“It is my judgment ... that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” — Acts 15:19
The stories in Acts are the stories of a church dealing with persecution from the outside and threats from within. Today’s passage is about a threat from within. Believers who also held on to the law of Moses visited the church in Antioch. They believed that circumcision and following the law of Moses were needed for salvation. These additional burdens on Gentile believers led to a dispute. Paul and Barnabas entered into this conflict and returned to Jerusalem for wisdom and direction at a meeting of church leaders.
Peter and the other apostles and elders were there. Even James, the brother of Jesus, was there. Peter recalled the story of Cornelius (Acts 10-11), and Paul and Barnabas shared from their travels. The Spirit of God began to move hearts. A church that could have been segregated along lines of ethnicity—Jews here, and Gentiles there—became a unified body again.
This story tells us something about the people who wanted strict requirements for everyone: they were Pharisees. Faced with the unknown and the uncomfortable, the Pharisee disciples wanted to control Gentile believers by making them follow the Pharisees’ laws.
Acts 15 shows the radical nature of the gospel and the community that results. Gentile and Jewish believers are unified around the grace of Jesus alone.