“There Always Will Be Nit-Pickers”
Acts 15:1, 2
- This title is so true no matter where you go, what you do, why or how you do it.
- The word “nit-pickers” is a hearing term for someone who is always “picking” on others about how they are doing something, or how they pronounce or spell a certain word, or why they are doing something, and etc.
- This word is derived from seeing a person with fuzz balls or lint (an imperfection) on their clothes and picking it off. Typically from “knitted” clothing.
- There will always be these people in the world to be a pestilence to God’s people.
- The word “nit-pickers” is not in the Bible. However, there are several words that are of the same origin… nay-sayers and busybodies are two words that describe “nit-picking.”
- Preachers are the most picked on by nitpickers, especially today where you have everyone thinking that they know more than the next person.
- This lesson on Acts 14 is not alone in revealing these people called nit-pickers. In fact all through the Bible and especially in the New Testament, you will find people nit-picking the priests, the children of God, the preachers, the apostles, and yes…Jesus Christ.
- May I say one more thing before we get into the lesson. Nitpickers may be Christian or worldly. Either way, they are people used of Satan to destroy churches, homes, nations, religion, worship, hearts, minds, and whatever they can to make themselves look good.
- Nit-picking is a thing of pride… “I know more than you know, and now I will prove it by accusing you of a fault.” What is wrong with that statement or thought process is that Satan is the king of “pride” and the “accuser” of the brethren.
- Do you see now that “nit-picking” is of the devil, and that Christians should not even be involved in it nor have their mouth speak as such?
I. Nit-picking Over the Circumcision
- Look at our text verses of Acts 15:1…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.
- Notice the words… “certain men.” Who were these men?
- These men were “Judaizers.”
- Judaizers are false teachers who were self appointed (Not God appointed, or church appointed) guardians of legalism (strict and literal adherence to laws or doctrines of salvation by works).
- Also note that these men came down from Judea (region around Jerusalem).
- They “came down” typically means that these “certain men” were North of Paul and Barnabas who were still in Antioch.
- Note the map below and you can locate first the city of Jerusalem at the SE corner of the map. This is where the “certain men were coming from.
- If you remember correctly, from our last study of Paul and Barnabas preaching in Acts 14:21-28, They had preached and made disciples (followers of Jesus) in Lystra, Iconium, Antioch (Pisidian), Pamphylia, Perga and down to Attalia.
- Looking at the map you can see Attalia (SW of Lystra) and from there Paul and Barnabas sailed (as Luke writes here in Acts) “down to Antioch.”
- Note on the map that there are 2 cities called Antioch. The one North is located in Pisidia or Judea, the other to the South of Tarsus (Paul’s home town).
- Now back to our verse of Acts 15:1… 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.
- Note that these “certain men” from Judaea “taught the brethren.” What did they teach? Verse 1 tells us exactly what they taught… “Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.”
- This is an old time Law of Moses that was abolished when Christ died on the cross. This law comes from Genesis 17:9-14.
- These “certain men” were teaching doctrines in the church that had been changed since the cross.
B) Seeking an answer to their question over circumcision
- Now look at verse 2…When 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.
- Now when you read this verse you think of Paul being a hot head, or very excitable Christian since his conversion from Judaism to Christianity. You also think of Barnabas as the cool heeded one that calms Paul down when he gets agitated.
- That being said, we have to notice that verse 2 says… “Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them.” Meaning that Paul and Barnabas had a problem with the “certain men” and their teaching but really didn’t know exactly how to handle it.
- Apparently there was a discussion in the church and among the church leaders as to this question of Gentiles being circumcised or not for salvation.
- I believe that Paul and Barnabas knew the answer but lacked the confidence or wisdom to answer correctly so they kept their mouths shut until they got confirmation from someone who studied doctrines and such.
- The word “dissension” means words of controversy.
- The word “disputations” means a mutual open discussion of the facts.
- The Dynamic Duo (Paul and Barnabas) had nothing to say to them that would cause an uproar or animosity in the church.
- This is the mistake made by many members in the church then and now concerning doctrines. If you have a problem or dispute with the pastor about something being taught…DO NOT have it in front of the other members of the church.
