Acts 15:36-18:22

(Heretofore we have considered the dispute leading up to this council of Jerusalem.

We next began to consider the council itself. And thus far we have considered the member

ship of the council. We continue from this point.)

B. Deliberations of the Council, vs. 6-21.

1. In general:

a. What does the first part of vs. 7 indicate?

1) Were Peter, Paul and Barnabas, and James the only ones who spoke?

2) Or was there a much more ]engthy deliberation of this question, and a considerable difference of opinion?

b. Why, then, does the record tell us only of the speeches of Peter, Paul and Barnabas, and James?

2. Peter’s address:

a. What is the main line of Peter’s argumentation?

b. To what incident does he refer in order to prove his point? Is this important?

c. Points to be noticed in Peter’s argumentation:

1) Why does Peter emphasize that the Gentiles believed, vs. 7?

2) What, for Peter, is the undeniable proof that God put no difference between Jew and Gentile believers?

3) Why does Peter refer to God here as the One who knoweth the hearts?

4) How does Peter explain this proven lack of difference from an internal point of view, vs. 9? What is meant by “purifying their hearts by faith”? And why does he refer at all to this matter of purification? And further, why does he emphasize that this purification is by faith?

d. What is his negative conclusion in vs. 10?

1) What is meant here by “tempting God”?

2) What is the unbearable yoke to which he refers?

3) Why does he refer to it as an unbearable yoke?

e. What is his positive conclusion, vs. 11?

1) To whom does this method of salvation refer, Gentiles only, or both Jews and Gentiles?

2) Upon what basis can he say that both are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus?

3) How does this statement compare with the teaching of those who had taught the brethren at Antioch, vs. 1?

4) Why does Peter here refer to both Jews and Gentiles? Was not the question one which concerned the Gentiles only?

3. Paul and Barnabas take part, vs. 12.

a. To what do Paul and Barnabas refer in their address of the council?

b. What had this to do with the question being considered?

1) What had Paul and Barnabas preached, the necessity of circumcision, or not?

2) What function did the miracles and wonders wrought among the Gentiles have in relation to this preaching?

3) What conclusion, then, must be drawn from the fact that God had wrought these miracles and wonders among the Gentiles through Paul and Barnabas?

c. Thus far, what is true of both the addresses given?

1) What are the brethren seeking to establish? Are they merely in search of a solution to a problem, or must it be said that they are trying to determine what is the will of God in this matter?

2) And how do both Peter and Paul and Barnabas go about this? Is it a matter of human opinion and argument, or do they seek objective proof of what is the will of God?

4. James, vss. 13-21:

a. Who is this James, and what was his standing in the council?

b. How does his method differ from that of Peter and the two missionaries, Paul and Barnabas?

c. Why does he follow this method of referring to the O.T. Scriptures?

1) To what O.T. passage does he refer?

2) What accounts for the difference between James’ version and that found in the O.T.?

3) What is another rendering of vs. 18?

d. Why does James refer to Peter (Simeon), but not to Paul and Barnabas?

e. What does James prove from the O.T. Scriptures?

f. What is his sentence?

1) What is the negative part of the sentence, vs. 19? What is meant by this? How were they not to be troubled?

2) What is the positive part of the sentence? vs. 20.

a) What is the meaning of each of the stipulations mentioned?

b) Do all these prohibitions have the same rank? Which one is based on the moral law? Why is it especially mentioned, while other requirements of the moral law are not mentioned?

c) Are the remaining three prohibitions based directly on the ceremonial law?

d) Does this sentence constitute a compromise? Does it mean that the ceremonial law is partly valid and partly of no force for the Gentiles? If not, why are the Gentiles to observe these regulations? Is there anything wrong as such with meat offered to idols, blood, and things strangled?

g. What is the force of vs. 21?

1) Does James mean that even if the Christian church does not maintain the law of Moses, there will still be plenty of people who do maintain it in the synagogues?

2) Or does he mean to refer to the fact that the items mentioned in vs. 20 are matters of particular offense to the Jewish Christians because of the fact that ever since the dispersion they have been brought up in these regulations in the synagogues?

C. The Decision: vss. 22-29.

1. Did the congregation also have a part in making the decision? If so, what was that part? vs. 22.

2. With whose judgment did the decision as such agree? Compare vss. 28, 29 with 19, 20.

3. What is the meaning of “it seemed good to the Holy Ghost”?

a. How did they know this seemed good to the Holy Ghost?

b. Does the “and to us” denote a measure of cooperation between the Holy Ghost and the church? If not, what is the relation between the two?

4. How was the decision to he conveyed to the Antioch church?

a. Why is it put in writing?

b. Why are Silas and Barnabas sent as spokesmen? What was their function?

c. Why could not this matter he entrusted to Paul and Barnabas?

5. Concerning the address and greeting:

a. Why are not the Jewish Christians included in the letter?

b. Did not the principle of the non-necessity of circumcision apply for them as well as the Gentiles?

c. How in the greeting does the letter express the unity of the saints in Jerusalem with the Gentile Christians?

d. Is the decision strictly limited to those of Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia?

6. Further judgment of the council concerning the Antioch problem:

a. What is their judgment concerning those who had taught the necessity of circumcision?

b. How does the council express its approval of Paul and Barnabas?


A. As Such:

1. Was the letter delivered only to the Gentiles, as per its address, or to the entire multitude?

2. What was the effect upon the church at Antioeh?

B. Further Details:

1. Why did Silas and Judas remain for a while? What did they do? Was their labor especially necessary, seeing that Paul and Barnabas also returned to Antioch?

2. What does it mean that “they were let go in peace”?

3. Did Silas go?

4. What did Paul and Barnabas do at this time?

5. What impression does vs. 35 give of the size and labors of the Antioch church?

C. General question: Of what significance is this narrative of the Council at Jerusalem for the church today?

Originally published in:

Vol. 18, No. 2, March 1958