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.













Acts 15:21

Executive mansion. Virginia capitol.

Wednesday, 22 March 2023

“For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” Acts 15:21

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, James listed several things that the Gentiles should refrain from to live holy lives in the Lord. In each instance, it was more than apparent that James was distancing his ruling from law observance, the very issue that had brought about this council in the first place. Now, to nail that coffin shut once and for all, he continues with, “For Moses.’’

The word “for” explains the reason for the statement to follow. Although most explanations of James’ words limit this verse to an explanation of the giving of the prohibitions to the Gentiles stated in the previous verse, it surely goes beyond that to his entire statement which began in verse 15:13.

As for the word “Moses,” It is not referring to the man, but to the teaching of the man, the Law of Moses. The law is now being set against the doctrine of the church in the matter at hand. The two are incompatible. The law (Moses) is of works; the gift of God in Christ (the gospel) is of faith (15:7). The law is a yoke and a burden; the grace of Jesus Christ is freedom to live in His righteousness (15:10). Of this law, James next says it “has had throughout many generations.”

More literally, it reads, “from ancient generations.” It is a way of saying, “All the way back, and until this day, this has come about.” The point is that the thing he will next describe never changed a thing. Israel was to be a light to the nations, bearing the name of the Lord.

And yet, that never came about. They remained a small, isolated group of people. They were at war and at enmity with those around them for their entire history. The only thing the law did was to further isolate them and cause a wall of division to grow between them and those around them. James himself is relaying this because it is what had been the case.

Now, the Gentiles were coming to know the true God in ever-increasing numbers. It was in a manner that provided freedom, not bondage. How could imposing on the Gentiles a law that they were never under bring them anything but the same as Israel had faced?

With this thought in mind, he continues with “those who preach him in every city.” This is not limited to the cities of Israel. Rather, it means every city where there was a synagogue, especially those where Gentiles had come to listen and maybe even become proselytes. Within the Law of Moses that was read there, the prohibitions that James had just set forth could be found.

Therefore, those who attended the synagogue wouldn’t need instruction on the prohibitions given by James. They were already observing Moses, which was stricter than what he had decreed. And more, the law was “being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” As this was so, and as the Jews would be opposed to the idea that the Law of Moses was now set aside in Christ, it would be appropriate for the Gentiles to abstain from those things James mentioned in the previous verse so that the Jews would not needlessly take offense at the acceptance of these Gentiles.

In other words, and stated from the opposite side, the Gentiles who had come to Christ were given these prohibitions as a means of evangelizing the Jews, not the other way around. The Jews in the synagogues were bound under the Law of Moses. The Gentiles had come directly to Christ without ever having been under the law. How could a Gentile be anything but an offense to Jews if the Jew thought the law was still binding?

And so, if a Gentile said, “I have been accepted by the Messiah of Israel,” living according to these prohibitions now stated by James would be the least he could do to demonstrate that he was living in that saved state in a holy manner. Once the Bible was complete, that would become the standard for all people to live by. The epistles would provide the necessary explanation of how to be saved and then how to live rightly in that salvation.

Life application: James has, through his words which agree with the statement of Peter and the words of Barnabas and Paul, shown the total superiority of life in Christ over the Law of Moses. He has given the Gentiles a reasonable set of standards to live by so that those Jews who were under the law could see that Christians lived in a reasonable manner while not being burdened with the innumerable laws found within the Mosaic Code.

Further, he has placed salvation chronologically before the requirement for right conduct, as it should be. And he has shown that the conversion of the Gentiles by grace through faith came in the exact same manner as it did for the Jews. And more, the fact that these Gentiles were considered saved, and yet expected to live to a certain standard in order to not offend the Jews, meant that the Gentiles were actually being witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ to those unsaved Jews.

It is this state of things, meaning the Gentile-led Christian church, that would continue from this point on in the church age. Peter will no longer be seen in Acts. Rather, Paul – the apostle to the Gentiles – began to take center stage in Acts 13. That will continue until the end of the book of Acts. The banner is now passing from Jew to Gentile in carrying the message of the One true God to the nations of the earth.

Lord God, You are the God of the surprising! When we fail You, instead of bringing about our end, You make a path for restoration available back to You. When the world is to be destroyed by water, You save it through an ark that prevails over the flood. While the law is found to bring only condemnation, You have sent Jesus to remove that obstacle from us. Every step of the way, You are the God of the surprising! Thank You, O God, for Your wonderful hand of tender care toward us. Amen.



Acts 15:20

Early on woke statue at Virginia capitol.

Tuesday, 21 March 2023

“but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. Acts 15:20

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, James said that believers should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God. The meaning was to not require them to be circumcised and observe the Law of Moses. With that stated, he continues with a short list of things that would bring about defilement within the church and which should thus be abstained from. He says, “but that we write to them.”