- The Bible tells us how to handle disagreements or arguments that we may have towards our brethren. (Matthew 18:15-20) Do it alone. Not in front of others.
- Why not in front of others? Because it ruins the peaceable spirit of God. We are supposed to edify one another, not criticize one another.
- Paul and Barnabas had no dispute or words against the “certain men” so they all got together as it says here in verse 2 of Acts 15, “…they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.”
- They are doing a very wise thing… calling on another pastor or church leader for wisdom concerning doctrines in the church.
- They are not taking advice from another member in the church or an worldly organization that knows nothing about the doctrines of the church.
- They are seeking wisdom from other men of God, who are called of God to rightly divide the words of truth that God has given to His Son Jesus to give to His sheep.
C) The Journey to Jerusalem
- Now look at Acts 15:3… And 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.
- The term “…being brought on their way by the church” means that the new converts to Christianity would take care of the apostles (preachers of the Word) as is God command for the church.
- It was customary for the new converts to travel with the apostles on their journey to learn more about the doctrines of Jesus Christ, to help feed them, doctor them if necessary, or give them moral support.
- We also see now that “…they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.”
- Here is another thing that is necessary in the church that many church services have gotten away from “…declaring the conversion.” When people are converted (changed from their old habits to new, changed from their old religion to new, or changed from being a child of Satan to being a child of God.) it used to be they stood up in front of the church and announced their conversion and they await baptism which is an outward showing of their conversion (Death and burial of their sin, and their resurrection to a new life in Christ Jesus).
- I want us to also realize that in their journey to Jerusalem over this law concerning circumcision, they stopped in several cities to preach Jesus Christ.
- It says here in verse 3… “they passed through Phenice and Samaria,” As they passed through these cities they preached the word. I also believe that as they traveled they would stop and probably have many who had questions about the circumcision trying to find answers.
D) Arriving in Jerusalem
- Look now at Acts 15:4…And 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.
- Arriving in Jerusalem must have been a true blessing for Paul, Barnabas and those traveling with them. WHY? Because of the greeting that they received of the church at Jerusalem…“…they were received.”
- This means that the church gave them a warm welcome. They washed their feet (as was a custom) and hugged them, and fellowshipped with them.
- This was better than being rejected and dismissed as false prophets.
- The apostle’s first and main purpose for coming (concerning the circumcision) must be detained for a brief moment until the welcoming committee of the Jerusalem church was satisfied.
- Note also that there were some apostles already there working with the elders of the church at Jerusalem as we see in verse 4.
- Also note the apostles “…they declared all things that God had done with them.” I personally believe that the apostles informed the church at Jerusalem of the Gentiles acceptance of the gospel of Jesus Christ preached by Peter that was mentioned in Acts 10:44-48, and Acts 11:17, 18.
- I believe that it may have been the mention of Peter’s message to the Gentiles that caused a stir in the church. You don’t see Paul mentioned here as taking control of the service or meeting of the church here at Jerusalem.
II. Nit-pickers In the Jerusalem Council
A) Satan shows up using the Pharisees
- Acts 15:5…But 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.
- Before verse 5, people are enjoying and rejoicing in the Gentile’s conversion from Judaism to Christianity. They are really praising the Lord and having a good time.
- In verse 5 we see Satan show up… “But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed,” We all know of the terrible torment that Jesus suffered at the hands of the Pharisees.
- Please note that these particular Pharisees were a little different. HOW were they different? Because these Pharisees were ones “…which believed,”
- They are now followers of Jesus Christ. They were new converts but they held on to their traditions and the old Law. They also were “nit-pickers.”
- New converts who have only been a child of God for a short time (1-10 years depending on their teacher) will always have tenancies to nit-pick at every detain in doctrine and worship. This has always been the trademark of the Pharisees.
- They never learned their lesson for nit-picking of Jesus Christ.
- Do you know what they were nit-picking about.
- The circumcision. “…saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”
- These guys just don’t get it. REALLY boys?
- They are saying that it is “necessary” for these new Gentile converts to be circumcised first and also show proof of their works at keeping the Laws of Moses.
- This is the way Satan works. The devil waits until Christians are rejoicing and having a good time and then uses ignorant (unlearned) Christians to disrupt the Spirit of God in His house.
