Acts 15:31
Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.
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(31) They rejoiced for the consolation.—We ought not to forget that the letter was probably read out by one who was himself emphatically “the son of consolation” (Acts 4:36) in all the manifold aspects of that word, and who now proved himself worthy of the name.

15:22-35 Being warranted to declare themselves directed by the immediate influence of the Holy Ghost, the apostles and disciples were assured that it seemed good unto God the Holy Spirit, as well as to them, to lay upon the converts no other burden than the things before mentioned, which were necessary, either on their own account, or from present circumstances. It was a comfort to hear that carnal ordinances were no longer imposed on them, which perplexed the conscience, but could not purify or pacify it; and that those who troubled their minds were silenced, so that the peace of the church was restored, and that which threatened division was removed. All this was consolation for which they blessed God. Many others were at Antioch. Where many labour in the word and doctrine, yet there may be opportunity for us: the zeal and usefulness of others should stir us up, not lay us asleep.They rejoiced for the consolation - They acquiesced in the decision of the apostles and elders, and rejoiced that they were not to be subjected to the burdensome rites and ceremonies of the Jewish religion. This closes the account of the first Christian council. It was conducted throughout on Christian principles; in a mild, kind, conciliatory spirit, and is a model for all similar assemblages. It came together, not to promote, but to silence disputation; not to persecute the people of God, but to promote their peace; not to be a scene of harsh and angry recrimination, but to be an example of all that was mild, and tender, and kind. Those who composed it came together, not to carry a point, not to overreach their adversaries, not to be party people, but to mingle their sober counsels, to inquire what was right, and to express, in a Christian manner, what was proper to be done. Great and important principles were to be established in regard to the Christian church, and they engaged in their work evidently with a deep sense of their responsibility, and with a just view of their dependence on the aid of the Holy Spirit. How happy Would it have been if this spirit had been possessed by all professedly Christian councils; if all had really sought the peace and harmony of the churches; if none had ever been convened to kindle the fires of persecution, or to rend and destroy the church of God!

This council has been usually appealed to as the authority for councils in the church as a permanent arrangement, and especially as an authority for courts of appeal and control. But it establishes neither, and should be brought as authority for neither. For:

(1) It was not a court of appeal in any intelligible sense. It was an assembly convened for a special purpose; designed to settle an inquiry which arose in a particular part of the church, and which required the collected wisdom of the apostles and elders.

(2) it had none of the marks or appendages of a court. The term "court," or judicature, is nowhere applied to it, nor to any assembly of Christian people in the New Testament. Nor should these terms be used now in the churches. courts of judicature imply a degree of authority which cannot be proved from the New Testament to have been conceded to any ecclesiastical body of people.

(3) there is not the slightest intimation that anything like permanency was to be attached to this council, or that it would be periodically or regularly repeated. It proves, indeed, that, when cases of difficulty occur - when Christians are perplexed and embarrassed, or when contentions arise - it is proper to refer to Christian people for advice and direction. Such was the case here, and such a course is obviously proper. If it should be maintained that it is well that Christian ministers and laymen should assemble periodically, at stated intervals, on the supposition that such cases may arise, this is conceded; but the example of the apostles and elders should not be pleaded as making such assemblies of divine right and authority, or as being essential to the existence of a church of God. Such an arrangement has been deemed to be so desirable by Christians, that it has been adopted by Episcopalians in their regular annual and triennial Conventions; by Methodists in their conferences; by Presbyterians in their General Assembly; by Friends in their Yearly Meetings; by Baptists and congregationalists in their Associations, etc.; but the example of the council summoned on a special emergency at Jerusalem should not be pleaded as giving divine authority to these periodical assemblages. They are wise and prudent arrangements, contributing to the peace of the church, and the example of the council at Jerusalem can be adduced as furnishing as reach divine authority for one as for another; that is, it does not make all or either of them of divine authority, or obligatory on the church of God.

