View Acts 15 in the note window.
1: Coming down from Judea - Perhaps to supply what they thought
Paul and Barnabas had omitted.
2: They (the brethren) determined that Paul and Barnabas, and
certain others should go up to Jerusalem about this question - This
is the journey to which St. Paul refers, (Ga 2:1,2), when he
says he went up by revelation: which is very consistent with
this; for the Church in sending them might be directed by a
revelation made either immediately to St. Paul, or to some other
person, relating to so important an affair. Important indeed it
was, that these Jewish impositions should be solemnly opposed in
time; because multitudes of converts were still zealous for the
law, and ready to contend for the observance of it. Indeed
many of the Christians of Antioch would have acquiesced in the
determination of Paul alone. But as many others might have
prejudices against him, for his having been so much concerned
for the Gentiles, it was highly expedient to take the concurrent
judgment of all the apostles on this occasion.
4: They were received - That is solemnly welcomed.
5: But certain Pharisees - For even believers are apt to retain
their former turn of mind, and prejudices derived therefrom.
The law of Moses - The whole law, both moral and ritual.
7: After much debate - It does not appear that this was among the
apostles themselves. But if it had, if they themselves had
debated at first, yet might their final decision be from an
unerring direction. For how really soever they were inspired,
we need not suppose their inspiration was always so instantaneous
and express, as to supersede any deliberation in their own minds,
or any consultation with each other. Peter rose up - This is the
last time he is mentioned in the Acts.
8: God bare them witness - That he had accepted them, by giving
them the Holy Ghost.
9: Purifying - This word is repeated from(Ac 10:15);
their hearts - The heart is the proper seat of purity;
by faith - Without concerning themselves with the Mosaic law.
10: Now therefore - Seeing these things are so: why tempt ye God?
- Why do ye provoke him to anger, by putting so heavy a yoke on
11: The Lord Jesus - He does not here say our Lord; because in
this solemn place he means the Lord of all, we - Jews, shall be
saved even as they - Gentiles, namely, through the grace of the
Lord Jesus, not by our observance of the ceremonial law.
12: Miracles and wonders - By which also what St. Peter had said
14: Simon hath declared - James, the apostle of the Hebrews, calls
Peter by his Hebrew name. To take out of them a people for his
name - That is to believe in him, to be called by his name.
15: To this agree - St. Peter had urged the plain fact, which
St. James confirms by Scripture prophecy. The words of the
prophets - One of whom is immediately cited.
16: After this - After the Jewish dispensation expires. I will
build again the fallen tabernacle of David - By raising from his
seed the Christ, who shall build on the ruins of his fallen
tabernacle a spiritual and eternal kingdom. (Am 9:11).
17: The Gentiles on whom my name is called - That is, who are
called by my name; who are my people.
18: Known unto God are all his works from eternity - Which the
apostle infers from the prophecy itself, and the accomplishment
of it. And this conversion of the Gentiles being known to him
from eternity, we ought not to think a new or strange thing.
It is observable, he does not speak of God's works in the
natural world, (which had been nothing to his present purpose,)
but of his dealing with the children of men. Now he could
not know these, without knowing the characters and actions of
particular persons, on a correspondence with which the wisdom
and goodness of his providential dispensations is founded. For
instance, he could not know how he would deal with heathen
idolaters (whom he was now calling into his Church) without
knowing there would be heathen idolaters: and yet this was a
thing purely contingent, a thing as dependent on the freedom of
the human mind, as any we can imagine. This text, therefore,
among a thousand more, is an unanswerable proof, that God
foreknows future contingencies, though there are difficulties
relating hereto which men cannot solve.
20: To abstain from fornication - Which even the philosophers
among the heathens did not account any fault. It was
particularly frequent in the worship of their idols, on which
account they are here named together. And from things strangled
- That is, from whatever had been killed, without pouring out the
blood. When God first permitted man to eat flesh, he commanded
Noah, and in him all his posterity, whenever they killed any
creature for food, to abstain from the blood thereof. It was to
be poured upon the ground as water: doubtless in honour of that
blood which was in due time poured out for the sin of the world.
21: Perhaps the connection is, To the Jews we need write nothing
on these heads; for they hear the law continually.
