Certain Jewish believers came to Antioch demanding that Paul and Barnabas circumcise the repentant adult Gentiles as per the law concerning entry into the Mosaic Covenant.
Exodus 12:48 And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.
Paul then arose to go to Jerusalem to sort out the matter of circumcision. At that time there was a division over the issue of circumcising repentant adult Gentiles. It was understood by some that the Mosaic covenant circumcision law was to enter the Mosaic Covenant, while circumcision of heart and not of the flesh is necessary to enter into the New Covenant of spiritual Israel (Jer 31)!
Deuteronomy 10:16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.
Deuteronomy 30:6 And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.
At that time it was decided that adult coverts being older than eight days and being already circumcised in heart, need not be circumcised in the flesh; nevertheless in the New Covenant it is necessary to circumcise all male children on the eighth day as the law commands, in order to sanctify them as the children of godly parents because they are not yet circumcised in heart.
In the Kingdom of God, the whole earth will be grafted into a spiritual New Covenant Israel and all people will be required to be circumcised in both flesh and heart.
Ezekiel 44:9 Thus saith the Lord God; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel.
In the kingdom both Jews and Gentiles will be circumcised in heart because God will pour out his spirit on all flesh (Joel 2:28) and they will also be circumcised in the flesh because all males will be circumcised in the flesh on the eighth day of life as the law of God demands.
Leviticus 12:3 And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.
Today sincerely repenting ADULTS need not be circumcised in the flesh since they are already circumcised in heart; however the repentant converted must obey all the commandments of God and must circumcise all their males on the eighth day of life – as a fore-type of their future spiritual circumcision of heart – as the law requires.
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. 15:2 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.
Taking advantage of the trip, they preached and brought news to the Ekklesia as they traveled
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.
They declared the news of their ministry to those in Jerusalem
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.
They then began to discuss circumcision and the keeping of the law
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. 15:6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
Peter rose up and brought to their remembrance the events concerning the Gentiles in Caesarea and how that they had received God’s Spirit and were baptized but not circumcised in the flesh.
15:7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, 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 says that these Gentiles had been approved of Christ through the gift of the Holy Spirit without being circumcised in the flesh; showing that those Gentiles were circumcised in their hearts already.
15:8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 15:9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
Peter then speaks of the yoke of sin that was impossible to bear; and of the liberation of Christ from sins.
15:10 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? 15:11 But we believe that through the grace of the LORD Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
After Peter’s introduction to the subject, Paul and Barnabas explained their work among the Gentiles and presented their understanding, being the apostles to the Gentiles
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.
After Paul and Barnabas had completed their oration; James the Lord’s brother, and considered the leader because of his tremendous zeal for all the teachings and commandments of the Whole Word of God; gave his opinion.
15:13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: 15:14 Simeon [Peter] hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.
James agrees that Peter was correct in reaching out to the Gentiles when he was called to do so, and presents the scriptures concerning the calling out of the Gentiles
15:15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 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: 15:17 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.
15:18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
Then James the brother of Jesus, famous for his zeal for the law; gives his decision
15:19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them [do not force Mosaic circumcision of the flesh on repentant Gentile adults because they are entering a spiritual Israel and not the Mosaic Covenant], which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
James then commands that the Gentiles be specifically taught about those things commonly done by the Gentiles which are forbidden by the Word of God
15:20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
James then declares that the things of Moses were well known; clearly meaning that the Word of God delivered through Moses should be obeyed; as Jesus had commanded them to teach in Matthew 28 and Matthew 4:4, and their teachings were to also focus on the specific problems of the day.
15:21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.
The leaders at Jerusalem then sent men with letters from them on these things to Antioch.
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:
15:23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner;
The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia.
15:24 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 [of the Mosaic Covenant circumcision and the unscriptural Jewish traditions]: to whom we gave no such commandment: 15:25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 15:26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
15:27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.