(4) it should be added that a degree of authority (compare Acts 16:4) would, of course, be attached to the decision of the apostles and elders at that time which cannot be to any body of ministers and laymen now. Besides, it should never be forgotten - what, alas! it seems to have been the pleasure and the interest of ecclesiastics to forget that neither the apostles nor elders asserted any jurisdiction over the churches of Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia; that they did not claim a right to have these cases referred to them; that they did not attempt to "lord it" over their faith or their consciences. The case was a single, specific, definite question referred to them, and they decided it as such. They asserted no abstract right of such jurisdiction; they sought not to intermeddle With the case; they enjoined no future reference of such cases to them, to their successors, or to any ecclesiastical tribunal. They evidently regarded the churches as blessed with the most ample freedom, and contemplated no arrangement of a permanent character asserting a right to legislate on articles of faith, or to make laws for the direction of the Lord's freemen.

31-33. they rejoiced for the consolation—As the same word is in Ac 15:31 properly rendered "exhorted," the meaning probably is "rejoiced for the exhortation" (Margin), or advice; so wise in itself and so contrary to the imposition attempted to be practiced upon them by the Judaizers. It could not but much rejoice the Gentile believers, that they were exempted from circumcision, and the ceremonial law. And it gladdened the believing Jews also, that the controversy was determined, and concord established amongst them. But much more might they all rejoice to understand the grace of the gospel; and that we are not justified by the deeds of the law, but by faith in Christ, Romans 5:1.

Consolation; this word also signifies exhortation, and it was matter of joy to be put upon such excellent duties as our most holy religion recommends, and to be deterred from such erroneous evils as it forbids. All that God requires of us being only to eschew evil, and do good, Isaiah 1:16,17 1 Peter 3:11. Which when they had read,.... That is, when the brethren of the church at Antioch had read the letter delivered to them; for not Paul and Barnabas, or Judas and Silas, who were sent with it, read it, but the brethren to whom it was sent, as was proper.

They rejoiced for the consolation, or "exhortation", as the word may be rendered, which was given them in the letter, to abstain from the above things, without being burdened with any other; and they rejoiced that there was such an agreement among the apostles, elders, and brethren at Jerusalem; and that their sentiments, and those of Paul and Barnabas, and other faithful ministers and saints at Antioch, were alike, and were opposed to the judaizing preachers and professors; and above all, they rejoiced that they were freed from the burdensome yoke of the law, and that the controversy which had been raised among them, was likely to be ended, and to issue so well.

Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.
Acts 15:31-32. Ἐπὶ τῇ παρακλήσει] for the consolation, which the contents of the letter granted to them. They now saw Christian liberty protected and secured, where the abrupt demand of the Jewish-Christians had formerly excited so much anxiety. The meaning cohortatio, arousing address (Beza, Castalio, and others), is less suitable to the contents of the letter and to the threatening situation in which they had been placed.

καὶ αὐτοί] is to be explained in keeping with Acts 15:27; and so to be connected, not, as is usually done, with προφ. ὄντες (as they also, as well as Paul and Barnabas, were prophets), but with διὰ λόγου π. παρεκάλ. κ.τ.λ. Judas and Silas also personally (as the letter by writing) comforted and strengthened the brethren by much discourse, which they could the more do, since they were prophets (see on Acts 11:27). The παρεκάλεσαν must be interpreted like παρακλήσει, and so not cohortabantur (as usually). Comp. Vulgate; and see Acts 15:27, τὰ αὐτά.Acts 15:31. παρακλήσει: A. and R.V. “consolation” (“exhortation” margin, R.V.). The former rendering seems suitable here, because the letter causes rejoicing, not as an exhortation, but as a message of relief and concord. Ramsay and Hort render “encouragement”. Barnabas was a fitting bearer of such a message, cf. Acts 4:36.31. rejoiced for the consolation] Barnabas “the son of consolation” (Acts 4:36) was a fit member of such an embassy. The consolation would be felt both by Jews and Gentiles, by the former because they knew how much was to be asked of their Gentile fellow-worshippers, by the latter because they were declared free from the yoke of Jewish observances. The noun very often signifies exhortation, but that sense is neither so apt here, nor is it borne out by the character of the letter, which sets forth a ground of peace and comfort, but is not hortatory.Acts 15:31. Ἀναγνόντες, when they had read) in public.—παρακλήσει, at the consolation) To this refer παρεκάλεσαν, consoled (Engl. Vers., exhorted), Acts 15:32.Verse 31. - And when they had read it for which when they had read, A.V. Consolation

See on Acts 9:31.

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