More precisely, it merely says, “but to write.” It is something that is general in nature to be written down and conveyed to anyone at any time the matter arises. In this decision, there is a new word in Scripture, epistelló. It signifies to send by letter. One can see the root of the word epistle in it.

This was needed to avoid any confusion and to firmly set what was decided. Knowing the propensity of man to add or take away from such a matter, James wisely directed that the decision would be written down as an authoritative word from the council. Understanding that, he continues with, “to abstain from things polluted by idols.”

The original reads, “to abstain from the pollutions of idols.” The word translated as “pollutions,” alisgéma, is found only here in the Bible. It is also not found in any classical Greek literature. It is a word associated with defiled food. This then doesn’t merely mean practicing idolatry, but to abstain from anything that is connected to the service of idols, such as partaking in sacrifices and offerings, etc.

James does not go into the depth of the Law of Moses concerning this. Rather, it is a general statement set forth as a guideline for right living among believers. He is clearly distancing the decision of the council from the weight of the law in his words.

In general, anything that could be considered as being connected with idols should be abstained from. This, however, will be clarified by Paul in 1 Corinthians 8 & 10. James continues with his short list, saying, “from sexual immorality.”

The word in Greek is porneia. It signifies “selling off (surrendering) of sexual purity, promiscuity of any (every) type” (HELPS Word Studies). Quite often, it is associated with idolatry. James gives this general word, never mentioning the very strict laws associated with such things as set forth in the law of Moses. As such, it was another clear indication that the Law of Moses had no bearing on the decision.

The next item is “from things strangled.” Rather, the words are singular, “and the strangled.” It is another new word in Scripture, pniktos. It signifies something killed without letting the blood out. Vincent’s Word Studies extends the thought to animals killed in snares. This is an inference, but it is probably the case.

The laws within the Law of Moses are detailed and explicit on how to treat the blood of animals sacrificed or simply slaughtered for meat. James, once again, gives a general statement concerning the matter, completely distancing the decision from the Law of Moses. Finally, and in connection to the previous thought, he says, “and from blood.”

Once again, a general statement is made concerning a matter that is carefully detailed in the law. It is stated many times and in exacting ways what was to be done with the blood. James’ decision completely separates the matter from the Law of Moses. But its main intent was surely to have the people consider why they were drinking blood in the first place. Several reasons surely were behind the matter.

One is that to drink blood was, and even today in some cultures is, intended to assimilate the power of the one whose blood was being drunk into the person drinking. Another reason is idolatry where the blood of an animal that was sacrificed was consumed by the offerer as a way of fellowshipping with their god or gods.

Also, the shedding of blood has almost universally been considered a means of atoning for sin. This is seen in cultures around the world. But Christ’s blood is the only effectual sacrifice for the atonement of sin. This then is an object lesson concerning the nature of Christ’s sacrifice as much as anything else.

Luke’s narrative provides a description of what occurred, but James’ letter is prescriptive in nature. However, this must be considered with what will later be included in the canon of Scripture. In other words, just because James’ words are prescriptive at the time, if they are later qualified in Scripture, it renders the decision as a prescription that is temporary in nature.

And more, these things were not a matter of salvation, but of life after salvation. Thus, they have no bearing on the gospel which is by grace through faith.

Life application: Of the words of this verse, Charles Ellicott writes –

“The grounds on which the measure thus defined was proposed are not far to seek. (1) It was of the nature of a compromise. The Gentiles could not complain that the burden imposed on them was anything very grievous. The Pharisee section of the Church could not refuse admission to those who fulfilled these conditions, when they had admitted the proselytes of the gate on like conditions to their synagogues, and had so treated them as no longer unclean. (2) The rules on which stress was now laid found a place among the seven precepts traditionally ascribed to Noah, and based upon the commands recorded in Genesis 9:5. These were held to be binding upon all mankind; while the Law, as such, was binding on Israel only. These, therefore, had been thought sufficient for the proselytes of the gate before, and were urged now as sufficient for the Gentile converts by the teacher who represented the most rigid type of Judaism.”

His words concerning admission into the church must be highlighted. The matters conveyed by James do not address the issue of salvation but of life within the church. A violation of the sexual immorality issue addressed above is found in 1 Corinthians 5. The person was a saved believer in Christ, but he was in violation of the mandate concerning sexual immorality. Therefore, Paul explained that he was to be cut off from the fellowship of believers.

And yet, he clearly indicates that this person was saved and would remain saved, even if he continued in his present lifestyle. Also, as noted above, some of the matters in James’ decision are more fully clarified by Paul, demonstrating to us that the decision in Acts is now a descriptive account of what was determined necessary at the time to maintain proper order and decorum within the church.

