We’ve come to our last conversation with Peter. It’s actually not a full conversation, it’s just a brief chat with Peter. From this point on the focus of the book of Acts is on Peter and his missionary journey. Peter laid the foundation for ministry to the Gentiles (non-Jews) and Paul builds on that foundation and spreads the gospel throughout the known world. This “chat” is actually another conference, while the controversy of reaching the Gentiles has been settled, there were still some who felt that the Gentiles, once they accepted Christ, were still bound by Jewish law and were required to be circumcised and follow the Law. Let’s take a look at how it’s handled and Peter’s response.
Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. 3 The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.
5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”
So, that’s the controversy. Certain factions going around stating that salvation included being “snipped” if you were a male. If you don’t know what circumcision is, well, it’s usually done to males at birth, and if you wait until adulthood, it’s pretty painful and has absolutely nothing to do with salvation. Of course, this brought them into contention with Paul and Barnabas. The church at Antioch sent representatives of both factions to the Apostles and Elders in Jerusalem to settle this controversy and Paul and Barnabas were a part of the “anti-circumcision” faction. On their way down to Jerusalem they shared how GOD was among the Gentiles and when they reached Jerusalem, they were warmly welcomed. It is here that we have our last glimpse of Peter in the book of Acts.
6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart,showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
BAM!!! Wisdom and common sense from Peter. He reminds the council that GOD had chosen him to reach out the Gentiles. Peter stresses the common fact that GOD knows the heart and accepts people where they’re at and doesn’t discriminate. He also reminds them that circumcision doesn’t prove anything because both those Jews living at the moment and their ancestors had been unable to live up to the standards of the law. Salvation was simply from the grace of the LORD JESUS and nothing else. Can you believe that this is Peter? Quite the change from being Captain Oblivious in the beginning of the gospels to this point in Acts. Peter has grown up and matured, he’s now a leader and source of wisdom and a living resource for the gospel and the new faith. This has been quite a fascinating progression in this ongoing conversation. To see him stand up at this council and defend the faith is inspiring, he has accepted his role as leader and earned the respect of the believers. It’s a role that didn’t happen overnight or even within a couple of months after the resurrection, it took time and effort and he had to prove himself in the trenches of ministry. Leadership and respect isn’t given because of a title, it’s earned when you live up to the responsibility of the position and earn the respect of those you lead.
This is the last big section that Peter is mentioned in the book of Acts, his story is far from over, Peter goes on to do many great things and two of his letters are included in the Bible, but for now, the conversation is complete. I won’t leave you hanging as to the resolution of the controversy though, I’ll finish this off, because this may (or may not) lead into my next study. It is at this point that Paul steps up with authority, well, let’s take a look at the scene.
12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. 14 Simon[a] has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:
16 “‘After this I will return
and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
Its ruins I will rebuild,
and I will restore it,
17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
even all the Gentiles who bear my name,
says the Lord, who does these things’[b]—
18 things known from long ago.[c]
19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”
Paul and Barnabas step up and give their report of all GOD had done and at the end, James stands up and brings them all together with some great words of wisdom. The conclusion, a letter to the church’s delivered by the hand of some of the elders of the Jerusalem church that basically Salvation was by grace alone, but that it was important to also abstain from certain practices, but those practices didn’t affect salvation at all, it was just best to stay away from them. Their letter is short and to the point
22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. 23 With them they sent the following letter:
The apostles and elders, your brothers,
To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:
24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
30 So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. 31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. 32 Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. 33 After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them.  [d] 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.
So, the conclusion to this controversy has come. Paul, Barnabas, Judas, and Silas head back to Antioch and encouraged the believers and set doctrine for the church. The only requirements that they set for the fledgling church were to abstain from foods sacrificed to idols, blood, sexual immorality, and meat from strangled animals. The last one has me a bit puzzled which means I have to do some research into it, but the other three requirements make sense because they have a great effect on purity of both the body and the spirit. But that’s a whole other study that may or may not be coming soon.
This is the conclusion to the Conversations with Peter. I hope you enjoyed it, I hope it was interesting, and I hope it taught you something. Stay tuned, I’m not sure what I’m going to move on to next, but we’ll see.