Old Barn. Virginia countryside.
Sunday, 26 March 2023
it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Acts 15:25
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).
After explaining the main purpose of the letter in the first sentence, which was the issue of refuting the Judaizers concerning circumcision and adherence to the Law of Moses, the letter now continues, saying, “it seemed good to us.”
In other words, it means that the decision was made and was mutually agreed upon to take the appropriate action necessary to rectify the situation. That occurred, as it next says, “being assembled.”
Rather, this is more of a paraphrase. The Greek is an aorist participle, more simply reading, “having come.” This state of having come was “with one accord.” It is a single word, an adverb, now seen for the eighth time, all in Acts. It literally signifies “unanimously.” The entire council consisting of the apostles, elders, and then with the agreement of the church, were united in thought concerning the resolution of the matter.
And it could be no other way. If they were being led by the Spirit to effect the purposes of God for the church, then what was decided had to be in this unanimous fashion. God is superintending over the process of what will be the standard for the rest of redemptive history concerning the Gentile-led church age. This is because the events are now recorded and included in His word.
If the decision was not unanimous, then that would have been stated and explained. But because this was not the case, it is fully apparent that what is recorded here is exactly what God wanted. Though this is a descriptive account of the events that took place, it is a fully explanatory record of what God intends concerning the matter. The only deviation from it is to be taken by subsequent words found in the epistles that may clarify or set aside whatever is decided upon now. For the time being, the church was given its instructions and they were to be what was taught concerning circumcision and law observance.
As for the contents of their unanimous decision, that continues with the words, “to send chosen men to you.” Again, an aorist participle is used, “having chosen men to send to you.”
The decision was rendered, and it will be explained in the verses to come. However, to demonstrate to all who would hear the decision that it was from the council and no longer a point of debate, there would be men sent from the council itself to confirm the source and the content. These were being sent, as it next says, “with our beloved Barnabas and Paul.”
Again, as seen on several occasions, Barnabas is noted before Paul. It is true that Barnabas had a closer and more longstanding affiliation with the church in Jerusalem than Paul, but more, it is certainly Paul with whom the Judaizers had the biggest beef. He was the spokesman for the missionary journeys. He was also out in the front in matters dealing with the Gentiles, having been selected by the Lord to be the apostle to the Gentiles, etc.
Therefore, to place Barnabas first in the letter from the church is another implicit confirmation of the rightness of what Paul has been conveying. The order then is from the council, in a written letter, and confirming the letter’s authenticity by men chosen by the council concerning what has been conveyed, meaning acceptance of the stand presented to the council by Barnabas and Paul.
Calling these two men “beloved” is a note that not only are they teaching what is proper, but they are doing so with the full blessing and spirit of fellowship by the council itself.
Life application: Later councils in church history may or may not have been led by the Spirit of God in rendering decisions. And there may or may not have been a unanimous agreement to what was ordained out of those councils. But that is because the canon of Scripture was eventually decided upon and settled. It is to the Bible, meaning the word penned by men chosen by God to write it down through His Spirit, that such matters were (and still are) to be decided.
If the decisions rendered at such councils are in accord with the word, that becomes evident by an evaluation of the word. If they are contrary to the word, the same is true. The word would reveal it.
Even today, councils are held in many denominations, usually called synods, conferences, or something similar. The surest way to tell if they are being led by God is to see if they are being held in accord with the word of God. If the Spirit of God breathed out the contents of the Bible, and if a matter is being debated that is contrary to the word of God, then that council – by default – cannot be led by the Spirit of God.
It may be that a faction or an individual is rightly standing on the words of Scripture concerning a matter at the gathering, and that is fine, but if the debate is, for example, over the matter of ordaining homosexuals, then God’s Spirit cannot be guiding the matter. He has already spoken concerning the issue.
Think this through when you see members of your church or denomination conducting affairs in a manner contrary to the word. God’s position in such deliberations is already stated in the Bible. It is fixed and it is unchanging. To debate contrary to the word is to invite His wrath and condemnation, nothing else.
Lord God, Your word is written. Help us to get that through our heads and to accept what it says as the authoritative word to conduct our affairs in all things. May we never be so presumptuous as to make decisions contrary to what You have laid out before us in this sacred and precious treasure. Help us to think clearly on this matter. Amen.