What does Acts 15:18 mean?
ESV: known from of old.’
NIV: things known from long ago.
NASB: SAYS THE Lord, WHO MAKES THESE THINGS known from long ago.
CSB: known from long ago.
NLT: he who made these things known so long ago.’
KJV: Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
James finishes his paraphrased quote of Old Testament prophecy with a phrase that probably should have been combined with Acts 15:17. Chapter and verse divisions were added to translations of the Bible many centuries later to help modern readers locate passages. These markers have become accepted and standardized, but are not always in ideal places.
James is speaking to a council made up of the apostles and elders of the church of Jerusalem, Jewish Jesus-followers who still carry their Pharisaical legalism, and representatives from the mostly Gentile church in Syrian Antioch. The group has come together to decide if Gentiles must convert to Judaism before they can worship Jesus, the Jewish Messiah. Peter, Paul, and Barnabas have already given their testimony. They have eye-witness accounts of the Holy Spirit falling on Gentiles without so much as a baptism or laying on of hands, let alone circumcision. Now, James, as the pastor of the church of Jerusalem, gives his conclusion (Acts 15:1–14).
In Acts 15:15, James states "the words of the prophets agree." He then combines quotes from Amos 9:11–12, Jeremiah 12:15, and Isaiah 45:21 in the Septuagint to make one point: God promised that Gentiles would one day worship Him alongside Jews.
Acts 15:16 mostly quotes Amos 9:11. It speaks of God's promise to rebuild David's kingdom—"the tent of David"—referring to the Davidic covenant in which God promised David that his descendant would sit on his throne forever (1 Chronicles 17:11–14). James makes a slight adjustment, however, replacing "On that day" of the Septuagint with "After [this] I will return" from Jeremiah 12:15. Acts 15:17 quotes Amos 9:12, except the synecdoche "Edom" is simplified to the literal "remnant of mankind," and "who does these things" is replaced with a variation of "who made from the beginning these things that are to be heard" from Isaiah 45:21, also from the Septuagint.
In his quotes from the prophets, James' point is simple: God let it be known in the prophets—the Jewish Scriptures—that Gentiles would join Jews in worshiping Him, being His people, called in His name. Any Scripture-reading Jew—which the Pharisees were—should know this. There is no reason to be surprised that Gentiles would want to follow the Jewish Messiah.
James agrees with Peter that Jews have no right to place burdens on Gentiles (Acts 15:10, 19). God called Gentiles as Gentiles, not as Jewish converts. Therefore, they should not need to be circumcised or in any other way follow the Mosaic law. However, James understands that the conflict goes deeper: how can Jewish Christians, who believe Jesus is the fulfillment of Judaism and who still consider themselves devout Jews, have community with Gentiles? James concludes that for unity—not for salvation—Gentiles should refrain from sexual immorality and alter their diet so that Jews feel comfortable sharing a meal. The "requests" are reasonable; he tells them to avoid food that has been offered to pagan gods and from blood. The church agrees, and a letter goes out to the churches, to the relief of the Gentile believers (Acts 15:19–35).
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 3:39:47 AM
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