Study

a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

15. The Council at Jerusalem

And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 2When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. 3And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. 4And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. 5But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.

6And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. 7And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 8And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

12Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.

13And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: 14Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 16After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: 17That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. 18Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. 19Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. 21For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. 22Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: 23And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: 24Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: 25It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. 28For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. 30So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: 31 Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation. 32And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them. 33And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles. 34Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still. 35Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

36And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. 37And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. 38But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. 39And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; 40And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. 41And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.

11. By the grace of Jesus Christ. Peter compareth these two together as contrary the one to the other; to have hope 116116     “Spem salutis,” hope of salvation. in the grace of Christ, and to be under the yoke of the law; which comparison doth greatly set out the justification of Christ, inasmuch as we gather thereby, that those are justified by faith who, being free and quit from the yoke of the law, seek for salvation in the grace of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, I said before that the yoke of the law is made of two cords. The former is, “He which doth these things shall live in them;” the other is, “Cursed is every one which doth not continue in all the commandments.” Let us return unto the contrary member. If we cannot otherwise attain unto salvation by the grace of Christ, unless the yoke of the law be taken away, it followeth that salvation is not placed in keeping the law, neither are those which believe in Christ subject to the curse of the law; for if he could be saved through grace, who is as yet enwrapped in the yoke of the law, then should Peter’s reasoning be but foolish, which is drawn from contraries: thus, We hope for salvation by the grace of Christ; therefore we are not under the yoke of the law. Unless there were a disagreement between the grace of Christ and the yoke of the law, Peter should deceive us. 117117     “Fucum faceret,” should make a gloss.

Wherefore, those must needs depart from the righteousness of the law, whosoever desire to find life in Christ; for this contrariety appertaineth not unto doctrine, but unto the cause of justification.

Whereby is also refuted their surmise, 118118     “Commentum,” fiction. who say that we are justified by the grace of Christ, because he regenerateth us by his Spirit, and giveth us strength to fulfill the law. Those who imagine this, though they seem to ease the yoke of the law a little, yet they keep souls bound with the cords thereof. For this promise shall always stand in force, He which shall do these things shall live in them; on the other side, The curse shall come upon all which shall not absolutely fulfill the law. Wherefore, we must define the grace of Christ far otherwise (whereunto the hope of salvation leaneth) than they dream; to wit, that it be free reconciliation gotten by the sacrifice of his death; or, which is all one, free forgiveness of sins, which, by pacifying and appeasing God, doth make him of an enemy or severe judge, 119119     “Vel severo et implacabili judice,” or a severe and implacable judge. and which cannot be pleased nor entreated, a merciful Father. I confess, indeed, that we be regenerate into newness of life by the grace of Christ; but when we are about assurance of salvation, then must we call to mind the free adoption alone, which is joined with the purging [expiation] and forgiveness of sins. For, if works be admitted, that they may make us righteous in part only, the yoke of the law shall not be broken, and so Peter’s contrariety [antithesis] shall fall to the ground, or else be dissolved.

Even as they. Peter doth testify in this place, that though the servitude of the law were laid upon the fathers as touching the external shoe, yet were their consciences free and quit; whereby is put away that absurdity, which might otherwise have troubled godly minds not a little. For, seeing that the covenant of life is eternal, and the same which God made with his servants from the beginning until the end of the world, it were an absurd thing, and intolerable, that any other way to obtain salvation should be taught at this day than that which the fathers had in times past. Therefore, Peter affirmeth that we agree very well with the fathers, because they no less than we reposed hope of salvation in the grace of Christ; and so, reconciling the law and the gospel together, as touching the end of the doctrine, he taketh from the Jews the stumbling-block which they reigned to themselves by reason of the discord.

Whereby it appeareth that the law was not given to the fathers that they might thereby purchase salvation, neither were the ceremonies added, that, by the observing thereof, they might attain unto righteousness; but this was the only end of all the whole law, that, casting from them all confidence which they might repose in works, they might repose all their hope in the grace of Christ. Whereby is also refuted the doting of those who think that the old people, inasmuch as they were content with earthly goods, did think no whit of the heavenly life. But Peter maketh the fathers partners with us of the same faith; and doth make salvation common to both; and yet there be some which delight in that brain-sick fellow, Servetus, with his so filthy sacrileges. Furthermore, we must note that Peter teacheth that the faith of the fathers [ancients] was always grounded in Christ, seeing that they could neither find life anywhere else, neither was there any other way for men to come unto God. Therefore, this place agreeth with that saying of the apostle,

“Christ yesterday, and today, and for ever,”
(Hebrews 13:8.)


VIEWNAME is study