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They return to Antioch, and
relate their success to the church.
A. D. cir. 46.
A.M.cir 1950. thered the church together, a they || door of faith unto the Gentiles. A. M.cir. 4050. An. Olymp. rehearsed all that God had done with 28 And there they abode long time An. Olymp.
them, and how he had opened the with the disciples.
cir. CCVI. 2.
cir. CCVI. 2.
Ch. 15. 4, 12. & 21. 19.
• 1 Cor. 16. 9. 2 Cor. 2. 12. Col. 4. 3. Rev. 3. 8.
Verse 28. And there they abode long time] How long of that religion which was now offered to them in the name the apostles tarried here, we cannot tell; but we hear no and on the authority of that God who had fed and preserved more of them till the council of Jerusalem, mentioned in the them all their life long; and girded them when they knew following chapter; which is generally supposed to have been him not. The Gentiles felt the force of these reasonings, held in the year 51 of our Lord: and if the transactions of yielded to the truth, and became steady followers of Christ this chapter took place in A. D. 46. as chronologers think, || crucified; while the Jews, with all their light and advantages, then there are five whole years of St. Paul's ministry, and hardened their hearts against it, though they had no other that of other apostles, which St. Luke passes by in perfect si- || arguments than what contradiction and blasphemy could prolence. It is very likely that all this time Paul and Barnabas vide! Publicans and harlots entered into the kingdom of heawere employed in extending the work of God through the ven before them. Do not many even in the present day, different provinces contiguous to Antioch: for St. Paul him- copy their example, revile the truth, take up with the skaself tells us, that he preached the gospel so far as Ilyria, || dow instead of the substance ; and rest just as much in the Rom. xv. 19. on the side of the Adriatic gulph: see its situ- | letter of Christianity, as ever the Jews did in the letter of the ation on the Map. Many of the tribulations and perils law? This is a deplorable fact which cannot be successfully through which the apostle Paul passed are not mentioned by controverted. St. Luke, particularly those of which he himself speaks, 2. We have already had occasion to note, five years of a 2 Cor. xi. 23—27. He had been five times scourged by the chasm in the apostolic history. God himself does not chuse Jews; thrice beaten by the Romans; thrice shipwrecked; a to have all the labours and sufferings of his servants recorderl. whole night and day in the deep, probably saving his life Their recompence is in heaven; and it is enough that God upon a plank; besides frequent journeyings, and perils from knows their work, who alone can reward it. And yet, every his countrymen, from the heathen, from robbers, in the city, || faithful servant of God will feel that the reward is all of in the wilderness, in the sea, among false brethren, &c. &c. | grace and not of debt; for the amount of their good, is just Of none of these have we any circumstantial account. Pro- the sum of what God has condescended to do by them. How bably most of these happened in the five years which elapsed studious are men to record the smallest transactions of their between the apostles' return to Antioch, and the council of lives, while much of the life and labours of Jesus Christ and Jerusalem.
his apostles are written in the sand, and no longer legible to
man: or written before the throne where they are seen only 1. In reading the Acts of the Apostles we may have often | by God and his angels. In many cases, the silence of Scripoccasion to remark that in preaching the gospel, they care ture is not less instructive than its most pointed communi. fully considered the different circumstances of the Jews and cations. the Gentiles; and suited their address accordingly. When 3. We cannot consider the effect produced on the minds speaking to the former, of the necessity of crediting the gos- of the people of Lystra, without being surprised that a single pel, because, without it they could not be saved, they took | miracle, wrought instrumentally by men, should excite so care to support all their assertions by passages drawn from much attention and reverence; and that we should be unmoved the Law and the Propiets; as every Jew considered those by the myriads wrought by the immediate hand of God. books to be of divine authority; and from their decision, 4. How difficult it is to get men brought to worship God, there was no appeal. But, in addressing the Gentiles who had though they have the highest reasons and the most powerful no revelation, they drew the proofs of their doctrine from motives for it; and yet, how ready are they to offer an inthe visible creation, and demonstrated by plain reasoning, cense to man, that is due only to God himself ! We apthe absurdity of their idolatrous worship, and called them off | plaud the apostles for rejecting with horror the sacrifices of. from those vanities to the worship of the living and true God, || fered to them : common sense must have taught them this leswho made and governs all things, and who gave them such son, even independently of their piety. Let us beware, that proofs of his being, wisdom, and goodness in the provision we take not that praise to ourselves which belongs to our made for their comfort and support, that they had only to Maker. Gross flattery is generally rejected, because a man reflect on the subject, in order to be convinced of its truth. || cannot receive it without being rendered ridiculous : but who And while, in consequence, they saw the absurdity of their rejects even inordinate praise, if it be delicately and artfully own system, they would at once discover the reasonableness prepared !
