Acts 15

Paul and Barnabas go to Jerusalem

1 Some men arrived in Antioch from Judea. They began to teach the believers there who were not Jews. They said to them, ‘God cannot save you unless someone circumcises you. This is in the Law that God gave to Moses.’

15:1These men were Jewish believers.

2 Paul and Barnabas did not agree with these men. They argued strongly against them. As a result, the believers in Antioch decided what to do. They chose Paul, Barnabas and some of the other believers to go to Jerusalem. They should go to meet with the apostles and the other leaders of the believers. The leaders should decide who was right in this quarrel. 3 The group of believers at Antioch sent Paul, Barnabas and the other men on their way. They travelled through Phoenicia and Samaria. They spoke to the believers in those places. They told them, ‘Gentiles are also turning to God and they are believing in Jesus.’ The believers were all very happy to hear this news. 4 When Paul, Barnabas and the other men arrived in Jerusalem, they met with the believers there. The apostles, the other leaders and the whole group of believers were happy to see them. Paul and Barnabas told them about everything that God had helped them to do.

5 Some Jewish believers were there who also belonged to the Pharisees' group. They stood up and they said, ‘We must circumcise Gentiles when they become believers. We must tell them to obey all the Law that God gave to Moses.’

6 So the apostles and the other leaders of the believers met to talk about this problem. 7 After they had all talked about this problem for a long time, Peter stood up to speak. He said, ‘My friends, you know that, a long time ago, God chose me from among all you leaders. He wanted me to teach Gentiles the good news about Jesus. God wanted them to hear his message and to believe in Jesus. 8 God knows what people truly believe. He showed clearly that he accepts Gentile believers as his people. He gave his Holy Spirit to them in the same way that he did for us. 9 He made no difference between them and us. When they believed in Jesus, he saved them. He made them clean inside.

15:7Peter was one of the apostles.

10 So do not say that God has done a wrong thing. God has shown us that he accepts Gentiles when they believe in Jesus. If you make the Gentile believers obey the Law of Moses, that is like a heavy weight on their necks. Even we Jews and our ancestors could not carry that heavy weight. 11 God saves us who are Jews when we believe in Jesus. It is not because we obey the Law of Moses. It is because the Lord Jesus is kind to us. God saves Gentiles in the same way, when they believe in Jesus.’

12 After Peter said this everybody in the group was quiet. Then Barnabas and Paul spoke to them. They said, ‘God helped us to do great miracles among the Gentiles. These showed that God was with us.’

13 When they had finished their report, James spoke to the group. He said, ‘Listen to me, my friends. 14 Simon Peter has just described to us what happened first with the Gentile believers. He explained how God chose some of them to belong to him as his own people.

15 The message of God's prophets agrees completely with this. They wrote long ago:

16 The Lord God said,

“Later I will return.

At that time I will make David's kingdom strong again.

15:16Jesus was a descendant of King David.

It has become like a house that has fallen down,

but I will build it again so that it is strong.

17 Then many other people will want to know me, the Lord God.

Those are the Gentiles that I have chosen to belong to me.

I, the Lord God, say this,

and I will make these things happen.

18 Long ago I caused people to know all these things.” ’

15:18See Amos 9:11-12.

19 James then said, ‘So this is what I have decided about this problem. Many Gentiles are now turning to God as believers. We should not make it difficult for them. 20 Instead of that, we should write a letter to tell them how to live as believers. We should say to them, “Do not eat any food which people have given to their idols. That food has become unclean. Do not have sex with anyone that you are not married to. If people have strangled an animal to kill it, do not eat its meat. Do not eat anything that still has blood in it.” 21 These rules are important, because people have known the Law of Moses for a very long time. On every Jewish day of rest, someone teaches us about the Law in our Jewish meeting places in every city.’

15:20We can read about these rules in Leviticus 18:6-23; 17:10-12.

The leaders in Jerusalem write a letter to the Gentile believers

22 The whole group of believers agreed with what James said. So the apostles and the other leaders decided to choose some men from among the group of believers. These men would go to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Silas and Judas, who was also called Barsabbas. The believers all respected these men as leaders.

23 This is the letter that they sent with those men:

‘We, the apostles and leaders of the believers here say “hello” to you, our friends who also believe in Jesus. We say “hello” to all of you Gentile believers who live in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia.

15:23Antioch was a city, but Syria and Cilicia were regions.

24 We have heard that some men from our group have confused your thoughts. These men came to you and they taught you without our authority. The things that they said were not right and they have upset you. 25 So now we have all met together. We have agreed what to do about this problem. We have chosen some men to bring this message to you. They will travel with our good friends, Barnabas and Paul. 26 These two men have worked as servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that, they have almost lost their lives. 27 So we are also sending Judas and Silas to you. They will tell you the same things that we have written in this letter. 28 The Holy Spirit has shown us what we should do. We also think that this is the right thing to do. We do not want to put a heavy weight on you. So these are the only rules that we want you to obey: 29 Do not eat any food that people have given to their idols. Do not eat anything that still has blood in it. If people have strangled an animal to kill it, do not eat its meat. Do not have sex with anyone that you are not married to. If you obey these rules, you will do well. Goodbye.’

30 So the believers in Jerusalem sent these four men to go to Antioch. When they arrived there, they told the group of believers to meet together. When they all met, Silas and Judas gave them the letter. 31 When the believers in Antioch read the letter, they were very happy. They said, ‘This message will help us very much.’ 32 Judas and Silas were both prophets. They spoke a message from God to the believers there. They spoke for a long time to help the believers and to make them strong. 33 Judas and Silas remained in Antioch for some time. Then the group of believers sent them back to Jerusalem. The believers prayed that God would help them and take care of them. 34  [But Silas decided to stay there.]

15:34Many Bibles leave out Acts 15:34.

35 Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch for a longer time. Together with many other believers, they taught the people, and they spoke the message about the Lord Jesus.

36 After some time, Paul said to Barnabas, ‘We should go back to the towns where we already spoke the message about the Lord Jesus. Then we can visit the believers in all those places. We can see if they are doing well.’

37 Barnabas agreed and he wanted to take John Mark with them. 38 But Paul did not think that this was right. He said to Barnabas, ‘John Mark did not remain with us until we had finished our work. He left us when we were in Pamphylia.’

39 Paul and Barnabas argued strongly about this. They could not agree, so they went in different directions. Barnabas took John Mark with him and they sailed to Cyprus. 40 Paul chose Silas to go with him. The believers in Antioch asked the Lord God to take care of Paul and Silas. 41 They travelled through Syria and Cilicia. Paul taught the believers in those regions. He helped them to be strong and to trust Jesus.