B) A meeting is called
- Look at verse 6…And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
- The leaders of the church are the ones who have the meeting. May I also remind you that no women were present nor ever was present in a church with the doctrines of Jesus Christ.
- This was brought out in Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth in I Corinthians 14:34…Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. The Laws mentioned by Paul in Corinthians was in…Genesis 3:16 “…and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”
- This was a practice of ALL CHURCHES. Even the churches that were not of God. Even churches that worshipped idols.
- However, there must have been issues with women speaking in the church at Corinth or Paul would not have mentioned it in His letter.
- In today’s churches all across the world, women are allowed to speak. Is it wrong? I had better not say because I have to drive home with my wife in the car after services are over. No just kidding.
- I personally believe as did my dad, that many of the confrontations in the church are due to women saying something or doing something that creates a broken spirit in the church service.
- Paul further states in his letter to the church at Corinth in verse 35) And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: If a woman has a question or a rebuke concerning a matter of the church they are to go home privately with their husband and address him as he (the man, the husband) is head of the house. “…for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” Paul says “It is a shame”
- The command of God is for women to be in “subjection” to the husband. (See also I Timothy 2:11, 12; Ephesians 5:22; Titus 2:5; I Peter 3:1; and Numbers 30:3-13)
C) More nit-picking
- Now back to our study in Acts 15…
- Look now at verse 7) And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up,
- Peter cannot help himself can he. He is a true preacher of the Word.
- A true preacher defends the faith, defends righteousness, and defends the gospel and the laws of his God. Look at what Peter says…
- “… 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.
- Peter here is defending the “Grace” of God. Peter had just informed these idiots that God was with him in all these different places and he witnessed many Gentiles converted.
- I don’t know, but wouldn’t the Pharisees coming at Peter with this type of statement of the law be trying to call Peter a liar?
- Peter here in this verse is reminding them of the fact that God did not require the Gentiles of the early church to be circumcised or follow certain rituals or law keeping…so why should the church now all of a sudden demand it because a few Pharisees deem it “needful (necessary)”?
- Peter may have been referring to the salvation of Cornelius and his household of Acts 10:24-48.
- Now look at Acts 15:8…And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
- Now Peter brings the filling of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles into his message. The Jews still believe that they are the only ones that can be filled, the only ones that God has accepted as His dear children.
- Peter goes on in verse 9) And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. This is Peter showing the “unconditional love” of God. There is no difference between the Jew and the Gentile.
- Peter shows these Pharisees (Nit-pickers) that God’s grace was given not only to the Jews but to the gentile nation as well because no one can withstand the “yoke (burdens)” placed upon them to merit salvation…10) Now 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?
- Oh my! Peter now accuses them of “tempting God.” Remember what Jesus told the devil in the wilderness in Matthew 4:7 “…thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”
- The Pharisees were also guilty of being hypocrites. They were expecting the Gentiles to carry a burden that they themselves could not carry.
- Aren’t we all like the Pharisees at times? We expect new converts to be holy and follow every rule and etc. when we ourselves are guilty of breaking a few of the laws of God if not the laws of man.
- Look at Acts 15:11…But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
- Peter here validates the Gentiles genuine conversion by saying “…we believe.” We meaning all the 12 apostles.
D) Silence is golden
- Acts 15:12… Then 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.
- Silence comes when the Holy Spirit of God is working. These people were in somewhat of a confused state of mind because of “certain men” from Judea had allowed Satan to work in their minds to discredit Paul and Barnabas. However, God worked in the hearts of these people through the Holy Spirit of God.
- Note that the verse says “…and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul,” This means that the people were paying attention and listening to their every word.
- What was so intriguing to the people that Paul said to captivate their minds and mouths to pay so close attention to? Look at the later part of verse 12… declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.”
- Barnabas and Paul was demonstrating and talking about all the miracles that they had performed with the power of the Holy Spirit of God, and then told them of the Day of Pentecost and how God ushered in the Holy Ghost, and they continued by telling of Cornelius and his family becoming saved and much more.
E) James speaks
- Acts 15:13…And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:
- James here begins to defend the message of “salvation by faith” with the 3rd
- Who is Simeon? This is the Hebrew name for the Greek name “Simon.” But the Lord Jesus renamed Simon and called him Peter. Peter means “rock.”
