What does Acts 15:4 mean?
ESV: When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them.
NIV: When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.
NASB: When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were received by the church, the apostles, and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them.
CSB: When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church, the apostles, and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them.
NLT: When they arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul were welcomed by the whole church, including the apostles and elders. They reported everything God had done through them.
KJV: 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.
NKJV: And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them.
Verse Commentary:
Paul and Barnabas are leaders, teachers, and evangelists in the church at Syrian Antioch. This congregation is comprised largely of Gentiles (Acts 11:19–26). The church sent them on a missionary journey to plant new churches on Cyprus and up through the middle of modern-day Asia Minor. Their efforts brought many more Jews and Gentiles to a saving relationship with Jesus (Acts 13:12, 47–48; 14:1).

When the pair returned to Syrian Antioch, a group of Jewish Jesus-followers who still identified as Pharisees arrived from Jerusalem. The ultra-legalistic Jews insist that before Gentiles can be Christian, they must convert to Judaism by becoming circumcised and following the Mosaic law (Acts 15:1, 5). Paul, Barnabas, and many others disagree. To them, it is obvious how the Holy Spirit indwelt uncircumcised Gentiles with no problem. It's also clear to Paul that these Pharisees want salvation in Jesus without losing their pious reputation among fellow Jews (Galatians 6:12). For clarity, both parties bring the matter before the leadership in Jerusalem.

"Apostle" means someone who is sent on behalf of another. There were many who had the responsibility of apostle in the early church. However, very few were an apostle of Christ, set aside personally by Jesus to be His messenger. Paul is one of these (Acts 9:5–6), but here "apostle" refers to Jesus' remaining eleven disciples plus Matthias (Acts 1:26), although at this point the apostle James had been martyred (Acts 12:2).

The concept of elder was well-established in Jewish culture (Exodus 4:29; 12:21). Moses' father-in-law advised him to appoint elders to take on issues which did not need Moses' direct attention (Exodus 18:13–23). Civil elders often sat by the city gates to decide local cases (Ruth 4:11). The elders of Jerusalem joined with the priests and the scribes to have Jesus crucified (Matthew 27:1).

Men defined as "elders" in modern churches have different roles depending on the type of church government. Their responsibilities include settling disputes, as here, praying for the sick (James 5:14), governing the church (1 Peter 5:1–4), and teaching (Acts 6:2–4). Later, Paul will give Timothy (1 Timothy 3:1–7) and Titus (Titus 1:5–9) specific qualifications for elders. Here, it is likely the elders are leaders of the inclusive body of believers in Jerusalem that meet in several smaller groups.
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 5/26/2024 10:28:01 AM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV, NKJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.
www.BibleRef.com