22: With the whole Church - Which therefore had a part therein; to
send chosen men - Who might put it beyond all dispute, that this
was the judgment of the apostles and all the brethren.
23: Writing thus, and sending it by their hand - The whole conduct
of this affair plainly shows that the Church in those days
had no conception of St. Peter's primacy, or of his being the
chief judge in controversies. For the decree is drawn up, not
according to his, but the Apostle James's proposal and direction:
and that in the name, not of St. Peter, but of all the apostles
and elders, and of the whole Church. Nay, St. Peter's name is not
mentioned at all, either in the order for sending to Jerusalem
on the question, (Ac 15:2), or in the address of the messengers
concerning it, (Ac 15:4), or in the letter which was written in
24: Forasmuch as, &c. - The simplicity, weightiness, and
conciseness of this letter are highly observable.
26: Men that have hazarded their lives - This is spoken of
Paul and Barnabas.
27: Who will tell you the same things - Which we have written.
28: These necessary things - All of these were necessary for that
time. But the first of them was not necessary long; and the
direction concerning it was therefore repealed by the same
Spirit, as we read in the former Epistle to the Corinthians.
29: Blood - The eating which was never permitted the children of
God from the beginning of the world. Nothing can be clearer
than this. For, 1. From Adam to Noah no man ate flesh at all;
consequently no man then ate blood. 2. When God allowed Noah
and his posterity to eat flesh, he absolutely forbade them to
eat blood; and accordingly this, with the other six precepts of
Noah, was delivered down from Noah to Moses. 3. God renewed
this prohibition by Moses, which was not repealed from the
time of Moses till Christ came. 4. Neither after his coming
did any presume to repeal this decree of the Holy Ghost, till
it seemed good to the bishop of Rome so to do, about the middle
of the eighth century. 5. From that time those Churches which
acknowledged his authority held the eating of blood to be an
indifferent thing. But, 6. In all those Churches which never
did acknowledge the bishop of Rome's authority, it never was
allowed to eat blood; nor is it allowed at this day. This is
the plain fact; let men reason as plausibly as they please on
one side or the other. From which keeping yourselves ye will
do well - That is, ye will find a blessing. This gentle manner
of concluding was worthy the apostolical wisdom and goodness.
But how soon did succeeding councils of inferior authority
change it into the style of anathemas! Forms which have proved
an occasion of consecrating some of the most devilish passions
under the most sacred names; and like some ill - adjusted weapons
of war, are most likely to hurt the hand from which they are
35: Paul and Barnabas abode in Antioch - And it was during this
time that Peter came down from Jerusalem, and that St. Paul
withstood him to the face, for separating himself from the
Gentiles, (Ga 2:11), &c.
36: Let us go and visit the brethren in every city where we have
preached - This was all that St. Paul designed at first; but it
was not all that God designed by his journey, whose providence
carried him much farther than he intended. And see how they do
- How their souls prosper: how they grow in faith, hope love:
what else ought to be the grand and constant inquiry in every
ecclesiastical visitation? Reader, how dost thou do?
37: Barnabas counselled to take John - His kinsman.
38: But Paul thought it not right - To trust him again, who had
deserted them before: who had shrunk from the labour and danger
of converting those they were now going to confirm.
39: And there was a sharp contention - Literally, a paroxysm,
or fit of a fever. But nothing in the text implies that the
sharpness was on both sides. It is far more probable that it
was not; that St. Paul, who had the right on his side, as he
undoubtedly had,) maintained it with love. And Barnabas taking
Mark with him, sailed away to Cyprus - Forsaking the work in which
he was engaged, he went away to his own country.
40: But Paul departed - Held on his intended course: being
recommended by the brethren to the grace of God - We do not find
that Barnabas stayed for this. O how mighty is the grace of God!
which in the midst of the world, in the midst of sin, among so
many snares of Satan, and in spite of the incredible weakness
and depravity of nature, yet overcomes all opposition,
sanctifies, sustains, and preserves us to the end!
It appears not only that Paul and Barnabas were afterward
thoroughly reconciled, (1Co 9:6,Ga 2:9); but also that
John was again admitted by St. Paul as a companion in his labours,(Col 4:10,Phm 1:24,2Ti 4:11).