- Acts 15:14…Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.
- James is telling the Jews here that God has given the Gentiles an opportunity to be His people. This is almost a direct quote from Luke 2:31, 32.
- Now look at Acts 15:15… And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, What prophets is James referring to? How about Amos 9:11…In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: 12) That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this.
- This prophecy is talking of the Millennial reign of Christ over the remnant (Israel) in Jerusalem.
- Let us understand something here. James and Peter both children of God raised in godly homes knew nothing about the prophecy of Amos.
- By that, I mean that they as well as others did not understand this prophecy until the Holy Spirit of God revealed it to them.
- Now compare what we read in Amos to James words in Acts 15:16…After 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: 17) That 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.
- What is the purpose for James to bring up “the words of the prophets (Amos)?” To validate their calling to preach to the Gentiles and to further change the hearts of the Jews towards the Gentiles.
F) God’s plan from the beginning
- Acts 15:18…Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. The Gentiles were to be a part of God’s plan since the beginning of the world. The Jews were to be a light unto the Gentiles concerning the Messiah. The Jews rejected the Messiah.
- Acts 15:19…Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
- This term in the Hebrew means to throw something in front of someone to annoy them. Much like the meaning of the word “stumbling block.”
- In fact this is one of the many characteristics that we as children of God should seek not to attain.
G) Four Laws to be written for the Gentiles sake
- Look at what James asks of the people when ministering and teaching the Gentiles 20) But that we write unto them, (This means that were going to add this to their list of laws already established by the church) The 4 Laws that were to be added are as follows…
- “…that they abstain from pollutions of idols,” This will include not eating anything burned as a sacrifice unto idols. They were not to join in any feasts centered around the worship of idols.
- “…and from fornication,” This includes prostitution which was rampant in the idol temples, and unclean activity of any kind, and adultery.
- “… and from things strangled,” Many of the people would strangle the animals to death which kept the blood in the body to saturate the meat considered to be a delicacy.
- “…and from” Blood was strictly forbidden to be consumed by the Jews. The reason is that blood is the life of the body. The Law was commanded in Leviticus 17:11, 14. The Gentiles considered it to be a common practice to drink the blood of sacrificed animals. Hunters would do this as well and claimed it made them better hunters and united them with animals.
H) Reading the rules every Sabbath
- Acts 15:21… For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.
- These rules were to be read every Sabbath to remind the Gentiles of the Laws of the Jewish church.
III. The Jerusalem Council
A) Coming together
- Look at Acts 15: 22…Then 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:
- The above underlined is talking about the elders, the apostles that were there, working together to make these laws and see to it that they were not laws of oppression as the others but rather laws that God would be pleased with.
- “…with the whole church,” meaning that the whole church was in support of what the apostles and elders were doing. It also has the connotation as to the leaders with the authority from God is acting on the behalf of the church.
- This is Christendom…working together for the cause of Christ to help all nations to “know” (have an intimate relationship with)
B) Writing letters to the Churches
- Look at Acts 15:23…And they wrote letters by them after this manner; in other words… the group of elders and apostles had probably appointed a writer to take notes and what to write to these churches with the following manner (order, or similarity). Here is the example of how the letters would read to the other churches…
- The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: 24) Forasmuch 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: 25) It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26) Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27) We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. 28) For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29) That 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.
- Basically, the letter gives instruction to the other churches in Antioch (Capital of Syria and Cilicia) concerning the treatment of the Gentiles in their respective churches. Note what the letter contains…
- Verse 23… The apostles, elders and brethren are in agreement together by sending the letter with their greetings.
- The letter is “…unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:” This statement here is “key” to the missionary/ministerial work. They are calling the Gentiles “brethren” (Meaning brothers/sisters in Christ).
- Verse 24…Now I will paraphrase this and not try to sound like I am trying to rewrite God’s word but rather explain this in words of today’s lingo. In this letter, they are admitting and informing these Gentile brethren of “certain men” who left the church on their own accord (Not with the intensions of the whole church, or rather self appointed.)
- When these men went without the support of the church or knowledge of them doing it, they were working with Satan. Satan’s goal is to destroy the church, destroy the soul, and destroy anything that is related to Jesus Christ.