15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater [further] burden than these necessary things; 15:29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from [eating] blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
The Gentiles then rejoiced that the Mosaic circumcision dispute was ended and an official position had been taken. Nevertheless true Christians are to live by every Word of God which including circumcising our sons on the eighth day.
15:30 So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: 15:31 Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.
Judas returned to Jerusalem while Silas remained at Antioch with Paul and Barnabas
15:32 And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them. 15:33 And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles. 15:34 Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still. 15:35 Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
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.
Barnabas breaks with Paul over John Mark.
It is important not to try and read into this more than what is said.
15:37 And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. 15:38 But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who [because John Mark had] departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.
Barnabas and John Mark went out on their journey, while Silas accompanied Paul. And by this splitting up they made two teams and were able to reach twice as many people!
15:39 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; 15:40 And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. 15:41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.
Paul meets Timothy.
Acts 16:1 Then came he [Paul] to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek: 16:2 Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium.
Paul had Timothy circumcised so that he would be accepted by the Jews there, and allowed to enter the synagogues to preach; for the Jews would allow no uncircumcised person to enter their synagogues.
16:3 Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.
They taught the Gospel of Salvation by Jesus Christ and to live by every Word of God (Mat 4:4, Mat 28). Which commandments were; to KEEP the whole Word and Will of God the Father!
16:4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. 16:5 And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.
The Holy Spirit communicates in; very strong biblically sound inspiration and urging to do good; sometimes in visions and dreams and sometimes in a still small voice in the mind. We must test such things by the scriptures to prove them godly or false; and then follow that which is good and consistent with every Word of God.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
Acts 16:6 Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, 16:7 After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. 16:8 And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.
God obviously had a different field for Paul, in Asia Minor and southern Europe; while others went into Asia proper.
16:9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. 16:10 And after he had seen the vision, immediately we [The writer Luke himself, was apparently with Paul at the time because of the “we,” unless that is a translators gloss.] endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.
16:11 Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; 16:12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.
Apparently there was no synagogue or assembly there and certain repentant faithful resorted to a peaceful place by a river to meditate and pray. Paul being led by the Holy Spirit went to that place.
16:13 And on the Sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.
A certain godly woman heard Paul discussing the scriptures with his friend, probably Silas; and she went up to them and heard the Word of God; being ready for baptism with her whole family.
16:14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.
The apostles go to stay in Lydia’s house. She being hospitable and no doubt wanting to hear more from Paul.
16:15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.
The apostles proclaimed as being true, by a demon. Yes, demons through people can speak the truth and often do, however this is only to gain one’s confidence before they slip in much that is false. Always check every teaching by the Word of God.
16:16 And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: 16:17 The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.
16:18 And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.
A persecution arises, which brings Paul to the attention of the whole region
16:19 And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, 16:20 And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, 16:21 And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.
Paul and Silas were beaten and placed in the most secure part of the prison, also being locked in stocks.
16:22 And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.16:23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: 16:24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
The prisoners hear them praying and singing praises to God, and an earthquake opened all the locks; deeply impressing the prisoners.
16:25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. 16:26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.
Paul saved the life of the warden and the warden is brought to repentance. This has been a common story through history as very many persecutors and tormentors have repented at the example of the elect facing torture and death with faith and courage.
16:27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. 16:28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.
16:29 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, 16:30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 16:31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. 16:32 And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.
16:33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. 16:34 And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.
In the morning the judges rendered their verdict and let them go
16:35 And when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go. 16:36 And the keeper of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore depart, and go in peace.
Paul having been illegally treated, demanded the justice of their laws.
This was not some kind of spiteful act of vengeance as some might think. This was to put the fear of the Roman law into the magistrates and authorities for the sake of Lydia and the brethren, to save them from a similar persecution for a least a little longer.
16:37 But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.
16:38 And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans. 16:39 And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city.
The apostles then went to comfort the disciples [the local brethren] before leaving.
16:40 And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.