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some of the Jews who had come from Antioch and Iconium, Paul was stoned in this same city and left for dead, but reviving soon “the next day he departed, with Barnabas, to Derbe.” Here they preached the gospel “and taught many and returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch, confirming the souls of disciples. . And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord on whom they believed."a Continuing their journey they passed through other districts and cities, and after an absence of some six years they sailed from Attalia to Antioch in Syria, whence they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had accomplished. “And when they were come and had gathered the church together they rehearsed all that God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. And there they abode a long time with the disciples.”b Thus ended the first missionary journey, full of joy and sorrow, suffering and triumph. a Acts xiv. 20–23.
b Acts xiv. 27, 28.
THE FIRST COUNCIL
The Conference at Jerusalem. Judaism and Christianity. Cor
rupt Religions. The Decree and its Binding Force. DURING the time that Paul remained at Antioch a question of vast importance to the Church of Christ in regard to the law of Moses was raised, discussed, and finally decided at Jerusalem. There were “certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, Except ye are circumcised after the custom of Moses ye can not be saved.” Paul and Barnabas disputed this, having no little discussion with them. It was finally “determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain other of them should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.”a “They therefore being brought on their way by the Church passed through both Phænicia and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles, and they caused great joy unto all the brethren, and when they were come to Jerusalem they were received of the church and of the apostles and elders, and they rehearsed all things that God had done with them.” But, strange to relate, there were even in the church at Jerusalem members of the sect of the Pharisees who contended "that it was needful to circumcise
a Acts xv. 2.
them and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”a This council is a very important one, consequently we will quote its proceedings in full.
And when there had been much questioning Peter rose up and said unto them, Brethren, ye know that a good while ago God made choice among you that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God who knoweth the heart bear them witness, giving them the Holy Spirit even as he did unto us; and he made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why make ye trial of God that ye should put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear ? But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in like manner as they. And all the multitude kept silence, and hearkened unto Barnabas and Paul rehearsing what signs and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles through them. And after they had held their peace James answered, saying, Brethren, hearken unto me: Symeon (Peter) hath rehearsed how first God visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After these things I will return, and I will build again the tabernacle of David which is fallen; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and will set it up: That the residue of men may seek after the Lord and all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord who maketh these things known from of old. Wherefore my judgment is that we trouble not them that from the Gentiles turn to God; but we enjoin them that they abstain from pollutions of idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. For Moses from generations of old hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath. Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders with the whole church, to choose men out of their company and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas, called Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren, and they wrote thus by them. The apostles and the elders, brethren unto the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria, and Cilicia, greeting: Forasmuch as we have heard that certain who went out from us have troubled you with words subverting your souls; to whom we gave no commandment; it seemed good unto us having come to one accord to choose out men and send them unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas who themselves also shall tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that ye abstain from things sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication; from which if ye keep yourselves it shall be well with you. Fare ye well. So they when they were dismissed came down to Antioch; and having gathered the multitude together they delivered the
a Acts xv. 3-5.
epistle; and when they read it they rejoiced for the consolation."
It is a remarkable fact that this is the only council of which we have any record in the New Testament as having been held to consider the binding obligations of any religious principle; it was held to consider a question which caused then, and still causes, much strife among the believers in Christ. There is this difference, however, between those engaged in this dispute then and now. Then it was the Jewish Christians endeavoring to bind Jewish law on Gentile Christians. Now, the dispute is wholly confined to the Gentiles, many of whom are not content with the self-imposed bondage of the Jewish law, but, while galling under the yoke, seek to impose many of its burdens on others. It will be observed this conference was convened because of a request from the church at Antioch, which sent a committee composed of Paul, Barnabas, and others, for an opinion upon a troublesome and disputed question raised among them by members of the church at Jerusalem. The committee was “received of the church and the apostles and the elders.” As to the proceedings, first, Barnabas and Paul told their story. After much “questioning” (discussion) Peter spoke of his presentation of the gospel to the Gentiles and its reception by them. Then the multitude kept
ence while Barnabas and Paul rehearsed the signs and wonders God wrought among the Gentiles by them. Then James spoke, referring to Peter's work and to prophecy in regard to the Gentiles, closing with a
a Acts xv. 7-31.