- Here’s what these “certain men” caused by acting on their own… “Verse 24b…have troubled you with words, subverting your souls,” The word “troubled” here means deeply upset or disturbed. The word “subverting” means to destroy, overthrow, or corrupt.
- When members of the church go to other people’s houses or to meetings or activities and start discussing the Bible or the Laws of God without the aid of the man of God who is called of God to minister…trouble and subverting is going to happen.
- Verse 24c… Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: What was it that troubled and subverted their souls? The statement by these “certain men” who said that Gentiles MUST be circumcised and obey all the Jewish Laws established by Moses.
- Verse 24c…”to whom we gave no such commandment:” They are telling the Gentiles in the churches of the Antioch area… We did not ever give authority to these “certain men” to go around and spread false doctrines.
- Verses 25) It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26) Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- In these verses, the chosen committee of the church (apostles and elders) are all together in agreement to try and resolve this matter by choosing people we trust (Barnabas and Paul.
- Note that they validate the sending of Barnabas and Paul by bringing up the fact that Barnabas and Paul have risked their lives for the cause of Christ.
- By that statement alone “Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Tells the Gentiles that they can trust the message sent to them is true, unchanged, without personal interpretation, and its contents are protected with their lives.
- Now the church leaders go further in trying to rectify (set straight, or make amends, or correct a wrong) the “certain men’s” sin. Note verse 27) We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.
- This is a backup plan that can hurt nothing. It only adds to the value of Barnabas and Paul’s letter.
- Pay close attention to this part of the letter to the Gentiles concerning the Laws of Moses kept by the Jews that is still in application to today’s Gentiles… “ 28) For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;”
- The writers of this letter give validation (stamp of approval, inspiration of) of the Holy Spirit for the following necessary commandments/rules to be followed by the Gentiles.
- Their goal was not to burden the Gentiles but rather to see that God’s commands for all His children are kept by His children.
- The laws ordered by God for all churches and all people are this… 29) That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication:
- I am not going to go over what we already have studied in depth about these four points of law.
- Note the next to last sentence in the letter “…from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well.” This sentence means that if the Gentiles will follow these basic commands of God they would be happy/blessed by God and the brethren (Jews.
- The whole point of this letter was to get the Gentiles to stop their pagan (idol worship, adultery, etc.) ways and follow Jesus Christ by obeying these laws established by God in the church. By the Gentiles obedience to these laws, they would not offend their brethren (the Jews.)
- Then of course the letter ends with “…fare thee well.” This means that we wish you well or wish you good things by reading this letter to further your ministry for God.
IV. Continuing the Ministry in Spite of Nit-pickers
A) Back to Antioch
- Let us now look to Acts 15:30…So when they were dismissed (from Jerusalem), they came to Antioch:
- Their purpose for going to Jerusalem was fulfilled. So they are dismissed (given permission to leave) by the elders and apostles there at Jerusalem to go back to their church in Antioch where their (Paul and Barnabas) ministry is, taking with them proof in a letter (epistle) and two other witnesses (Judas and Silas).
- Verse 30b “…and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle:
- It is presumed that by the time they gathered everyone together, 2 or 3 days may have passed.
- It is not believed that they waited until the next church service on Sunday but rather called a special meeting of the elders and members of the church.
- In the following verses we can see the result of the extra work performed by the men of God to snuff out the fire started by the “certain men (Judaizers)” Acts 15:31…Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.
- To “rejoice” is to shout “amen” or “Hallelujah” or “Praise the Lord” or even break out in singing.
- To “console” someone is to comfort or make them feel better, raise their spirits, to say or do things that will bring them out of a depressed state.
- Verse 32…And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.
- Judas and Silas (also known as Silvanus) were well know teachers in the church at Jerusalem who were sent with Paul and Barnabas to corroborate (strengthen or confirm) with them of the Law concerning the circumcision.
- The verse also tells us how they did that… they exhorted the brethren at Antioch with many words meaning that they talked a lot. They did not ramble on but rather gave them plenty of information so that there would be no misunderstanding.
- The second thing that these two teachers/prophets did was to “confirm them.” What that means is that they spoke in such a way as to make the people believe that what was said of the apostle and teachers coming from Jerusalem was the gospel truth.
