The Balance of the Issue Acts 15:7 through 16:1
Acts 15:7-8. They argued, and Peter got up and referred to his vision
and experience with Cornelius. He explains it, knowing that the vision
wasn't literally about food, and that the Gentiles should be able to
hear God's word, and according to Peter it is God's will, and He is
Acts 15:9. God made no distinction between the true Gerim and the
Acts 15:10. What was the yoke that neither they nor their fathers
were able to bear? Was it Torah? NO. Torah was not considered an
unbearable yoke. If that were the case, it would negate Matthew 5:17-19
and Acts 21:20 where these same guys were so pleased about the myriads
(tens of thousands) of Torah zealous Yeshua believing Jews. This yoke
was the Oral Law that this group of Pharisees (possibly Shammaites)
wanted the Gerim to obey.8 This is what the Council
decided was an unbearable yoke.
Acts 15:11. It is God's grace - the grace of Moshiach - that restores
us to God. It is also a system of repentance, to repent and be restored
by God's grace.
Acts 15:12. Paul and Barnabas explain how God was with them in the
ministry to the Gentiles.
Acts 15:14. Simeon shows that originally all people were Gentiles
until God called out a people through Avraham and that God promised to
call out Gentiles again, which was happening mightily at that time.
Acts 15:19. The Gentiles were repenting of their heathenism and
turning to God's ways. So when do we accept them into fellowship in the
synagogue? When do we consider them 'clean' enough?
Acts 15:20. Giving up idols was one of the evidences of having turned
to God. Three other things are mainstays of the idol-worshipping
nations: Sexual immorality in the form of sex outside of marriage;
adultery, homosexuality, and even temple prostitution were commonplace.
These, plus eating blood, were anathema, things that Judaism teaches a
Jew should die rather than commit. These acts would be an incredible
offense to Jews.
Acts 15:21. If they obey the above restrictions, they are considered
pure enough to enter the synagogue and study Torah. By their
faithfulness, they will grow and hear Torah and obey more and more. This
compassionate ruling eased the transition of Gentiles, making it easier
for them to sojourn among the Jews and learn and grow.9
Acts 15:22. This Council, and not a "church," sent Paul and Barnabas
back with Silas (three men, as in a Beit Din, so that their testimony
would be accepted).
Acts 15:23. They sent along a letter of the ruling of the Council
with Paul, Yehuda, and Silas where the theological feud existed in
Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. There were presumably similar problems
coming from the more rigid Pharisaic side, possibly part of the same
group that would have had problems with Stephen (Acts 6:9, 14). Again,
the main concern was changing the "customs of Moses," known as the Oral
Acts 15:24. The letter was to the Gentiles who had been recent
converts, which certain believers among the Pharisees were insisting
weren't really converts. The Gerim needed assurance of their standing,
so they assured the Gerim of their good standing as long as they were
keeping the basics that they had pledged to do in the first place. They
were already attending a synagogue, and would be allowed to continue to
do so, so that they would continue to learn, grow, and obey. They were
considered part of the kingdom of God.
Acts 15:31. When the Gentile converts received the letter, "they
rejoiced for the consolation (a Greek word also meaning 'comfort' or
'encouragement')." They were comforted that they were considered
converts by the (Messianic Jewish) leadership.
Acts 15:35. Paul and Barnabas stay and teach and preach the word of
God. Again, this was not the New Testament, but Torah, Nevi'im, and
Ketuvim (Tanakh, "Old Testament").
Acts 15:41. They went to other congregations with the letter and
explained the decisions of the Jerusalem Council. In some Mid-East areas
such as Syria, most males were already circumcised (even among the
Gentiles), so the issue was more the manner of the circumcision and what
Acts 16:1. Shaul goes to Derbe and Lystra and circumcises Timothy
right after that (16:3). Would it make sense to circumcise Timothy and
then preach against circumcision? (This is further evidence that Paul
wasn't opposed to circumcision, only to those who would insist upon
circumcision as an evidence for conversion.)
There were other issues that hadn't been totally resolved. Was
Jewishness passed on through the mother or father? According to modern
Rabbinic Halakhah, if Timothy's mother had been Jewish, he would have
been circumcised as an infant, because Rabbinic Halakhah says that the
child of a Jewish mother is Jewish. However, the genealogies in Matthew
1 would seem to imply that Jewishness was passed on through the fathers
at that time. It seems to me that Timothy was becoming a Ger tzadik at
that time. There obviously were no theological disagreements between
Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy, or Paul wouldn't have wanted Timothy to
come along with them. Paul obviously believed in Torah.