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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 15 - Verse 2
Verse 2. Had no small dissension and disputation. The word rendered dissension (stasewv) denotes sometimes sedition or intestine war, and sometimes earnest and violent disputation or controversy, Ac 23:7,10. In this place it clearly denotes that there was earnest and warm discussion; but it is not implied that there was any improper heat or temper on the part of Paul and Barnabas. Important principles were to be settled in regard to the organization of the church. Doctrines were advanced by the Judaizing teachers which were false, and which tended to great strife and disorder in the church. Those doctrines were urged with great zeal, were declared to be essential to salvation, and would therefore tend greatly to distract the minds of Christians, and to produce great anxiety. It became therefore necessary to meet them with a determined purpose, and to establish the truth on an immovable basis. And the case shows that it is right to "contend earnestly for the faith," (Jude 1:3;) and when similar cases occur, it is proper to resist the approach of error with all the arguments which may be at our command, and with all the weapons which truth can furnish. It is further implied here, that it is the duty of the ministers of the gospel to defend the truth and to oppose error. Paul and Barnabas regarded themselves as set for this purpose, (comp. Php 1:17, "Knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel;") and Christian ministers should be qualified to defend the truth; and should be willing, with a proper spirit and with great earnestness, to maintain the doctrines revealed.
They determined. There was no prospect that the controversy would be settled by contention and argument. It would seem, from this statement, that those who came down from Judea were also willing that the whole matter should be referred to the apostles at Jerusalem. The reason for this may have been,
(1,) that Jerusalem would be regarded by them as the source of authority in the Christian church, as it had been among the Jews.
(2.) Most of the apostles and the most experienced Christians were there. They had listened to the instructions of Christ himself; had been long in the church; and were supposed to be better acquainted with its design and its laws.
(3.) Those who came from Judea would not be likely to acknowledge the authority of Paul as an apostle: the authority of those at Jerusalem they would recognize.
(4.) They might have had a very confident expectation that the decision there would be in their favour. The question had not been agitated there. They had all been Jews. And it is certain that they continued as yet to attend in the temple-service, and to conform to the Jewish customs. They might have expected, therefore, with great confidence, that the decision would be in their favour, and they were willing to refer it to those at Jerusalem.
Certain other of them. Of the brethren; probably of each party. They did not go to debate; or to give their opinion; or to vote in the case themselves; but to lay the question fairly before the apostles and elders.
Unto the apostles. The authority of the apostles in such a case would be acknowledged by all. They had been immediately instructed by the Saviour, and had the promise of infallible guidance in the organization of the church. See Barnes "Mt 16:19; See Barnes "Mt 18:18".
Who these were, or what was their office and authority, it is not easy now to determine. It may refer to the aged men in the church at Jerusalem, or to those who were appointed to rule and to preach in connexion with the apostles. As in the synagogue it was customary to determine questions by the advice of a bench of elders, there is no improbability in the supposition that the apostles would imitate that custom, and appoint a similar arrangement in the Christian church. (Grotius.) It is generally agreed that this is the journey to which Paul refers in Gal 2:1-10. If so, it happened fourteen years after his conversion, Gal 2:1. It was done in accordance with the Divine command, "by revelation," Gal 2:2. And among those who went with him was Titus, who was afterwards so much distinguished as his companion, Gal 2:3.
About this question. The question whether the ceremonial laws of Moses were binding on Christian converts. In regard to the nature and design of this council at Jerusalem, See Barnes "Ac 15:30, See Barnes "Ac 15:31".
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