Acts

Acts 15:22-33 The Decisions Of The General Assembly.

Again we see that this meeting at Jerusalem was the first General Assembly of the new church-“it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church” (v. 22). The souls of the disciples had been unsettled in part because those who were demanding that they be circumcised had come from the church in Jerusalem, and so they seemed to carry great weight, and this is acknowledged in the letter sent from the General Assembly (v. 24). It is interesting that they chose Barsabbas and Silas to represent them, along with Barnabas and Paul. Barsabbas was the other man put forward as a possible replacement for Judas, but instead Matthias was chosen (vv. 25-27 CF. Acts 1:23). So even though Barsabbas (also called Judas) was not chosen for that office, he nevertheless remained a trusted spokesman for the apostles and the entire church gathered at this assembly.

It is also of interest that the majority and received texts emphasizes what was the focus of this general assembly-that one “must be circumcised and keep the law,” that is, that this concerned the subject of the transition from the old covenant to the new and the signs associated with this. It also defines what they meant when they referred to the law, that it was not a blanket statement of the whole law, but that law which is modified by the main point made. The demand for circumcision would continue to be put forward by some, but not by the circumcised who had believed. Paul would have to continue to vigorously oppose those who continued to make this demand (v. 24 Cf. Gal. 1:7; 5:10; Titus 1:10-11). They also took the opportunity to give their support and testimonial in favour of Barnabas and Paul (vv. 25-26). So among these four there are two apostles and two non-apostolic leaders in the church.

They also made clear that the matters which they had settled upon also had the imprimatur of the Holy Spirit as well (v. 28). One may look at the previous passage for greater detail on what they had decided on in this letter (v. 29 Cf. vv. 6-21; 21:25). Therefore when the church gathered at Antioch they were very encouraged that they had this thorny issue settled, and they had clear directives going forward (vv. 30-31). This is one of the tremendous values of the Presbyterian government which they had continued from the old covenant administration. We also learn from this letter, that Judas and Silas were also prophets, and therefore they also “exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words” (v. 32). It was very clearly understood that this also had the imprimatur of the apostolic and prophetic witness, in both content and context, ie., a Presbyterian general assembly.

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