Certain Jewish teachers insist
on the necessity of circumcision.
CHAPTER XV. Certain teachers from Judea insist on the necessity of the converted Gentiles being circumcised, 1. Paul and
Barnabas are sent to Jerusalem to consult the apostles on this subject, 2. They come to Jerusalem and inform the apostles of the conversion of the Gentiles, and of the trouble which certain Pharisees had occasioned concerning circumcision, 3-5. The apostles having assembled to consider the question, Peter delivers his opinion, 6-11. Barnabas and Paul relate their success among the Gentiles, 12. James delivers his judgment, 13–21. The apostles und elders agree to what he proposes, and send Judas and Silas with Puul and Barnabas to the converted Gentiles, 22; and send an epistle containing their decree, to the churches of Antioch, Syria und Cilicia, 23—29. Paul and his company return, and read the epistle to the brethren at Antioch, which produces greut joy; and Judas and Silas preach to them, 30–32. Judas returns to Jerusalem, but Silas continues with Paul and Barnabas, teaching and preaching, 33–35. Paul proposes to Barnabas to visit the churches where they had preached; and on the latter determining to take John Mark with them, Paul refuses, 36-38. They disagree ; and Barnabas taking John Mark, sails to Cyprus, 39. And Paul taking Silas, goes through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches, 40, 41. ND * certain men which camel 2 When therefore Paul and Barna- A.M.cir.4056.
A. D. cir. 52. An. Olymp. down from Judea taught the || bas had no small dissension and dis An. Olymp.
brethren, and said, Except ye be putation with them, they determined cir. ccvii. a. circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye can- | that ^ Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of not be saved.
them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the
* Gal. 2. 12.
.) John 7. 22. ver. 5. Gal. 5. 2. Phil. 3. 2. Col. 2. 8, 11, 16.
e Gen. 17. 10. Lev. 12. 3. Gal. 2. 1.
NOTES ON CHAP. XV.
therefore they opposed the Judaizing teachers. This was one Verse 1. Except ye be circumcised, &c.] The persons
of the first controversies in the Christian church; but though who taught this doctrine, appear to have been converts to the difference of sentiment was considerable, it led to no Christianity; but, supposing that the Christian religion was breach of Christian charity nor fellowship among theinselves. intended to perfect the Mosaic, and not to supersede it; they They determined that Puul, &c.] This verse is read very insisted on the necessity of circumcision, because by that, a differently in the Codex Bezæ ; Terojusvos da EXTATEWS xai (ya man was made delitor to the whole law, to observe all its τησεως ουκ ολιγης τω Παυλη και Βαρναζα συν αυτοις, ελεγε: rites and ceremonies. This question produced great distur- γαρ ο Παυλος μενειν ουτως καθως επιςευσαν, διϊσχυριζομενος : οι Dance in the apostolic church: and notwithstanding the de-I δε εληλυθότες απο Ιερουσαλήμ, παρηγΓειλαν αυτοις, τω Παυλω cree mentioned in this chapter, the apostles were frequently I και Βαρνακα, και τισιν αλλοις, αναβαινειν προς τους Αποσολους obliged to interpose their authority in order to settle it: and και Πρεσβύτερους εις Ιερουσαλήμ, οπως κριθωσιν επ' αυτοις (αυwe find a whole church, that at Galatia, drawn aside from the || Twv) TIEPI Tou%77 YPATOS TOUTOU.
But when Paul and Barna. simplicity of the Christian faith, by the subtilty of Judaizing bas had no small dissension and disputation with them, Paul teachers among themselves; who insisted on the necessity of said, with strong assurance, that they should remain so as they the converted Gentiles being circumcised.
had believed. But those who came from Jerusalem, chargée le cannot be sured.] Ye can neither enjoy God's bless Paul and Barnabus and certain others to go up to the apostles ing in time, nor his glory in eternity. Such an assertion as and elders to Jerusalem, that u determination might be made this, from any reputable authority, must necessarily shake || by them concerning this question. the confidence of young converts.
