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Purpose: The Bible exposition on Acts 15:6-12 Discuss the Problem with Peter, Paul and Barnabas provides great insight on how to make good solide decisions and on how to make large group decisons. This is point 2 of part A Making Important Decisions (part 3 of 7).
Decisions Acts 15:1-36 | Make Acts 15:1-5 | Discuss Acts 15:6-12 |
Scripture Acts 15:13-18 | Decision 15:19-21 | Council Acts 15:13-21 | Communicate Acts 15:22-36 | Acts 15 Video Making Significant Decisions
“And the apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. “And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.
“Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? “But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are. And all the multitude kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were relating what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles” (Acts 15:6-12).
The discussion started as a good debate. Both sides were allowed to speak. The leaders including the apostles and elders were there. After a while, Peter began to share. Peter had a particular part in all of this. It was, as he said, through his mouth that the Gentiles would first hear the gospel. Let us observe three major points in 7-9.
Peter began sharing what happened when he was led to visit Cornelius in Joppa as recorded in Acts 10. God started the whole problem. Peter was reluctant but the Spirit in the vision compelled him to respond to Cornelius. This was God’s choice, not his. He considered those foods in the dream unclean but God, who made food, stated they were now clean.
Peter’s point is clear. God initiated this work of bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles, not him. Peter revolted at the whole idea! Philip was another example. The Spirit escorted him to the Ethiopian eunuch and to Samaria (not fully Gentiles but the same ‘God did it’ beginning). This whole thrust reminds us of Jesus words back in Acts 1:8. The Holy Spirit would lead them into Samaria and all the world sharing the Gospel.
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
If God initiated the work, then we should observe what He is doing among the Gentiles. How do we know God is doing it? By the special signs and response of the people. The miracles and speaking in different languages confirmed God’s hand in it.
Peter emphasizes that they heard the word of the gospel, believed in Jesus and received the Holy Spirit by God who best knows the heart. Peter explains this is the same thing God did among them (the Jews in Acts 2). God confirmed that they were genuine believers by the giving of the Holy Spirit. There really is no difference between ‘us’ the Jews and ‘them’ the Gentiles.
The way God did things is significant. Peter step by step identifies this process which they fully knew. As a zealous Jew, he no doubt went through this logical observation many a time, verifying it in his own soul. This following third point becomes the powerful conclusion.
In verse 9 Peter clinches the argument, “Cleansing their hearts by faith.” In other words, they do not need the law to gain faith. They were saved by faith. They do not need the Law to be saved or to retain their faith.
Peter continues explaining that the Jews have not been able to keep the Law. Why give the Gentiles the extra burden? The Jews are saved under the same grace of Christ Jesus (in contrast to works). All are saved through the same grace.
They have not clearly stated how the Old Testament relates to a believer except by suggesting that they no longer need to abide by the Old Testament to gain a relationship with God. They now have a new covenant (not mentioned here) by which one is saved in Christ Jesus. Through the following advice, we will need to discern, if possible, on whether the teaching in the Old Testament is valid and in what capacity or whether it was merely given to accommodate the Jews with their old customs.
Paul and Barnabas followed up on this by making known their own report on what God was doing both in Antioch and in the different places that the gospel was preached. Remember Barnabas was sent from Jerusalem to monitor the work there in Antioch. The signs and wonders among the Gentiles replicates what was done among the Jews in Acts 2. They are saved the same by grace and faith in Christ and experience the same confirming signs.1
Peter, Paul and Barnabas were largely using testimony of how God was working great things among the Gentiles. They did not quote from the Old Testament (though Paul no doubt was tempted to do so!). They were observers! God was doing it. All believers are saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus.
There are no essential differences between the Jew and Gentiles. They are saved through the same means and retain their faith the same way. The Gentiles do not need to keep the Old Testament law to be saved or even to be ‘good’ Christians.
The confirming signs in the new works are not signs of a true believer. They are confirming that the situation is a genuine work of God to non-believers as well as to the existing church which still had many hangups to get used to.
By Faith - Salvation is gained by belief rather than by works (such as keeping the Law)
Through Grace - Emphasizes salvation is not earned but given to unworthy and sinful people, whether Jew or Gentile (equally qualify).
Next -> 3. Resolve the Problem (15:13-21) gives us insight into how to resolve such a complicated matter especially with those who differ!
BFF -> Moving our generation's heart and mind closer to the Lord through the powerful truths of God!
Acts: Other BFF Articles
The Bible Teacher's Commentary
Acts_01:1-11 Bible Study Questions
Acts 1:6-11 The Kingdom Plan and Purpose | Video podcast
Acts 2:14-40 Be Saved! | Video podcast
Acts 6-7 Motivation | Acts 6:5-8 | Acts 6:9-15 | Act 6-7 Video podcast
Acts 7 Affirming motivation
Acts_7 Stephen's Defense
Acts_8.2-25 Persecution & Evangelism
Acts_8.14-24 Simon & Gnosticism
Acts_8.25-40 Ethiopean Eunuch
Acts_9:1-22 Saul the Terrorist
Acts_8-9 Perspectives on Conversion
Acts_10:1-48: Intersecting in Time: Vision #1
Acts_10:9-16 Vision #2 Peter
Acts_10:17-48 The Meeting that Changed History
Acts_10:34-44 The Christian Historical Message
Acts_13-14 Paul's First Missionary Journey
Acts 13: 1-3 A Model for our Church
Leadership - Diversity - God-seeking - Mission-minded
Acts_13:1-3 Sending Out Missionary Church
Acts_13:4-12 Power Encounter in Cyprus
Acts_13:13-50 Gospel Message in Antioch
Acts_13:51-14:28 Other Missionary Stops
Acts 20:28-30 Detecting Error in the Church
Acts 21:4 Discerning God's will