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The Council at Jerusalem


Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders. 3So they were sent on their way by the church, and as they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, they reported the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the believers. 4When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. 5But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses.”

6 The apostles and the elders met together to consider this matter. 7After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers. 8And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; 9and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. 10Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

12 The whole assembly kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13After they finished speaking, James replied, “My brothers, listen to me. 14Simeon has related how God first looked favorably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name. 15This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written,


‘After this I will return,

and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen;

from its ruins I will rebuild it,

and I will set it up,


so that all other peoples may seek the Lord—

even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called.

Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things 18known from long ago.’

19 Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, 20but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood. 21For in every city, for generations past, Moses has had those who proclaim him, for he has been read aloud every sabbath in the synagogues.”

The Council’s Letter to Gentile Believers

22 Then the apostles and the elders, with the consent of the whole church, decided to choose men from among their members and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers, 23with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the believers of Gentile origin in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. 24Since we have heard that certain persons who have gone out from us, though with no instructions from us, have said things to disturb you and have unsettled your minds, 25we have decided unanimously to choose representatives and send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: 29that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

30 So they were sent off and went down to Antioch. When they gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31When its members read it, they rejoiced at the exhortation. 32Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. 33After they had been there for some time, they were sent off in peace by the believers to those who had sent them. 35But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, and there, with many others, they taught and proclaimed the word of the Lord.


Paul and Barnabas Separate

36 After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Come, let us return and visit the believers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. 39The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. 40But Paul chose Silas and set out, the believers commending him to the grace of the Lord. 41He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

7. And when there had been great disputation. Though there were choice made of grave men, and such as were public teachers of the Church, yet could not they agree by and by. 9393     “Ne inter eos quidem statim convenire potuit,” not even could they come instantly to an agreement. Whereby appeareth how the Lord did exercise his Church, even then, by the infirmity of men, that it might learn to be wise with humility. Moreover, he suffered (even in that company and assembly wherein he was chief) the principal point of Christian doctrine to be diversely tossed and handled, lest we should wonder, if at any time it so fall out, that men, who are otherwise learned and godly, do, through unskillfulness, fall into an error. For some were not so quick witted [acute] that they could thoroughly see into the greatness of the matter. So that when they judge that the law ought to be kept, being unadvisedly carried away with the zeal of the law, they see not into how deep a labyrinth they throw the consciences of other men, and their own also. They thought that circumcision was an eternal and inviolable token of God’s covenant; the same opinion had they of all the whole law. Wherefore Peter standeth chiefly upon this, to show the state of the question, which the most of them knew not. And his oration hath two members. For, first, he proveth by the authority of God that the Gentiles must not be enforced to keep the law; secondly, he teacheth that all man’s salvation is overthrown, if the conscience be once caught in this snare. Therefore, the former part (wherein he declareth that he was sent of God to teach the Gentiles, and that the Holy Spirit came down upon them) tendeth to this end, that men did not unadvisedly disannul the ceremonies of the law, but that God is the author of that disannulling. And so soon as the authority of God is brought forth, all doubting is taken away, because this is all our wisdom, to stay ourselves upon the authority, government, and commandment of God, 9494     “Dei imperio acquiescere,” to aequiesce in the command of God. and to make more account of his beck and pleasure than of all reasons. Now, it is meet that we ponder the words of Peter, whereby he proveth that this was granted to the Gentiles by God, to be free from the yoke of the law.

You know. He calleth them to bear witness, (and unto them he appealeth,) lest any man should think that he is about to speak of some dark and doubtful thing. The history was well known to them all. That which remained, he showeth that they were blind even in most clear light, yea, because they had not long ago learned that which was openly showed. He calleth the beginning of the preaching of the gospel old days, or the old time, as if he should say, ago, as it were since the first beginning of the Church, after that Christ began to gather to himself any people.

God did choose in us. The word choose doth signify to appoint or decree. Though Peter doth comprehend as well the free election of God as the choice whereby God did adopt the Gentiles to be his people; therefore, he chose, that is, as it were, making choice, that he might show a token of his free election in the Gentiles, he would that by my mouth they should hear the doctrine of the gospel. These words, in us, do import as much as in our sight, or we being witnesses, or among us. 9595     “In medio nostri,” in the midst of us. For his meaning is, that he declareth nothing but that which they knew full well; to wit, which was done before their eyes. The phrase is common enough both among the Grecians, and also among the Hebretians, [Hebrews,] unless we had liefer resolve it as some other do, He hath chosen me out of this company.

And believe. This was a seal to confirm the calling of the Gentiles. The office of teaching was enjoined Peter by an oracle; but the fruit which came of his doctrine doth make his ministry noble and authentical, as they call it. For, seeing that the elect are illuminate into the faith by a peculiar grace of the Spirit, doctrine shall bring forth no fruit, unless the Lord show forth his power in his ministers, in teaching the minds of those inwardly which hear, and in drawing their hearts inwardly. Therefore, seeing the Lord commanded that the doctrine of the gospel should be brought unto the Gentiles, he did sanctify them to himself, that they might be no longer profane. But the solemn consecration was then perfect in all points, when he imprinted in their hearts, by faith, the mark of their adoption. The sentence which followeth immediately is to be understood as set down by way of exposition; 9696     “Exegetice,” exegetically. for Peter annexeth the visible graces of the Spirit unto faith, as, assuredly, they were nothing else but an addition thereof. Therefore, seeing that the Gentiles are ingrafted into the people of God without circumcision and ceremonies, Peter gathereth that it was not well done to lay upon them any necessity to keep the law. Yet it seemeth to be but a weak argument to prove their election withal, because the Holy Ghost came down upon them. For they were such gifts that they could not reason from the same, that they were reckoned in the number of the godly. But it is the Spirit of regeneration alone which distinguisheth the children of God from strangers. I answer, Though men, who were otherwise vain, were endued with the gift of tongues and such like, yet doth Peter take for a thing which all men grant, that which was known, that God had sealed in Cornelius and his cousins [relatives] his free adoption by the visible grace of the Spirit, as if he should point out his children with his finger.

The knower of the hearts. He applieth this adjunct to God, according to the circumstance of the present matter; and it hath under it a secret contrariety, 9797     “Tacita antithesis,” a tacit antithesis. that men are more addicted to external purity, because they judge according to their gross and earthly sense and understanding; but God doth look into the heart. Therefore, Peter teacheth that they judge preposterously in this matter according to man’s understanding, seeing that the inward pureness of the heart alone is here to be esteemed, which we know not. 9898     “Quae nobis occulta est,” which is hidden from us. And by this means doth he bridle our rashness, lest, taking to ourselves more than we ought, we murmur against the judgment of God. As if he should say, if thou see no reason of that testimony which God gave them, think with thyself what great difference there is between him and thee. For thou art holden with external pomp according to thy gross nature, which must be abandoned when we come to the throne of God, 9999     “Ad coeleste tribunal,” to the heavenly tribunal. where the hearts of men are known spiritually. But, in the mean season, we must note a general doctrine, that the eyes of God do not look upon the vain pomp of men, 100100     “Operum,” of works. but upon the integrity of men’s hearts, as it is written, (Jeremiah 5:3.) Whereas the old interpreter and Erasmus translate it, that God knoweth the hearts, it doth not sufficiently express that which Luke saith in Greek; for when he calleth God καρδιαγνωστην, he setteth him against 101101     “Eum opponit,” he opposes him to, or contrasts him with. men, who judge rather for the most part by the outward appearance; and therefore they may be προσωπογνωσται, or knowers of the face, if they be compared with God.

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