And certain other of them] If this be the journey to Verse 2. No small dissension and disputation] Paul and which St. Paul alludes, Gal. ii. 1-5. then, he had Titus Barnabas were fully satisfied that God did not design to with him; and how many others went from the church of bring the converted Gentiles under the yoke of circumcision: || Antioch, we cannot tell. This journey was 14 years after they knew that Jesus Christ was the end of the law for Paul's conversion, and was undertaken by express revelation righteousness (justification) to every one that believed ; and as he informs us, Gal. ii. 2. which revelation appears to have
Paul, Barnabas, and others, sent to
consult the church at Jerusalem.
An. Olymp. cir. CCVII.4.
cir. CCVII. 4.
4. M. cir.1996. apostles and elders about this ques- the Pharisees which believed, saying, A. M. cir.4056. tion.
e That it was needful to circumcise An. Olymp. 3 And being brought on their way them, and to command them to keep by the church, they passed through Phænice and the law of Moses. Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gen 6 And the apostles and elders came together tiles : and they caused great joy unto all the for to consider of this matter. brethren.
7 1 And when there had been much disputing, 4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, Peter rose up, and said unto them, 'Men and they were received of the church, and of the brethren, ye know how that a good while
ago, apostles and elders; and they declared all things God made choice among us, that the Gentiles that God had done with them.
by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, 5 1 But there 'rose up certain of the sect of and believe.
. Rom. 15. 24. 1 Cor. 16. 6, 11.-- ch. 14. 27.nover. 12. ch.
14. 27. & 21. 19.
• Or, rose up, said they, certain. - ver. 1. ch. 10. 20.
& ll. 12.
been given to certain persons in the church of Antioch, as we Verse 0. The apostles and elders came together] This learn from this verse; and not to Paul and Barnabas them. was the first council ever held in the Christian church; and selves.
we find that it was composed of the apostles and elders Verse 3. Being brought on their way by the church] That simply. is, the members of the church provided them with all neces Verse 7. When there had been much disputing] By those saries for their journey; for it does not appear that they had of the sect of the believing Pharisees; for they strongly con. any property of their own.
tended for circumcision; and at the head of these, tradition Declaring the conversion of the Gentiles] Much stress is tells us, was Cerinthus, a name famous in the primitive church, laid on this : it was a miracle of God's mercy that the Gen as one who laboured to unite the law and the gospel; and to tiles should be received into the church of God: and they make the salvation promised by the latter, dependent on the had now the fullest proof that the thing was likely to become performance of the rites and ceremonies prescribed by the general, by the conversion Cornelius; the conversion of former. Though the apostles and elders were under the inthe people of Antioch, of Cyprus, Pisidia, Pamphylia, Lyca- spiration of the Almighty, and could by this inspiration have onia, &c. &c.
immediately determined the question ; yet it was highly neVerse 4. They were received of the church] The whole cessary that the objecting party should be permitted to come body of Christian believers.
forward, and allege their reasons for the doctrines they The apostles] Either the whole or part of the twelve; preached; and that these reasons should be fairly met by ar. though we read of none but John, Peter, and James. See gument; and the thing proved to be useless in itself, inerpieGal. ii. 9.
dient in the present case, and unsupported by any express auAnd elders] Those who were officers in the church, under thority from God; and serving no purpose to the Gentiles, the apostles.
who in their uncircumcised state, by believing in Christ Jesus, They declared] To this council they gave a succinct ac had been made partakers of the lioly Ghost. count of the great work, which God had wrought by them Peter rose up, and said] This was after the matters in among the Gentiles. This was St. Paul's third journey to dispute had been fully debated ; and now the apostles, like Jerusalem after his conversion. See an account of his first judges, after hearing council on both sides, proceed to give journey, chap. ix. 26. and of bis second in chap. xi. 30. judgment on the case.
Verse 5. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pha A good while ago] A©' queswv arxalwy, from the days risees] This verse appears to be part of the declaration made of old: a phrase which simply signifies some yeurs ago; by Paul and Barnabas to this council: for, having stated how and if he here refers to the conversion of Cornelius, (see God blessed their ministry among the Gentiles; they proceed chap. x.) he must mean about ten years before this time; to deciare how all the good work was likely to be destroyed but it is more likely that he refers to that time when Christ by certain Pharisees, who having received the Christian faith, gave him the keys of the kingdom of heaven, that he might came down to Antioch, and began to teach the necessity of open the door of faith to the Gentiles. circumcision, &c. and thus filled the minds of the young con God made choice among us] That is, he chose me to be verted Gentiles with doubtful disputations. See the Margin. ll the first apostle of the Gentiles.
