What does Acts 15:3 mean?
ESV: So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers.
NIV: The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad.
NASB: Therefore, after being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and they were bringing great joy to all the brothers and sisters.
CSB: When they had been sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and they brought great joy to all the brothers and sisters.
NLT: The church sent the delegates to Jerusalem, and they stopped along the way in Phoenicia and Samaria to visit the believers. They told them — much to everyone’s joy — that the Gentiles, too, were being converted.
KJV: 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.
NKJV: So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren.
Verse Commentary:
A few members of the church in Syrian Antioch are traveling to Jerusalem, about 300 miles south. They are accompanied by Paul and Barnabas. They seek clarification from the leadership at the church in Jerusalem. Jewish Jesus-followers who had been Pharisees came to Antioch and tried to convince the largely Gentile church that to truly follow Jesus—the Jewish Messiah—they must first become Jews. The church in Antioch disagrees. Yet, they want confirmation from the founders of the church (Acts 15:1–2).

Along their travels, they meet with other churches. Many of the original Christians in Syria, Phoenicia, and Samaria were exiles from Paul's persecution after Stephen's death (Acts 8:1–3). Philip first evangelized in Samaria, and his ministry was validated by Peter and John (Acts 8:4–25). Jewish believers from the island of Cyprus and Cyrene led a great number of Gentiles to Christ in Antioch (Acts 11:19–21). When the church in Jerusalem heard, they sent Barnabas to investigate; Barnabas found their faith was true and invited Paul, who'd had his own experience with Jesus (Acts 9:1–19), to help with discipleship (Acts 11:22–26). After the church was well established, Paul and Barnabas traveled to Cyprus and up into central modern-day Asia Minor, sharing Jesus' offer of salvation. Many who accepted their message were Gentiles (Acts 13:12, 47–48; 14:1).

Now Paul, the man who once tried to stamp out the church (Acts 9:1–6; 13:9), is telling churches planted by those he, himself, persecuted how God is using him to teach Gentiles about Jesus. He is travelling to Jerusalem to contradict the teachings of the sect of which had once been a proud member (Acts 22:3; Philippians 3:5). It's hard to say which brought the churches greater joy: Paul's message or Paul, himself.

Phoenicia is the coastal land between Syria, where Antioch is, and Galilee. Samaria is between Galilee and Judea. Phoenicia is inhabited mostly by Gentiles; Samaria is inhabited by Gentiles, Jews, and half-Jews who are descendants of the remnant of the northern kingdom of Israel. Philip's work in Samaria fulfilled Jesus' promise to the woman at the well that one day her countrymen would be able to worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:23–24). Philip eventually settled in Caesarea in Samaria (Acts 21:8).
Verse Context:
Acts 15:1–5 finds Paul and Barnabas home in the heavily-Gentile church in Syrian Antioch (Acts 11:19–21). They have been planting several Jewish/Gentile churches in Cyprus and modern-day central Asia Minor (Acts 13—14). Legalistic Jewish Christians from Jerusalem arrive and insist Gentiles cannot be saved unless they are circumcised and follow the Mosaic law. Paul, Barnabas, and the leadership of the church in Antioch do not agree. Paul and Barnabas travel to ask the leadership of the church in Jerusalem for a formal ruling.
Chapter Summary:
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.
Chapter Context:
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.
Book Summary:
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 5/28/2024 6:36:04 PM
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