on Acts 15 :2
No small dissension and disputation - Paul and Barnabas were fully satisfied that God did not design to bring the converted Gentiles under the yoke of circumcision: they knew that Jesus Christ was the end of the law for righteousness (justification) to every one that believed, and therefore they opposed the Judaizing teachers. This was one of the first controversies in the Christian Church; but, though the difference of sentiment was considerable, it led to no breach of Christian charity nor fellowship among themselves.
They determined that Paul, etc. - This verse is read very differently in the Codex Bezae: Γενομενης δε εκτασεως και ζητησεως ουκ ολιγης τῳ Παυλῳ και τῳ Βαρναβᾳ συν αυτοις. ελεγεν γαρ ὁ Παυλος μενειν οὑτως, καθως επιϚευσαν, διΐσχυριζομενος. οἱ δε εληλυθοτες απο Ἱερουσαλημ, παρηγγειλαν αυτοις, τῳ Παυλῳ και τῳ Βαρναβᾳ και τισιν αλλοις, αναβαινειν προς τους ΑποϚολους και Πρεσβυτερους εις Ἱερουσαλημ, ὁπως κριθωσιν επ' αυτοις (αυτων) περι του ζητηματος τουτου. But when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, Paul said, with strong assurance, that they should remain so as they had believed. But those who came from Jerusalem charged Paul and Barnabas and certain others to go up to the apostles and elders to Jerusalem, that a determination might be made by them concerning this question.
And certain other of them - If this be the journey to which St. Paul alludes, Galatians 2:1-5, then he had Titus with him; and how many elders went from the Church of Antioch we cannot tell. This journey was 14 years after Paul's conversion, and was undertaken by express revelation, as he informs us, Galatians 2:2, which revelation appears to have been given to certain persons in the Church of Antioch, as we learn from this verse, and not to Paul and Barnabas themselves.
on Acts 15 :2
Had no small dissension an disputation - The word rendered "dissension" στάσις stasis denotes sometimes "sedition" or "intestine war," and sometimes "earnest and violent disputation or controversy," Acts 23:7, Acts 23:10. In this place it clearly denotes that there was earnest and warm discussion; but it is not implied that there was any improper heat or temper on the part of Paul and Barnabas. Important principles were to be settled in regard to the organization of the church. Doctrines were advanced by the Judaizing teachers which were false, and which tended to produce great disorder in the church. Those doctrines were urged with zeal, were declared to be essential to salvation, and would therefore tend to distract the minds of Christians, and to produce great anxiety. It became, therefore, necessary to meet them with a determined purpose, and to establish the truth on an immovable basis. And the case shows that it is right to "contend earnestly for the faith" Jde 1:3; and, when similar cases occur, that it is proper to resist the approach of error with all the arguments which may be at our command, and with all the weapons which truth can furnish. It is further implied here that it is the duty of the ministers of the gospel to defend the truth and to oppose error. Paul and Barnabas regarded themselves as set for this purpose (compare Philippians 1:17, "Knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel"); and Christian ministers should be qualified to defend the truth, and should be willing with a proper spirit and with great earnestness to maintain the doctrines revealed.
They determined - There was no prospect that the controversy would be settled by contention and argument. It would seem, from this statement, that those who came down from Judea were also willing that the whole matter should be referred to the apostles at Jerusalem. The reason for this may have been:
(1) That Jerusalem would be regarded by them as the source of authority in the Christian church, as it had been among the Jews.
(2) most of the apostles and the most experienced Christians were there. They had listened to the instructions of Christ himself; had been long in the church; and were supposed to be better acquainted with its design and its laws.
(3) those who came from Judea would not be likely to acknowledge the authority of Paul as an apostle: the authority of those at Jerusalem they would recognize.
(4) they might have had a very confident expectation that the decision there would be in their favor. The question had not been agitated there. They had all been Jews, and it is certain that they continued as yet to attend in the temple service, and to conform to the Jewish customs. They might have expected, therefore, with great confidence, that the decision would be in their favor, and they were willing to refer it to those who resided at Jerusalem.
Certain other of them - Of the brethren; probably of each party. They did not go to debate, or to give their opinion, or to vote in the ease themselves, but to lay the question fairly before the apostles and elders.
Unto the apostles - The authority of the apostles in such a case would be acknowledged by all. They had been immediately instructed by the Saviour, and had the promise of infallible guidance in the organization of the church. See the notes on Matthew 16:19; Matthew 18:18.
And elders - See the note at Acts 11:30. Greek: presbyters. See the notes on Acts 14:23. Who these were, or what was their office and authority, is not easy now to determine. It may refer either to the aged men in the church at Jerusalem, or to those who were appointed to rule and to preach in connection with the apostles. As in the synagogue it was customary to determine questions by the advice of a bench of elders, there is no improbability in the supposition that the apostles would imitate that custom, and appoint a similar arrangement in the Christian church (Grotius). It is generally agreed that this is the journey to which Paul refers in Galatians 2:1-10. If so, it happened fourteen years after his conversion, Galatians 2:1. It was done in accordance with the divine command, "by revelation," Galatians 2:2. Among those who went with him was Titus, who was afterward so much distinguished as his companion, Galatians 2:3.
About this question - The question whether the ceremonial laws of Moses were binding on Christian converts. In regard to the nature and design of this council at Jerusalem, see the notes on Acts 15:30-31.
on Acts 15 :2
15:2 They (the brethren) determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain others should go up to Jerusalem about this question - This is the journey to which St. Paul refers, Gal 2:1,2, when he says he went up by revelation: which is very consistent with this; for the Church in sending them might be directed by a revelation made either immediately to St. Paul, or to some other person, relating to so important an affair. Important indeed it was, that these Jewish impositions should be solemnly opposed in time; because multitudes of converts were still zealous for the law, and ready to contend for the observance of it. Indeed many of the Christians of Antioch would have acquiesced in the determination of Paul alone. But as many others might have prejudices against him, for his having been so much concerned for the Gentiles, it was highly expedient to take the concurrent judgment of all the apostles on this occasion.