Acts 15:1-2 Some months later, in 49AD, a group of traditional Hebraic Jewish believers from Jerusalem arrives in Antioch. They begin to teach that the new Gentile believers (whose faith is in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah) must be circumcised as Jewish converts.
Acts 15:3-21 Paul (a more radical Greek-speaking Jew) fiercely disagrees with the Jewish believers from Jerusalem, so he and Barnabas are called to Jerusalem to report on their missionary activity among the Gentiles in Galatia (see Map 23). They travel through Phoenicia and Samaria with a Gentile believer, Titus, (see Galatians 2:1) and are welcomed by the apostles and leaders in Jerusalem.
Paul and Barnabas attend the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:4)
The Council of Jerusalem
The Jewish leaders of the believers in Jerusalem met in 49/50AD to discuss the policy of the Jewish believers in Jesus towards Gentile believers. At this time, believers in ‘the Way of Salvation’ were still regarded as a Jewish sect. Only later, in Antioch – where the first Gentile church was established and believers were called ‘Christians’ for the first time (see Acts 11:19-26) – was the Christian church recognised as something uniquely distinct from Judaism.
Paul and Barnabas addressed the assembly of believers in Jerusalem and told them about the miraculous signs and wonders that God had done among the Gentiles in Galatia (see Galatians 3:2 & 4:8-16). James concluded that the Jewish believers shouldn’t make it difficult for the Gentiles who were turning to God. The Gentile believers (such as Titus – see Galatians 2:3) were no longer required to follow the traditional Jewish religious rituals.
The council meeting decided that James, Peter and John (the leading members of the Christian community in Jerusalem) should concentrate on witnessing to the Jews, while Paul and Barnabas were given the leaders’ blessing to take the Good News to the Gentiles across the Roman world (see Galatians 2:9).