Acts 15:1-35; Galatians 2:1-10
The wonderful success of the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas caused great joy to the Antioch church. But the joy was soon marred by certain persons, commonly called "Judaizers," who came down to Antioch from Jerusalem and said that unless the Gentile converts kept, the Law of Moses they could not be saved. The demand was directly contrary to the great principle of justification by faith alone; for it made salvation depend partly upon human merit. The entire life of the Church was in danger. But Paul, guided by a revelation from God, determined to comply with the wishes of the brethren at Antioch by going up to Jerusalem with Barnabas and certain others, in order to confer with the leaders of the Jerusalem church. Paul did not need any authorization from those leaders, for he had been commissioned directly by Christ; nor did he need to learn from them anything about the principles of the gospel, for the gospel had come to him through direct revelation. But he did desire to receive from the Jerusalem leaders, to whom the Judaizers falsely appealed, some such public pronouncement as would put the Judaizers clearly in the wrong and so stop their ruination of the Church's work.
The conference resulted exactly as Paul desired. Acts 15:1-35; Gal. 2:1-10. The Jerusalem leaders — James, the brother of the Lord, Peter, and John the son of Zebedee — recognized that they had absolutely nothing to add to the gospel of Paul, because he had been commissioned by Christ as truly and as directly as the original Twelve. Joyfully, therefore, they gave to Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship. God had worked for Paul among the Gentiles as truly as he had worked for Peter among the Jews. With regard to the propaganda of the Judaizers, the Jerusalem church, after speeches by James and Peter presenting the same view as the view of Paul, sent a letter to the Gentile Christians in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia declaring them to be absolutely free from the Mosaic Law as a means of salvation, and directing them to refrain, out of loving regard for the Jews in the several cities, from certain things in the Gentile manner of life which were most abhorrent to Jewish feeling.
Such was the result of the "Apostolic Council," which took place at about a.d. 49. It was a great victory for the Gentile mission and for Paul, for it established clearly the unity of all the apostles under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. No wonder the church at Antioch rejoiced when the letter of the Jerusalem church was read.