PETER APOSTLE OF JESUS CHRIST
Acts Chapter 15 verses 1-21- Peter Agrees with Paul at the Church Council
This is the last time that we read about Peter in the Book of Acts. In the next post we shall learn what tradition tells us about his later life experiences.
After Peter’s escape from Herod’s prison, he continued living in Judea where God had entrusted him with telling the gospel to the Jewish people (Galatians 2:7-10). And further preaching to non-Jews was chiefly done by others. Already in Chapters 13 and 14 it can be read how Paul and Barnabas (see note in previous post) made a trip to the Island of Crete taking Mark with them. They then travelled on to provinces in Asia Minor (which were parts of what is now Turkey).
Because of their preaching, non-Jews were converted (Ch 13 vv.2,48; 14:21-23). However, as a result, when Paul and Barnabas returned home, some believers with a strict Jewish upbringing had fierce argument with them. They said, ‘It is necessary for non-Jews to become Jews by receiving the Jewish mark of religion. Only then can there be liberation from sin.’
But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And 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 the apostles and the elders about this question
This happened in the church at Antioch (Ch 14:27,28). But the same thing happened later in Jerusalem.
So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”
So a meeting of the church council in Jerusalem considered the matter. Then Peter reminded them how he had witnessed the conversion of the Roman soldier Cornelius and his friends (Ch 10:1 -11:18). After that the assembly gave close attention as Barnabas went on to tell how God had blessed his and Paul’s work.
The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.
Finally James, who seemed to be the chairman, quoted a sutra which told how God would be doing a new thing, both for Jewish people (“tent of David”) and for the rest of the world (“remnant of mankind … all the Gentiles”), and he urged the meeting to agree with Peter (“Simeon”), saying that non-Jews believers must leave idols, renounce sin, and avoid really serious offence to Jews without any other requirements. [So a letter was written to inform the church at Antioch and other new churches of their decision, Ch 15:22-35]
After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, “‘after this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’ Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”
In summary we can say confidently that new believers do not have to become copies of Jews, or in our days like Russians, Indians or Americans. We too can keep our culture, the good things that belong to us because we are Chinese, Nepalis or Tibetans.
Paul In Chapters 15-28, the Book of Acts describes how Paul (and others) was used by God to bring the gospel to other parts of the Roman Empire beyond Judea and Samaria.
John Like Peter, John too seems to have been a recognized leader of the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9).
James After his resurrection, Jesus’s own brother James became a believer, and joined Peter and John as one of the three main leaders among the apostles (Gal.2:9). [James the brother of John had been killed Ch 12:2]
Salvation by the free gift of the Lord Jesus
Peter is quite clear, “We believe that we will be saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” Verse 11.
Paul stated the same truth when writing to the church at Rome, “The wages (‘bras-bu) of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Jews could not even keep their own law (Acts 15:10); no one can do enough good works for salvation. But in Jesus all bad works are cancelled, all suffering from karmic law (rgyu-‘bras ‘khor) is abolished, all bad kinds of death are wiped out and in its place Jesus grants unfading life.
Salvation is by faith in the Lord Jesus
Peter said, ‘God gave the same gift of the Holy Spirit to those Romans as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.’ [It was the sign that God accepted them (See Acts 11:17)]
And Paul wrote the same thing to the church at Ephesus, “By grace you have been saved through faith …” (Ephesians 2:8-10).