Read Acts Chapter 15
For a printable version of this study, click HERE.
What stands out to you as you read this chapter?
Are there any words or phrases that you feel are key ideas in this chapter?
What other features do you wish you knew more about (culture, religion, customs, etc.) in order to help
you understand this chapter?
How do you think this chapter fits in the larger story of Acts and the Bible as a whole?
ACT OUT: How does the Holy Spirit want to use this text in your life, for others or for yourself?
Antioch in Syria was home-base for the expanding Gentile mission, just as Jerusalem was home for the
apostolic church. Since there was and is only one Savior, so there can be only one people of God, should
we think of Christianity as primary Jewish or Gentile in identity? That was more than a hypothetical
question for the early Christians. It was a matter of self-identity. Jesus was a Jew. So are all the Apostles.
But the way in which both Jews and Gentiles were being saved had little to do with keeping Jewish
customs or seeking to be justified by keeping the law of Moses. (See Acts 13:38-39). So when a
controversy about circumcision arose—which was definitely a mark of Jewish identity—it challenged
both the identity of the Jesus movement and the authority of church leadership.
The challenge came to Antioch from men from Judea, where Jerusalem is. At this point, Jerusalem’s
church under the leadership of James (not the apostle who had already been martyred in Acts 12:1-2)
was appealed to (Acts 15:2-3). The so-called “Council of Jerusalem” heard testimony from Peter (Acts
15:7-11) and then Barnabas and Paul (Acts 15:12). James confirmed their testimony by appealing to
Scripture, always the ultimate authority in faith and practice (Acts 15:13-19), and ruled that a letter
should be sent containing the authoritative, apostolic word on the matter (Acts 15:23-29). Gentiles
wouldn’t have to become Jewish in order to be fully accepted as God’s people! This brought rejoicing
(Acts 15:30-31). The only “laws” they were required to keep were laws of love (see Romans 13:8).
Do you realize we have the same thing in the Bible? In the New Testament epistles, we have apostolic
letters addressing real-life issues to be applied by elders in the gospel and Spirit of Christ. We do well to
receive their message, just as these early believers received the word of the Lord (Acts 15:35).
Prayer: Lord, by your Spirit you inspired the words of Scripture to speak into my life. Help me to hear your
word and receive your authority so that my life will reflect your holiness, truth, and love!