism, could not (as devout Jews to this day do not) cast away the thought that Jerusalem is “the place where men ought to worship.”

Acts 15:2. Στάσεως) A term of a middle character between bad and good.—πρὸς) against.—ἔταξαν, they arranged, determined) i.e. the brethren determined.—ἀναβαίνειν, should go up) Comp. as to the time and causes of this journey, Galatians 2:1, etc.—Παῦλον καὶ Βαρναβαν, Paul and Barnabas) These had it in their power to have maintained their own authority, and to have denied that a decision should be obtained from Jerusalem: for that they themselves have the Holy Spirit. The rest might have contended that those two ought not to be the deputies to Jerusalem, but that others, whose judgment was more unbiassed, should be deputed. But on both sides all things are done in a moderate and candid spirit. It was an easier thing to make a Christian of a Gentile, than to overcome Pharisaic false teaching.—καί τινας, and certain persons) It is a joyful thing to have associates both in the faith and in one’s journeying.—τοὺς ἀποστόλους καὶ πρεσβυτέρους, the apostles and presbyters [elders]) The order of apostles therefore was distinct from that of the presbyters or elders. Hebr. זקנים, elders.

Verse 2. - And when for when therefore, A.V.; questioning for disputation, A.V.; the brethren (in italics) appointed for they determined, A.V. Certain other of them. One of these would be Titus (Galatians 2:1). The circumstance that, on this occasion, St. Paul did go up to those who were apostles before him, to consult with them on a matter of doctrine, shows at once why he refers so pointedly to this visit in Galatians 2:1, etc., and is almost conclusive evidence that this visit is the one there referred to. The companionship of Barnabas; the agreement of the expression, "I went up by revelation," with the fact that he was sent by the Church, doubtless in obedience to some voice of the Spirit, like that mentioned in Acts 13:2; the occasion, a dispute about the circumcision of Gentile converts; the line taken by Paul and Barnabas in declaring the conversion of the Gentiles (Acts 15:4, 12; Galatians 2:27), and the result (Acts 15:19; Galatians 2:5, 7, 9), are all strong, not to say conclusive, marks of the identity of the two visits. The apostles and elders. This phrase marks the constitution of the governing part of the Church of Jerusalem. The addition in vers. 22 and 23 of "the whole Church," and (according to the T.R.) of "the brethren," shows the part the body of the believers had in approving and sanctioning the decisions of the elders. The transaction marks the position of the Church of Jerusalem as the metropolitan Church of Christendom. Acts 15:2Question (ζητήματος)

Found only in the Acts, and always of a question in dispute.

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