The apostles having met, the
subject is largely discussed.
cir. CCVII. 4.
cir. CCVII. 4,
8 And God, which knoweth the 10 Now therefore why tempt ye An. Olymp. , ,
them the Holy Ghost, even as he did of the disciples, which neither our unto us ;
fathers nor we were able to bear ? 9 ° And put no difference between us and them, 11 But' we believe that through the grace of the purifying their hearts by faith.
Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they
a 1 Chron. 28. 9. ch. 1. 24.- ch. 10. 44. Rom. 10. 11.
a Ch. 10. 15, 28, 43, 1 Cor. l. 2. 1 Pet. 1. 22.
• Matt. 23. 4. Gal. 5. 1.Rom. 3. 24. , Ephes. 2. 8.
Tit. 2. 11. & 3. 4, 5.
Verse 8. And God, which knoweth the hearts] 'O xapancy-Simeoni, part i. fol. 229. where Korah is represented as shew. ww595 DECs. We had this epithet of the Divine Being once ing the oppressive nature of the law, and avarice of its priests, before, see chap. i. 24. and the note there : it occurs no in justification of his rebellion. “ There was,” said he," a where else in the New Testament.
widow in our neighbourhood who had two orphan children: Bare them witness] Considered them as proper or fit to || she had one field; and, when she began to plough it, one came receive the gospel of Christ. It is properly remarked by and said, Thou shalt not plough with an ox and an ass together.
that yaptUPELY TIVb, to bear witness to any When she went to sow it, he said, Thou shalt not sow thy field person, signifies to approve, to testify in behalf of. Here it with divers seeds. When she began to reap, and to gather the signifies, that as God evidently sent the gospel to the Gen- || sheaves together, he said, Leave a handful and the corners of tiles, and, by the preaching of it, conveyed the Holy Spirit the field for the poor. When she prepared to thresh it, he to them who believed ; and as he can make no improper said, Give me the wave-offering, and the first and second judgment of any, who knows all hearts and their secrets ; || tythes. She did as she was commanded, and then went and therefore what he had done was right: he saw that it was time sold her field, and bought two ewes; that she might clothe for them to receive the gospel ; and he saw that they might herself and family with the wool, and get profit by the be safely trusted with this heavenly deposit; and the experience lambs. When they brought forth their lambs, Aaron came of eighteen hundred years has justified the conduct of God. and said, Give me the firstlings, for the holy blessed God
Verse 9. Put no difference between us and them] Giving hath said, All the first-born, whatsoever openeth the womb, them the Holy Spirit, though uncircumcised ; just as he had shall be thine. She yielded to his demands, and gave him given it to us who were circumcised: an evident proof, that, two lambs. When shearing time came, he said, Give me the in the judgment of God, circumcision was no preparation to first fruits of the wool. When the widow had done this, she receive the gospel of Christ. And as the purification of the said, I cannot stand before this man; I will kill my sheep and heart by the Holy Spirit was the grand object of the religion eat them. When she had killed the sheep, Aaron came and of God; and that alone by which the soul could be pre- said, Give me the shoulder, and the juws and the ventricle. The pared for a blessed immortality; and the Gentiles had re- widow said, Though I have killed my sheep, I am not deli . ceived that without circumcision, consequently, the shadow vered from this man; I therefore consecrate the whole to eould not be considered of any worth, now the substance was God. Then Aaron said, All belongs to me, for the holy communicated.
blessed God hath said, Every thing that is consecrated in Verse 10. Now therefore why tempt ye God] As God, by Israel shall be his, i. e. the priest's. He therefore took the giving the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles, evidently shews he' whole carcases, and marched off, leaving the widow and her does not design them to be circumcised, in order to become orphan daughters overwhelmed with afiliction.” This is a debtors to the law, to fulfil all its precepts, &c. why will ye terrible picture of the requisitions of the Mosaic ritual ; provoke him to displeasure, by doing what he evidently de- and though exaggerated, it contains so many true features, signs shall not be done.
that it may well be said, This is a yoke which neither we nor A yoke—which neither our futhers nor we were able to our fathers were able to bear. See Schoettgen. bear ?] This does not refer to the moral law ; that was of Verse 11, Through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we eternal obligation : but to the ritual law, which, through shall be saved] This seems to be an answer to an objection, the multitude of its sacrifices, ordinances, &c. was exceed-“ Has not God designed to save us, the Jews, by an obseringly burthensome to the Jewish people. And had not God, vance of the law; and them, the Gentiles, by the faith of by an especial providence, rendered both their fields and the gospel ?" No : for we Jews can be saved no other way their flocks very fruitful, they could not possibly have borne than through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and this 90 painful a ritual.
is the way in which the Gentiles in question have been saved. There is a curious story in Midrash Shochar, tof in Yalkut | There is but one way of salvation for Jews and Gentiles,
St. James debivers his julgment
concerning the disputed point.
