Acts 15:22

Executive mansion plaque. Virginia capitol.

Thursday, 23 March 2023

Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren. Acts 15:22

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

James has just completed his short speech, rendering his decision concerning the matter and explaining why. With that, the narrative now continues, saying, “Then it pleased.”

The word translated as “pleased” gives the sense of forming an opinion by using one’s personal perspective. Thus, it more closely reads, “Then it seemed good to the apostles and elders.” The decision had been rendered, and now it needed to be sent out for all the churches to know what that judgment was so that the issue would not cause further dissension.

This was the mutual consensus of the apostles and elders who had gathered together as noted in verse 15:6. But more, the matter was agreeable “with the whole church.” The entire body was mentioned in verse 15:4. They had heard the words of the Pharisees and would be curious about what the council’s decision was.

Having heard the decision and the idea of sending that decision out among the churches, the matter seemed good to all in the congregation. This is seen in the next words. It seemed good to all “to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.”

Rather, the clause begins with an aorist participle and should be rendered, “having chosen men out of them, to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.” In other words, the choosing of these men is the prime issue. They chose the men to convey the matter. It was obvious that Paul and Barnabas would be returning to Antioch with the decision. But it is the representatives of the council – arriving along with Paul and Barnabas – that would be the ones who would affirm it to the churches.

This is an important point because if Paul and Barnabas stopped at other churches, or even in their return to the church at Antioch, and conveyed the decision, without someone sent from the council to confirm their words, the Judaizer could follow on their heels and say, “that’s not at all what the council said.” If they did this, the matter would be in the same state as when it was first raised.

The choice of the messengers by those in Jerusalem is the primary issue because it will avoid any such dissension. This is not calling the veracity of Paul and Barnabas into question. The decision was rendered in their favor.

Rather, the importance of this is to ensure that those mentioned in verse 15:1 would be silenced. There were “certain men” who came down from Judea. They had obviously gone without approval, and their intention was to divide the fellowship and bring in the legalism of law observance. With this understood, the narrative next names those chosen saying, “Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas.”

The first name, Judas, called Barsabas, is spelled with one final b in some texts and two in others. And so, it is rendered either Barsabbas or Barsabas. If two b’s are correct, it is assumed that he may be a brother of the person named in Acts 1:23, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus. If this is so, then Judas, like his brother, could have been a follower of Jesus from early on. If so, he would probably be well-known among the churches. This is speculation, but it is quite possible.

Silas is seen here for the first of quite a few times, both in Acts and in the Epistles. The name Silas could be derived from the Hebrew shaul, the same name as Saul. Thus, it would mean Asked For. Or, it could be related to the Hebrew word salal, meaning to cast up highways. If so, then it would mean Highway Maker.

It cannot be known for certain if one of these words, or some other, is where the name comes from. He is, however, also known for the Latin version of his name, Silvanus, which is found in several epistles of Paul and Peter. Thus, the name could simply be a contraction of that name.

Of these two men, the verse next says that they were “leading men among the brethren.” The verb hégeomai is used. It is one leading the way, going before others as the chief. One can see the root of our word hegemony. They were responsible individuals who would be well respected among those they encountered along the way. In verse 15:32, it will note that they were both prophets and men able to exhort and strengthen others.

Life application: If a commanding general were to have a meeting of his commanders in the field, giving them a decision and sending them back to their troops with the decision, one would expect these men to accurately convey what the general decided. However, if it were known there were spies who were out causing division, they could come along behind the various field commanders and tell the troops that what was conveyed was incorrect.

Thus, sending out known staff from the command to affirm the general’s orders might be needed. This would not be done to question the integrity of the various commanders, but to reassure those under the commanders. Today, modern communication makes such a thing less necessary. Face-to-face communication around the world is possible. But the idea remains the same, even in the church.

Obviously, if the church is following the word of God and not books of discipline or other such things, the matter would be less likely to occur. But even varying interpretations of the Bible are as common as cots in a barracks, and so ensuring that what is decided on a matter is properly conveyed to those who will hear it is important.

The devil loves to divide people and congregations, so be aware of this and always do your best to not get caught up in the “he said, she said” mentality. If a matter concerning what someone says arises, check directly with that someone. What may seem small or trifling can cause great dissension.

Heavenly Father, be with us and keep us from divisions and dissensions that are harmful to the fellowship. And, Lord, we pray that those who would otherwise come into the fellowship and purposefully try to tear it apart be kept from us. Give us wisdom and discernment in such things, just in case such people do come. Thank You, O God. Amen.