The later writings, meaning the epistles, are set forth for the doctrine of the church. It is to them that we should turn when matters of dispute arise among believers.

As a final note, certain cults, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, will not accept blood transfusions because of this verse. Drinking blood and the transfusion of blood are completely different issues, and one cannot be conflated to mean the same as the other. The decision is as stupid as a football bat and is to be rejected outright.

Lord God, help us to rightly divide Your word, applying precepts that pertain to the time in which we live. Those things that are set aside or obsolete are no longer binding on us. But those things that You have given for our right conduct within the church are matters that we should carefully attend to. Help us in this so that we will be pleasing to You in all ways. Amen.






Acts 15:19

Richmond architecture.

Monday, 20 March 2023

“Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, Acts 15:19

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).

The NKJV follows enough of the errors of the KJV to make it unsuitable for analysis. It should read, “Therefore, I judge not to trouble those from the Gentiles [who] are turning to God.”

James had just stated, “Known to God from eternity are all His works.” With that, he will now begin to express his judgment of the matter at hand, starting with, “Therefore.” It is the conjunction dio, coming from dia (through, or across to the other side) and hos (which). Thus, it signifies “through which thing.”

James has reviewed the matter from the beginning to the end, taking in all of the reasonings provided. Based on those things, he has concluded and will now render what he has determined, saying, “I judge not to trouble those from the Gentiles.”

Here, James uses a verb found nowhere else in Scripture, parenochleó. It signifies to annoy or harass. It is as if the Judaizers were being instigators in a poking contest, treating those who have come to Christ as if their faith was insufficient and untrustworthy in and of itself. “Look at our circumcision! This makes us way better than you. If you don’t get circumcised, your faith is definitely not genuine.”

The words of James indicate that the view of the Judaizers was, in fact, a view that had caused, and would continue to cause, trouble among the Gentiles. It would be a hindrance to some, and it would become a burden upon all. James, as a law-observant Jew, knew this. He was fully aware of the yoke of the law that rested upon his people, and he would save the Gentiles from being burdened with it as well.

But more, and without need to repeat what was presented by Peter and also by Barnabas and Paul, it was a burden that God Himself had not imposed upon the Gentiles when they first believed. Rather, He had saved them apart from any works of the law. James graciously, and without pointing any accusing fingers, is implying that to add the law to what had occurred among the Gentiles could only diminish and disgrace the work of Jesus Christ.

This is implicit. However, Paul will eventually make it explicit in his writings. As this is understood, even if unsaid, James says that this applies to all Gentiles who “are turning to God.” The verb is a present participle. They were turning to God from moment to moment as the work continued on. By adding in legalistic standards, this momentum would begin to flounder and eventually capsize in a sea of turmoil.

Life application: The attitude of the Judaizers in the world today is just like those at the time of the council in Jerusalem. The Hebrew Roots Movement, the Seventh Day Adventists, and all others who reinsert the Law of Moses in varying degrees have an arrogant, haughty attitude of their superiority over those who do not conform to their unbiblical and high-handed form of legalism.

Their doctrine looks down on others who live by faith alone in what Christ has done, claiming it is insufficient to please God. But this attitude extends also to those who claim that “good works stem naturally from saving faith.” Without ever defining what “good works” means, the attitude of these people is that if you aren’t doing stuff to prove you are saved, then you are probably (or certainly!) not saved.

This can be targeted, such as those who do not tithe, or it can be general, such as “you are not living in accord with what I believe a Christian should be doing.” Such fallacious thinking denies the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone. It adds works as an afterthought, but still something necessary to signify Jesus really saved the person.

Don’t be misled either way. Stand firm on the simple gospel. If you have believed the gospel, you don’t need to worry about what other people think. Having said that, it is biblically right and good that you should mature in your Christian walk. You should be growing in Christ and in holiness. But this is not to prove you are saved. It is to be a demonstration of your gratitude to the One who has saved you.

Jesus died to save you. Live for Jesus henceforth!

Heavenly Father, how thankful we are for the simple gospel of our salvation. You have done the work; we are the recipients of that. Henceforth, may we live our lives for Jesus, growing in our knowledge of Him, deepening our faith in You because of Him, and walking rightly in a world that is constantly trying to pull us back from You. Help us in this, O God. Amen.




Sunday 19 March – Saturday 25 March 2023

26 March sermon – Joshua 18:11-28 (The Inheritance of Benjamin)

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It is amazing how fast things are happening in the Mideast. We are anticipating the rapture. For Charlie, every night he has his wife cook him a last meal.