A. D. cir. 52.
12 1 Then all the multitude kept si- | first did visit the Gentiles, to take A. M.cir. 4056. An. Olymp. lence, and gave audience to Barnabas out of them a people for his An. Olymp. eir. CCVII.4. and Paul, declaring what miracles name. and wonders God had wrought among the 15 And to this agree the words of the prophets ; Gentiles by them.
as it is written, 13 © And after they had held their peace, 16 « After this I will return, and will build * James answered, saying, Men and brethren, again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen hearken unto me:
down ; and I will build again the ruins thereof, 14 Simeon hath declared how God at the and I will set it up :
Ch. 14. 27.ch. 12. 17.
c Ver. 7.- Amos 9. 11, 12.
the grace, mercy, or favour coming by and through the Lord he is present, but himself. Peter did not preside here ; and Jesus, the Christ: this is now fully opened to the Gentiles; this was the first ecclesiastical council : and now, if ever, and we believe we shall be saved in the same way.
he should have assumed his character of prince and chief ; Verse 12. All the multitude kept silence] The strong facts but he did not; nor did any of the other apostles invite him stated by St. Peter could not be controverted. Ilis speech to it, which they would have done, had they thought that may be thus analysed : 1. Circumcision is a sign of the pu- | Jesus Christ constituted him head of the church. From this rification of the heart. 2. That purification can only be ef- very circumstance there is the most demonstrative evidence, fected by the Holy Ghost. 3. This Holy Spirit was hitherto that Peter was no Pope ; and that the right of his pretended supposed to be the portion of those only who had received successor is a non-entity. circumcision. 4. But the Gentiles, who were never circum Verse 14. Simeon hath declared] It is remarkable that cised, nor kept any part of the law of Moses, have had their James does not give him even the title which he received from hearts purified by faith in Christ Jesus. 5. As God, there. our Lord, at the time in which he is supposed to have been fore, has given them the thing signified, he evident!y does made head of the church, and vicar of Christ, upon earth : not intend that the sign would be administered. 6. Should so that it is evident, James did not understand our Lord as we impose this burthensome rite, we should most evidently giving Peter any such pre-eminence ; and therefore, he does be proroking God, who plainly shews us that he intends no not even call him Peter, but simply Simeon. It is truly surmore to save in this way. 7. Therefore it is evident, that prising that such a vast number of important pretensions, both Jews and Gentiles are to be saved through the grace of should rest on such slight foundations! If tradition, no the Lord Jesus Christ.
matter how interrupted or precarious, did not lend its supGave audience to Barnabas and Paul] These apostles came port, feeble as that necessarily must be; the cause tried by forward next, to corroborate what Peter had said, by shew- plain scripture would fall to the ground, ing the miracles and wonders which God had by them wrought To take out of them a people for his name.] To form among the Gentiles. Peter stated facts : Paul and Barnabas among the Gentiles, as he had among the Jews, a people confirmed the statement.
called by his name, and devoted to his honour. Verse 13. James answered] He was evidently president of
Verse 15. And to this agree the words of the prophets] Peter the council, and is generally called bishop of Jerusalem. had asserted the fact of the conversion of the Gentiles; and The rest either argued on the subject, or gave their opinion; James shews that, that fact was the fulfilment of declarations James alone pronounced the definitive sentence. Had Peter made by the prophets. been prince and head of the apostles, and of the church; he Verse 16. After this I will return, and will build again, would have appear. d here in the character of judge, not of &c.] These two verses, 16th and 17th, are quoted from mere counsellor or disputant. The Popish writers say, that Amos ix. 11, 12. nearly as they now stand in the best edi. " James presided because the council was held in his own tions of the Septuagint ; and evidently taken from that Ver. church.” These men forget that there was not then what sion, which differs considerably from the Hebrew text. As they term a church on the face of the earth. The church, St. James quoted them as a prophecy of the calling of the or assembly of believers, then met in private houses; for Gentiles into the church of God, it is evident the Jews must there was no building for the exclusive purpose of Christian have understood them in that sense ; otherwise they would worship then, nor till long after. These writers also forget, have immediately disputed his application of them to the that the Pope pretends to be the head of the catholic or uni- subject in question; and have rejected his conclusion, by deversal church ; and consequently, no man can preside where nying the premises. But that the words were thus under.