Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Acts 15:16

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

After this I will return, and will build again, etc. - These two verses, 16th and 17th, are quoted from Amos 9:11, Amos 9:12, nearly as they now stand in the best editions of the Septuagint, and evidently taken from that version, which differs considerably from the Hebrew text. As St. James quoted them as a prophecy of the calling of the Gentiles into the Church of God, it is evident the Jews must have understood them in that sense, otherwise they would have immediately disputed his application of them to the subject in question, and have rejected his conclusion by denying the premises. But that the words were thus understood by the ancient Jews, we have their own testimony. In Sanhedr. fol. 69, we have these remarkable words: "Rabbi Nachman said to Rabbi Isaac, 'Whence art thou taught when Bar Naphli will come?' He saith unto him, 'Who is this Bar Naphli?' The other replied, 'He is the Messiah.' 'Dost thou then call the Messiah Bar Naphli?' 'Yes,' said he, 'for it is written, In that day I will build again the tabernacle of David, הנפלת Hanopheleth, which is falling down.'" This is evidently a quotation from Amos 9:11, and a proof that the Jews understood it to be a prophecy concerning the Messiah. See Lightfoot.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

After this - This quotation is not made literally either from the Hebrew or the Septuagint, which differs also from the Hebrew. The 17th verse is quoted literally from the Septuagint, but in the 16th the general sense only of the passage is retained. The main point of the quotation, as made by James, was to show that, according to the prophets, it was contemplated that the Gentiles should be introduced to the privileges of the children of God; and on this point the passage has a direct bearing. The prophet Amos Amos 9:8-10 had described the calamities which would come upon the nation of the Jews by their being scattered and driven away. This implied that the city of Jerusalem, the temple, and the walls of the city would be destroyed. But after that (Heb: “on that day,” Amos 9:11, that is, the day when he should revisit them and recover them) he would restore them to their former privileges - would rebuild their temple, their city, and their walls, Amos 9:11. And not only so, not only would the blessing descend on the Jews, but it would also be extended to others. The “remnant of Edom,” “the pagan upon whom” his “name would be called” Amos 9:12, would also partake of the mercy of God, and be subject to the Jewish people, and a time of general prosperity and of permanent blessings would follow, Amos 9:13-15. James understands this as referring to the times of the Messiah, and to the introduction of the gospel to the Gentiles. And so the passage Amos 9:12 is rendered in the Septuagint. See ver. 17.

I will return - When the people of God are subjected to calamities and trials, it is often represented as if God had departed from them. His returning, therefore, is an image of their restoration to his favor and to prosperity. This is not, however, in the Hebrew, in Amos 9:11.

I will build again - In the calamities that would come upon the nation Amos 9:8, it is implied that the temple and the city would be destroyed. To build them again would be a proof of his returning favor.

The tabernacle of David - The tent of David. Here it means the house or royal residence of David and the kings of Israel. That is, he would restore them to their former glory and splendor as his people. The reference here is not to the temple, which was the work of Solomon, but to the magnificence and splendor of the dwelling-place of David; that is, to the full enjoyment of their former high privileges and blessings.

Which is fallen down - Which would be destroyed by the King of Babylon, and by the long neglect and decay resulting from their being carried to a distant land,

The ruins thereof - Heb. “close up the breaches thereof.” That is, it would be restored to its former prosperity and magnificence; an emblem of the favor of God, and of the spiritual blessings that would in future times descend on the Jewish people.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
We see from the words "purifying their hearts by faith," and the address of St. Peter, that justification by faith, and sanctification by the Holy Ghost, cannot be separated; and that both are the gift of God. We have great cause to bless God that we have heard the gospel. May we have that faith which the great Searcher of hearts approves, and attests by the seal of the Holy Spirit. Then our hearts and consciences will be purified from the guilt of sin, and we shall be freed from the burdens some try to lay upon the disciples of Christ. Paul and Barnabas showed by plain matters of fact, that God owned the preaching of the pure gospel to the Gentiles without the law of Moses; therefore to press that law upon them, was to undo what God had done. The opinion of James was, that the Gentile converts ought not to be troubled about Jewish rites, but that they should abstain from meats offered to idols, so that they might show their hatred of idolatry. Also, that they should be cautioned against fornication, which was not abhorred by the Gentiles as it should be, and even formed a part of some of their rites. They were counselled to abstain from things strangled, and from eating blood; this was forbidden by the law of Moses, and also here, from reverence to the blood of the sacrifices, which being then still offered, it would needlessly grieve the Jewish converts, and further prejudice the unconverted Jews. But as the reason has long ceased, we are left free in this, as in the like matters. Let converts be warned to avoid all appearances of the evils which they formerly practised, or are likely to be tempted to; and caution them to use Christian liberty with moderation and prudence.
Ellen G. White
The Story of Redemption, 304-9

