What does Acts 15:12 mean?
ESV: 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.
NIV: The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.
NASB: All the people kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were relating all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles.
CSB: The whole assembly became silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul describe all the signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.
NLT: Everyone listened quietly as Barnabas and Paul told about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.
KJV: 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.
Paul and Barnabas had a successful, if somewhat harrowing, missionary journey up into central modern-day Asia Minor. They established several churches in the region of Galatia and watched many Gentiles come to a saving faith in Jesus (Acts 13—14). Upon their return to their home church in Syrian Antioch, they were accosted by Jewish Christians from the sect of the Pharisees. The visitors insisted that Gentiles needed to be circumcised and follow the Mosaic law to be saved.
This assertion contradicted Paul and Barnabas' experience and understanding of the gospel: that salvation is by grace, not works. The pair, along with other representatives from Syrian Antioch, traveled to Jerusalem to request a judgment by the apostles and church leaders. In part, this is because the Pharisees came from that area, and they may have been claiming to have the authority of the Jerusalem church (Galatians 2:12; Acts 15:24). Another reason is that the leaders in Jerusalem had learned either directly from Jesus or from those who had, and their endorsement would be vital when the issue arose again.
In Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas give their story, but more Pharisee-Christians take up a cry against them. The formal council discusses the issue. A long debate ensues before Peter stands and reminds the council of his experience with Cornelius. He witnessed a Roman centurion and a houseful of Gentiles receive the Holy Spirit without circumcision, Law, or even baptism. Peter finishes by affirming that even Jews can't follow the Mosaic law; salvation for everyone—Jew and Gentile—is through grace (Acts 15:4–11).
Now, Barnabas and Paul present their official testimony. They recount a list of the miracles they were able to perform during their journey. Specifically, Paul blinded a Jewish false prophet (Acts 13:11), healed a man crippled from birth (Acts 14:8–10), and survived being stoned (Acts 14:19–20). With Barnabas as his second witness, the council sees the miracles for what they are: affirmations. The words shared with the Gentiles were true and their work was empowered by the Holy Spirit. Undoubtedly, their testimony includes the Holy Spirit coming to the Gentiles (Acts 13:48–49; 14:1).
Next, James, the half-brother of Jesus and pastor of the church in Jerusalem, will make his determination. Faced with the accounts given by Peter, Barnabas, and Paul, the decision seems easy. He agrees that Gentiles don't have to become Jewish to follow Jesus (Acts 15:13–21). But this only seems obvious with the benefit of 2000 years of hindsight. We owe a debt of gratitude to the early church leaders who wrestled with then-new theological concepts which we can now take for granted.
Acts 15:12–21 continues the account of the church of Jerusalem's debate. They are discussing whether Gentiles must convert to Judaism to be saved by Jesus, the Jewish Messiah. Paul, Barnabas, and Peter say salvation is through the grace of Christ (Acts 15:2, 7–11). Jewish Christians from the Pharisee sect disagree (Acts 15:1, 5). Now, Barnabas and Paul will relate their work among the Gentiles on their first missionary journey. James, the half-brother of Jesus, will share his conviction: God has not placed ritual requirements on Gentiles for salvation. However, Gentiles should make reasonable concessions to maintain unity with Jewish brothers and sisters.
Paul and Barnabas are in Syrian Antioch, home from their first missionary journey. Legalistic Christians from Jerusalem arrive and insist Gentiles must convert to Judaism. When negotiations fail, a delegation travels to Jerusalem to request clarification from Jesus' closest students. The leadership in Jerusalem agree with Paul and Barnabas. They write a letter that Gentiles should only make concessions, mostly dietary, which will ensure unity with the Jews in their congregation. After delivering the letter to Antioch, Paul takes Silas and Barnabas takes John Mark to share the letter to other churches they have planted.
Acts chapter 15 resembles Acts 11:1–18, where Peter testified before the leadership of the church in Jerusalem. His subject was how the Holy Spirit had fallen on uncircumcised and unbaptized Gentiles. Here Paul and Barnabas also testify that Gentiles are coming to faith in Jesus without being circumcised. The issue the leadership must decide is the extent Gentiles must be responsible to follow the Mosaic law. Their decision is that the Law is in no way required to be saved, but Gentiles should graciously make concessions so their Jewish brothers and sisters feel free to live in community. This forms a partial background to the rest of Paul's missionary journeys as explained in Acts.
The summary of the book of Acts is provided in Jesus' words in Acts 1:8: ''But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'' In Acts 2:1–13, the Christ-followers receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:14—7:60 describes the rapid growth of the church in Jerusalem. Chapters 8—12 find Jewish persecution inadvertently spreading the gospel throughout Judea and Samaria. And in chapters 13—28, Paul and his companions spread the good news throughout the Roman Empire.
Accessed 3/1/2024 3:16:44 AM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.