Acts 15 contains what is known as the Jerusalem Council.  To understand what that was all about, let’s begin by reading Acts 15:1-2, “And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 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.”  As more and more Gentiles (non-Jews) were being saved, some of the Jewish believers began to teach these Gentile believers that they had to be ‘circumcised after the manner of Moses’, or they could not be saved.  This was a pretty serious thing to teach the Gentile believers.  The Apostle Paul told the Gentile believers in Galatians 5:2-3, “Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.”  You cannot put yourself under one part of the law.  To obey one precept puts you under the whole law.  To do that, Paul said, was denying the effect of Christ’s death on Calvary.

Paul and Barnabas understood the impact of this false teaching and so they agreed to attend this meeting we call the Jerusalem Council.  We hear of three important speakers at this conference of the Lord’s people.  Let’s consider their counsel.

  • PETER – Peter spoke from verses 7-11. Let’s read verse 10, “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?”  Peter pointed out that the Jews were never able to keep the law, so why should they shoulder the Gentile believers with doing something they were never able to do?  In verse 11, Peter made this remarkable statement, “But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.”  Peter did not say that the Gentiles would be saved even as the Jews are saved.  He said that the Jews would be saved the same way the Gentiles were saved…‘through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  What do we learn from this?  Peter stated that the Gentiles would be saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, apart from the law.  The Jews would be saved the same way.  Paul would later write in Romans 3:28, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith WITHOUT THE DEEDS OF THE LAW.”
  • BARNABAS AND PAUL – Verse 12 says, “Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.” These two men showed that the Lord had manifested His pleasure in their work among the Gentiles by working miracles and wonders among the Gentile believers, even though they have not been circumcised.
  • JAMES – James was the one who finalized the council with his remarks. He spoke from verse 13-21.  We have his final remarks and conclusion in verses 19-20, “Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.”  This council, having listened to the remarks of these Godly men and being led of the Lord, concluded that it was not scriptural to trouble the Gentile believers by trying to persuade them to put themselves under the law.

There were, however, three things they did insist the Gentile believers should observe.

Abstain from pollution of idols.  Abstain from fornication. Abstain from eating animals that had been strangled and still contained its blood.

In all likelihood, these were four common customs of the Gentile world and considered to be pagan by the Jews.  Of course, fornication is an outright sin, but the others could possibly stumble their Jewish brethren and for the sake of their consciences, should not be done.  The proper attitude is found in Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 8:13, “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.”  (223.8)