Acts 15. Forum Discussion

Even the disciples had disagreements

Acts 15 is a chapter that may provoke a lot of questions in you when you read it. Certainly the topics discussed led to much debate between the Jews and Gentiles of that time. It’s important to note that despite, “Great dissension and debate” – Acts 15:2, they worked through their issues and came to a consensus that they all could support.

They were debating whether Gentiles that had been converted to Christianity needed to follow Mosaic Law. There were no doubt strong opinions on both sides of the debate. In fact, after others debated the issue with Paul and Barnabas, it was escalated to Jerusalem for the apostles and elders to consider the issue.

Peter stood up and asked, “Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.”

Is Peter saying that the Jewish Law was too difficult and that the newly converted Gentiles should not be subjected to it. It sure looks that way. Others spoke up including Barnabas, Paul and James. In Acts 15:19-20, James says, “Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.”

The Council decided to choose men to go to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas and to write a letter for them to deliver. They sent Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, leading men among the brethren to take the trip. In addition to answering the question of whether the Gentiles should be subjected to Mosaic Law, they were also trying to keep the peace between the Jews and the Gentiles. The Jews were very used to keeping the Law and the Gentiles were not. Peter said that keeping the Law was so difficult that neither they, nor their fathers were able to keep it.

The Council wrote beginning in verse 25, “It seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.”

Some have taken the position that these were hot topics of the day and that is why they addressed these specific things. The worshiping of idols and eating parts of animals that were sacrificed to idols and/or did not have all the blood drained were practices that were prevalent at that time. That was also the case with fornication. The Council does not say that these are all the things that they should do, simply that, “If you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well.”

Chapter 15 ends with a disagreement between Paul and Barnabas over whether or not John (called Mark) should come with them on their next journey. Barnabas was in favor of taking John with them, while Paul, “Kept insisting that they should not take him.” – Acts 15:38.

Even the disciples had disagreements. Luke writes beginning in verse 39, “There occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord.”

Despite their disagreement, they each went out and strengthened the churches during their travels. We may not always agree with our brothers and sisters, but just like Paul and Barnabas did, we must put our shared love for Christ above any differences and focus on serving God. Amen


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Were you surprised that the Bible recorded a disagreement between Paul and Barnabas? Why do you think it was included along with the other inspired scriptures?

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I think that the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas was left in the Bible to show us that even Christians have disagreements.

When I first became a Christian, my wife worked as a church secretary. I was young in my faith and thought that everything would be "Happy church" :)

I later found out that Christians are real people that struggle with the same issues as everyone else.

I was surprised that the disagreement was included, but believe it was included so that we understand the human side of the Apostles and all of us followers of Christ.


It's great to see the human side of the disciples, because it makes them more easy to relate to. They had personality conflicts, disagreements with one another, etc. But when it came to their love for Christ, they saw eye to eye. Their shared priority was in serving God. So if we don't always get along great with the brethren, this is nothing new. Keep our eye on the prize.