Acts 15:1-6-A group from Jerusalem arrives in Antioch and begins to teach that you have to be circumcised in order to be saved. The church in Antioch decides to send Paul and Barnabas to the church in Jerusalem to see what they thought about the matter. There were still several of the apostles and other leaders of the early church living in Jerusalem. While they had no binding authority, their opinion was respected. Along the way they went through Phoenicia and Samaria...and were telling about the conversion of the Gentiles...and the people were filled with joy over this report.
Acts 15:4-5-They arrived in Jerusalem and gave a report (apostles and elders, :6) to the church about God's salvation of the Gentiles. But certain believers who had previously followed the teachings of the Pharisees said that Gentiles must be circumcised and obey the Law of Moses…in order to be saved.
Ryrie Study Bible 15:1 Unless you are circumcised…you cannot be saved. The problems raised by the presence of Gentiles in the church now came to ahead. Peter had learned that no man should be called unclean—not even Gentiles (10:34), and the Jerusalem church had accepted the first Gentile converts on an equal basis with Jewish converts and without the necessity of being circumcised. However, the ultra-Judaistic party went on the offensive and insisted that Gentile converts be circumcised. A parallel question was also being raised: should there be unrestricted social contact between Jewish and Gentile Christians? The Judaistic party separated themselves from those who did not follow the dietary laws and would not partake of the common meals. Chapter 15 is concerned with these two questions: circumcision and foods (socializing). Had the division over these questions prevailed, the unity of the church would have been shattered from the start.
Acts 15:6-12-Peter stood and said that God had given evidence that He had saved the Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit...making no distinction between Jew and Gentile. He said that the Jews had never been able to perfectly fulfill the Law in order to be right with God...so, why would they want to place that impossible burden on the Gentiles? And, that we are saved "through the grace of the Lord Jesus" (:11). Paul and Barnabas continued to relate the signs and wonders which God had worked.
Acts 15:13-21-James then said that the prophets had spoken about salvation coming to the Gentiles (Amos 9:11; Jer. 12:15). He suggests that in order to show respect for those who were still struggling with legalism that the Gentile converts avoid three things that were especially abhorrent to these Jews...1. to not eat meat that had been sacrificed to pagan idols; 2. to not be involved in fornication (Ryrie-It evidently has the special meaning here of marriages contracted between too-near relatives as forbidden in Lev. 18); 3. to not eat meat with the blood in it (a pagan religious practice).
Prayer: Lord, the believers who had been Pharisees brought some of their old beliefs into their newfound faith in Christ. Please help me to be able to discern what is of me, and what is from You. Don't let me dress up my faith in You…in clothing that I have designed. Help me to know the pure truth. Please keep me from adding anything to the Gospel. I know that sometimes these could be religious matters, or cultural matters, or just personal matters. Please help me to know exactly what You desire and nothing more.