- 33) And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles.
- The two things to take notice of in verse 33 is this…
- “…they had tarried there a space,” The amount of time that they stayed in the church at Antioch could have been quite lengthy. I would assume that since the meeting of the elders in Jerusalem took many days or weeks to discuss the matter of circumcision, so should their dispensary of the same.
Think about it… I believe that the “certain men” that came down to disrupt the church were men who had studied the scriptures enough to twist it in such a way that it would cause these Jewish leaders to make it a matter of great concern. So, any discussion is going to have many questions, many debates on certain verses of God’s word that may apply to the matter of circumcision.
- “… let go in peace from the brethren” This must have felt so good to the apostles who were used to leaving with their tails tucked between their legs in a dead run to the next city. Whenever there is peace in any situation…God is pleased.
- Now look at the next two verses 34) Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still. 35) Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
- There is no mention at all of any disagreements between Judas and Silas. It may be understood and I personally believe that it is possible that Judas had something pressing him to get back to Jerusalem ASAP. Judas may have had family, or work that needed tending to on a daily basis.
- However, verse 34 says “…it pleased Silas to abide there still.” So it is quite possible that Silas was not under any kind of obligation at all. He could be able to do as he pleased and it says that “it leased Silas.” My thought is that Silas saw all the hype and hoopla surrounding the decision of the church for the Gentiles that he wanted to stay and enjoy the party.
- It also may be that Silas met some new Gentile friends that looked to him as a mentor for them to grow and learn of the Jewish laws concerning the circumcision or other laws that God has laid out for them to understand.
V. Nit-picking causes division
A) Checking on your new converts
- May I say first off, that I believe that it very important for church leaders and members to check on new converts and take them under their wing and nurture that relationship.
- Many churches fail in this area. They lead someone to the Lord, baptize them and then abandon them.
- The same principle applies to teaching a baby to walk. You don’t stand a baby up and then take off to the next room and go about your daily activities. You stay with them. You hold their bodies up, or hold on to their hand and make sure they have mastered the art of walking so they do not injure themselves.
- The same thing applies to new converts. They will have an old sin nature that wants to stay intact or undisturbed. They will need advice, direction, and love from you to understand the things of God.
- By the way, the word “converts” means people who have changed their religion from one belief to another. Or someone who has made great changes in their life that is quite noticeable.
- Acts 15:36…And 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.
- Here in the early church we see evidence of Paul and Barnabas going back to every city to what? “…visit our brethren.” The reason is to make sure they are still contending for the faith. Make sure they are doing and preaching what they are supposed to be doing and preaching.
- The reason for the check up is not that they cannot be trusted, but rather the fact that Satan is powerful and deceitful and wants nothing better than to see God’s work destroyed. Especially in the early going of new converts. People who have not been raised up in a Christian environment lack the knowledge and will power to ward off Satan’s attacks.
B) Division over John Mark
- Look at Acts 15:37…And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. 38) But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.
- Notice here “…Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark” This is kind of unlike the quiet and reserved Barnabas. I believe that the reason for Barnabas’ actions was the mere fact that John Mark was his nephew and felt some sort of responsibility to protect him.
- Another factor is that Barnabas knew Paul’s character and may feel that Paul may be a bad influence John Mark.
- There are times that we need to trust God to take care of our loved ones. We do not always need to be in control.
- We also see where Paul did not think it was a good idea for John Mark to go to Pamphylia.
- Remember that John Mark went with them before to Pamphylia in Acts 13:13. John Mark also left the group after visiting in Pamphylia to go visit his mother in Jerusalem. The Bible does not say what happened there but the opportunity arises for John Mark to go again to Pamphylia and Paul puts a stop to it.
- It is really hard to say what the incident was but for some reason it caused a division among the apostles.
- By what I personally understand of the incident according to what the Bible tells us is, that Paul may have made John Mark uncomfortable while at Pamphylia the last time.
- Look at our closing verses 39) And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; 40) And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. 41) And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.
- Sometimes Satan wins for a moment (Like here) to get God’s people discouraged, upset, or separated in order to ruin God’s work. But these men were later rejoined together in harmony for the cause of Christ.