Acts 15* The dispute raised by Judaizing teachers. (1-6) The council atJerusalem. (7-21) The letter from the council. (22-35) Paul andBarnabas separate. (36-41)1-6 Some from Judea taught the Gentile converts at Antioch,that they could not be saved, unless they observed the wholeceremonial law as given by Moses; and thus they sought todestroy Christian liberty. There is a strange proneness in us tothink that all do wrong who do not just as we do. Their doctrinewas very discouraging. Wise and good men desire to avoidcontests and disputes as far as they can; yet when falseteachers oppose the main truths of the gospel, or bring inhurtful doctrines, we must not decline to oppose them. 7-21 We see from the words "purifying their hearts by faith,"and the address of St. Peter, that justification by faith, andsanctification by the Holy Ghost, cannot be separated; and thatboth are the gift of God. We have great cause to bless God thatwe have heard the gospel. May we have that faith which the greatSearcher of hearts approves, and attests by the seal of the HolySpirit. Then our hearts and consciences will be purified fromthe guilt of sin, and we shall be freed from the burdens sometry to lay upon the disciples of Christ. Paul and Barnabasshowed by plain matters of fact, that God owned the preaching ofthe pure gospel to the Gentiles without the law of Moses;therefore to press that law upon them, was to undo what God haddone. The opinion of James was, that the Gentile converts oughtnot to be troubled about Jewish rites, but that they shouldabstain from meats offered to idols, so that they might showtheir hatred of idolatry. Also, that they should be cautionedagainst fornication, which was not abhorred by the Gentiles asit should be, and even formed a part of some of their rites.They were counselled to abstain from things strangled, and fromeating blood; this was forbidden by the law of Moses, and alsohere, from reverence to the blood of the sacrifices, which beingthen still offered, it would needlessly grieve the Jewishconverts, and further prejudice the unconverted Jews. But as thereason has long ceased, we are left free in this, as in the likematters. Let converts be warned to avoid all appearances of theevils which they formerly practised, or are likely to be temptedto; and caution them to use Christian liberty with moderationand prudence. 22-35 Being warranted to declare themselves directed by theimmediate influence of the Holy Ghost, the apostles anddisciples were assured that it seemed good unto God the HolySpirit, as well as to them, to lay upon the converts no otherburden than the things before mentioned, which were necessary,either on their own account, or from present circumstances. Itwas a comfort to hear that carnal ordinances were no longerimposed on them, which perplexed the conscience, but could notpurify or pacify it; and that those who troubled their mindswere silenced, so that the peace of the church was restored, andthat which threatened division was removed. All this wasconsolation for which they blessed God. Many others were atAntioch. Where many labour in the word and doctrine, yet theremay be opportunity for us: the zeal and usefulness of othersshould stir us up, not lay us asleep. 36-41 Here we have a private quarrel between two ministers, noless than Paul and Barnabas, yet made to end well. Barnabaswished his nephew John Mark to go with them. We should suspectourselves of being partial, and guard against this in puttingour relations forward. Paul did not think him worthy of thehonour, nor fit for the service, who had departed from themwithout their knowledge, or without their consent: see ch.#13:13|. Neither would yield, therefore there was no remedy butthey must part. We see that the best of men are but men, subjectto like passions as we are. Perhaps there were faults on bothsides, as usual in such contentions. Christ's example alone, isa copy without a blot. Yet we are not to think it strange, ifthere are differences among wise and good men. It will be sowhile we are in this imperfect state; we shall never be all ofone mind till we come to heaven. But what mischief theremainders of pride and passion which are found even in goodmen, do in the world, and do in the church! Many who dwelt atAntioch, who had heard but little of the devotedness and pietyof Paul and Barnabas, heard of their dispute and separation; andthus it will be with ourselves, if we give way to contention.Believers must be constant in prayer, that they may never be ledby the allowance of unholy tempers, to hurt the cause theyreally desire to serve. Paul speaks with esteem and affectionboth of Barnabas and Mark, in his epistles, written after thisevent. May all who profess thy name, O loving Saviour, bethoroughly reconciled by that love derived from thee which isnot easily provoked, and which soon forgets and buries injuries.
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