Some of the Jewish Christians had been concerned about accepting the Gentiles, even from the conversion of Cornelius and his household. They felt that the Gentiles were obligated to be circumcised according to the Law of Moses to be saved.
Even after the passage of several years since the first Gentiles became Christians, there were those of the Jerusalem area who went to Antioch to bring those Christians under their rules. Paul and Barnabas tried to teach against this practice, but were met with much opposition. The church decided to send them and certain others to visit with the apostles and elders in the Jerusalem church regarding this question and to completely settle it.
Paul had received divine revelation soon after his conversion and should have been accepted as a final authority of such spiritual matters. Since he was not one of the original apostles, the church probably doubted his qualifications. He stated later that he had gone to Jerusalem by revelation.
After traveling through Phoenicia and Samaria reporting on the conversion of the Gentiles, Paul and his companions reached Jerusalem. There, they continued their report on the things that God had done with them.
Some of the Pharisees had been converted, but were still holding on to the traditions of the Law of Moses. When Paul and his company met with James (the brother of Jesus), Peter, John and the elders, there was much discussion with these false teachers.
After this discussion, Peter addressed the group. He related how he had been chosen by God to preach to the Gentiles and that they had received the Holy Spirit just as the Jews had received Him on Pentecost.
Peter pointed out how the yoke of the Law of Moses was one they were unable to bear and how absurd it was to expect the Gentiles to bear it. He stated that God makes no distinction between Jews and Gentiles and that everyone’s heart is purified by faith.
After Barnabas and Paul had reported on the miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles, James began to speak. He repeated Peter’s declaration that God had included the Gentiles in His plan. James further declared how the prophets had pointed out the same thing. He referred to a prophecy of Amos to make this point.
James, through the Holy Spirit concluded his remarks by stating that the Gentiles abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled and from blood.
Titus, a Gentile, was a part of the group with Paul and Barnabas. The fact that he was not subjected to circumcision was unifying evidence that this act was not a requirement for salvation.
After the conference had concluded, the apostles, elders and other Jerusalem Christians wrote a letter to the Gentile churches of Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. They disassociated themselves in that letter from the ones who had tried to bind the Law of Moses upon the Gentile churches. The letter also stated the instructions that the Holy Spirit had guided James to present. They commended Judas (Barsabas) and Silas, leading men of the church, whom they had sent with Paul and Barnabas to report the same things by word of mouth.
When the letter was read to the church at Antioch, they were very pleased with its encouragement. Judas and Silas preached to the brethren for a time. Afterwards, Judas returned to Jerusalem, but Silas remained. Paul and Barnabas also remained and taught and preached the word.