The apostles, in this, their special work, were to be exposed to suspicion, prejudice, and jealousy. As a natural consequence of their departure from the exclusiveness of the Jews, their doctrine and views would be subject to the charge of heresy; and their credentials as ministers of the gospel would be questioned by many zealous, believing Jews. God foresaw all these difficulties which His servants would undergo, and, in His wise providence, caused them to be invested with unquestionable authority from the established church of God, that their work should be above challenge. SR 304.1

The ordination by the laying on of hands was, at a later date, greatly abused; unwarrantable importance was attached to the act, as though a power came at once upon those who received such ordination, which immediately qualified them for any and all ministerial work, as though virtue lay in the act of laying on of hands. We have, in the history of these two apostles, only a simple record of the laying on of hands, and its bearing upon their work. Both Paul and Barnabas had already received their commission from God Himself; and the ceremony of the laying on of hands added no new grace or virtual qualification. It was merely setting the seal of the church upon the work of God—an acknowledged form of designation to an appointed office. SR 304.2

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Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 190-7

Before his conversion Paul had regarded himself as blameless “touching the righteousness which is in the law.” Philippians 3:6. But since his change of heart he had gained a clear conception of the mission of the Saviour as the Redeemer of the entire race, Gentile as well as Jew, and had learned the difference between a living faith and a dead formalism. In the light of the gospel the ancient rites and ceremonies committed to Israel had gained a new and deeper significance. That which they shadowed forth had come to pass, and those who were living under the gospel dispensation had been freed from their observance. God's unchangeable law of Ten Commandments, however, Paul still kept in spirit as well as in letter. AA 190.1

In the church at Antioch the consideration of the question of circumcision resulted in much discussion and contention. Finally, the members of the church, fearing that a division among them would be the outcome of continued discussion, decided to send Paul and Barnabas, with some responsible men from the church, to Jerusalem to lay the matter before the apostles and elders. There they were to meet delegates from the different churches and those who had come to Jerusalem to attend the approaching festivals. Meanwhile all controversy was to cease until a final decision should be given in general council. This decision was then to be universally accepted by the different churches throughout the country. AA 190.2

On the way to Jerusalem the apostles visited the believers in the cities through which they passed, and encouraged them by relating their experience in the work of God and the conversion of the Gentiles. AA 190.3

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6 (EGW), 1108

6, 7. Trouble in Galatia—In almost every church there were some members who were Jews by birth. To these converts the Jewish teachers found ready access, and through them gained a foothold in the churches. It was impossible, by scriptural arguments, to overthrow the doctrines taught by Paul; hence they resorted to the most unscrupulous measures to counteract his influence and weaken his authority. They declared that he had not been a disciple of Jesus, and had received no commission from Him; yet he had presumed to teach doctrines directly opposed to those held by Peter, James, and the other apostles. Thus the emissaries of Judaism succeeded in alienating many of the Christian converts from their teacher in the gospel. Having gained this point, they induced them to return to the observance of the ceremonial law as essential to salvation. Faith in Christ, and obedience to the law of ten commandments, were regarded as of minor importance. Division, heresy, and sensualism were rapidly gaining ground among the believers in Galatia. 6BC 1108.1

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Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 404

The brethren hoped that Paul, by following the course suggested, might give a decisive contradiction to the false reports concerning him. They assured him that the decision of the former council concerning the Gentile converts and the ceremonial law, still held good. But the advice now given was not consistent with that decision. The Spirit of God did not prompt this instruction; it was the fruit of cowardice. The leaders of the church in Jerusalem knew that by non-conformity to the ceremonial law, Christians would bring upon themselves the hatred of the Jews and expose themselves to persecution. The Sanhedrin was doing its utmost to hinder the progress of the gospel. Men were chosen by this body to follow up the apostles, especially Paul, and in every possible way to oppose their work. Should the believers in Christ be condemned before the Sanhedrin as breakers of the law, they would suffer swift and severe punishment as apostates from the Jewish faith. AA 404.1

Many of the Jews who had accepted the gospel still cherished a regard for the ceremonial law and were only too willing to make unwise concessions, hoping thus to gain the confidence of their countrymen, to remove their prejudice, and to win them to faith in Christ as the world's Redeemer. Paul realized that so long as many of the leading members of the church at Jerusalem should continue to cherish prejudice against him, they would work constantly to counteract his influence. He felt that if by any reasonable concession he could win them to the truth he would remove a great obstacle to the success of the gospel in other places. But he was not authorized of God to concede as much as they asked. AA 405.1

When we think of Paul's great desire to be in harmony with his brethren, his tenderness toward the weak in the faith, his reverence for the apostles who had been with Christ, and for James, the brother of the Lord, and his purpose to become all things to all men so far as he could without sacrificing principle—when we think of all this, it is less surprising that he was constrained to deviate from the firm, decided course that he had hitherto followed. But instead of accomplishing the desired object, his efforts for conciliation only precipitated the crisis, hastened his predicted sufferings, and resulted in separating him from his brethren, depriving the church of one of its strongest pillars, and bringing sorrow to Christian hearts in every land. AA 405.2

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