Workstation at campground on the way through Virginia.
Sunday, 5 March 2023
And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them. Acts 15:4
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).
In the previous verse, Paul and Barnabas were on their way up to Jerusalem passing through Phoenicia and Samaria describing the conversion of the Gentiles. With that, this verse begins with, “And when they had come to Jerusalem.”
Jerusalem is the focal point of the religious life of the church at this point. Those in authority were there and they oversaw the affairs of the church. It is for this reason that the company had been sent to Jerusalem. The matter to be decided was of the utmost importance because it dealt with the very heart of the gospel, which is salvation by grace through faith.
If it was determined that the Gentiles had to observe the Law of Moses before being saved, or after being saved in order to continue to be saved, it would essentially mean that Christ’s coming was for naught. It would have been a pointless gesture that changed nothing. As such, they went to Jerusalem to see what the leaders determined, and “they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders.”
The sense is that there would have been a meeting of the church body that worshiped in the various individual locations around Jerusalem and maybe even in Judea. Mentioning the apostles would then be referring to those who were designated by the Lord for the apostolic ministry. This would have included Matthias, who was selected by lot in Acts 1. The specific naming of the elders would be those who presided over the individual bodies throughout the area.
To get a sense of the gathering, one might think of a corporate board meeting where there are stockholders, the corporate board, and then the heads of the individual offices. These have all come together to determine a matter set forth before them. Once gathered, Paul and Barnabas would then be asked to speak. With this, it next says, “and they reported all things that God had done with them.”
Their words would have spoken of their time in Antioch, the words of the Holy Spirit, saying, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). The details of their long and productive missionary journey, their time back in Antioch teaching the disciples, and finally the assault by the Judaizers throwing the believers into confusion while they were still in Antioch.
It is most likely that at this point that the words of the next verse will come forth. Paul and Barnabas would have spoken of freedom in Christ, the conversion of the Gentiles, the signs and wonders that had come about through their ministry, etc. But for such joyous things and such great freedom, there will always be those who want to steal those things away.
Life application: The events taking place in Acts 15 have a great bearing on everything that will follow in the church age. If the determination sided against the stand of Paul and Barnabas, the church would have become a chaotic offshoot of Judaism, like the many sects that were in Israel at the time. It would have been a religion of bondage and legalistic standards heaped on top of the words of Moses, just as all of the other sects had become.
But this is not unusual even in today’s world. There are many cults and sects within Christianity that return to Moses in part or (supposedly) in whole. They demand observance of those things Christ came to fulfill. Others make various demands on individual freedoms.
For example, some fundamentalist churches teach that men should not wear beards, as if that has any bearing on a relationship with Christ. Such things only damage the freedom of worship that has been ordained by God through the giving of His Son.
Let us hold fast to the words of Scripture, allowing what it does not forbid, and forbidding what it does not allow. Those things on which it is silent are not something God determined we need to fret about. If you are unhappy with the way an individual church meeting gathers, don’t attend there. But if it is not doing anything contrary to Scripture, let them be. Let the word be the rule and guide for what you do, and you will do well.
Lord God, may we hold fast to Your word, letting it fill us with right thinking and proper instruction. May we not legalistically add to it, and may we never consider that it gives us license to do that which is wrong. Rather, help us to be steadfast in holding to Your word at all times. To Your glory, we pray this. Amen.